Agile Leadership Development in an AI World: Why You Still Need Living, Breathing Learning Professionals

Or Eight Ways GenAI Can (and Cannot) Enhance Your Leadership Development Strategies 

Generative AI (GenAI) has revolutionized everything from customer service to software development. Referring to platforms, apps, and other new tech that can generate images, text, and even write code, GenAI enables businesses to be nimbler, more responsive, and offer greater customized solutions than ever.

Slowing Down to Go Fast in the World of AI

Before you start downsizing your learning and development team or abandoning your mentoring and coaching programs, this article will help you slow down and assess the value and limitations of GenAI strategies for learning and leadership development.

One of my favorite questions to ask the leaders I have worked with over the last twenty-plus years is, “Think of an experience that changed you in a significant way.”

In response to this prompt, I have heard stories that include a leader who received the challenging feedback they needed to hear from a mentor at just the right time, a leader who gave a stagnating team member a new stretch assignment, a former professor who helped a CEO sort through a complex ethical dilemma, and a friend who was a sounding board in a way that helped her decide in a high-stakes situation with competing priorities.

Other emerging leaders have described being thrown into new situations where they discovered or developed a talent or capability they didn’t know they had or a breakthrough that emerged in a safe yet challenging learning environment. I have also witnessed leaders who were able to rise to the occasion and effectively respond to the unexpected and unplanned by connecting with a critical resource via a trusted partner who generously engaged their network.

These stories of impactful and transformative experiences share a common thread: they were relational, not transactional, just like leadership. Transformation and growth do not happen in a vacuum; they occur over time, through iterations of experimentation and feedback, and in relationship with colleagues, trusted advisors, and within the context and culture of their organizations and wider business ecosystem.

Technology cannot replace the relational interactions at the heart of leadership development and effectiveness.

If you work in learning and leadership development, I don’t have to remind you that:

  • Leadership is Relational, Not Transactional
  • Leadership Development is Iterative and Happens Over Time
  • Leadership Development is Contextual and Cultural

For example, in my work with leaders, we start from the premise that learning about Embodied Agile Leadership (EAL) is not the same as embodying agile leadership. Leadership development requires active engagement in what I call the Three C’s: Competence development, Confidence-building, and the Capacity to perform effectively in a wide range of unexpected and unplanned situations.

In the excitement over GenAI’s capabilities and benefits for learning and leadership development, we mustn’t lose sight of the role and value of human interactions at the heart of leadership growth and development. These same interactions and the trust and understanding they foster are also at the heart of how we make sense of complex situations, get things done, and ultimately generate and deliver value for customers and stakeholders.

Be Responsive, Not Reactive

It’s good news that technology will continue to evolve and become even better at recognizing patterns, analyzing data, and generating content. As learning leaders, we are responsible for evolving with the technology and guiding our colleagues and clients on GenAI’s value and limitations in supporting leadership impact and success.

Rather than react out of our initial excitement or existential fear, we can respond in a way that engages and partners with all available resources to support leaders’ success. With this in mind, here is my high-level overview of some ways learning leaders can tap generative AI and along with insights into ways your role as a living, breathing, relational human being is more important than ever. I began this reflection by asking ChatGPT: How Can Generative AI Enhance Agile Leadership Development?

What follows are eight headlines inspired by the AI-generated list, along with my human-generated response, inspired by several conversations with learning colleagues and clients about the role that learning leaders, including peers, mentors, coaches, and learning and development professionals, can and must play to ensure leadership success, particularly in a fast-paced, uncertain present and for a dynamic future:

Eight Ways Gen AI Can (and Cannot) Enhance Your Leadership Development Strategies

  1. Creation of Personalized Learning Plans
  • GenAI can analyze individual leadership styles, strengths, and areas for improvement based on performance data.
  • It can also generate personalized learning plans that cater to each leader’s specific needs and preferences, ensuring a more targeted and effective development journey.

Living Learning Professionals and Partners: can understand the nuance and complexity of each leader’s role and current context in a way that data analytics simply cannot. Ideally, leaders partner with a coach or mentor who can serve as a sounding board and guide to interpret assessment results and collaborate to refine AI-generated learning plans. This way, the leader has a learning and action plan relevant to their current context and business goals. Additionally, they have a human being with whom they can interact to brainstorm, troubleshoot, and reflect on their progress with accountability. Leaders seeking to develop leadership agility need a trusted partner to help them stretch and adapt as conditions change.

  1. Simulation and Scenario Training
  • Through generative AI, realistic leadership scenarios can be simulated, providing leaders with a safe environment to practice decision-making and problem-solving.
  • Leaders can engage in virtual scenarios that mimic real-world challenges, helping them develop agile thinking and decision-making skills.

Living Learning Professionals and Partners can help refine and maximize the value of scenario-based training, which can be highly effective in assisting leaders in building their confidence in VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) situations. To make the most of these experiences, leaders can partner with a coach, mentor, or peer to refine their agile leadership development goals before the learning experience. After participating in the scenario, leaders can partner again to reflect on their experience, including what they did well and areas for improvement. Leaving this to AI removes an important aspect of leadership development critical to building competence and confidence. Learning professionals and trusted peers can also help leaders make connections between their scenario-based learning and the high stakes of their current reality, resulting in actionable insights.

  1. Continuous Feedback and Coaching
  • GenAI can offer real-time feedback on leadership behaviors, communication styles, and decision-making processes.
  • Automated coaching systems can provide constructive insights and suggestions for improvement, enabling leaders to iterate and adapt their approach in real time.

Living Learning Professionals and Partners are critical in understanding the complexity of the leaders’ current context and adapting any AI-generated suggestions. A learning partner can also be a sounding board to help leaders prioritize actions that will make the best use of available resources and deliver the greatest value to their stakeholders. Learning leaders can grasp the subtleties of organizational culture, industry-specific challenges, and individual nuances that are challenging for AI to comprehend fully. They can also suggest more learning and development resources based on their in-depth knowledge of the organization and industry. Trust is crucial in leadership development, and the human element plays a significant role in establishing and maintaining it.

Coaches can build this trust with leaders, creating a supportive and confidential space for discussions.

  1. Data-Driven Decision Making
  • GenAI can identify trends, patterns, and correlations related to leadership effectiveness by analyzing large datasets.
  • Leaders can leverage these insights for data-driven decision-making, enhancing their ability to adapt to changing circumstances.

Living Learning Professionals and Partners help leaders make sense of data analytics within the organizational context and culture and can support ethical decision-making. In a fast-paced environment, starting with AI-generated suggestions based on large-scale industry trends or other benchmarks can be helpful. These suggestions, however, are only a starting point. As leaders engage with these suggestions, they must prioritize growth strategies based on their current capacity, available resources, and most pressing goals and accountabilities. In partnership with a peer, mentor, or coach, this process is an opportunity to increase self-awareness and identify biases and blind spots in the decision-making process. Relational decision-making also fosters accountability, the formation of trusting relationships to draw on to make sense of complex situations and competing priorities, and the reduction of uncertainty.

  1. Adaptive Leadership Development Programs
  • GenAI can continuously assess leaders’ progress and adapt the development program based on their evolving needs and the changing business environment.
  • This adaptability ensures that leadership development remains relevant and aligned with the organization’s goals and challenges.

Living Learning Professionals and Partners can help foster the learning agility at the core of sustained leadership agility. GenAI platforms can learn your leaders’ priorities and refine and adapt their suggestions and guidance. However, trusted learning partners with a deep understanding and relational ties across your organization and business ecosystem are best positioned to help leaders identify and engage their networks to identify the stretch opportunities best suited to develop learning agility.

  1. Natural Language Processing for Communication Enhancement
  • GenAI, particularly using natural language processing, can assist leaders in improving their communication skills.
  • It can analyze written and spoken communication, offering suggestions for clearer and more effective messaging and fostering better collaboration within agile teams.

Living Learning Professionals and Partners know that only humans who have lived the experiences and have gained their wisdom through mileage can inspire through authentic personal stories. They are also adept at weaving their unique narratives into one-on-ones and coaching sessions to create genuine connections and foster trust. Situationally, they can also understand and respond to the complexity of human interaction and nuances in tone, body language, and emotion that are essential for effective communication. By incorporating authenticity and personal stories, learning professionals and partners create a safe space for individuals to explore their communication styles, address challenges, and develop strategies for more impactful interactions. This human touch adds another layer of empathy and understanding to foster meaningful communication and build strong, collaborative relationships.

  1. Predictive Analytics for Leadership Success
  • Generative AI can use predictive analytics to identify potential leadership success factors and areas of improvement.
  • AI can analyze historical leadership data and success metrics to provide insights into the traits and behaviors contributing to effective leadership in an agile environment.

Living Learning Professionals and Partners can ensure that AI-generated prescriptive approaches and assessment results are held lightly. The best AI metrics can do is describe various behaviors that correlate with a range of outcomes. It is important to remember that these benchmarks do not necessarily prescribe one-size-fits-all solutions for any single leader or the complexities and competing priorities of their context and accountabilities. For this, leaders need a trusted thinking partner, coach, or mentor who can serve as a sounding board.

  1. Customized Content Creation
  • GenAI can automate and customize the creation of learning materials, generating content such as quizzes, case studies, and simulations.
  • This accelerates the content creation, ensuring a constant supply of fresh and relevant materials.

Living Learning Professionals and Partners understand the difference between providing content that helps leaders learn about something and developing the Competence, Confidence, and Capacity to draw on new learning in high-stakes and complex business environments. To develop these Three C’s, leaders need humans adept at facilitating group discussions, fostering collaboration, and managing group dynamics. Live experts can create a safe and interactive learning environment, encouraging open communication and collaboration among leaders. In addition, agile leadership development often requires real-time adjustments to learning strategies and interventions. Learning professionals can quickly adapt their real-time guidance in response to team dynamics, emerging situations, or learning opportunities. Live facilitators can also key into individual needs to inspire and motivate leaders, fostering a positive mindset and a commitment to continuous improvement. These interactions provide meaningful encouragement through shared stories, personal experiences, and role modeling, which even the most sophisticated AI platform is challenged to replicate authentically.

While AI can enhance many aspects of leadership development, combining AI resources and live learning experts creates a more holistic and effective approach. As you continue to evolve your leadership development strategies, the key is to engage technology for data-driven insights and efficiency while preserving the human touch for the complex interpersonal dynamics and individualized and critical context-specific elements of agile leadership development.

Link to the Original Article on LinkedIn

Spotlight on Leading and Learning with Agility: Chris Mikulski, Head of HR for H&M Americas

Chris Mikulski

Chris Mikulski, Head of HR for H&M Americas

In Staying in the Game: Leading and Learning with Agility for a Dynamic Future, I share the lessons I learned from some of the world’s most agile leaders across sectors. Based on this work, I introduced a new type of leadership, Embodied Agile Leadership. Embodied Agile Leaders (EALs) embody the values and practices of agile leadership and are attuned to their body as a source of agile learning feedback, energy, and resiliency.

In this spotlight, I shine a light on Chris Mikulski, a leader in an industry that depends on Embodied Agile Leaders at all levels to adapt and innovate in response to constant change. I also draw from a few brief excerpts from Staying in the Game while sharing some inspiring, actionable insights.

A key role EALs play in fostering engagement and agility is to create a workplace environment where everyone feels they can bring their whole self to work and are part of something meaningful and bigger than themselves. Belonging is the foundation of high performance.

Creating Space for Belonging

Few people understand the value of creating environments of acceptance and belonging in business more than Chris Mikulski, the Head of H.R. Americas for H&M Clothing. He has spent his entire work life in retail and shared that “some of the best times in my career were working in a store because of the diverse community you

“It’s really about the culture of a great workplace” —Chris Mikulski

become a part of.” When I asked Chris to tell me more about the value of creating such spaces in the rapidly changing and highly competitive fashion business, he shared,

[Community] gets you through the challenges and the hard times. And it impacts our ability to be competitive because we inspire each other to do better. We inspire each other to show up. If there’s a connection at the other end of your decision, I think you’re more likely to make that decision with that connection in mind. So whether it’s your favorite person who is closing the store tonight or somebody who you’ve built a bond with is working…you will be more inclined to make a decision that supports their success and to persevere past doubts or obstacles that we sometimes set for ourselves.

At times when companies have scrambled to fill jobs with talented, engaged people at all levels of the organization, H&M has leaned into its “Be Yourself & More”[1] recruiting and career development initiatives, which are more relevant than ever. Seventy-six percent of job seekers and employees reported that a diverse workforce is an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers.[2] Companies that truly value diversity don’t just stop at the head count; they ensure the heads count. Chris described how important this is to him personally and what it means well beyond “words on paper.”

I think naturally, as humans, we seek a sense of belonging in everything we do, even if it’s subconsciously. And I think [H&M] works really hard to build that for people. And even myself, being a proud gay man, being so accepted for that here is never questioned. I never have to have two different versions of myself. Even as a leader, that has unlocked my potential to a magnitude I could not have imagined. So that’s also why I believe so much in this sense of community, sense of belonging, and safety in those things. Because I’ve experienced it, and now I can use my platform to create that experience for others, whatever their unique self is.

EALs, such as Chris, understand that fostering Community requires consistent attention and participation. The business impact is significant because when people experience a true sense of belonging in which their Meaningful Identities are seen and valued, they tend to want to stick around. However, the dynamic of Community doesn’t happen by chance, as Chris emphasized.

It takes work and an ongoing commitment to that ideal because I think it’s easy to look at the world around you and sometimes feel out of lockstep with it. We feel very proud to be these pioneers. I think that’s why people want to stay. I’ve met many people who have been with H&M 10, 15, 20, even 30 years, and then go outside the United States, and it’s 30 or 40 years with H&M. It’s because they’re celebrated as themselves and they feel like they can really contribute authentically. And that’s an amazing feeling.

Commitment to creating space for belonging by EALs like Chris at companies like H&M is critical as the workforce continues to diversify. Chris shared more about what this looks like in action:

If you have blue hair, we want to know what color blue because we love it. If you choose to express yourself through artistic creations and tattoos on your skin, we love that. Whatever brings you joy, I think we seek to intersect with that, not to challenge it or go against it. We want to learn from each person. And I think that’s really the celebration of the multidimensional beings that we all are.

Actively valuing each other’s presence and participation in Community directly inspires everyone to stay in the game. The promise of engagement aligned with purpose starts during the recruiting process. At H&M, the long-time commitment to sustainable fashion is an essential differentiator for customers and prospective employees alike. Chris shared, “If we can get you on the phone for your first interview, then you usually want to join our company because we are values-driven, taking our responsibilities and commitment to people and planet very seriously, pioneering the future of the fashion industry. These are great things that people want to be a part of.”

Embodying an Agile Mindset

The theme of agility and relevancy echoes across sectors led by EALs. For example, in the fashion industry, success depends on staying relevant to customers’ ever-changing tastes. In practice, this means leading with an agile mindset that, once again, values listening, learning, and adapting over planning and control. Chris shared how he and his team embody an agile mindset, “We never get too comfortable with our strategies. We’re agile and changing all the time, minute to minute. We set off on an idea, we test things, we measure outcomes, and when we see a big opportunity, we shift. We constantly shift.”

Staying relevant to constantly changing conditions and to customer and stakeholder needs is the specialty of EALs. They know that to stay in the game they must keep up with the changing rules, players, and emerging technology and trends.

It’s really about the culture of a great workplace” —Chris Mikulski

When Chris and I caught up more than a year and a half after our original interview, I was curious to hear what had changed. Since we first spoke, the pandemic was largely in the rearview mirror, the economy was rebounding, and jobs reports were healthy. At the same time, some companies and other institutions that have invested heavily in programs and initiatives that promote a diverse workforce and foster cultures of belonging were experiencing a backlash.

I shared with Chris that as an educator and consultant who moves through many of these organizations and is also LGBTQ, I have felt disheartened and even scared that we may be heading backward after so much progress. I was interested to hear how or if this outside pressure was affecting H&M’s approach to diversity and inclusion. Chris’s response gave me hope and lights a path for other organizations grappling with these issues. He began by telling me that he and his colleagues were paying close attention to what was happening in the external environment and at the same time, that it had not shaken H&M’s commitment to their work because:

The strategic steps we’ve taken these past couple of years specifically have been foundational moves. Our commitment goes beyond a celebration for a holiday or a particular event. It’s been in our culture. So now, when there are things like this happening, there are places for our people to go to discuss them and forums for us to utilize as a company to have discussions around these topics. In addition, we’ve been very overt about proactively sharing messages with our colleagues about what they may be seeing in the market and the media about this. Because we want them to know we’re in it forever, we’re really in it forever.

Chris’s response and the work being done by leaders at all levels of organizations like H&M remind us that, while trends may come and go, investing in an inclusive Community and the agility and resiliency it fosters will always stay in style.

[1] “Explore Careers in Fashion at H&M | H&M Careers United States.” H&M Careers United States, Accessed August 13, 2022, https://career. hm.com/us-en.

[2] “Glassdoor’s Diversity and Inclusion Workplace Survey.” Glassdoor Blog, last modified September 29, 2020, https://www.glassdoor.com/blog/glassdoors-diversity-and-inclusion-workplace-survey/.

Link to the original article on LinkedIn


Staying in the Game book coverREAD MORE ways Chris Mikulski and other Embodied Agile Leaders from across industries lead and learn with agility for a dynamic future in Staying in the Game.

AUTHOR PAMELA MEYER, Ph.D. works with leaders and teams who need to be agile and resilient and want to increase their impact for success.

 

 

 

 

 

Leading and Learning with Agility: Spotlight on Dr. Tiffany Dotson

Headshot of Dr. Tiffany Dotson

In Staying in the Game: Leading and Learning with Agility for a Dynamic Future, I share the lessons I learned from some of the world’s most agile leaders across sectors. Based on this work, I introduced a new type of leadership, Embodied Agile Leadership. Embodied Agile Leaders (EALs) embody the values and practices of agile leadership and are attuned to their body as a source of agile learning feedback, energy, and resiliency.

Dr. Tiffany Dotson is one of the EALs who has inspired me for over a decade. I have seen her up close as she sparked engagement in a small group of learning colleagues at a university-hosted professional development event and ignited innovative strategic approaches to global leadership in Fortune 500 companies.

In this spotlight, I draw from a few brief excerpts from Staying in the Game and share her latest insights to help you prepare to lead and learn with agility in 2024.


I first met the now Dr. Dotson at an event I facilitated for area learning professionals at DePaul University. She somehow made time for new learning and relationship-building while working at a major corporation in Chicago and finishing her doctorate at Columbia University, each more than a full-time endeavor.

Over the next few years, I stayed in touch with Dr. Dotson as she moved into leadership roles at Pfizer, JP Morgan Chase, and Liberty Mutual Insurance, where she is currently the Global Learning Officer. Dr. Dotson was aggressively recruited because of her reputation for developing innovative learning programs that deliver business results. In this role, she oversees learning and development for commercial insurance business acumen, culture transformation, and executive development. Dr. Dotson leads by embodying a relentless commitment to continuous learning.

Leading with Learning Agility

Leading in a large, complex, growing organization requires more than learning; it requires learning agility, or the ability to continuously learn, adapt, and perform effectively in unfamiliar situations. Studying the career arcs of executives across domains, researchers Robert W. Eichinger and Michael M. Lombardo found that learning agility was a better predictor of promotability and success after a promotion than other indicators, including IQ.[1] They found that those without learning agility, up to 70% of even those identified as having high potential, can be successful within their comfort zone but soon derail when thrown into new situations for which they have no prior experience. In contrast, learning agile leaders like Dr. Dotson have developed a Meaningful Identity, a purpose, and values that give their life and work meaning. They are intrinsically motivated to lead with ongoing curiosity, intentional learning, and adaptation.

During her formative years in Chicago, Dr. Dotson shared that she quickly discovered her values and value through experiences and contexts that validated her Meaningful Identity:

I experienced my power in front of a group as early as kindergarten, giving a speech in front of the room and later on in the debate team and cheerleading squad. I loved performing and the positive feedback I received. It felt good. And I had good grades, too. So, I had early evidence of my value.

Many leaders who generously shared their stories and insights with me for Staying in the Game trace their passion and purpose to their formative years. Whether or not they were aware of the impact at the time, as adults, they all embrace their early experiences as an essential part of their leadership narrative. Dr. Dotson’s purpose has been crystal clear ever since she can remember:

It’s been my mission in life: helping people think better to design their own lives as opposed to living by default. When I show up at a meeting and say to my staff, ‘Here’s what I’m learning,’ it puts them at ease and helps them get in the same mindset. Our goal isn’t perfection; it’s continuous learning and growth.

Image of Dr. Tiffany Dotson sitting on a couch wearing a pink jacket

“I’m not done; I’m not done learning. I want to keep getting better!”

Ask “What Are You Learning?”

When I checked in with Dr. Dotson toward the end of 2023, I asked her one of her favorite questions to ask her team, “What are you learning?” I wasn’t surprised that her response once again demonstrated her commitment to continuous learning and growth:

I’ve become fascinated with Adam Grant’s work—especially his idea of re-thinking. For me, it means, “I know what I know, but I’m not married to it.” In practice, I’m becoming much more intentional in my own learning. I’ll gather a team together who I can trust to poke holes in my work. For example, I no longer ask people for their “feedback” because it has such negative associations. I ask them for their insights. I’ve coached my team to the point where this is now the language of our world. My team asks for insights from me and each other and trusts each other to be honest, to hold up the mirror.

Developing a growth culture doesn’t happen overnight. Dr. Dotson shared how she embodies the learning values she espouses:

I have also found that I need to give people permission to tell me the truth. It does mean setting aside the ego. It’s wonderful to hear “you were awesome,” but I need news I can use. Tell me what I can do more of or less of. Give me direct, observable behavior. Even if it’s all positive, make it specific.

Dr. Dotson knows she is having an impact when she sees others sharing her commitment to growth through their behavior, “My boss emailed me recently after I gave a high-profile talk and said, “You were awesome! Call me at 3:30 pm and I’ll tell you specifically what was awesome.”

In increasingly dynamic environments, many leaders at all levels of organizations are developing or demonstrating their ability to lead and learn with agility. They are discovering what Dr. Dotson and other Embodied Agile Leaders have—that modeling continuous learning and improvement instills in their colleagues the confidence to perform at their best in all conditions.


[1] Robert W. Eichinger and Michael V. Lombardo, “Learning Agility as a Prime Indicator of Potential.” Human Resource Planning 27, no. 4 (December 1, 2004): 12, https://www.questia.com/library/journal/1G1-126653494/learning-agility-as-a-prime-indicator-of-potential.


READ MORE ways Dr. Tiffany Dotson and other Embodied Agile Leaders from across industries lead and learn with agility for a dynamic future in Staying in the Game.

Image of book cover for Staying in the Game

Ten ways to Lead and Learn with Agility in 2024

2024 image with fireworks

While 2024 still has that “new car” smell, it’s a great time to get energized for success in a fast-paced and dynamic business landscape. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach for any organization or leadership team, here are ten ideas worth exploring or leaning into to help you and your team members lead and learn with agility throughout the new year:

1. Embrace Continuous Learning

– Foster a culture of continuous learning within your team and organization.

– Encourage employees to seek new knowledge, stay updated on industry trends, and regularly engage in professional development opportunities. Create regular forums and spaces for colleagues to share their lessons learned, new insights, and resources.

2. Cultivate a Growth Mindset

– Foster an agile growth mindset among team members by modeling and reinforcing the value of reflecting on and learning from experience.

– Demonstrate a positive attitude toward experimentation and improvement.

3. Promote Cross-Functional Collaboration

– Encourage collaboration and knowledge-sharing between leaders and across different departments, functional areas, and teams.

– Foster a multidisciplinary approach to issue and opportunity-framing, leveraging diverse skills and perspectives.

4. Adopt or Learn the Best Practices of Agile Frameworks

– You don’t have to formally adopt agile methodologies to benefit from some of their best practices in your leadership approach and organizational processes.

– Learn how to use iterative and flexible methods to adapt to changing circumstances and priorities quickly.

5. Build Adaptive Leadership Skills

– Develop leadership skills adaptable to various situations, challenges, and opportunities.

– Focus on honing skills like emotional intelligence, critical thinking, and effective communication and collaboration in dynamic environments.

6. Leverage Technology for Learning

– Discover how emerging technologies like AI, VR, and AR can enhance learning experiences.

– Utilize online platforms and other tech-driven resources for efficient and interactive learning.

7. Encourage Experimentation

– Create a safe environment for experimentation and innovation.

– Support and celebrate initiatives that involve trying new approaches, even with the risk of failure.

8. Enable Flexible Work

– Align your team’s way of working with the value they deliver to your stakeholders rather than a ridged time and place for how work gets done. This may mean establishing parameters for remote work, flexible schedules, and leveraging technology to support effective communication and collaboration.

– Recognize the importance of work-life balance and integration in fostering agility.

9. Prioritize Well-being

– Recognize and prioritize the well-being of your team members. Check-in regularly to gauge engagement, satisfaction, and workload manageability.

– Provide resources and support for mental health and create a work environment that promotes a healthy work-life balance.

10. Use Data and Other Success Indicators for Informed Decision-Making

– Embrace data-driven decision-making processes. Be sure to include qualitative indicators when relevant.

– Leverage analytics and insights to inform your leadership decisions and adapt strategies based on real-time data.


 to tell us about your 2024 agile leadership development goals and learn how we can help you reach them.

Or get started on developing your leadership agility today and:

We look forward to supporting your agile leadership and team success in the coming year!

 

Do You Have an Agile Mindset?

Agile Mindset

Assess and Adapt Your Outlook to Thrive When Things Don’t Go As Planned

Whether you have been charged with helping your leaders, team or organization become more agile, are in the process of adopting agile methodologies, or simply recognize the need to be more effective in the midst of change, the starting place is the same: developing and reinforcing your agile mindset.

In previous posts and my book, The Agility Shift I have described this mindset as one that relies less on planning and more on preparing. This shift doesn’t mean that we need to throw planning out the window altogether, but that we recognize that in rapidly changing contexts we must approach our work with a readiness to learn and adapt.

The Agility Shift Book

For many of us, this represents a significant shift in perspective and mindset. Below are a few characteristics of this shift, along with a new resource for you to assess your current state of mind and begin your own agility shift:

An agile mindset welcomes discoveries.

An agile mindset welcomes new discoveries as an opportunity to improve and refine the work at hand rather than seeing them as a threat to anyone’s original idea, plan, value, identity, status, ego or any other barrier that can get in the way of innovation.

An agile mindset expects iteration.

Of course, iteration is at the heart of each sprint cycle in agile methodologies because developers of new software, products and services know that each iteration is an opportunity to test and learn. You don’t need to implement an agile methodology to understand the value of testing and learning. When you expect to iterate, you can hold your ideas and plans lightly, be open to new information, and fail, learn and innovate faster.

An agile mindset is responsive, not reactive.

You know the difference between being reactive and responsive if you have ever said or done something you later regretted. Reactivity is often guided by a knee-jerk impulse based on fear, defensiveness and the hard-wiring of our reptilian brain. Responsiveness can take place in the same amount of time, but includes a level of self-awareness and awareness of available resources, along with a rapid assessment of the situation and ability to prioritize effective action (or in some cases, inaction).

Most of us can’t honestly claim to have an agile mindset 100% of the time, especially under stress or in the midst of a high stakes challenge or opportunity. The stressed or anxious brain tends to revert to its familiar ways of thinking (at best) or go into full flight, freeze, or flight mode (at worst). Neither mode is particularly effective when innovation is our goal. The good news is that all of us can learn to make an agility shift to an agile mindset, even if it is not our first response.

The Agility Shift Book

An Agile Mindset Starts with Awareness.

The first step to making this agility shift is to become more aware of what you are experiencing when things don’t go as planned or when you discover new disruptive information.

The original Agility Shift Inventory (ASI) can help you with this first step: Awareness.

The ASI includes:

  • Survey questions designed to inventory your current agile mindset state
  • A Generative Conversation and Catalyst Guide with explanations and coaching questions to improve your mindset for effective action.
  • A chance to update your answers from the last time you took the inventory (remember, your results are highly contextual, so if your work setting/situation has changed since you last took it, your results will likely change as well).

For those ready to do a deeper dive, we recommend you start by registering for the newly launched Self-Guided Leadership Agility Development Journey, which gives you access to a more dynamic version of the ASI, the Agility Shift Inventory™ for Leaders, as well as a host of additional resources and lessons.

In this high-content, high-engagement program you will grow your leadership agility capability and start the new year with the ability to effectively respond to the unexpected and unplanned and quickly turn challenges into opportunities.

  • Learn how to lead with an agile mindset.
  • Grow your leadership agility competence, capacity, and confidence at your own pace, on your own time.
  • Take the new Agility Shift Inventory™ for Leaders and receive personalized recommendations based on your leadership agility strengths and areas of opportunity.
  • Discover new ways to engage and inspire team agility.

By registering you will enjoy a full year of access to your leadership agility development journey with content and resources designed to complement the best practices described in Pamela Meyer’s game-changing book, The Agility Shift.

Of course, if you are not ready for begin focus on your leadership agility just yet, you can still become familiar with the core concepts of agility by taking the original ASI here:

 

 

 

New Year, New Agile Mindset 

Latest Research and Best Practices for Agile Success

Whether or not you are a resolution-maker, there is something about the new year (and a new decade!) that provides a perfect opportunity for a re-set. Perhaps you ended 2019 in a flurry of activity or took a well-deserved break. Either way, you are likely now back in action and refocusing on your hopes, dreams, and goals for 2020.

In this first Agile Resource Post of the year, I want to seize the opportunity for a mindset shift. When it comes to agility, I am not alone in prioritizing the need for this mindset shift. According to a recent survey of 1,000 executives across industries by Forbes Insights and the Scrum Alliance:

An agile mindset/flexibility are the most important characteristics of today's C-Suite

We may all agree that an agile mindset is an essential aspect of the Agility Shift, but what do we mean by it?

I describe an agile mindset in terms of how it helps us be and what it enables us to do. 

“An Agile Mindset is one that values learning and change over planning and control.”

I have expanded on this understanding of an Agile Mindset in more detail in previous posts.

An Agile Mindset Separates the Most and Least Agile

It makes intuitive sense that those with an openness to new discoveries and change will be more agile. This intuition is confirmed by our recent analysis of more than 1,500 respondents across sectors that shows that an agile mindset separates the most agile from the least, and is deeply intertwined with our ability to be resilient and responsive:

Best Mindset Shift Practices

The good news is that, while your first response to the unexpected and unplanned may not be your most agile, responsive, or resourceful, you can learn to make intentional shifts that put you in an agile state of mind.

Here are some of the most effective strategies I share with my clients:

  • Shift From Planning to Preparing:

    One of the greatest obstacles to agility is our illusion that we can control the future. While Henry Mintzberg’s seminal research found that up to 90% of executive action is ad hoc (meaning, not connected to the strategic plan or even the day’s to-do list), we continue to focus most of our training and attention on the things we (think we) can control. This has led to an over-emphasis on planning and analysis while overlooking the value of building the capacity to respond to the unexpected and unplanned and quickly turn challenges into opportunities. I am not suggesting you throw planning out the window. Rather, that you devote at least an equal amount of resources and intention to your mindset and capabilities for agility.

  • Reappraise the Situation:

    Thriving in change and uncertainty does not mean putting on rose-colored- glasses but instead embracing what researchers Karen Reivich and Andrew Shatt term “realistic optimism,” optimism that includes the current reality. With a realistic understanding of the circumstances, resilient people shift to a positive relationship to the givens of the situation to inspire their constructive attitude and action. Psychologists call this shift “cognitive reappraisal.” How quickly you and your team can make this shift may be the difference between an unbridled success and a missed opportunity.

  • Do what Scares you:

    Because we are hardwired to stay within our comfort zone, we need to seize every opportunity to practice getting “comfortable being uncomfortable.” This practice will come in handy the next time you are thrown into a new and stressful situation or want to jump on a high-stakes opportunity. You will already be familiar with your embodied responses (physical, mental, emotional, relational) and have learned to think and act effectively, even when those reactionary alarm bells are going off. I do my best to practice what I preach, and used this principle to get back into amateur ski racing (see blog post) at an age when most of my peers are looking for more sedentary hobbies. You certainly don’t need to pick up a risky new sport to put this into practice. The point is to intentionally step out of your comfort zone and pay attention to your experience and what shifts you need to make to be effective.  

  • Inventory Your Mindset:

    Awareness is the first step to greater agility. I developed the Agility Shift Inventory for just this purpose—to help leaders at all levels of the organization increase their awareness of their current mindset for agility and use of best practices associated with business results. The inventory is entirely free and only takes 5 minutes to complete. At the end, you will receive a complimentary report that identifies your agility strengths and areas of opportunity along with an Agility Shift Conversation and Catalyst Guide, with reflection questions to help you make the mindset and behavior shift necessary to realize the promise of greater agility.

Do you have an agile mindset? Find out by taking this 5-Minute survey.

Best Practices for Celebrating Agile Success and Being More Agile

Whether it is at a big project milestone, or end of the quarter or year, taking the time to acknowledge and recognize your wins and learn the lessons from experience will help you build on your successes and continue to innovate. Read on for some of my favorite Retrospective questions and best practices for success in the coming year!

1: Celebrate your wins, large and small.

Research and your own experience show how important it is to pause and acknowledge your progress. Such reflection improves employee engagement and retention, the ability and motivation to persevere, and the likelihood of long-term success.

Here are just a few of the successes our clients are celebrating this year, some of which can be overlooked if we focus exclusively on financial metrics:

  • Individual and team growth, competence, capacity and confidence development
  • Expansion and diversification of your Relational Web of skills, knowledge, talent and resources that enable you to be agile and innovate through the unexpected and unplanned

• Business results in key strategic areas:

  • Time to Market
  • Customer acquisition, satisfaction, and retention
  • The triple bottom line

2: Host a Retrospective.

In addition to celebrating your wins, consider hosting a year- or quarter-end Retrospective. As you may know, most agile methodologies include periodic retrospectives, in which the agile team reflects not just on WHAT it accomplished, but HOW it accomplished it and what lessons they learned that can guide them going forward.

Here are a few of my favorite retrospective questions to help you amplify your strengths and build on your areas of opportunity in the coming year:

  • When were you at your best?
  • How did you learn and adapt as you worked together?
  • Which of the Agility Shift dynamics did you actively demonstrate? Which do you need to develop and more consistently demonstrate? (Take the complimentary Agility Shift Inventory (ASI) to start this conversation, or contact us for a comprehensive Team ASI)
  • What lessons did you learn that could guide your success with your team?
  • Bonus Question inspired by Jeff Sutherland’s work: What one thing could you have done differently that would have made you happier?

3: Be More Agile in 2021.

Once you have celebrated and completed your reflections you will have a valuable list of successes to recognize and share across your organization. You will also have identified some exciting areas for new learning and talent development.

The next three questions can help you zero in on your areas of greatest opportunity by thinking about WHAT you want to get done, WHO would benefit most and HOW to realize those benefits:

  • Which of your key stakeholders and leaders have the necessary agility competence, capacity and confidence to execute your agile innovation initiatives and which could benefit from additional support?
  • How will your talent development strategy help your people at all levels develop their agility ability?
  • Who will champion these critical capabilities across the organization to help you achieve and sustain your commitment to agility?

You are not alone if you struggle to answer some of these questions. We regularly work with leaders and teams to help them discover the best agile learning and talent development strategies to meet their business goals.

Contact Us to Discover Your Best Approach to Agile Talent Development

Become An Agile Leader: Do What Scares You

Do what scares you

After a busy fall helping leaders become more agile in organizations here and abroad, I am waxing my skis and getting ready to head to ski racing camp in Colorado later this week.

This will be my fifth year in a row. I blocked the dates and sent in my deposit as soon as camp was announced—not because it is comfortable or even fun, at times it is, but the real reason I started going and continue go is that it scares me.

Followers of my sporadic blog posts know that I returned to ski racing, a somewhat delusional passion from my Iowa youth (I seriously thought I could be a contender!), after a birthday that ended in “0”. I skied every chance I could as a teenager—park district bus trip to Wisconsin (I’m on it!), University of Iowa ski trip to Colorado that they foolishly opened up to area high school kids (I’m in!), weekend trips with my parents to Midwest resorts and the occasional Colorado ski vacation (I planned the rest of my life around them!).

The Racing Bug

Somewhere along the way, I got bit by the racing bug and also starting racing in as many USSA Central division races as I could get to, which included road trips to Minneapolis to race at Buck Hill, long before Lindsay Vonn, who got her start there, was born!

Coming back to skiing and ski racing when most of my friends have long since hung up their long underwear has taken a lot more commitment. When I was younger, it was easy to round up a group of adventurers willing to give it a go—many clad in their Iowa overalls.

Become an agile leader

The Author, Pamela Meyer

These days, it is much harder for me to find friends who want to head down the hill on two waxed planks, let alone into the cold. It was this challenge that led me to explore more organized ski activities, including racing clubs and camps.

With a great recommendation from a friend and former ski instructor, I found my way to Dave Gregory’s Peak Performance Ski Camp that he holds each November at Copper Mountain and summers at Mount Hood, Oregon.

Now, as I pack up for my fifth trip, I have a little better idea of what to expect, and yet, the apprehension has not completely lifted. Did I train well enough? You can never be too fit for racing. Will I crash? No question. Will I get hurt? It’s happened and is always a possibility. I still go because it still stretches me. It still scares me—not in a “why again am I jumping out of this airplane?” way—but in a way that pushes me out of my comfort zone, physically, socially, mentally.

Accepting the Challenge

Some years it takes, even more, commitment and intentionality. Two years ago, I had major surgery over the summer and had to make a concerted effort to recover, rebuild my strength and confidence. Last year, I fractured my shoulder on a training run. These experiences don’t deter me or my fellow masters racers. They do give me even greater respect for athletes such as Lindsay Vonn who had countless setbacks in their careers and yet came back, again and again. They make the effort and put in the work to return to peak performance, even when they have every invitation to use the latest injury to make a graceful exit from the competition (which Vonn, of course, did this past season).

My experience in life and especially these last few years, helping leaders, teams and organizations become more agile is that doing what scares you is where the learning is.

New learning, and especially the confidence to apply that learning under pressure, doesn’t happen by staying in our comfort zone. It doesn’t happen if are afraid of looking silly, incompetent and like we don’t know what we are doing. As uncomfortable as these experiences are, they are the hallmarks that learning (or at least the potential for learning) is happening. Agile leaders not only seek out new experiences that stretch their current skills and abilities, but they also model their learning and share the process of becoming more confident with others. This, admittedly, takes some courage and a certain amount of psychological safety. In fact, it took me some time to muster this courage the first year I registered for racing camp.

Becoming Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

agile leadership

The biggest lesson I have learned as I pack up for camp #5 is that being a little (and sometimes a lot) out of my comfort zone is where the growth and where new confidence is built. One of our race coaches says, “If you never crash, you aren’t trying something new. You aren’t learning!”

I realized I can’t very well travel the world talking about The Agility Shift and helping leaders be more effective in the midst of the unknown if I am not challenging myself to do the same. And leaders at all levels of the organization cannot very well ask others to take risks and continue stretching, growing and adapting to changes if they are not willing to do so themselves.

So, as we move into the holiday season, which is often associated with cocooning, being cozy with friends and family (which is a wonderful way to recharge our spirits), I invite you to also look for the opportunities that lie ahead that scare you. It doesn’t have to be ski racing or even a physical challenge. Maybe it is just accepting an unexpected invitation before you start over-thinking it, go ahead and say, “yes!” sign up, and jump in. Maybe I’ll see you there!

What are you doing/might you do that scares you?

•••••

NOTE: This post is a revision of a 2017 post, updated with gratitude to be healthy and able to get out there for another season.

 

Agile 101 (Part 2 of 3): Enterprise Agility Strategies

Understanding Which Enterprise Agility Strategy Might be Right for Your Organization

Many organizations begin their agile journey by forming agile teams in one or more functional areas, such as IT, marketing, and new product development. When they saw the results of improved time to market, lower cost, and higher employee engagement, they decide to adopt the framework across the enterprise. These enterprise agility initiatives are implemented using a variety of approaches, including Safe® or other customized agile transformation strategies, often branded internally by the organization. I won’t go into each enterprise approach in detail but want to help you distinguish between those that are sometimes used (mistakenly) interchangeably.

To help you begin to explore which approach may be right for your organization, in this second post of my Agile 101 series, I share very brief overviews to distinguish each along with links to fuller descriptions and examples to help you consider if an enterprise agility strategy is right for you.

Agile Transformation

Working model of business: AgileWhile more common in smaller organizations, large enterprises now recognize their urgent need to be more nimble to stay competitive in a rapidly changing marketplace. An increasingly favored strategy is to scale agile methodologies, such as Scrum, across the organization. Businesses, as varied as Ericsson, CapitalOne, and most notably, Amazon, have adopted this approach to improve the speed and quality of the products and services they bring to market. Here are brief descriptions of the most favored approaches.

SAFe® (Scaled Agile Framework) is the most common and fully developed approach to agile transformation, currently being used to some degree or another by 70% of Fortune 100 companies (according to the SAFe® website). With its roots in software development, the goal of the SAFe® approach is to create a Lean enterprise

Digital Transformation: describes the process whereby an organization moves all of its business operations, including people, processes, systems, and customer interactions to technology-based interfaces. For many, but not all, this includes a cloud-based strategy. Disrupters in every sector (think Amazon, Uber/Lyft, even companies like Quicken Loans) are forcing their competitors to adopt digital strategies, as well, if they want to stay competitive.

For a more complete overview and examples of digital transformation, I recommend Clint Boulton’s recent piece for CIO. Digital transformations, while not the same as agile, can certainly benefit from their ability to execute complex projects rapidly, as many organizations are finding. After all, you cannot improve agility using mindsets and approaches designed for another era.

DevOps: In its essence, DevOps is the convergence of Development and Operations and has roots in agile methodologies. The DevOps movement was sparked by software developers’ frustrations. While they were adopting agile methodologies in their teams, they encountered obstacles in actually releasing code and collaborating across organizational silos.

DevOps emerged as a strategy to integrate system-wide structures and processes to ensure that the communication, collaboration, and coordination of agile carried throughout the organization. In this sense, DevOps is a specific type of agile transformation. Atlassian, a leader in large-scale DevOps strategies and systems, has a more in-depth overview on their site. 

When You Should Consider an Enterprise Agility Approach

All approaches to enterprise agility can only thrive with engaged support from leaders throughout the organization who have themselves made the mindset shift necessary for a radical new way of working to take root. These leaders must also recognize the need to foster and sustain an organizational culture that values whole systems thinking, broad transparency, and understands their organization as a human system of interactions, not merely a series of operational transactions. 

Critical Success Factors: Scaling agile transformation requires communication, collaboration, and coordination of stakeholders and contributors across the enterprise, as well as the integration and, often, disruption of well-established systems and processes.

You should only consider a scaled agile approach if you have broad leadership commitment and resources to follow through. This commitment includes embracing the urgent business case for a radical change, along with the acceptance that leaders at all levels of the organization will be asked to make a significant mindset shift that will take them out of their comfort zones.

This shift may impact your leaders’ familiar ways of thinking and working, as well as their roles and even their hard-earned status. To support this formidable transition, organizations such as Ericsson established Centers of Excellence as central hubs to coordinate the transformation, as well as to provide training, coaching, and support across the organization early in their transformation.

At Meyer Agile Innovation, Inc. we are working with clients who, rather than rely on a central hub, are developing Agility Champions throughout the organization to serve as resources, coaches and guides on the side to support individual and team success through their agile transformation.

If your business is operating in a rapidly changing VUCA environment and has the understanding, commitment, resources, and willingness to persevere through a complex process, agile transformation could well be worth your investment.

In my next and final post of this series Agile 101: Developing Agile Leaders, I make a case for and provide an overview of the mindset and cultural shift, as well as the six dynamics of the Agility Shift that are crucial to realizing the results of any agile transformation.


How agile is your Talent Development Strategy?


Pamela Meyer, Ph.D., is the author of The Agility Shift: Creating Agile and Effective Leaders, Teams and Organizations. As president of Meyer Agile Innovation, she is a sought-after keynote speaker and works with leaders and teams across industries who need innovative learning and talent development strategies to make the mindset and business shift to compete in a rapidly changing marketplace.

 

Agile 101 (Part 3 of 3): Developing and Sustaining Agile Leaders

Agile 101 (Part 3 of 3): Developing and Sustaining Agile Leaders

Developing and Sustaining Agile Leaders, Teams, and Organizations

In Part One [insert link] I shared the inspiration for this three-part series. In a nutshell, this series is for anyone whose organization has made agility a top strategic priority. This includes, but is not limited to, companies that are adopting agile methodologies at the team level, are starting to scale agile across the enterprise (see Part Two of this series), or have more broadly understood that business agility is critical to staying competitive in a rapidly changing world. This final post is for you if your organization fits any of these categories, and you want to assure that your investment in business agility delivers the results you seek.

“Where Should We Start?”

The question above is the first one leaders ask after committing to being more agile. Of course, before we can answer that question, we must agree on what are we talking about when we talk about agility?

Broadly, I describe agility as your ability to respond effectively to the unexpected and unplanned and quickly turn challenges into opportunities.

This is not a dictionary definition but a performance statement. The leaders I work with don’t need to know what agility looks like on paper; they need to know what it looks like in action.

The goal of any agile initiative is not agility itself, but sustained performance through both stable and volatile conditions.

To consistently achieve this level of performance, the organizations I have researched and work with consistently attend to each of the six dynamics of the Agility Shift. To fully understand each dynamic and how to bring it to life in your organization, I direct you to my book, The Agility Shift: Creating Agile Leaders, Teams and Organizations, as well as my website for additional resources. Below is a brief introduction to each of the dynamics:

Relational Web

Relational Web: The network of skills, knowledge, talent, and resources that you need to be able to tap at a moment’s notice when things don’t go as planned or a new opportunity emerges. 

Relevant: The ability to understand current trends, customer and workforce needs, and adapt to stay relevant to and competitive in the market. 

Responsive: The ability to respond in a timely and effective way to unexpected and unplanned challenges and opportunities.

Resilient: The ability to quickly regroup when things don’t go as planned.

Resourceful: The ability to make optimal and innovative use of available resources.

Reflective: The ability to learn the lessons from experience and thoughtfully apply those lessons to new and emerging situations. 

Agility and Agile methodologies are certainly not mutually exclusive. You don’t need to adopt a specific agile methodology to improve your leadership, team, or organizational agility. Yet, adopting an agile methodology without attending to the necessary mindset, culture, and practice shifts will not yield the hoped-for results, especially over the long haul.

Making the Mindset and Culture Shift So Agility Can Thrive

Now that we have a shared understanding of agility and the six dynamics necessary to sustain it, we must understand and make (and continue to make) the mindset and culture shift required to thrive in this radical (for many) new ways of working.

A recent joint global survey by Forbes Insights and the Scrum Alliance of 1,000 C-suite executives across industries that found 83% of respondents cite an agile mindset/flexibility as the most essential characteristic of today’s C-suite (2018).

At its core, an agile mindset and culture value learning and change over planning and control.

In my research of more than 1,500 leaders at all levels of business and industry, an agile mindset is tightly linked to two key aspects of agility: Responsiveness and Resourcefulness.

Responsive and Resourceful

In particular, the ability to quickly turn challenges into opportunities and look for opportunities in the midst of change are strongly connected to Agility Shift Inventory-takers’ ability to be responsive and resourceful. These mindset attributes also strongly differentiate the most agile from the least agile respondents in the Agility Shift Inventory

Reinforcing our research, when Nigel Davies at Forbes interviewed several leaders about the pitfalls of adopting agile, he also found that mindset was a common challenge.

For example, Christopher McFarlane, an agile project manager for Walmart Canada, shared with him, “instilling an agile mindset internally is one of the hardest things about the transition.” Successfully building an agile organization is also an endurance sport, says David Fort, managing director at Haines Watts Manchester, “Being an agile business isn’t a start-stop scenario, it’s a constant shift in culture and balance that has to be regularly revisited. If you stop running as an agile business, you’re likely to seize up. The real challenge is ensuring the agility is fresh, and the team members are focused on being agile.” (Davies, 2019)

Adding urgency to the need to attend to the leadership mindset is that many organizations are not yet seeing the expected returns of their formidable investments in agility because leaders underestimated the mindset and cultural shift that would be required for a successful transformation.

Mindset and culture are directly linked. Mindset influences thinking; thinking influences our actions; culture is created through repeated patterns of thinking and acting.

Version One’s survey of 1,319 leaders in organizations ranging from less than 1,000 employees to greater than 20,000 found that the top challenge in a successful agile transformation is that their current culture is at odds with the degree of communication, collaboration, self-organization and continuous learning that is at the heart of agile practices. Coming in a close second is an overarching organizational resistance to change (13th Annual State of Agile Report, 2018).

There is good news, however. The Forbes Insights and the Scrum Alliance report cited earlier also found that those organizations that were realizing results from their adoption of agile practices also reported strong cultural alignment, while those that were not yet seeing a return cited organizational culture as the impediment (2018). Leaders have a significant influence over the success or failure of agile initiatives as they set the tone, model, and reinforce the underlying beliefs, values, and behaviors that make up their organizational cultures. 

This growing body of evidence all points in the same direction: any organization that makes agility a top strategic priority, must also prioritize learning and talent development strategies that support the critical mindset and behavioral shifts necessary to achieve the results of these investments.  

Our work in recent years with companies like T-Mobile (see case story and webinar) demonstrates the power of engaging leaders across the enterprise in high-content, high engagement learning, and development experiences and has yielded exciting results. In addition to high net-promoter scores, showing initial enthusiasm, a rigorous analysis of how learning is being applied across the organization is demonstrating significant business value. If an organization like T-Mobile, operating in an extremely competitive environment and through years-long uncertainty of a possible merger can sustain results, your organization can, too. 

Supporting Your Organization’s Agility Shift Through Learning and Talent Development

Just like reaching your health and fitness goals, developing and sustaining business agility, is not a one-time endeavor but a commitment to a new way of life. Fitness experts have found that the secret to sustained success is consistency and variety. The same is true for your organization’s leadership, team, and organizational agility.

Making the Agility Shift

Making the Agility Shift

Attaining a consistent practice for agility requires an approach that includes enough variety to keep your workforce stretching and growing. The strategies we have found most impactful put the mindset shift in the center and build the Three Cs of The Agility Shift: Competence, Capacity, and Confidence. Consistent and innovative learning and development approaches in each of these areas reinforce a culture in which agile thinking and behavior can thrive.

 

Scalable Talent Development Approaches for Agile Leaders, Teams, and Organizations

One of the challenges in supporting organization-wide agility initiatives is providing meaningful and impactful learning opportunities across the enterprise. Whether led by your in-house training team or outside contractors, you are likely constrained by budget, available time (both training professionals’ and employees’ available time), as well as personnel.

We use several highly adaptable strategies to help our clients overcome these barriers:

  • Human Resource Strategies: To ensure an integrated approach across the organization, we often work with HR and Talent Development leaders. Aligning staffing, talent development, performance appraisal, and coaching with agile organizational goals helps assure that you are building a workplace culture in which agility can thrive. 
  • Train-the-Trainer: We work with in-house learning and development professionals to train and certify them in customizable modules that they can then use to lead sessions for leaders at all levels of the organization. We provide an Agility Shift Facilitator Guide and participant materials. This approach offers the most flexible and comprehensive approach for building and sustaining an agile workforce.
  • Agility Champion Training: In this immersive training session, we help designated Agility Champions throughout the organization learn the foundational concepts and best practices of team and leadership agility, while building their competence, capacity and confidence as an agility resource person, coach and activity facilitator. Agility Champions are also trained on and given access to a series of micro-learning resources and Take it to Your Team activities they can use to support continuous leadership and team development. 
  • Agility Lab Micro-learning Resources: Many managers and agile team leaders like to integrate our range of micro-learning resources and guided activities to support team engagement, innovation, and performance. These resources can be used one-on-one or to kick-off a meeting, planning session or integrated into a retrospective.
  • Agility Assessment: Often, the biggest challenge in making the Agility Shift is the mindset shift and understanding how that mindset shift translates into new habits in each of the six dynamics of the agility shift. The Agility Shift Inventory (ASI) helps individuals and teams discover where their greatest strengths and opportunities lie and so that they invest their time and resources for maximum impact.
  • Coaching: Because agile ways of thinking and working represent a significant shift for most leaders and team members, we provide individualized coaching to help contributors make their own agility shift so they can ensure their teams and the organization realize results from their agile initiatives.
  • Leadership Development: An agile leader is anyone who spots a challenge or opportunity and effectively responds. Now more than ever, organizations need agile leaders at all levels of the business who can lead effectively in the midst of rapid change and uncertainty. Your current and emerging leaders need to be able to consistently model and inspire others to make the Agility Shift.
  • Team Development: Agile organizations are team-centric and increasingly networked. The best investment you can make is in team success, whether or not you are adopting agile methodologies, teams need to be able to effectively innovate and adapt, as well as communicate, collaborate and coordinate resources. We help teams build their agility competence through high-content, high-engagement development days that integrate reflection and action planning based on the results of their Team Agility Shift Inventory.
  • Customized Solutions: There is no one-size-fits-all solution for any organization. Your business priorities, leadership commitment, environment, and available resources all dictate which strategy is best for you. We work with organizations to determine the approach that will be most effective and sustainable to improve performance.

When You Should Consider an Agile Learning and Talent Development Approach

The good news is that building your organization’s overall competence, capacity, and confidence in agility is compatible with overall organizational agility objectives and each of the agile methodologies and agile transformation approaches described in this blog series. Not only is it compatible, but it is essential that you provide engaging and motivating development opportunities and help your leaders and teams make and sustain the necessary mindset and practical shift required to deliver results. Because we, as humans, are hard-wired to scan our environments for threats (read changes and disruptions) and avoid or resist them at all costs, we need new and continuous practices to help us make the intentional shifts to help us maximize each new disruption and opportunity. Whichever approach you choose, you need to have a strategy that helps your human system of interactions engage with and deliver the positive benefits and outcomes of your agility shift.


Which learning and development approach is right for you?

SCHEDULE TIME WITH PAMELA MEYER TO FIND OUT

 


Pamela Meyer, Ph.D. is the author of The Agility Shift: Creating Agile and Effective Leaders, Teams and Organizations. She is a sought-after keynote speaker and works with leaders and teams across industries who need innovative learning and talent development strategies to make the mindset and business shift to compete in a rapidly changing marketplace.

Additional References

13th Annual State of Agile Report. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.stateofagile.com/

Davies, N. (2019). Agile Deserves The Hype, But It Can Also Fail: How To Avoid The Pitfalls. Forbes. Retrieved from Forbes website: https://www.forbes.com/sites/nigeldavies/2019/07/02/agile-deserves-the-hype-but-it-can-also-fail-how-to-avoid-the-pitfalls/#c9ced757a0cf

How Agile and DevOps enable digital readiness and transformation. (2018). Hampshire, UK: Freeform Dynamics.

The Elusive Agile Enterprise: How the Right Leadership Mindset, Workforce and Culture Can Transform Your Organization. Jersey City, NJ: Forbes Insights and the Scrum Alliance (2018). Retrieved from: https://www.scrumalliance.org/ScrumRedesignDEVSite/media/Forbes-Media/ScrumAlliance_REPORT_FINAL-WEB.pdf

Schwartz, J., Collins, L., Stockton, H., Wagner, D., & Walsh, B. (2017). Rewriting the Rules for the Digital Age: 2017 Deloitte Human Capital Trends. Retrieved from: https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/global/Documents/HumanCapital/hc-2017-global-human-capital-trends-gx.pdf