The Agility Series

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The Agility Series focuses on agile and agility across the organization not just in software and product development. Areas of agility that will be covered in blog posts will include: - Organizational Agility - Leadership Agility - Strategic Agility - Value Agility - Delivery Agility - Business Agility - Cultural Agility - Client Agility - Learning Agility

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The Cultural Agility Questions are now live!

What is Cultural Agility and why does it matter?

Start at the end or the beginning? Perspective Counts!

Focus on the positive

What are your goals for 2017?

The Cultural Agility Questions are now live!

The Cultural Agility Questions are now live!

I am excited to kick off the first round of questions on Cultural Agility which you can start to answer immediately by clicking on https://lnkd.in/d259Ny8

We will be closing the first round on March 31st with the second round to follow shortly thereafter. We hope to have both rounds concluded by mid-April so we can prepare to speak on the this topic at Spark the Change Montreal being held on May 11-12.

The questions can be answered by anyone so please share as widely as possible in your own networks - the more insights we get the richer our collective wisdom will be! Thank you so much for helping us spread agility!

 

Kindest regards - Larry

Posted on: March 21, 2017 07:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

What is Cultural Agility and why does it matter?

Categories: agile, agility, culture, leadership

Image result for cultural agility

Now that the New Year is off and running, we will be getting started on the next book in The Agility Series which will be on Cultural Agility. So what exactly is Cultural Agility and why does it matter?

Within the agile space much has been said and written about creating/enabling an agile culture or a culture of agility. Here's one definition I came across for an agile culture that pretty much sums it up: 

An "agile" culture (with a lower-case "a") is one that has adopted a style, approach, and community that is tolerant of failure, willing to test hypotheses, and able to adjust to changing market conditions as deemed necessary.(1)

But is that the same thing as cultural agility? Apparently not.  There are multiple definitions out there such as:

Cultural agility is the mega-competency which enables professionals to perform successfully in cross-cultural situations. Culturally agile professionals succeed in contexts where the successful outcome of their jobs, roles, positions, or tasks depends on dealing with an unfamiliar set of cultural norms—or multiple sets of them (2)

And this one:

Cultural agility is the ability to understand multiple local contexts and work within them to obtain consistent business results.  For today’s global organizations, cultural agility is the new competitive edge. While individual capacities are important, successful organizations build an institutional level of a global mindset and skills for effectively coordinating, negotiating and influencing across boundaries. (3)

While there are many other definitions, all seem to be focused on the fact that organizations may operate in different locales and need to be culturally aware (3) or there are many different cultural groups that may exist inside of your local organization (2). Most organizations that I have dealt with in recent years have an incredibly rich set of international cultures resident within them. This trend is increasing. And to me, that's a good thing.

I would take culture a step further and say that modern organizations need both an agile culture, and their people need to be culturally agile. My hypothesis is that the former provides focus for developing the shared values and principles that guide our collective actions, while the later helps us understand how we personally interpret and apply those shared values and principles, which will necessarily affect how we interact with those who are culturally different than we are. I feel both perspectives are crucial to success in modern organizations. I think it also fits with my humanist tendencies. Wikipedia defines humanism as:

Humanism is a philosophical and ethical stance that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, and affirms their ability to improve their lives through the use of reason and ingenuity as opposed to submitting blindly to tradition and authority or sinking into cruelty and brutality.

For those who may be wondering, this definition is not, for me, an anti-religious stance. It's more focused on the idea that we really all do need to get along if we are to create vibrant and long-lived organizations. We also need to be able to draw on the collective wisdom of all rather than on the ideas of just the few people at the top. 

The two books in The Agility Series so far have been guided by the ideas provided by people from Australia, Great Britain, Canada, USA, Singapore, France and Belgium. As these two were by invitation-only to be a member of the Wisdom Council for each book, we are planning to open it up for the remaining seven books in the series so that we can have an even greater mix of countries and cultures represented.

What better book to start doing that than with the next one we are tackling on Cultural Agility?

Want to explore what cultural agility means to you and why it matters?

To join in our next adventure in agility, look out for a post in a few weeks when we officially launch our first round of questions for the third book in The Agility Series on Cultural Agility. If you want to read the first two books in the series, go to www.mplaza.ca and download Organization Agility and Leadership Agility to get you into what we have explored so far. I have removed the pricing on Leadership Agility so it's now free to download!

Want to have a say in the questions we'll be asking in Round one?

Jen Hunter and I will be giving a presentation at PMIOVOC on January 25th at noon called Best decision yet: Aspiring together to co-create global wisdom! If you are in the Ottawa area, come join us as we let you in on how the Series came about. You'll also get a chance to provide input to the set of questions we will use in the first round of ideas gathering for Cultural Agility! Hope to see you there!

PS: also come join the conversation on our LinkedIn Group 

(1) https://www.quora.com/What-is-Agile-Culture

(2) http://www.culturalagility.com/

(3) http://lexicon.ft.com/Term?term=cultural-agility

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How to contact me:

Want to engage me and my friends:

We also offer classroom training for Scrum.org courses plus other agile and Scrum training (http://bssnexus.com/education/)

 

Posted on: January 15, 2017 12:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Start at the end or the beginning? Perspective Counts!

In my recent articles on Outcomes-focused Agility I talked about starting with the end in mind. I said that Outcomes-focused agility helps us to figure the WHY before we focus on the WHAT, WHEN, HOW, or WHERE of our portfolios, programmes, and projects, let alone which products we should build using Scrum. So it makes sense to start at the end.

This is of course premised on the idea that your starting point is from Vision and Strategy and you have to figure how to achieve certain results.

So when does it make sense to start at the beginning? When you want the process to help you determine where you are going! So what's an example of that? The Agility Series of books that we started last year.

When you decide you want to write a book (in a work-world context) it's usually because you feel you have something worth-while to share. Whether you write alone or have a co-author or two, you have a pretty good idea of what you want to write about. So when I wrote Agile Value Delivery: Beyond the Numbers (available here and here), I had already written a few blog posts that had some of the ideas. The rest were developed as it was written - but the core ideas and what the book would cover, were mostly figured out in advance. That is, the expected results were pretty much known.

The Agility Series, is an entirely different exercise. I have no idea where it`s going to end up. You can read more about the call to action here that we sent out for the second book we published in the series Leadership Agility: Enabling Sustainable Organizations. In it I ask potential participants to come on an adventure with me as the Agility Series Facilitator, as I have no idea where we end up together. It's an entirely different approach than an outcomes-focused one.

We start by asking a series of questions of a Wisdom Council, that I co-develop with 3 others, Jen Hunter of GreatWork, Claude Emond, and Charlotte Goudreault. We ask Council members to offer up individual ideas (as many as they'd like to) for each of the questions which range from 5 to 7 questions in total.

Once we get all of their ideas, we analyze them and look for common themes within each set of question responses. We then go back for the second round where we slightly re-word the questions and ask them to rank the themes in a series of pair-wise comparisons. From this set of results, I have the base for the book, to which I add our further analyses and complimentary research.

The cycle-time has been roughly 3-4 months for each of the first two books from start to finish. But when we start each book-writing exercise, we literally have no idea where it will end up. It's actually quite exhilarating to get started each time, and extremely rewarding when we finish.

The model is based on Jen's truly great work and model that she has used successfully in helping organizations make difficult decisions. By asking powerful questions, she is able to help clients identify the most compelling options to strategic choices that need to be made. In this way she able to help her clients get broad support from their stakeholders for the decisions they ultimately have to make. You can see an example of that over at her website.

So perspective counts when deciding whether to start at the beginning (with no idea of where it might lead), versus starting with the end in mind ,where you would first articulate the results you want to achieve.

The really interesting part, though, is this. With Outcomes-focused Agility we actually utilize both perspectives. We do indeed start at the end in order to determine what we need to do and the order (or sequence) in which we need to do it. But once we start, we adopt parts of what Jen uncovered in her work that helped her create her great work contribution to her clients. That's the agility-side of Outcomes-focused Agility, as we use an inspect and adapt mindset to iterate our strategies, and to also re-frame our expected results based on what we discover along the way.

So we start at the end, and also at the beginning...in an iterative manner throughout delivery.

So what do you think? Beginning or end? Does perspective count?

**********************************************************************

How to contact me:

Want to engage me and my friends:

We also offer classroom training for Scrum.org courses plus other agile and Scrum training (http://bssnexus.com/education/)

 

 

Posted on: January 11, 2017 07:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Focus on the positive

A big part of traditional project management is Risk Management which consists of the following steps

  • Risk Management Planning
  • Risk Identification
  • Qualitative Risk Analysis
  • Quantitative Risk Analysis
  • Risk Response Planning
  • Risk Monitoring and Control

Some teams will do all but the last step very early in the project - I have seen it done before they have even established WHY they are doing the project! In a recent post What? You don't know why you are doing your project?  I discussed how outcomes-focused agility helps us to figure the WHY before we focus on the WHAT, WHEN, HOW, or WHERE of our portfolios, programmes, and projects let alone which products we should build using Scrum.

Too much of an upfront emphasis on Risk Management has us focusing on what will go wrong before we have truly focused on what must go right. Humans have a bias towards negative thoughts according to Rick Hanson, Ph.D., a neuropsychologist. He says

Our minds naturally focus on the bad and discard the good. It was much more important for our ancestors to avoid threats than to collect rewards: An individual who successfully avoided a threat would wake up the next morning and have another opportunity to collect a reward, but an individual who didn’t avoid the threat would have no such opportunity.

He describes the brain as like "Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones." While that may have been important when we were mostly hunter-gatherers, it is not such an important behaviour to have in modern organizations.

In our second book in The Agility Series, Leadership Agility: Enabling Organizational Sustainability, we said that mindfulness is a core value of leaders that exhibit agility. Being mindful helps us to counter the effects of negative thinking (or the overemphasis what on might go wrong), as opposed to what must go right for us to be successful.

Another example from everyday life - if you watch or read the news you would believe that 2016 was a horrible disaster. However, Col. Chris Hadfield, the renowned Canadian astronaut reminded us recently with a list of 46 things that show 2016 was actually pretty good. He concluded with

There are countless more examples, big and small. If you refocus on the things that are working, your year will be better than the last.

So what does that have to do with portfolios, programmes, and projects and risk management? Lots. An overemphasis on risk can cause us to forget to focus on the positive. So what is the positive for portfolios, programmes, and projects? Answering the WHY question before we jump into the WHAT, WHEN, HOW, or WHERE. Outcomes-focused Agility enables us to thrive in a VUCA-world where we face mostly holistic messes rather than discrete problems.

Having a positive focus enables us to meet each unexpected event using an inspect and adapt mindset. Being mindful as a leader, is having the willingness to self-reflect and change our behaviors, attitudes, practices and processes, based on what we now know to be true. In my webinar Are you an Agile project manager or an Agile project leader? And why does that question matter? I talked about the fact that projects consist of known knowns, know unknowns (the risks we try to identify), and the known unknowns (those things we don't know and could never anticipate but that we must respond to when they occur).

Focusing on knowing our WHY enables us to respond to each unexpected event or new realization along the way within the context of the specifics of what we are trying to accomplish, rather than focusing on all of the bad things that can go wrong that may have nothing to do with our WHY. If we instead focus on what we need to do (the positive) to achieve our WHY, then we will be far more likely to actually achieve it. When we spend most of our energy on making good things happen, and when engaging with our stakeholders more often and in a more positive context, then far less of the bad will actually happen.

Positive thinking is not only good for ensuring success in our projects, it's also good for own personal well-being and the well-being of those around us.

So what are you doing to engage in mindfulness and focusing on the positive so you and your teams can be successful? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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How to contact me:

  1. Send me an e-mail directly
  2. Follow me on Twitter: @cooperlk99
  3. Connect to The Agility Series Webinar Channel

Want to engage me and my friends:

  1. Check out our LinkedIn Group
  2. Check out our learning portal: www.MPlaza.ca - lots of free stuff plus some great courses on Scrum  and PRINE2 Agile. Go get The Adaptive Strategy Guide and Organizational Agility while you are there - both are FREE.
  3. You can also purchase the second book in the Agility Series on Leadership Agility or my very first book Agile Value Delivery: Beyond the Numbers
  4. We provide coaching and mentoring in Agile and Scrum for public and private sector clients. Contact me for more details
  5. We also offer classroom training  for Scrum.org courses plus other agile and Scrum training (http://bssnexus.com/education/)

Posted on: January 06, 2017 07:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

What are your goals for 2017?

Each new year brings with it a wealth of new possibilities and untapped opportunities. I once read something to the effect that opportunity is the domain of the prepared mind. So how do we best prepare our mind for opportunity?

As a practitioner in, and writer about agility, I tend to turn my attentions towards how I can improve my mind and my ability to more adaptable. Most years that meant more reading, more thinking, and more writing.

This year I thought I'd start off a little differently, so I've decided to take a couple of courses, one on how to improve my mind,  and the other in how to improve my writing.

As we age we gather more and more information. But how much of what we read and hear do we actually retain? When you essentially make your living, as many of us do, in the collection, distillation, and sense-making from large volumes of information, having a mind that is better prepared to do that becomes important. We are constantly inundated with blogs posts, eBooks, social media and all manner of different sources of information. We are often in information overload. It can be overwhelming.

As an HBR article recently noted, Peter Drucker realized that we now generate value with our minds more than with our muscle:

since at least 1959, when in Landmarks of Tomorrow he first described the rise of “knowledge work.” Three decades later, Drucker had become convinced that knowledge was a more crucial economic resource than land, labor, or financial assets, leading to what he called a “post-capitalist society.” And shortly thereafter (and not long before he died in 2005), Drucker declared that increasing the productivity of knowledge workers was “the most important contribution management needs to make in the 21st century.”

But is it someone else's responsibility or our own to increase our mental capacities? Who can decide to improve your mind but yourself? I think you know my answer. I think we are each responsible for our own personal and professional development. It's our own careers and livelihoods that we are nurturing. Plus it's rewarding to feel we are always improving our preparedness for opportunity whenever and wherever it may arise.

We collect, distill, and sense-make from the voluminous amounts of information so we can communicate its meaning to colleagues, clients, or customers, whether verbally or in writing. To do hat we need to have effective writing and communication skills. Funnily enough, good communications and good writing are complimentary skills.

So for me in 2017, instead of looking forward to retirement as many of age cohorts are doing (I am not really the retiring type - at least not yet), I am looking forward to improving my learning, thinking and writing skills so I can continue to generate value with my mind.

Doing those two things will also help me to prepare for starting our third book in The Agility Series on Cultural Agility. It will also me to help collect, distill and sense-make from what is happening at the Inaugural Business Agility Conference in NYC Feb 23-24th with my good friends Evan Leybourn and Jen Hunter. Hope to see you there!

********************************************************************************************

How to contact me:

  1. Send me an e-mail directly
  2. Follow me on Twitter: @cooperlk99
  3. Connect to The Agility Series Webinar Channel

Want to engage me and my friends:

  1. Check out our LinkedIn Group
  2. Check out our learning portal: www.MPlaza.ca - lots of free stuff plus some great courses on Scrum  and PRINE2 Agile. Go get The Adaptive Strategy Guide and Organizational Agility while you are there - both are FREE.
  3. You can also purchase the second book in the Agility Series on Leadership Agility or my very first book Agile Value Delivery: Beyond the Numbers
  4. We provide coaching and mentoring in Agile and Scrum for public and private sector clients. Contact me for more details
  5. We also offer classroom training  for Scrum.org courses plus other agile and Scrum training (http://bssnexus.com/education/)

Posted on: January 04, 2017 07:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)
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