The Agility Series

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

About this Blog


Recent Posts

InfoQ Podcast Interview of me on The Agility Series, Cultural Agility, and more

You might be a management red-neck if…

Strategic Debt  — What it is and how to avoid it

The Cultural Agility Questions are now live!

What is Cultural Agility and why does it matter?

InfoQ Podcast Interview of me on The Agility Series, Cultural Agility, and more

@ICAgile's Shane Hastie's podcast interview of me has been posted on @InfoQ - we talk about The Agility Series, Cultural Agility, the NFPPC, Value Management, Organizational Sustainability and Resilience, and whole lot more. Check it out!

Key Takeaways:

  • Value management is about doing the right thing, rather than doing lots of stuff, right
  • The reason for doing something should always trace back to an organizational strategic goal, and if it doesn’t then we’re wasting the organizations money
  • Introducing the ideas of cultural agility
  • The ability to understand multiple local contexts and work within them to obtain business results
  • A statement of strategic intent is not a statement of fact, it is a current direction which can change
  • Sustainability and resilience are enhanced through agility
  • Everything changes – the practices we are using now won’t be the ones we will use in the future, be adaptive to changing everything about how we do work

Posted on: August 02, 2017 08:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

You might be a management red-neck if…

Full disclosure...this is meant as tounge-in-cheek...sort was fun to write though....

The signature routine of American stand-up comedian Jeff Foxworthy is his “you might be a red-neck if…”. For example

“You might be a redneck if . . . you think you are an entrepreneur because of the “Dirt for Sale” sign in the front yard.”

So what does this have to do with management (and leadership too..)? Plenty. Especially if you are a manager in a traditional organization or one who continues to hang on to traditional approaches while everything else around you is changing. So how would you know if you might be a management red-neck?

You might be a management red-neck if…

  • you think you have the right to tell resources what to do, because well, you’re the manager
  • you think you need to tell resources what to do, because after-all, they are generally lazy and stupid anyway, and you’re the manager
  • you consider the time a resource spends at their desk an indicator of their productivity
  • you think the amount of documentation a resource creates while at their desk is an indicator of their productivity
  • you like to surround yourself by resources who are just like you are because you like resources who agree with you
  • you think it’s OK to take the credit for the work of your resources
  • you think it’s OK to call out one your resources in front of other resources
  • you’ve mastered management-speak and consider it a status symbol
  • you think status meetings are actually useful
  • you hold said status meetings every week
  • you like to hold said meetings because it shows you are the boss and you get to sit at the head of the table
  • you don’t see the distinction between reporting and actual progress on delivering something of value
  • you think being “the boss” is power and you like to tell every resource you meet that you are one, and have it
  • you think you have to make all of the decisions, because, you know, you’re the boss
  • you think having an office with walls is a status symbol (or worse, it’s just a larger cubicle than anyone else on your team has but you’re the boss so you get a bigger one…)
  • you think that negative feedback and “tough love” are the only way to get resources to do your bidding
  • you think that resources have to do your bidding without any questions
  • you think that knowledge is power, so you like to hoard it
  • you think it’s OK to watch another manager flounder because it will make you look better
  • you reward resources who thrive at fighting fires
  • you have no time for resources who like to avoid the fires in the first place
  • you will adhere blindly to a policy even when you know it will get the wrong results, because well, that’s the policy
  • you think outputs are more important than outcomes or business value
  • you’re now thinking “what the heck does he mean by business value?”
  • you refer to people as resources…and treat them as interchangeable pieces of raw material (see what I did there in the rest of the list :))

So what do you think? Any others you’d add?

PS: This is meant as humor…so if you are offended or if you see yourself in it, then you just might be a management red-neck… :) and I’m sorry to call it out…well not really…

The bright side is that we are never too old to change our ways!

Posted on: July 13, 2017 12:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (21)

Strategic Debt  — What it is and how to avoid it

Defining and delivering on a vision and strategy has been a hit and miss proposition for most traditional organizations for many decades. The reason for this is twofold.

First, traditional Industrial Era management thinking, and its accompanying models rely on the notion that we can use the past to predict the future.

The industrial era approach, often manifested itself in the 3 to 5-year strategic plan. The focus of this era was standardization (limited change), and mass production.

Secondly, this is not the reality of the Digital Era in which all organizations now operate. The current reality is constant and accelerating change from an ever increasing variety of vectors.

Yet, some still insist on trying to create the perfect plan to satisfy the perfectly indescribable problem.

This failure to adapt is creating strategic debt. Strategic debt, when left to accumulate, leads to the collapse of once vibrant enterprises in the private sector, and to the increasing irrelevance of organizations in the public sector.

Strategic debt is the deficit between the planned strategic goals and objectives that are set out at a point-in-time in strategic plans, versus the ones that emerge and evolve during execution. Such goals and objectives are both stated, and rightfully perceived, as hard targets. But what if the goal or objective statement is malformed, is the wrong one, or is no longer relevant?

Strategic debt accumulation is directly correlated to the time-gap between the point-in-time goals and objectives setting exercise and the time at which the organization begins to take a more adaptive and iterative approach to strategy execution.

Failing to accommodate changing realities while continuing to execute to the goals and objectives of a rigid strategic plan creates strategic debt, and since strategy sets the tone for the organization as a whole — the cost and associated risks are very high as the debt continues to accumulate.

To resolve this dilemma we need to iterate strategy in the same way we iterate product development that use frameworks such as Scrum. In this way, strategy undergoes a number of course corrections over time in an effort to achieve corporate value, similar to a sailor using tacking to make most efficient use of the wind.

Instead of casting our goals and objectives in stone in the form of specific strategic goals and objectives, we instead need to formulate them as statements of strategic intent.

A statement of intent is a statement that indicates what we are likely to do in the near future. Statements of intent are positive statements of the future you are trying to create, that are also intended to garner your personal commitment to their achievement.

Statement of strategic intent, which are statements of intent applied to a strategic context, can have any combination of near-term, medium-term, and longer-term components. They are expressions of the means by which we expect to achieve our organization’s vision. They are designed to provide context to the expected results that would be achieved if the vision were realized — without the how. How to achieve strategic intent is rightfully left up to the people who have to do the work.

As they are statements of intent, it also means we can both evaluate what we are about to do as well as the results from what we have just completed, against that stated intent; That is, it provides the opportunity to evaluate the intent itself, and to make needed adjustments based on new insights and experience. It also allows us to run experiments to validate portions of our intent before we make large people, time or financial commitments.

By using statements of intent, we are acknowledging that we might not have gotten it right the first time, or the second, or the third…It’s the relief valve that helps us to avoid creating strategic debt. It assumes strategy is indicative rather than fact.

To illustrate, consider the graphic below:

· Intended strategy is based on our statements of strategic intent.

· The deliberate things we do to achieve a given strategic intent become realized strategy (top line).

· There will also be statements of intent that we lay down that can remain unrealized for myriad reasons (poorly stated, not achievable, no longer relevant, etc.).

· And finally there will be that which emerges or evolves along the way that also get realized through deliberate action.

· So realized strategy is a combination of both deliberate and emergent strategy.


My partner Dan Murphy provides an example of using a statement of short, medium, and long-term strategic intent from his Cisco days; Larry Carter, then CFO of Cisco circa 1995 tasked his organization with closing the books world wide in two weeks instead of four weeks so that Cisco would have the financial data required to make better decisions. It took the team a few years to pull it off, but they did, by working in small tight iterations with small teams. However this was not a project at Cisco — it was a process. They kept going to continually refine and better the process providing continual improvement and delivery of value. Today, Cisco closes its books worldwide daily (effectively in real time). The intent was defined by Mr. Carter — not the how!

Posted on: July 10, 2017 12:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

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

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 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 





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Posted on: January 15, 2017 12:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

"A jury consists of twelve persons chosen to decide who has the better lawyer."

- Robert Frost