Transformation! Agility! Antifragility! Scalability! Sustainability! . . . All conjure up different sensations!
Coaches are catalysts for fostering success by partnering with clients in advancing their business outcomes. Fundamentally, coaches are students of Human Nature and Human Dynamics in the context of the Human Condition . . . Reality!
As Tom Landry elegantly expressed: “A coach is someone who tells you what you don’t want to hear, who has you see what you don’t want to see, so you can be who you have always known you could be.”
Kindred Spirits . . .
Knowing Mike (@mcottmeyer) and Dennis (@dennisstevens) for many years, we’ve often entertained the potential of collaborating. And on many occasions, it almost happened! However, after Mike and Dennis founded LeadingAgile (@leadingagile), I (@SAlhir) only became that much more intrigued.
Much of Mike’s, Dennis’, and LeadingAgile’s transformation experience is captured in the LeadingAgile Way and much of Mark’s, Brad’s, and my transformation experience is captured in Conscious Agility.
After my announcement regarding working with LeadingAgile, many clients and colleagues queried: How do you reconcile your experience with Mike’s, Dennis’, and LeadingAgile’s experience? My reply: One doesn’t reconcile, but integrates unique experiences — to pragmatically serve our clients and their business outcomes! It’s all about Synergy!
The LeadingAgile Way
LeadingAgile’s transformation experience is captured in the LeadingAgile Way using a Compass, Roadmap, and Journey.
LeadingAgile’s Compass expresses a “worldview”. It describes four quadrants formed by the intersection of a Predictive-to-Adaptive dimension and Convergent-to-Emergent dimension. The Predictive-to-Adaptive dimension describes a company’s values. The Convergent-to-Emergent dimension describes a company’s customers’ values.
- The Predictive-Emergent quadrant focuses organizations on building trust.
- The Predictive-Convergent quadrant focuses organizations on becoming more predictable.
- The Adaptive-Convergent quadrant focuses organizations on reducing batch size.
- The Adaptive-Emergent quadrant focuses organizations on fully decoupling teams.
LeadingAgile’s Roadmap expresses a macro-level transformation approach; and includes:
- Define the Strategy, which sets the destination and defines an end-state vision with a focus on Structure, Governance, and Metrics & Tools.
- Lead the Transformation, which guides expeditions progressively through basecamps with a focus on forming teams, train teams, and coaching teams.
- Prepare to Go Alone, which sustains the change with a focus on assessments, targeted coaching, and sustaining artifacts.
LeadingAgile’s Journey expresses a micro-level transformation approach using expeditions and basecamps. An expedition is a vertical slice of an organization (Portfolio, Program and Delivery & Service teams) that is taking part in a journey from a current state to a defined basecamp goal. A journey is the specific path an expedition will take to reach the next basecamp goal. A basecamp is a specific milestone for an expedition undergoing a transformation.
- Basecamp 1, Getting Predictable, focuses on stabilizing teams.
- Basecamp 2, Reducing Batch Size, focuses on flow across teams.
- Basecamp 3, Breaking Dependencies, focuses on decoupling teams.
- Basecamp 4, Increasing Local Autonomy, focuses on team autonomy and adaptive governance.
- Basecamp 5, Investing to Learn, focuses on innovation.
Basecamps 1 and 2 are in the Predictive-Convergent quadrant of the Compass, basecamp 3 is in the Adaptive-Convergent quadrant of the Compass, and basecamps 4 and 5 are in the Adaptive-Emergent quadrant of the Compass.
Conscious Agility — with roots in the real-world practice of Conscious Capitalism, Business Agility, and Antifragility — is a design-thinking approach for business ecosystems that integrates awareness with intuition, orientation, and improvisation so that individuals and collectives may benefit from uncertainty, disorder, and the unknown.
While many business movements strictly adopt a single perspective — some focus on the so-called “softer” aspects (dynamics) while others focus on the so-called “harder” aspects (mechanics) — Conscious Agility remains agnostic and embraces an all-inclusive viewpoint, integrating relevant perspectives yet keeping the “human element” paramount.
Not to discount any particular movement, but any myopic viewpoint often obscures reality and the importance of the “human element;” and while all business movements would readily argue that they don’t elevate their “particulars” over the “human element” — experience leads us to conclude otherwise!
A Conscious Agility initiative is a cycle of “fundamental change” (or renewal), which is uniquely organic, simultaneous, and holistic in addressing a business perspective, organizational perspective, and culture perspective while being business or industry domain agnostic and technology agnostic, and open to being combined with other approaches.
A Conscious Agility initiative is organized into a cycle of phases (which are generally sequential but may overlap), which are composed of conversation clusters, which are composed of conversations. Conversations occur in any order and as many times as needed to ensure the overall objectives of the phase are achieved and that they are oriented towards addressing one or more questions that activates how people relate to one another and how people behave with one another.
There is absolutely no rigidity, but complete and utter flexibility, in how the phases, conversation clusters, and conversions are used in a Conscious Agility initiative. And the scope of an initiative is completely flexible to a whole enterprise or any subset of the enterprise.
Edgar Schein defines Culture as “a pattern of shared tacit and interconnected assumptions that was learned by a group as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration, that has worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems.”
Conscious Agility relies on the following foundational concepts, which are rooted in Edgar Schein’s definition of Culture:
- An Ecosystem is a collection of stakeholders, including their environment.
- A Stakeholder is an entity who impacts or is impacted by other stakeholders.
- Stakeholder identity encapsulates awareness and ownership. Identity should not be confused with ego, which is focused only on the “self”!
- Awareness involves stakeholders being conscious of themselves and one another.
- Ownership involves stakeholders embracing how they impact or are impacted by other stakeholders within the ecosystem.
- Values are tenets that stakeholders consider meaningful. Individual stakeholders unite based on compatible values.
- Purpose is the reason or “why” stakeholders form an ecosystem. Individual stakeholders unite around a shared purpose.
- Value is worth that stakeholders’ experience. Individual stakeholders unite with an orientation towards co-creating value.
- A Conversation is an exchange between stakeholders. Conversations are purposeful, value-oriented, and values-based. A Conversation Cluster is a collection of conversations.
- A Canvas is a description of reality.
A Conscious Agility initiative cycle includes the following phases: Define, Create, and Refine.
The Define phase focuses on fostering awareness of stakeholders, envisioning an improved way of working together, and establishing clarity around the initiative. This includes:
- Establish a Design Team, which launches the initiative with a team of individuals who represent the stakeholders within the ecosystem.
- Discover a “minimal” Ecosystem Definition, which establishes design team ownership of a path forward toward an improved way of working that is considerate of all stakeholders.
The Create phase focuses on achieving greater awareness, intuition, orientation, and improvisation by evolving the ecosystem; enacting shared experiences, while also integrating stakeholders. This includes:
- Enact Experiences, which exercises and evolves the new way of working.
- Integrate Stakeholders, which exercises and evolves a new way of organizing.
The Refine phase focuses on ensuring stakeholders have sufficiently evolved the ecosystem to nurture continued success, allowing for the initiative to draw to closure. This includes:
- Embrace Experiences, which ensures that the new way of working is embraced by all stakeholders and reflects stakeholder experiences within the ecosystem.
- Nurture Stakeholders, which ensures that the ecosystem has fully integrated the new way of organizing and is nurturing all stakeholders.
What is the synergy between the LeadingAgile Way and Couscous Agility?
Compass and Foundational Concepts
LeadingAgile’s Compass and Conscious Agility’s foundational concepts are congruent “worldviews”.
- Schein’s emphasis on “external adaptation” is operationalized with the Convergent-to-Emergent dimension and Value.
- Schein’s emphasis on “internal integration” is operationalized with the Predictive-to-Adaptive dimension and Identity, Values, and Purpose.
Furthermore, the Compass as well as the Stakeholders and their Conversation Clusters and Conversations integrate these internal and external aspects.
Roadmap and Phases
LeadingAgile’s Roadmap and Conscious Agility’s phases are congruent macro-level transformation approaches.
- LeadingAgile’s Define the Strategy with Conscious Agility’s Define phase.
- LeadingAgile’s Lead the Transformation with Conscious Agility’s Create phase.
- LeadingAgile’s Prepare to Go Alone with Conscious Agility’s Refine phase.
Specifically, as LeadingAgile’s Strategy focuses on Structure, Governance, and Metrics & Tools, Conscious Agility’s Ecosystem Definition (and Canvas) focus on these among other relevant aspects.
Journey and Conversation Clusters
LeadingAgile’s Journey and the basecamps along with Conscious Agility’s Enact Experiences, Integrate Stakeholders, Embrace Experiences, and Nurture Stakeholders conversation clusters are congruent micro-level transformation approaches.
- Basecamps 1, 2, and 3 relate to Enact Experiences and Integrate Stakeholders.
- Basecamps 4 and 5 relate to Embrace Experiences and Nurture Stakeholders.
While this emphasizes a general congruence, there are other natural affinities among basecamps and conversation clusters.
. . . Partnering with Clients in advancing their Business Outcomes!
As Stephen Covey emphasized: “Synergy is better than my way or your way. It’s our way.”
Synergy is all about integrating, not merely reconciling, our unique experiences in order to best pragmatically serve our clients and their business outcomes!
And should irreconcilable differences emerge in our journey ahead, how we continue (together or separately!) will be anchored and guided by our cause of serving our clients and their business outcomes!