“Agile approaches” in business and organisational change achieve the right outcome, at the right time, in the right way, for project teams. But some organisations, and some people, just don’t get it.
For many of us, thinking in an agile way is just natural, and we apply this thinking to our lives on a daily basis, to help us get the most from every day. Given the challenges that many of us are currently experiencing, more than ever, we now need to be able to cope with difficult times and make the changes we need to succeed. Read any of the self help books on personal success and you will read many of the same concepts presented and experienced in different ways. These books all focus on success, whatever that means for each of us, whether it’s fame, fortune, feeling fulfilled or simply surviving. Ultimately they are about maximising our potential, recognising our limitations and how to overcome those limits, especially the ones we place on ourselves. The principles espoused by Stephen Covey, Deepak Chopra and Brian Tracy, to name but a few, all recommend similar approaches and a common way of thinking and behaving. They all suggest that successful people tend to think and behave in a way that could be described as agile, which includes the following:
- Being goal focused – having the ability to clearly visualise the desired outcome, while not getting too hung up on how that outcome is achieved. Once we can visualise what we want, that motivates us to do what we can and need to do in order to achieve that outcome. Having clear priorities – understanding what is most important to us in our lives and having a clear sense of priorities means that we feel more balanced, and less stressed – if we are clear about all the roles we perform in life and work, and how they are prioritised against each other, then our lives are more manageable. However if we find ourselves overwhelmed by competing demands and responsibilities, it’s a recipe for disaster, as we don’t know where to start, and can be a major source of stress for many of us, leading to poor health and poor performance.
- Taking incremental steps –– We can feel overwhelmed by the enormity of some of the things that we want to achieve, maybe losing 10 kilos in weight or running a marathon, but all these goals are much more achieveable if they are broken down or “dechunked” so that they become more realistic. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day (but it might have been if they used an agile approach!)
- No failure, only feedback – Often some of our biggest fears revolve around the fear of failure, and the consequences of it. However, with agile thinking, failure is just feedback, and helps us to realise what doesn’t work, usually resulting in a better overall outcome. So if I fail my driving test, by recognising my mistakes, and developing a plan to improve, I have a better chance the next time, which should make me a better driver. ”The guy who never made a mistake never made anything”.
- Building rapport in relationships – Recognising the strengths of those around you and facilitating collaboration are critical to achieving good outcomes, both in business change and personal change. These valuable life skills have been shown to be strongly linked to Emotional Intelligence, which is becoming recognised as being a key factor in strong leadership – which the world now needs more than ever.
- The journey is just as important as the destination – In our personal lives, we are constantly going through cycles of change, so our lives are really a series of destinations. This means that when we reach a destination, we may only be there for a time before we begin the next journey. The journey is where we learn our lessons and gather our experiences, so we may as well enjoy it. In business change, the emphasis may be more on the destination, but really nothing ever remains completely static – even once a project is delivered, the environment begins to change, so the next stage of the journey begins.
- Balance between control and letting go – Many of us cope with our lives by wanting to control them, and orchestrate all the minutiae of our day to day existence. We don’t realise that we cannot control everything, and often this can stress us out. Paradoxically, we often don’t control the things that we should, and this leads to more trouble! So, for example, trying to control the behaviours of others, while having little control over something like our personal finances is typical of how many of us are. The answer lies in finding the right balance for you between having control and letting go. This means being focused on the outcome, but being open to how that outcome will be achieved, while still developing good habits around our scarce resources like time and money. Just as in an agile change project, goals and incremental steps are used to control the project, there is flexibility within these boundaries for learning to occur and changing direction when necessary.
For those that don’t get it, maybe a fundamental shift at a personal level is needed before they can be ready to embrace it in their organisation. The Barack Obamas, Richard Bransons and Oprah Winfreys of this world are goal-oriented, responsive to feedback from the environment and people around them, and are open to all the opportunities that will present themselves, in order to help them to achieve their outcome. That’s agile living for you…!
Liz is a trained Coach, Workshop Facilitator, Trainer, PRINCE2 practitioner and has worked with DSDM / Atern projects. She holds a Diploma in Personal and Business Coaching, awarded by the ILI and the Institute of Leadership and Management, City & Guilds UK.
If you feel you are missing something in your life, or want to improve your career, relationships, confidence, stress levels, health and fitness or achieve other goals, coaching will help you clarify what you want, and how to get there.
Liz Barron – Realize Coaching, Facilitation & Consulting – firstname.lastname@example.org +353 86 8162281