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Agility is an everyday proposition. Agile teams understand that. Organizational agility comes from the summation of agile teamwork, enterprise wide and enterprise deep, every day. There are no days off from the challenge of being AGILE:

  • Anticipating Change
  • Generating Confidence
  • Initiating Action
  • Liberating Thinking
  • Evaluation Results

I first discovered the secrets of agile teamwork when working as a Petroleum Engineer for Shell International working on offshore oil & gas drilling rigs. Helicopter out and back, week on and week off, and when you are on its 24/7.

Every day we were monitoring the weather closely to anticipate changes in our operating conditions. The normal operations of an oil & gas drilling can be characterized as organized-chaos. We worked very hard to make sure we didn't experience unanticipated changes in weather and risk any lapse into dis-organized chaos.

Every day we were fully-triaging multiple operations - those we were currently undertaking and simultaneously forward planning future operations across multiple time horizons (sometimes the next few minutes, the next few hours, day-time/night-time operations, the next few days and the next few weeks) to synchronize the necessary heavy-equipment, materials and supplies. Working with very limited storage space to operate with, this constant flow of triage was necessary to generate confidence that we were on top of everything and allowing for anticipated weather changes which might impact re-supply timing and operations phasing. We worked very hard to be confident we weren't risking any lapse into partial triage.

Every day we had to leverage our collective insight to foresee problems and conflicts in the making and initiate action to develop fallback plans. We worked very hard to not learn from hindsight that we had initiated too little action too late.

Every day we knew we needed a little luck on our side, not by accident but by design, by liberating thinking to find creative options. We worked very hard to leave nothing to luck by accident, because it's usually bad (a la Murphy's Law - what can go wrong will go wrong).

Every day we were acutely oriented to the unfolding journey of the oil & gas well we were drilling, evaluating results and plans microscopically, knowing that the devil is in the details, with everyone's health and safety at stake. We worked very hard not to rely upon just broad-brush, macroscopic plans. Oil & Gas wells get planned macroscopically but they get drilled microscopically.

These are the everyday realities of agility we had to master as a team: Agility Chart

How hard is your team working to change its relationship with these everyday realities of agility? If you are experiencing more disorganized-chaos and crisis-management than you should, then probably not very well. In many teams (and organizations) this can become situation-normal. It doesn't have to be that way.

"The task of imagination is to do the work of crisis without the crisis" (Roberto Unger)
On oil & gas drilling rigs we drove the daily processes and disciplines to tap into our collective imagination to do the work of crisis without the crisis. The consequences of not doing so were too grave. We help teams do the same in business and move from FRAGILE to AGILE. Everyday agile teamwork.

Contributed by Mike Richardson of Agility Consulting


Larry Hart

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