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We used to say there are only two certainties in life. Death and taxes! But Blackberry has been taxed to death by a third certainty in the life of a business - volatility. Volatility - Agility = Fragility. Accelerating volatility separates businesses and leaders into two camps - the agile and the fragile.

Agility is the ability to deal with rapidly changing circumstances while out-executing our competition and expectations of our stakeholders (customers, employees, vendors, debt-holders and shareholders). When there is less and less we can count on with any certainty these days, we must be able to count more and more on our agility to cope, no matter what. It is the only competitive advantage which has any permanence. Everything else is increasingly temporary, increasingly quickly.

Read on for the first 3 tips in this article series that will show you how to address the whole challenge by building a culture of agility.

Tip #1: Declare War on Excuses.

Most businesses are plagued by excuses ("I didn't have time", "we don't have the resources", "I don't know how" and many more, including some very creative and very subtle ones), which is robbing you blind of your agility every day. But excuses are a scam, a con and a racket, so much so, I like to call them a multi-level-marketing, pyramid-selling, ponzi-scheme! Declare war on excuses by defining those that are common in your organization, and listing clear alternatives. You'll be surprised at how quickly you can eliminate these common roadblocks for yourself, and your employees.

Tip #2: Core Values/100 Places

Define a set of Core-Values with Observable (and audible) Operating Norms. I can't hold you accountable for "Integrity", for instance, I can only hold you accountable for observable and audible operating norms of what we always do and say and what we never do and say. It's these "always" and "nevers" which give our core-values some teeth. If I can't see or hear the presence or absence of a behavior then I can't hold you accountable.

But that's not the big deal! The real issue is to then institutionalize these core values in 100-places around the business (in 100-ways, with 100-approaches, not just places in which to put stuff). Hang 6 posters in the conference rooms and around the office. That's 6 right? No, that's 1 with 99 to go! Put them on the back of the security badges and we have 20 employees. So that's 20 right? No, that's 2 with 98 to go! My point? You need to be driving your core-values into the DNA of your business. If all you did is hang them in the lobby, put them on the web-site and give everybody a paper-weight, you are fooling yourself. In fact, it's become a joke in the minds of your people. So please take it down from the lobby, delete them from your website and collect up the paper-weights! If on the other hand you are committed to this, leave those things where they are and keep going!
If you set out for 100 and get to 20 or 30 you will be streets ahead of most companies.

Tip #3: Think about how you want to Weave Agility into your Core-Values

There is not one right or wrong way to do this. I have seen people do it in all kinds of ways. Here are a few:
  • Adding agility as a core-value
  • Sometimes also using the elements of the AGILE Model to explain it:
    • Anticipating Change
    • Generating Confidence o Initiating Action
    • Liberating Thinking
    • Evaluating Results
  • Inserting "Agile" in front of other core-values, e.g:
    • Agile Leadership
    • Agile Innovation
    • Agile Results-Orientation
  • Putting Agility language in the header and footer
  • Embedding Agility language in the graphic design
Stay tuned for Tips 4-7 for creating an agile culture.

Contributed by Mike Richardson of Agility Consulting


Larry Hart

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