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The Pivot to Agility in the Age of the VUCAVIRUS™

Agility Consulting |

By Tom O’Shea

“In the year 2020” … almost sounds like the old Zager and Evans song (In the Year 2525).  

Well, 2020 will no doubt become infamous for generations to come as the year of radical transformation and accelerated disruptive change globally.  It is so amazing to think how relatively promising and comfortable life was at the being of 2020 for many around the world.  No doubt, we definitely had (and have) many areas of inequality and on-going challenges, but for many, 2020 started with a profoundly optimistic and positive outlook.  

Now, 2020 will become synonymous with global pandemic, universal fear for safety along with a sudden and gripping sense of helplessness that is totally alien to the American psyche and way of life.  Add to the pandemic hysteria the other terrible tragedies and protests happening across the country, and you have full scale existential despair.

If one were to use Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for illustration, we all have spiraled down the pyramid from whatever heights we had previously achieved and have now all been forced to the bottom tiers of safety, security and physiological needs.  Sudden fear for access to basics of food and toilet paper became paramount daily concerns among others.

Here we sit at almost “half time” in the year 2020 wondering what the rest of this year will look like for us personally, collectively in our country and across the globe.  As a human race, we are still in a very fragile condition with many variables that still can cause crushing, debilitating chaos and risk.  Unanswerable questions abound.  Will there be a second and third wave to COVID-19?  Will it be followed by a COVID-20 and 21?  Will the massive debt that is being amassed cause unforeseen structural collapse of governments, financial institutions, or other mainstays of economic and societal stability?  The list of possible scenarios is almost endless.

The key is for us all to reach deep inside to find hope and threads of resilience to bounce back and take the steps to help us climb back up the hierarchy to our previous place and beyond.  The accelerated pace of 2020 disruption and innovation will continue to ratchet newer and faster possibilities at warp speed.  The biggest question is … will the leadership and social systems in our organizations be able to keep up and support the brave new world of possibilities?  

2020 has ushered in the necessity for many to adopt more flexible work-from-home models and capabilities, on-line retailing and home delivery of almost anything imaginable as well as rapid advances in telemedicine as just a few examples.  These are paradigm busters that would otherwise would have taken another decade or more.  We will find many of these and more changes become part of our new normal because they have benefits and advantages.   

In addition to exploring the insights and roadmaps for agility in our website and development guides, there are at least four focal points all leaders and teams can use as a guide in your PIVOT TO AGILITY …

  • ENGAGE – actively connect with all team members in whichever ways you are able – virtually, periodically and safely in physical proximity.  It’s important to dial up the level of communication, discussion, understanding and listening with all team members and other stakeholders.  Systematically mapping each stakeholder constituent will help to get a fresh, clear and explicit view about what they need from you and what you need from them is valuable as a fresh look.
  • ENVISION – refresh and reaffirm the vision and focus for the organization.  There is important value in re-establishing the center of gravity and underlying purpose for the team and each individual.  All teams will have to operate differently and accelerate the pace.  Its going to involve a lot of getting comfortable with feeling uncomfortable … that is our reality for the unforeseeable future.  Its a good time to also reboot the team operating system and code of conduct in this new world of work.  We are able to help generate more individual and team confidence as we become more explicit in working together to affirm roles, accountabilities and decision rights.  It may go without saying … but saying it anyway helps.  Three things make a great difference as we envision and shape our futures – creating clarity (direction and priorities tied to our WHY), unity (everyone understanding and buying in to HOW we will operate) and a focus on agility which defines WHAT we must do better and faster.
  • EXPERIENCE – Culture takes a long time to develop but leaders can impact CLIMATE much more rapidly.  We are operating in a highly experiential period now and setting a positive, involved, engaged and fluid climate is essential.  The tick tock cadence of urgency must move faster than before which requires more empowered leadership practices and greater acceptance of responsibility from all involved.  We must also operate in an iterative, test & improve mode in order to retool and refine new paradigms for organizational success.  We will also discover new definitions of high potential leadership and need to be cognizant of the most important leadership and team agility skills to be developed.
  • EVOLVE – we are on a new journey into some uncharted waters where some of our previous operating principles may need to change … some radically so.  It is human to want to hold on to the past when facing disruptive change.  Those who do this to a great extent will find themselves becoming obsolete.  We had already been experiencing the phenomenon some have called “accelerated obsolescence” for the past ten years or so. Clearly, we are in a major shakeout time now and those reluctant or unwilling to change to adopt new technology, new forms of work environments and protocols, new product or service dynamics will rapidly become obsolete and disappear and new leadership agility practices after dynamics.  The world today is unforgiving and consequential with much smaller tolerances in shorter time frames.  It is a new journey that must be imagined as new sprints with more rapid customer based feedback loops and commitments to iteration and innovation.

Winston Churchill is certainly someone who faced down unrelenting disruption and danger back in World War II.  One of his wise sayings that I have always appreciated is “kites fly highest against the wind”.  Well, we definitely have hurricane conditions, so let’s build our kites to be agile and durable to not only take advantage of the winds of change but sustain us for the long term journey.

Best wishes all.

Tom O’Shea

Tom O’Shea, CMC
Principal, Agility Consulting

Volatile, unpredictable, even erratic- these are the times we live in and exactly why Tom O’Shea is considered a trusted advisor and collaborator helping leaders, teams and organizations adapt and thrive by becoming more focused, fast and flexible in an increasingly complex and ambiguous world.

tom@agilityconsulting.com

336-337-8656

tomoshea.net


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