How to Deliver Organisational Agility – By embracing everyone involved in delivering benefits…

…whether accidentally or not!

Format wise this is a spike (experiment). An article made with youTube videos in response to the desire to pivot caused by retirement from active buiness.

So…The video is in bite sized chunks with text to introduce each; the whole served up in an article. If you prefer one video the whole is also at the end of the text as a playlist – about 70mins single speed. So too is an animated presentation of the slides used with these notes (but not -yet- the narrations).

Organisational Agility

The achievement of organisational agility definitely benefits from, and possibly requires everyone involved to understanding the coming need to twist and turn situationally. To pivot as issues & windfall advantages arise. Organisational agility means (to me) that the whole body corporate is lithe & supple in the face of the threats & opportunities we’ll face, the available responses, the priorities of daily living and ‘doing stuff’, any participants moment to moment choices of actions required, & taken, & who by and when(-ish). In short coordination. Coordination in turn needs communications and shared mental models & complementary attitudes.

These slides give some ideas about how to achieve a conducive environment. The presentation is addressed to the business participants not the ‘experts’ in change so it can be used to share the most important model, the framework that provides the structure ‘holding’ every role & procedure. The messages apply to both audiences though.

1/17. The hello. 1:27

This video sets the scene and says hello.

The relevant scene isn’t an argument about agile’s roots in software development lifecycle choices that trade-off scope or fixed teams with kanban or sprints. That’s history and now unhelpful baggage. The ‘scene’ is agnostic about that almost irrelevant stuff. The scene that matters is what capabilities will the business have when in benefits delivery? What shared, systemic capabilities are necessary to make the journey to benefits?

The relevant ‘scene’ is; if someone gets included amongst those charged with delivering change -in any context- then the chances of involvement in a successful effort greatly benefit from knowing how to get people on-board and contributing. When those participants aren’t familiar with projects, programmes or the episodic development of change then we need to ‘get them up to speed’. These videos can be used for the purpose.

2/17. Route Map 3:08

What we’ll cover over the next hour (at single speed. I always watch these types of thing at double speed). It about a team sharing an agreed goal (destination & what does good look like) and that takes a ‘debate space & culture’

3/17. View point determines what you can see 2:47

Why a debate space & culture pays big dividends.  An important lesson is when someone sees the world differently to you embrace listening to what they say so you understand what they’ve insight of. If your viewpoints are different you’ll educate both of you and help nurture useful attitudes.

4/17. Intro to teams 3:45

Building a team is an easy procedure to describe but first we’d benefit from a sense of what one’s essential quality is… In operations work is cyclic and repeats, so coordination between role holders develops and what will be required next is known in advance. The future has already been seen. That quality is not common in projects. What we will do next week or chunk very often depends and changes due to this chunk’s events. Decisions depend on current work reaching ‘Done’ & further debate of options available and preferred


5/17. Key Properties of A Team 3:23

What are the properties of a team (that if understood and nurtured contributes to success)?

What are the steps to forging teams? Most change initiatives have many overlapping, interacting teams between investment idea’s formulation and flowing benefits.


6/17. Know People’s Goal 2:22

Know the INDIVIDUAL’S goals and analyse ALL the stakeholders attitude to ALL the factors in their context using a simple tool (that’s not normally simple nor easy to use well).


7/17. Stakeholder Analysis – Externals 5:49

Machiavelli – in The Prince – said (roughly) that those threatened by change fight it energetically at every opportunity while those that MAY or will gain only support it once the battles are won and its a sure thing. Kahneman and Tversky – in Behavioural Economics – said (roughly) people are very pessimistic about the likelihood of winning and exaggerate the imagined losses.

These two factors make stakeholder analysis and communications planning a huge contributor to agility or obstinance. Sensible stakeholder analysis goes WAY way beyond what the textbooks have ever contained. First divide stakeholders between power to prioritise and expertise to create. Then along a spectrum from positive with motivation to negative with motivation. A simple 2 x 2 grid helps. You may add a third axis of Topic but that’s a complication I’ll omit here.

The model it creates is far from simple and is the start of communications planning.


8/17. SH Analysis – Delivery Team 5:03

Amongst the delivery TEAM(s) the essential qualities are skills and buy-in. If the buy-in isn’t strong, obvious, continually visible and reinforcing then agility wont be present. Any lack is a failure of the leaders & sponsors to do their duty competently. Also needed for robust solutions to market-place value propositions are strong testing and approvals functions  (Definition(s) of done).

This area of stakeholder analysis is also where dysfunctions in & between the teams are revealed which MUST be called-out if sabotage and in-fighting or at the least apathy is to be overcome; another leadership & sponsorship responsibility.


9/17 Relationships & Communications Planning 7:27

Also crucial is to avoid bottlenecks. A common issue is the mistaken belief that a project managers job is 90% communications.

Success in matters of change especially disruptive, discontinuous change is 90% about communications but its a major mistake to put the project manager in the middle of everyones communications.

The role is to ensure the relevant links are made, supported, free flowing and suspended or terminated when not needed. NOT to be part of them.


10/17. The Whole Change Journey 1:07

Now we turn to another perspective of corporate agility.

Success requires ‘knowing what good looks like when finished’ and when finished is ‘when we are back into annually(?*) budgeted operations with steady state benefits flowing and sustaining Run the Organisation (RtO) -* is the ‘clockspeed’ of your industry annual?

The period of Change the Organisation (CtO) is way longer than ‘project’ & textbooks describe it. The historical issue here arises because ‘Project Management’ -including ‘Agile methods’- grew up in supplier environments of change disciplines where what’s seen is ‘known with absolute certainty (and error) to be a square’. Corporate Agility is a factor of the environment for customers of projects and isn’t the circle but the cylinder.


11/17. An Investment’s Journey 10:31

An investment might be reasonable called a programme and might reasonably include one (or more) classically defined project. Actually two is commonly the minimum: one ‘technical’ and one social or behavioral in operations. Only the social change is the mandatory minimal case. The technical always additional & often optional.

Programmes exist in a portfolio of possible uses of resources. Selection between options requires ongoing governance of the interactions of them all if agility is to be maintained. Agility requires that resource allocations flex with market place seasons, fashions and patterns of maturity and events.

Typically organisations understand their journey by ‘gated’ reviews of progress. Useful decision points are

  • Q: Qualification “we’ve an idea, does it have sufficient merit to include it in the ‘maybes’ to be considered for commitment at Sanction?”,
  • S: Sanction “we’ll admit this one (for now) to the things we try to do with the resources we’ve got available – we are committed (until ‘Done’ OR a better use of the same resources shows up)”,
  • DDDD: Deliveries of OUTPUTS that enable outcomes with benefits and may occur multiple times a day in software to once in an asset lifecycle with aircraft carriers and oil refineries” the last “D” is often just before PC,
  • PC: Project Closure the last of which probably a social not technical project and also means programme closure has arrived too. They are usually interwoven with…
  • EB: Earned Benefits reviews that check that benefits are being generated as strongly as possible in market-place activities or else something(s) technical or behavioural need adding to backlogs.

Each review point will use some collection of Decision Support information depending on the needs of the people involved in the process.

Decision Support packages must be constructed with prior knowledge of what good finished result looks like, verification that the outputs match the intent of the builders and validation that they are fit for purpose in the hands of the operational people involved in RtO as evidenced by Outcomes.

Methods like SCRUM define ceremonies for most of this but only for technical outputs not for the combined delivery with behavioural changes that cause outcomes. Every textbook describes ways of carrying out these universal needs for technical outputs but every successful organisation has ways that include the behavioral, social, cultural outputs inside & outside the organisation that are the catalysts for outcomes.


12/17. Select the Development Approach 4:42

When skilled teams build understood outputs for a knowledgeable customer the planning needs are very different from when some (all?) technologies (&behaviours) are untried or the project customers needs are unstable and or not well known – eg in a new and or volatile market. Selecting the development lifecycle(s) is an important step for the teams that will collaborate to create and transition into RtO every part of the integrated whole that is the future state of business as usual (fs_BAU or ‘To be’))


13/17. Development Approach Guidelines 2:57

Choices the teams makes about the development approaches to be used for each output range from the operational routine optimised for minimum resource use (efficient) through flexible when the unexpected happens to the exploratory for when we need to take action to see what happens because we have no predictive capability at all (probe-sense-hypothesis).


14/17. Key Techniques – Debate 3:18

Planning is a social activity whose sole purpose is to generate commitment to options.

Commitment results from belief that something can be achieved with the resources available and the planned (contingent?) action and that there will be sufficient personal reward from it.

That requires equitable access to the ‘debate space’ and encouragement to voice concerns and have them addressed until no explicitly unanswered concerns remain. Equitable not equal because different personalities want and need different approaches to and degrees of access. What is important is to cut-off ‘whoever shouts longest & loudest wins’. That guarantees killing agility, commitment, team motivation and thus success.

An excellent technique is Dialogue Mapping from the work of Horst Rittel on wicked problems. It’s excellent on whiteboards and software is available to support its use in-person or remotely. See Dialogue (Argument) Mapping with

Planning also REQUIRES we can express the thing to be achieved at the start of debate. Easy in the earlier quadrant model when on the left hand side. If not on the left then what is sought during planning (actually “framing” is a better concept) is enough insight to run a planning session with better understanding. IE the spikes, experiments, prototypes etc which may inform a latter planning session.

Often this is called Backlog grooming to meet the definition of ready. Its also called FEED (Front-End Engineering and Deign when building an oil refinery et el.) Planning also seeks to define  HOW we COULD options and then select or revisit ‘how we will’ achieve the objective. (IE the 2nd half of a sprint planning meeting). Again easier at the bottom of the quadrants diagram and needed for technical and behavioural outputs if outcomes are to be maximised.


15/17. Verification & Validation 3:54

Planning is an exercise in BACKCASTING *FROM* a result NOT forecasting actions.

Knowing the result in terms meaningful for agreeing resource needs, skills, tools etc means planning (designing?) the quality standards that apply and how to show they were met in construction (QP). In software development Agile product backlog maintenance is strong on the procedures to accomplish the QP (As are all other types of engineering discipline, including social engineering! (Quality Planning: select standards that apply & agree how to give assurance all were met)

Meeting relevant standards while doing to work is QC – Quality Control.  Checking quality was monitored to determine when short-comings need correction is QA (Assurance).

Checking as customer “I got what i needed” is VALIDATION of Fitness for purpose and is a sprint demonstration in some vocabularies or acceptance testing in other people’s but checks outputs. To check outcomes needs Benefits Entry Tests (BET) & BST –  Stability.

A BST is what SHOULD be the meaningful mark of Acceptance in an enterprise imbued with agility but is missing in all the guidance I know of

Acceptance marks change’s conclusion, the last of which is (social/ behavioral) project conclusion, the last of which is CtO’s conclusion or confirmation of back to (100%?) RtO.


16/17. One Page Summary View Of Change’s (Investment’s) WHOLE Journey 9:12

Now we have seen all the elements  required for Organisational Agility that are useful to surviving and thriving we can talk the whole journey through in summary.

Shareholders or tax payers (club members or family or who ever the concerned folk are) want to know that they are getting bang for the buck. That benefits are flowing. Just like planning for output creation needs to embrace Quality Planning so planning for beneficial OUTCOMES needs to start with determining what the Earned Benefits tests will be (they almost always start “I see…” and have a date in an imagined future).

In output (product) thinking scope IS an expression of quality or specification that is sufficient to determine the acquisition or construction and integration and deployment work required of technical and behavioural teams. So in agility or outcome thinking scope IS an expression of the means to generate benefits. An important element to recognise is that a collection of outputs does NOT have the required systemic properties of an outcome until integrated and operated which means Organisational Agility isn’t something a development group can achieve. Only a holistic approach will create it. Was the stakeholder analysis inclusive of all those actors required to deliver the steady future state of Business as Usual?


17/17. Concluding Remarks 5:00

About 2hrs before recorded this I think i had a slow onset stroke. 2hr afterwards i was in hospital and stayed there for a month! Nearly 2 years later i still only have 1 working hand, a definite limp, and other effects SO the messages about my business’ outreach aren’t so relevant because i’m basically retired now. I’m happy to chat if you want clarifications or debate or a little remote consulting!

The key concepts an agile organisation embraces are: know & explicitly meet individual’s personal targets/ goals, understand and expose the inter dependencies and relationships that enable pivots & flexibility so the people communicate as needed with openness to differing viewpoints. Plan backwards from explicit benefit flow tests with cognisance of what & how, with feedback loops that make clear the progress achieved through integrated concern for quality (right scope). Consider planning as vital but plans as at best unreliable & at worst wrong. Do planning at portfolio level to understand how resources affect benefits flow

In short the content here is intended to answer: “how do you get a bunch of people focussed on a set of best results AND then commit and then achieve that end result AND stay coordinated as any part of the present or imagined future changes?”


The slides

The playlist