Written by: Professor Linh Luong, Program Director of Master of Science in Project Management, MIS, MBA, PMP, CSM City University of Seattle
Confucius once stated, “When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.”
I have been in the field of project management for a very long time. Now my time is taken-up teaching project management in higher education. This is one of my favorite quotes from Confucius as we develop the next generation of project managers. A part of being a great project manager is his/her own personal agility to adjust to circumstances based on experience. Our ultimate outcome should be to provide the customer what their needs are. Companies can also parallel their process and culture to “be agile” to their customers. Personal agility helps transform an individual and a company’s continuous improvement path. I will examine 7 agile traits in the world of higher education, described by Raji Sivaraman and Michal Raczka, founders of AgilityDiscoveries. These assets can be used both for personal as well as organizational agility.
Outcomes Agility: In the world of higher education, “outcomes” are a big deal. Ultimately, we want to make sure that students are learning what we think they need to learn in order to be successful in the real world. Outcomes can be as micro in the course level as well as macro at the university level. It becomes a guiding principle on what we need to teach our students and how we go about it. We assess at differing levels in order to determine whether a student is really “learning”. This is critical for determining transformational action steps needed in order to reach the outcome or goal.
Cerebral Agility: One such outcome that we want students to achieve is “critical thinking.” Learning to think critically is such an important skill. We use it every day to problem solve, critically analyze data, and how we can create meaningful communication in our organization to get our message across. This is the type of skill that business emphasize for hiring high performance employees.
Change Agility: As part of any problem solving, we also have to think about how to adjust our actions in order to meet our goals. Education reflects the needs of the business world, thus evolving with the needs of the customers. Educators have to be thoughtful in what to design/educate in order to develop the personal skills of future professionals and leaders.
Political Agility: Our education system is steep in tradition and process. In order to understand the nuances and practice, one needs to understand the stakeholders involved, their objectives, the organizational strategies and goals, as well as where the customer’s needs are. Like many organizations, challenges exist in how departments are structure and leadership power vacillates. Maneuvering through organizational structure, process and resources takes political agility.
Education Agility: I always tell my students not be afraid to fail, be open to feedback, discover your strengths and build upon your weakness. Education should be a safe place where you can practice and improve your skills. Educating and being open to feedback builds character and competencies where you think you are lacking.
Learning Agility: Having the courage to understand that we are not good at everything is a good reflective practice. Understanding what you do not know leads to new discoveries and learning opportunities. Understanding peer perspectives helps change our assumptions thus opening our minds. A learning agile environment is what you want to create in a classroom and on a team.
Emotional Agility: Having the openness to learn and change increase our emotional agility. Awareness of our emotional intelligence in relationship to others provides an adaptability to change, reasoning, coping, and increases our ability to problem solve while understanding the complexity of a nonlinear problem. Today’s complexity of real world business problems affects our political, personal, and social environment taking in gray areas of consideration. Emotional agility is required in order to recommend a solution at the table.
The above seven Personal Agility Lighthouse ™ model characteristics of AgilityDiscoveries help shape student’s success in the business world.
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