So You Said You Were AGILE. Are You?

You always thought of yourself as nimble. Flexible. Adaptable. Agile.

Then Coronavirus happened.

Choice, it seems, has been yanked from you. Like it or not, you have been forced into personal agility. More than you had bargained for. And along the way, you and I and all the rest of us on this unexpected ride we call coronavirus reality are learning a lot about what personal agility actually looks like.

My thoughts hark back to the Agile Manifesto, created by 17 forward-thinking technology leaders in February 2001 during a 3-day retreat at a ski resort in the Wasatch mountains of Utah. These individuals were tired of the old processes of developing product. While their Agile Manifesto revolutionized how humans collaborate to develop new product, the Manifesto’s Agile Principles so aptly lend themselves to how agile each one of us is, today.

These are the 4 powerful basic tenets of process agility. Value …

  • Individuals and Interactions over Processes and Tools
  • Working Product over Comprehensive Documentation
  • Customer Collaboration over Contract Negotiation
  • Responding to Change over Following a Plan

The message is flexibility, flexibility, flexibility.

And paying full attention to new facts, information and opportunities that emerge, every single moment.

These tenets so aptly describe how we are called to be personally agile during the New Now, don’t they! Personal agility, and the challenge it can pose for us, has been a singular through-line in many of the conversations I have had last week. Here are a few of the agile themes that are emerging in my talks:

1. Re-engineer how you spend time.

I like the word spend when it comes to time. Think of time as a commodity that we get to spend. When I view it from this perspective, I am reminded of just how valuable our time is.

I have clients in large corporations who suddenly seem to work 18-hour-days. Their time is stretched way too thin. Other colleagues suddenly have more time on their hands than they had before. They are doers, and the opportunity to be a highly active doer has been ripped from them. They feel lost.

I don’t have a tidy answer for you. But if how you spend time in a period of hard disruption no longer works for you, contemplate these questions: What will it take for me to say No more often? How can I more boldly prioritize what I do? What will happen if I have the courage to stop DOING during times when I don’t have to DO anything? And just like in the Agile Principles – am I paying attention to that which is emerging right in front of my eyes?

2. STOP it with the guilt.

How much are you guilting yourself during this time of disruption? A German entrepreneur I speak with feels guilty about accepting government Covid money. A corporate lawyer I speak with feels guilty about leaving her house during corporate working hours to do her grocery shopping. Two entirely different scenarios, yet the underlying mental frame is the same. This is not how I should act as a successful entrepreneur. This is not what a successful corporate counsel does.

Guilt because the mind is holding on to a pre-disruption playbook. Your thoughts are locked into a non-agile mindset around professional conduct and success. Graciously accept government support in a time of crisis. When you don’t, you block all other means of personal and professional support that may be available to you. And please go grocery-shopping when you need to and still honor your professional commitments. You can do both. Observe your thoughts about behavior in the New Now. Invite more mental agility. Notice how freeing that is!

3. Ditch incremental resilience.

I fraternize with many exceptional colleagues who do similar work to mine. They are fantastic at what they do. Their response to a changed playing field tends to fall into roughly two buckets. There are those fellow keynote speakers and corporate trainers who let their clients know that everything they do and have always done can also be delivered online. You can have the familiar me – online! There are others who are developing whole new product, new content, new delivery formats as they take their work online. You can have a whole new me online right now!

The whole-new-me response is fueled by a higher degree of agility. It better captures the opportunities of the moment. It may also feel a little scarier. I get it. While you may not be an entrepreneur in my industry, you likely know incrementalism from the businesses where you work. Incrementalism feels comfortable. It seems manageable. And it rarely gets us anywhere fresh or exciting.

Resist band-aid agility. Notice when a new way of behaving is hindered by an attachment to old ways of thinking. A familiar way of doing things. Even when you have spent years complaining about the familiar. You know what I’m talking about, right?

Observe yourself. Stay agile. Question everything.

It is what the moment demands.

Related: Think We're Going Back To Business As It Was? Think AGAIN