Written by: Sajeev Kumar Menon, PMP®, PMI-ACP®, ITIL®, Six Sigma®, Consultant and Trainer, Singapore
Today the global landscape of business is in a state of constant flux calling for an Agile leadership in tackling challenges. We have numerous examples of companies that failed to take critical decisions resulting in products that failed to make a mark or became obsolete like Kodak, Polaroid, Myspace, Xerox, and Yahoo. At the same time, we have examples of innovative companies like Uber, AirBnB, Netflix, Zoom and Alibaba that pioneered breakthrough strategies and models and are thriving in a VUCA environment.
I had the good fortune and honour to get to know Raji Sivaraman (through an interview where she spoke about “Leadership in Times of Crises”), who together with her partner, Michal Raczka, created the "Personal Agility Lighthouse™ Model (PALH™)”. I found that I could leverage the PALH™ model in the domain of Quality Management, Project Management, Manufacturing and Continuous Improvement in the Information Technology industry.
The 7 competencies of the Personal Agility Lighthouse Model™ address the following questions:
- Educational Agility: Are we able to feel the pain points of others, step into their shoes and see if you can handle it?
- Change Agility: Are we nimble and ready to adapt to change and not be overwhelmed by crisis situations?
- Political Agility: In a globally diverse world are our different cultures, beliefs and practices a divisive or a uniting force?
- Emotional Agility: Do we have the emotional intelligence to control our thoughts, moods and behaviours and make critical decisions?
- Cerebral Agility: Do challenges bring out the best in us or overwhelm us?
- Learning Agility: Are we curious, open-minded and committed to continuous learning?
- Outcomes Agility: Are we aligned to our goals and vision and are we delivering the required sustainable results?
Learning Agility: In one of the Projects that I handled at my workplace when implementing solutions like RFID asset tracking for all products in a warehouse, we were required to learn, plan, design, and test solutions in a nimble manner. By embracing learning agility in the PALH™ model we were able to come up with working solutions in quick time. We also tested the system with different products to ensure that it has gauge, repeatability and reproducibility.
Education Agility: I am a Green belt Six Sigma certified (Seagate Technology) and an Agile Certified Professional. I think that Education Agility has helped me to train students as well as professionals in Public Speaking, Project Management and other leadership skills. Mentoring and coaching members of our team helps us to develop cross-functional skills which are vital to nurture a self-organizing and agile team who can take up new roles.
Change Agility: Dealing with Change is an integral part of Project Management. Transparency, Inspection and Adaptation are the 3 pillars of Scrum. Every sprint involves inspection and adaptation to continuously improve the product that is delivered to the customer. By adopting the Change Agility from PALH™ model, our team develops accountability and ownership for the end-to-end transformation of the product and the team members are empowered to make apt decisions.
Political Agility: One of the keys to Project success is support from the management and the sponsors. In the initial part of a project it is important to develop a good communication and rapport with all stakeholders. Internal politics can hinder the smooth working of a project. Political agility from PALH™ model deals with Governability (controlled and managed) and decisions. In a global workplace, we deal with different countries, cultures and behaviours. Political agility from PALH™ model can help our team become aware and take decisions after due consultation with stakeholders. Conflicts that may arise can be handled with clear communication, collaboration, and consensus.
Emotional Agility: The covid-19 pandemic at the beginning of this year took many companies by surprise. Employees had to transition to WFH (work from home) and a virtual workplace. There was a big need for emotional agility from leaders, leaders who could empathize with the individual needs and challenges of their employees and ensure a smooth transition to working from home. Employees faced challenges of taking care of their young ones, home-schooling, helping at home and juggling their projects. Emotional Agility from PALH™ model helps us in our inter-personal relationships. It provides an adaptability to change, reasoning, and looking at situations from a different perspective. Leaders with emotional agility can bring innovate solutions to problems with empathy.
Outcomes Agility: Transparency means that all members of a team know and understand how their work contributes to the outcome of the project. This is their purpose, their vision and what drives them to come to work every day. The Outcomes agility from PALH™ model helps us to anchor to our goals. A team develops focus, excellence and resilience and grows into a high- performance team.
Cerebral Agility: Maintaining a curious outlook is key to discovery and innovation. By adopting the Cerebral Agility from PALH™ model, we can tap into our childlike enthusiasm and curiosity. In our projects when there is an escalation, we have to bring together our team and make critical decisions on the next course of action as the customer/stakeholder cannot afford to wait for resolution of the issue. The solutions need to be instant, unique and creative with a penetrating vision.
When I worked in Customer Quality, TAT (turn-around time) was one of the metrics by which our failure analysis was measured. I can clearly tie this to the Cerebral Agility of the PALH™ model which deals with the quick response and sharp focus.
When we introduced a new system of tracking our reports company-wide, there was some initial resistance. As individuals we had to deal with the changes before the system was accepted, which ties in with the Change Agility of the PALH™ model. However, after many iterations of inspection and adaptation, the system had a high rate of acceptance and overcame the initial hiccups.
When planning a project and outlining the scope – our team would engage in the kickoff meeting with the stakeholders to outline the Product roadmap, the vision and the goals. Outcomes Agility that is about achieving the clarity and purpose of the outcomes was key in helping us come up with the Scope statement.
In summary, the PALH™ model serves as a holistic framework for adaptive and agile leadership which can be applied to various industry domains like Quality, Manufacturing Process improvement and Project Management.