Organizations around the globe are struggling to adapt to an increasingly complex and turbulent social, economic, technological, and business environment—whether they be banks, product development companies, or city councils.
Many are responding by embracing agility as a way of working—some with a primary orientation around operational agility (Agile software development methods such as Scrum and SAFe), others focusing on customer development agility (e.g., Lean Startup), while others are embracing a broader business agility. In almost all of these cases, the prevailing notion of agility is concerned primarily with processes and practices, with systems and structures—a form of outer agility. But, as seasoned agilists (of whatever stripe) are finding, the biggest challenges with agility revolve not so much around its outer aspects—its processes, practices, deliverables, and business outcomes—but around the sensemaking, communication, and relationship intelligence of an organization’s people—its inner aspects.
This is where we find the characteristically human problems of resistance, conflict, communication breakdowns, broken promises, people going through the motions with little passion or conviction, deteriorating product quality, managers micro-managing—the world, that is, of mindset and culture—the world of inner agility.Many organizational leaders and managers take an objectivist approach to the growing of inner agility, treating mindset and culture as reified goals to be attained, rather than as holistic qualities to be cultivated.
Mindset and culture are viewed as behavioral attributes which exist somewhere out there:
-in those people out there;
-in those behaviors out there;
-in those habits and beliefs out there.
From such an objectivist perspective, the tendency is to think about and treat mindset and culture from the outside in—as those aspects of organizational reality which we can somehow fix or change from the outside; whether through inculcation, motivational inducement, reasoned argument, or training and mentoring.Evolvagility takes an alternative perspective—one in which we view mindset and culture not from the outside in, but from the inside out.
From this perspective, we are interested in the inner capabilities which determine how people think; how they make sense of complex situations around them; the (often unexamined) beliefs and values they hold, both individually and collectively; people’s ability (or inability) to hold perspectives that are different from their own; their ability (or lack thereof) to relate with others in ways that leave those others empowered and enabled. But, even more than this, we want to know how we might help ourselves and others grow those capabilities.
Again, not from the outside in—the world of processes and structures or even behaviors; but rather from the inside out—from the world of sensemaking and consciousness, and from there out into the world of relationships and, beyond that, out into the world of organizational environments. Evolvagility synthesizes a human technology from a variety of fields that include adult developmental psychology, relationship systems, executive coaching, and organization development.
In this synthesis, it leads us toward a deeper understanding of the very anatomy of human sensemaking, and how it impacts people’s capacity for effective and creative action. And, perhaps more importantly, it provides a practical methodology with which we might increase the capacity of that inner sensemaking in order to help ourselves, and others, make sense of the complexity and ambiguity of the situations we increasingly find ourselves in as players in 21st Century organizational life.
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