Monday, October 12, 2015

(Book review) The Agility Shift: Creating effective teams, organizations (and boards)

Agility Shift book cover Pamela Meyer
"The Agility Shift is the intentional development of the competence, capacity, and confidence to learn, adapt, and innovate in changing contexts for sustainable success."
Some books beg for a hard copy: one I can highlight, annotate, flag and otherwise turn into a paper road map to transforming how we think and how we do things. Pamela Meyer's new book -- The Agility Shift: Creating Agile and Effective Leaders, Teams and Organizations -- is one of those resources.

The book's title delivers on the promise contained in that opening quote: our greatest potential for organizational success and sustainability today lies not in carefully orchestrated structures, detailed planning processes, and flawlessly delivered training programs. Rather, our greatest potential comes when we create the environments where people have the knowledge, tools, and confidence they need to create the outcomes they seek. It acknowledges that our illusions of a knowable and controllable future are just that -- illusions.

Pamela's most likely audience - at least early - will be corporate sector managers and senior leadership. Her primary organizational examples come from from that sector. But, just as I found clear connections to nonprofits and their boards, the concepts carry lessons applicable to any organization.

Those connections started with the lead idea found within the quote that opens this post and the book itself. It all begins with shifting focus to three core functions:
  • Competence
  • Capacity
  • Confidence
Yes! I could stop reading right there  and take away something not only actionable but transformative. That it also dovetails perfectly with my emerging focus on performance support and expanding vision of a board learning environment helps with that conviction.

Think about each of those words and what they represent. Then think about the typical board development processes. Exactly. Expect a post on this soon.

The other big idea shared in part one of the book was the Relational Web, built from five key qualities:
  • Relevant
  • Responsive
  • Resilient
  • Resourceful and
  • Reflective
Pamela lays out each of these five dynamics and, in the process, provides the foundation for the rest of the book. Her choice of a web - highlighting their inter-relatedness - adds explanatory power.  Take a moment to consider how each contributes to an environment that is agile enough to anticipate and adapt to whatever unfolds in a dynamic and changing time. Oh, yes. Expect a post on this, too. 

Chapters in part two of the book apply agility shift concepts to specific roles and functions: leadership, teams, the organization, the ecosystem, and learning and development (Oh, yes. There may be a post on that last one...).

But what takes this book to the next, must-read level is a common component of each of those chapters: "Make Shift Happen" sections that offer specific ways to apply what is presented. While the individual chapters will inevitably summon to mind our own ideas for applying what Pamela describes (my board-focused list is a long one), she provides a handful of recommendations that can be applied directly or adapted to nearly every organizational or leadership setting.

Readers should appreciate that attention to their real-life practice needs. They will find rich inspiration for rethinking what they do, but they don't have to sit and hope for something to come to them. Pamela provides starting points to help launch that process.

As I mentioned early in the post, this is not a book destined for a dusty bookshelf somewhere. It is one that you will find yourself turning to over time, as a reference, a how-to, and a timely opportunity to shake off your own creative cobwebs. It has the potential to transform the way you work and organize.

One of the reasons I'm committing to sharing at least a couple of the more important concepts is as much personal as it is a service to you, the reader. It's an opportunity for me to reflect on, and apply, some of the highlights of my reading specifically to a nonprofit board environment.

Look for that first attempt next week.

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