Agility belongs to management

Are your managers preventing agility from being released in your organisation resulting in slow, bumpy delivery?

By combining high-value HR initiatives with high-value management behaviours, you can help your management team release agility.

And as a side effect – you’ll get high levels of employee engagement for free.

It can be hard for managers in tech companies to move from maker to manager. It can be even harder for many managers to develop their own communication skills, commercial awareness and trade-skills – the very skills required to mature and grow a successful business.

And when it’s hard to achieve these things you see the fall out.

There’s a lack of direction, unclear career growth for your people, a rising amount of failed work, slow down in delivery, frustration at changing priorities, a lack of succession planning and a series of hard conversations that don’t happen.

It’s likely your well-intentioned HR team are getting overly involved in hiring, retention, day-to-day management and training. This further compounds the issues and a lack of agility either creeps in, or continues to grow.


You already have agility in your business

Agility – “the power of moving quickly and easily towards your goal or purpose”

— You just need your management team to release it.

Release – “to free from confinement”

— This is done by managers studying the work and improving it, whilst working to truly get the best from their people.

I use a simple 5 step thinking and assessment model to help to understand where to focus.

Step 1-3 are foundations, yet most executives and managers are dabbling around at steps 4-5 – and not surprisingly seeing little traction. One company I worked with spent £24million on agile coaches (working at step 4) – only to move nowhere nearer to releasing agility. It wasn’t the coaches faults – they were good – its because they didn’t have steps 1-3 nailed (and yep – these are management’s responsibility).

If you’d like me to help you release agility in your team then drop me an email info@cultivatedmanagement.com to organise a free chat about what problems you face.

If you’re not ready yet and want to learn more then please read on – and check out the videos I’ve created that explains more about this approach.


The 5 Step Thinking Model

Releasing Agility follows a simple process :

  • Step 1Do you have a Painted Picture of the Future?
    • Why are you doing what you are doing?
    • Does everyone in your team know what this bright future looks like?
    • Are people aligned and energised to be working on this amazing bright future?
  • Step 2What obstacles are stopping you achieving this future state?
    • If this bright future is so amazing, why are you not already there?
    • In other words, what obstacles and problems do you need to work through?
    • Is there a strategy explaining the bright future, the current reality and a plan to overcome these obstacles?
    • This requires studying real problems; not myths, rumours, opinions and conjecture.
  • Step 3 – Build the team to get it done
    • As a manager or leader you should be able to look at your team and say with confidence that “This is the team to get it done”.
      • If you can’t – you have some work to do – is that work being done?
    • Your team need a plan – and this is where strong HR initiatives and competent management is crucial.
  • Step 4 – Define the behaviours, habits and routines for success
    • Your culture is nothing more than group habit – it’s the sum of everyone’s behaviours.
    • Do you know what behaviours you want? Which one’s you don’t want? And are your managers working to nudge these behaviours in the right direction?
    • Are your managers role modelling these outstanding behaviours?
    • This is also about “System of productivity”
      • Are you adopting an off-the-shelf framework designed to solve problems you likely don’t have?
      • No single methodology or approach is the right one for all – the best approach is the one that solves your problems
      • Please don’t adopt an Agile Methodology unless you know for certain it solves the very problems you have identified – the chances are none of them will…..
  • Step 5 – Iterate, learn and improve
    • Instigate on-the-job-training
    • Make learning a core part of every conversation
    • Conduct root cause analysis
    • Get better – always

Here’s a video on the core Principles of Agility – they help to guide decisions and give managers a guiding help when releasing agility

A video on how to Release Agility

Side effects

As a side effect of releasing agility in one company we obtained:

  • 3% Churn Rate – people didn’t leave very often – when they did – they often came back!
  • 8% Recruitment Costs – as a blended rate of recruiters, self sourced and referrals
  • 10 Day Hiring Cycle Times – the elapsed time from first application to a decision (post interview) for candidates
  • CONSISTENT and PREDICTABLE delivery of work – every week, every year – economies of flow – not highs and then lows that happen with economies of scale.
  • RAVING FANS – People who didn’t get hired would go and tell others how great the company was!

If you’re interested in any aspect of Releasing Agility then drop me an email for an informal chat.


This consultancy is delivered as bespoke work packages based on your problems and where on the 5 steps your major challenges lie.

This is always geared at management – they hold the lever of change. Without working on management – I cannot stand behind the services offered here.

Typically no less than 5 days. Typically, no more than 6 months. Prices on request – and always based on a day rate so you know how much it costs upfront.


DON’T WASTE YOUR MONEY

Don’t throw money at agile coaches if your foundations aren’t in place.

  • (values, management, career development, HR, rewards, people management, process improvement, remunerations or hiring).

Many agile consultants only know how to address tactical issues around theory – step 4. This is brilliant if you have strong foundations and effective management. If not, it could be a royal waste of time and money.

There is only so much a coach can do if managers are not behaving as expected, aren’t setting high standards, are not giving people feedback and are not utilising HR initiatives in the right way.

I worked with a Bank who had spent over £20million on Agile Change Management and were no nearer to smooth and fast delivery than when they started.

Why? Because the very foundations of the culture were not set up to support agility.

Save your money. You cannot buy or force agility – agility must be released at a pace and rate that your business and team can sustain. This is often not what Executives and Managers want to hear, but it is true. And it is usually done through effective management.

Agility comes from having strong foundations in your culture, brilliant management, HR strategies that support your teams and very clear communication from leaders and managers who inspire.

Agility is nothing more than removing friction towards a purpose, through co-operation and clear communication – but these skills are often in short supply.


Here’s how I may help

Expertise – It could be that you don’t quite have the expertise yet or you need someone to help spot problems that are holding you back. I have a wealth of experience in building highly productive agile teams in both Technology and HR.

Delivery– Maybe you just need someone to come in and support, nurture, mentor and grow your team – or simply help your team out in times of need. I can help manage, coach, teach or release agility.

Catalyst – I can act as a catalyst for change – this is one of my specialisms and I know how hard it can be to inspire and lead teams through dramatic change. The key is an inspirational vision that is clear, compelling and believable – I can help you craft that, articulate it and communicate it.

Objectivity – Or it could be you need some objectivity – someone to bounce ideas off. Someone to do an audit, assess your plans or help you build a strategy that makes sense.

Teaching and Learning – One aspect of consultancy I really enjoy is teaching and learning. Maybe your teams don’t have the right skills and need some in-person, on the job training (the best form of training). Although I have many training courses, sometimes you and your team may need some on-going training and teaching.

Hiring and Firing people is hard work and it requires an approach that I can help you with. Building and forming teams takes good communication skills, empathy, respect and the ability to truly understand problems. This has been my bread and butter trade for 9+ years. It also requires an awareness and collaboration with HR – this was my life for 2 years in a fast-growing tech company.

This is available as Consultancy Only.

hello@cultivatedmanagement.com