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Learning from the Agile Organisations Conference

Learning from the Agile Organisations Conference

In a subtle change of commuting direction (north rather than south on the M6) – I headed off to the CIPD Manchester Agile Organisation on Friday to learn more about what does being agile really mean?

The tone was set by Dr David Beech at the start of the day who stressed the need to think about ‘How can we turn knowledge into practical action?’ which for me goes to heart of what L&D and OD should be about – knowledge is all very well but it is the action which is critical to adding value and making a difference in the organisation.

As a way of consolidating my learning and continuing with my adventures in blogging I have included some of my key learning points below (I have split these into the sessions)

Jackie Le Favre – Values in Supporting Agility in Organisations

  • All organisations are value based – the question is are the ones on the wall driving behaviour?
  • Firms without performance enhancing values improved by 182% whereas firms with improved by 682%
  • There is a need to inspire people with talking about what it will look and feel like in practice i.e. what does it mean for them
  • Values should be emotionally rich and energy laden – they are a guide on how to be and how to get there
  • Agile organisations have a collaborative project world view and are linked to Global transformation – values which minimise variation are not agile in nature

Dr David Beech -The Role of Leaders in Enabling Change in Organisations

  • To embed a learning culture in the organisation, include conversations around what’s going well and what could we do better for 10 mins once a week.
  • Agile is an evolving experiment with leadership as a group level phenomenon rather than the traditional view of heroes and heroines saving the world
  • Leadership being complex and inherent with contradictions in the agile environment i.e. as demonstrated in the work of Linda Hill we need to support and confront our teams

Rod Chapman – Embedding Agile in the Organisations Culture

  • Being agile is concerned with resilience, experimentation, being openminded, empowerment, trust, flexibility
  • The idea of ‘Fast Failure’ – if something goes wrong, we don’t dwell on it for 2 years navel gazing we move on
  • Agile working is more about adult to adult relationships
  • From an attendee ‘Work is what you achieve, not where you do it’
  • Organisations can be agile by asking staff to come up with their own rotas to cover areas which then need to be signed off by the organisation

Neal Chamberlain – Performance Management in the Agile Organisation

  • There is a change in emphasis from ratings to a focus on quality and regular discussions as advocated by Samuel Culbert
  • Deloitte has adopted an approach as a leader as a coach
  • Rise in the use of apps for including informal conversations into performance management i.e. Amazon anytime feedback app
  • Facebook have completed research with their staff and 87% of staff wanted to keep the ratings
  • Useful question to ensure the embedding of learning – ‘What did I learn and who will you share it with?’

How can I turn this knowledge into practical action?

For our Management Development programmes, I will

  • Include a values discussion– what do they mean and what are the implications for being a manager in the organisation? Practically what does it mean for individuals
  • Introduce coaching to our managers and how this is less of an activity and more of a way of having a conversation
  • Talk about the idea of ‘Fast Failure’ on our Continuous Improvement module
  • Stress the idea of the inherent contradictions in Leadership and ask participants how they will manage these

Other Activities

  • Add the ‘What did I learn and who will you share it with?’ onto our evaluation forms


So, off I go back to work with plenty to do and some new knowledge to share - I’ll let you know how I get on….


Special thanks to CIPD Manchester for putting on such a great event, all the speakers who brought the topics to life and all the attendees who were willing to share their own experiences with a few laughs along the way!


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  • Thanks for sharing Helen.  Sounds like you got some valuable insights and useful information from this event.  

    Karen :)


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