The Agile Strategy Lab Podcast

The Challenge of Unlocking Interlocking Systems

Our modern world is full of large, complex systems - so many, in fact, that we often don't notice them until something goes wrong, or we're trying to work within a system ourselves to bring change about. Those systems aren't discrete entities - they overlap and interlock, adding even more complexity. In this episode, we talk about what agility might look like in the context of a large institution trying to accomplish a specific mission-oriented goal, and how a set of interlocking complex systems make that agility difficult. The sector is higher education, but the underlying ideas are applicable to many sectors. Our guest in exploring these ideas is Jim Woodell, who works with higher education institutions as they pursue what’s called in that world “engagement” - the way in which the university reaches out beyond its own walls to the community or region around them. 

Finding the new in the old: where does change come from?

There's something quite ironic about the idea of  teaching new ways of working within an organizational structure that is almost 1000 years old - the first university was the university of Bologna, founded in 1088. That irony is not lost on Steve Hart and Wayne Tarken of the University of Pennsylvania. In this episode, they discuss how changing the way we do basic kinds of work, such as how we hold meetings, can change even the oldest organizations, and why they’re optimistic on what’s ahead in the workplace.

The Kind of Diversity That’s All in Your Head

Today’s episode focuses on diversity that's not visible in any kind of demographics we encounter in a dataset from the Census Bureau. It’s the diversity that springs from how our brains approach various kinds of problems. Cognitive diversity, just like other kinds of diversity, manifests itself in every team we’re a part of, whether it’s recognized or not. Just like other kinds of diversity, cognitively diverse teams can be better teams, especially when it comes to working in spaces that require creativity and innovation. In this episode Sebastian Hamers of Human Insight teams up with Tabitha Scott of Southern Growth Studio to explain cognitive and strategic diversity and how to use these underappreciated concepts to power effective teams and organizations. 

A Big Experiment: taking stock of what we’ve learned from this year

The past year has in some ways been a forced practicum in experimentation, as organizations sought ways to respond to the COVID crisis. Every part of every organization has participated in this practicum, but at the heart of it all has been the human resources function. In this episode, we talk with Steve Hart and Wayne Tarken. We talk about the 10 skills in the Strategic Doing book, as well as the questions they’re built around: what could we do? What should we do? What will we do? When will we come back together? What do these ideas look like in Human Resources specifically, now and in the future - and can we hang on to the lessons we've learned?

What’s Really Happening When Change Happens

When we see a change movement - whether it’s within a company, an institution, or a region - how can we learn to see what’s not in plain sight? And more importantly, can we take advantage of the properties of change to get a movement started in such a way that it will have increasing impact and grow? In this episode, you'll hear from Greg Sattell, the author of Cascades: How to Create a Movement that Drives Transformational Change. Greg’s work aligns with our own, particularly as we think about three groups of people; the enthusiastic “pioneers” who are the first believers, the persuadable “pragmatists” that need to be brought on board, and the “soreheads,” - the implacable opponents of change. Greg was living in Kyiv (Kiev) in the early 2000’s, leading a media company, and saw political protests  transforming into something bigger. What he observed propelled him into a new phase of his career as he explored what was behind this kind of phenomenon and how to apply those principles within organizations. 

 

What Can Scarcity Teach Us?

Perhaps you've listened to grandparents or great-grandparents tell stories about the Great Depression and the Second World War - saving tinfoil, making a birthday cake then they didn’t have ration coupons for sugar and eggs, or having to give up the pleasures of the Sunday drive because gasoline was too precious to be used frivolously. 2020 and 2021 will be remembered, in part, through the stories that individuals and organizations tell about how they got through the hard times of the pandemic. Kathy Hagler of K2OH Solutions has combined the insights of Edward Deming, Peter Drucker and Strategic Doing in her work with nonprofit organizations. In this episode, she makes the conceptual very practical by sharing a case study of one nonprofit organization and how she’s used all three toolsets to help them weather this remarkable time.

Road Trip: Learning How to “Do” from Edward Deming

Today’s episode has at its heart a really good story, about not a fictional character but someone very real - Edward Deming, revered as a management thinker who unlocked the secrets of quality by studying how manufacturing in Japan was being done. We hear from Kathy Hagler, who was presented with the opportunity to learn from Deming up close and personal. She then took what she learned and combined it with some other tools - including Strategic Doing to create an effective approach to working with nonprofit organizations. Kathy, a great storyteller, is the principal of K2OH Solutions.

Innovation Mathematics: An Introduction to Social Network Analysis

Innovation has long since ceased being something that happens within the four walls of a single lab or even company - it happens in networks. Most of us have at least some sense when the work we’re doing is engaging an increasing number of people and organizations - when our networks are expanding. But how can we get more precise about measuring that? In this episode, Scott Dempwolf of the University of Maryland gives us a primer on social network analysis and how he's used it. Scott came to academia from economic development, and his focus is on applying these mathematical tools to the innovation process.

Encountering the element of surprise

In this episode, we explore two key ideas. The first is one of the ideas we’re most fond of: the principle of starting small, but starting. Nowhere is that more true than in rural communities, where often a group seeking to make change is largely, if not entirely, made up of volunteers. In this episode, I talk with Rob O’Brian, a consultant whose work in Missouri includes this rural focus.

The second idea is something Rob encountered that's also a frequent theme in Strategic Doing: the element of surprise. There’s great potential in surprise, but it can also present the risk of stalling or even halting progress completely. In this case, Rob as well as the group he was working with encountered some unexpected twists and turns.

Looking at the horizon…and the next one

This week, we again feature futurist Rebecca Ryan in a short episode focused on the idea of what we call in Strategic Doing the S-Curve. Sometimes called a sigmoid curve, or a sine wave if you remember back to your pre-calculus class, S-Curves describe much of what we see in the world around us. Rebecca talks about the S-Curve - or as she calls it, the sine wave of entropy - as she discusses an idea called the three horizons. S-Curves overlap. We can see the one we are on, but there also was one preceding that, and there’s one ahead of us. In the three horizon model, the horizon behind us is the first horizon, or horizon 1. The one ahead of us is horizon 3. Listen as Rebecca talks about how that idea is playing out right in front of us, and what that means for our future.

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