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Strategic Agility Lab: A Catalyst for Positive Change



Have you ever attended an event that left you truly inspired? I did when I facilitated and participated in this year's Business Agility Lab in Chicago and the Strategic Agility Lab in Portland. These exceptional gatherings offered attendees unique opportunities for experiential learning, collaborating with industry peers, and exploring diverse viewpoints to cultivate new and innovative solutions to some classic problems.


As one of the facilitators, I was not just an observer but a participant in the magic that unfolded as people engaged with the topics and grappled with complex issues common to many of the companies in attendance. In this post, I want to share some of the standout aspects that made these labs so extraordinary, starting with the most fantastic things first.


  • High Engagement: The lab sessions encouraged active participation and engagement, with learners as active participants in their learning process.

  • Real Problem-Solving: Participants work on real problems instead of simulated ones, enhancing critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

  • Diversity of Experiences: Representatives from various industries, including healthcare, non-profit, technology, sports, and consulting, shared diverse experiences, enhancing the cross-pollination of ideas.

  • Reflection: Learners were encouraged to reflect on their experiences, a crucial component of experiential learning that helps them understand what they've encountered and extract meaningful insights.


During the discussion, it was clear that many people in our industries face significant challenges in their work lives. Despite decades of more effective approaches, it became clear that the long-standing issues persist. So, here are the core challenges:


  • Quoting the iconic band Talking Heads, it's a case of "same as it ever was" regarding the enduring nature of the issues people are dealing with. Despite the emergence of new frameworks and methodologies over the past decades, the underlying problems within organizations still need to be addressed. These issues are broader than a single framework or method and require a more holistic approach to fixing companies, not just teams. These issues include but are not limited to lack of resilience, collaboration, over-commitment and underfunding, dealing with inflated egos, low trust, and company-wide coherency to strategic plans and goals.

  • The future is already here, but the distribution sucks. Unsurprisingly, many attendees were unfamiliar with the methods, techniques, and systems presented. This highlights the need for a more comprehensive range of events to effectively disseminate this knowledge to a broader and more diverse audience.

  • Companies are not investing in their people. I appreciate companies prioritizing their employees by providing financial support to attend events. It's disappointing to hear that some employees could not participate due to budget constraints or they needed to use the pay-what-you-can tickets and self-pay. The cost of sending an employee to training is negligible for most companies, and it costs more internal process dollars to get approval for the employee's attendance than it does to pay for the event. While the market may be slow, I recall a quote from my former mentor, Andy Grove - "Bad companies are destroyed by crisis, good companies survive them, great companies are improved by them." While some markets may face challenges, it's an opportunity to enhance your company's performance by investing in your people.


Despite the challenges mentioned, you may be wondering why I remain inspired. The answer is simple: despite the obstacles, a group left the event with practical insights to address the seemingly unchanging issues we are all facing in business and strategic agility. They exchanged ideas across various industries, discovering how Lean, Agile, Complex Adaptive Systems, and even some older, seemingly outdated methods can be revived to tackle the problems.


Plus, I find the exchange of ideas during these Labs to be truly inspiring, and I look forward to participating in more of them. I want to thank the excellent facilitators who organized such a fantastic event! Thank you to Julia Kaissling, Diana Larsen, Shawna Cullinan, Rhea Stadick, and Tobey Aumann.



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