Leadership & Management74

Transforming an Already Overburdened Organization

AgileAmped Podcast

Leslie Morse, Stephen Parry

October 9, 2019


Stephen Parry is a business leader, strategist, change designer and author with a reputation for large-scale global business transformation. He sat down with us for a fascinating deep-dive into addressing transformation in organizations that are often already overburdened.

According to Parry, during an org transformation, leadership tends to lose sight of the strategy, the org structures, and the investments in technology.

Traditional leadership is just going down to the mid-management level and making sure they’re hitting the local numbers and trying harder, leaving the top decks with no captain.

To resolve this problem, senior leaders have to trust the management at the mid level, and in turn middle managers must trust the staff below them. This enables leadership and middle management to perform the critical roles that cannot be done by those below them. Meanwhile, each manager’s reports must strive to “make your managers fantastic”, according to Parry. That calls for a trust strategy across the business. Parry calls this approach “power up” instead of “bottom up.”

Accenture | SolutionsIQ’s Leslie Morse hosts. Learn more about our guest at lloydparry.com

The Agile Amped podcast is the shared voice of the Agile community, driven by compelling stories, passionate people, and innovative ideas. Together, we are advancing the impact of business agility.

Read the full transcript

LESLIE MORSE: Welcome to another edition of Agile Amped. I’m your host, Leslie Morse, and today my guest is Stephen Parry. Stephen is a business leader, strategist, change designer, and author with a reputation for large-scale global business transformation. His approach is based on the fundamentals of Lean and Agile, and he has created a transformation model called Sense and Respond, which is an approach to business agility and adaptability, and has got a book published by the same name. Stephen, thank you so much for joining us for today’s conversation. I’m really excited to talk to you about this idea of adaptive business.

STEPHEN PARRY: It’s a pleasure, and I’ve been looking forward to this for some time, so thank you very much for inviting me.

LESLIE MORSE: Yeah, you’re welcome, you’re welcome. In preparing for our chat today, I started getting really curious kind of about your Agile journey and was reading some online. And I’d love to actually share with our listeners just a couple of the highlights about your career and what actually got you to this epiphany of adaptive business.

STEPHEN PARRY: Yes. I come from a background in IT and engineering. Started my career designing microchips, working with a number of large companies, running very large infrastructures.

I then got asked into setting up a number of IT locations and businesses. So, I moved out of being an engineer, more into management. And one of the things that I found was that my idea of management was not conducive to some of the areas that I went into. Because I was thinking it more of an engineering task, and I got myself into a lot of trouble with that. But the interesting thing is, I was getting better results looking at a whole system, system of engineering. This is when Lean came along. This made a lot of sense.

And then, I moved into organizational design and strategy for large organizations such as Fujitsu. I helped set up the Fujitsu outsourcing arm, but we had to have a different way of operating and competing against the likes of IBM and EDS at the time. And that’s when I really applied what I thought was Lean at that time. But I was doing Lean in a very different way because I didn’t know any better. I was looking at Lean outside the organization and making the outside of the organization much easier environment for our customers to work in, rather than focusing internally on Lean there. And of course, Agile came along after that, and I started incorporating that with … I’m a great believer in the function over form. I’m not so wedded to the form it takes, whether it’s Agile, Lean, or Kanban. It’s the functionality. Because it’s all about engaging with the customer and continually logging on and responding.

And, that was very successful. At Fujitsu, we called it the Sense and Respond Approach. I then wrote a book about that. But since I left Fujitsu, it’s gone on and developed quite a lot. And I tied up with a lot of the Agile community, and they were just great. The right mental attitudes, the right thirst for knowledge and experimentation, and that added to my knowledge and refinement of Sense and Respond. So, I’m on Sense and Respond 3.0 now.

LESLIE MORSE: That’s great.

STEPHEN PARRY: And, I decided to go out and just try and bring this to a lot of other companies. And I’ve been quite lucky to have been successful on most of them. Not all of them, but most of them.

LESLIE MORSE: Yeah, and what I love about that story is, right, the fact that you did this with Fujitsu, and then it stuck. And there are so many people out there that go down these transformation journeys and it doesn’t stick for whatever reason. And so, I’m excited to kind of hear today a little bit about some of the things that you’ve done to increase the stickiness of it. Because I gather that that’s actually a big piece of the way way you think differently. And what I was really inspired by is actually, kind of the way you define adaptive business. Because to me, it is almost the purest definition of business agility in the way that I think it. And so, I’m actually going to share this definition from your website with everybody.

STEPHEN PARRY: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

LESLIE MORSE: Because what you write here is that, “Adaptive business is a transcendent leap beyond mere process and efficiency gains. Becoming an adaptive business means managing a transformation from the old world to the new. It means rethinking and reimagining how and why we work to achieve harmony with market evolution, no matter which way it turns. You can’t control market evolution, but you can control your own. When the rules of the game shift fast and without warning, commercial survival requires a sixth sense. If you want to compete, you have no choice but to respond. If you want to succeed, you have to know how to adapt.”

I mean, that’s pretty perfect. That is the lighthouse in the distance in my mind, for what all organizations need to aspire to when we talk about business agility. Which means it’s more than just agile. I mean, what comes up for you when I say that?

STEPHEN PARRY: Agile has driven the frontiers of adaptiveness. But adaptiveness mostly focus on the way we process work and allocate work, and the way that we engage people for the work. What a business looks at is, how do we get that at an organizational level? And that does not necessarily mean we do in the finance office or the COO’s office, what they do on the ground. Because they are different methods and different work.

However, the principles are the same. But the form in which it takes has to be different. So, this is one of the barriers a lot of people in Agile have had, trying to get across the glass ceiling of bringing it out to the workplace. And it’s very much what happened to Lean as well.

I took a different approach to work above the ceiling, and then change what’s above the ceiling to allow what’s coming up to gracefully move into the rest of the organization. And jointly learning, and this is the important point, that people that do the work using Agile, learning what a business means when it’s talking about the things it needs to do. And how does Agile manifest itself in the business world?

Instead, what I think most people have been doing is, they’ve been saying, “We’re trying to convert them to our methods and our thinking.” And then, we end up with statements of, “Well, they just don’t get it, do they?” And it’ll never change here. Well, they won’t get it, but they are the ones saying it. Not who they’re saying it about.


STEPHEN PARRY: You have to learn business language so that they can translate that. And in my work, that is absolutely the first thing that we do. I take a cross section of a lot of people, usually engineers from all levels in the organization, and go on a voyage of discovery to find out what this organization thinks, feels, and does. And, I teach them how to do their work through the eyes of a business leader. In fact, for the duration, I promote them to chief operating officer, or something. And from that vantage point, they can see a whole host of organizational mechanisms that conspire to hold Agile as a work place thing, behind.

And there’s a dawning, that they’ve been knocking on the wrong doors.

LESLIE MORSE: Yeah, I mean, this is to me, the perfect definition of meet people where they are, right? And so, what I think you’re really doing is calling forth the challenge for people to embrace the complexity of mind necessary to set behind my own personal value system and how my outer role may function within the organization if I’m a developer, an architect, or an engineer. And really set that aside, and walk a mile in the shoes of the business people.


LESLIE MORSE: Because if we don’t do this together, you’re right, that glass ceiling is there. And I use that metaphor all the time working with clients around, yes, just doing some of the practices will get you aspects of more organizational agility. But eventually, you will hit the glass ceiling.


LESLIE MORSE: And you’ve got figure out what are the adjacent competencies you have to embrace so that that glass ceiling eventually just kind of shatters and evaporates. And I think this Sense and Respond model that you’re talking about and these other aspects are part of the anecdote there.

STEPHEN PARRY: Yes, and Sense and Respond is what you want the organization to be doing for the market place in the way that you opened this talk a moment ago. But, there’s another form of Sense and Respond, and that is, the staff sensing what the managers need to help the business, and then responding to their needs. And I get shot down in my early interventions when I say to a really articulate team that have been frustrated, that hit this glass ceiling. And I said, “Right, let’s get it clear. Your job is to make your managers fantastic.”

And there’s screams of, “No, why should I do that? They make my life Hell.” All right, and I said, “Well, that’s because you don’t know how they work, and you don’t know what will get them interested. So, let’s learn to have some conversations about what they want. Okay, if you’re going up to the finance director, you wouldn’t say, “Oh, this Agile stuff is great. We have a lot more freedom and flexibility, and autonomy. All of these things, and it’s a great, fun way of working.”

Right, the CFO is not interested.


STEPHEN PARRY: Now, if those guys then say, “Well, he’s interested in how we help the business. So you say, “What Agile does for the bottom line is this, this, and this. And we’ve already demonstrated over here that we can save that, that, and that.”

Okay, so, it’s not trying to educate them out of their specialties, because their specialty is a specialty for a reason. Like, making sure the business has money to run, make profits, to keep us all in jobs. And that’s hard, the same as a CEO has to make sure we position ourselves in, not just in the market place, but the business analysts, and that those jobs are very different.

But what I’m trying to do here is, get away from traditional direct and control management, and shift it so instead of a bottom up approach, we have a power up. So, people at the bottom take power, and they help senior managers go from make and sell mentality, which is a command and control type concept, into a listen and adapt mentality. And that changes the behavior. They will respond completely differently if you talk their language and they can see the benefits.

LESLIE MORSE: So, what are some of those, I guess, techniques or the things that are important to be considering, just to even embrace that mindset of power up versus bottom up? Because I hadn’t quite heard that phrase before, so I want to spend a minute or two on that.

STEPHEN PARRY: Yes, the main issues that most businesses today have really come down to … I’m talking about large organizations.

LESLIE MORSE: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

STEPHEN PARRY: It’s less so in small organizations. Because of the rate of change and the costs and competitiveness, work overburden is everywhere.


STEPHEN PARRY: And, the biggest thing they say is, “Stephen, this is great, but I don’t have time to improve.” And then I said, “Well, you just made the biggest, best case to make time for it.”


STEPHEN PARRY: Because if you don’t even have time to improve, there’s only one direction it’s going to go. Just turning that traditional logic on itself.

LESLIE MORSE: Yeah, I mean, if you don’t have that time to improve, at best, you stay the same. But the odds are, you actually deteriorate.

STEPHEN PARRY: Absolutely, so there’s overburden. People get frustrated. They lose their commitment. They don’t tell you when things are going wrong because the management don’t have time either, to do anything about it. So, you get apathy setting in.


STEPHEN PARRY: What they need is a way of management and staff knowing how they’re going to deal with the work overload. And that work overload comes from the organizational design, most of the measurement systems, and the management approach. And what they do is, to try and make it better, they do all of those things what they think, better and harder, and make it worse.

LESLIE MORSE: Yeah, well, I tend to experience, leaders often will take an additive approach that we’re going to add all of these things in order to improve. But really, the question I like to leave leaders with is, “When is the last time you actually stopped doing something in order to improve?”

And that tends to get very inquisitive looks, like, “What are you talking about?”

STEPHEN PARRY: Yes, because they’re locked in what I call, the tumble dryer, and that they’re all in there.

LESLIE MORSE: :Ah, yeah, that’s a great metaphor.

STEPHEN PARRY: And if you try to stop it and take it out, it’s all going to come out wrinkled, and it’s not very orderly, shall we say.


STEPHEN PARRY: So, the thing that prevents most management taking action is that, they don’t have transparency on how the business performs end to end.

LESLIE MORSE: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

STEPHEN PARRY: They’ll look at it in their silos, and when it’s under pressure and urgency, it’ll drive them even more into their silos. What management need to do at the top level is, to come out of the day to day work. But, they’re in the day to day work doing mid management jobs because the mid managers are overloaded. And the mid managers are overloaded doing some of the frontline work.


STEPHEN PARRY: So, it just collapses. There’s this three layer cake, and it just collapses in the oven, and you might even unfortunately bake it at that point.


STEPHEN PARRY: So, there has to be a clear role in separating that hierarchy.

LESLIE MORSE: I think about, this is the idea of there are people that are responsible for working in the business, and other people responsible for working on the business.

STEPHEN PARRY: Absolutely. So, what happens at the senior level, they’re no longer looking at the strategy. They’re not looking at the structures of the organization and the investments in technology. They are just going down to the mid management level, and just making sure they hit the local numbers and trying harder.


STEPHEN PARRY: Leaving the top decks with no captain on it.

LESLIE MORSE: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

STEPHEN PARRY: And the whole organization is heading for the rocks, but nobody’s up on top looking anymore. Or if they are, they’re just shouting down to the engine room, you know, more steam, and faster. But the key to this is, to give senior management a reason to go up a level. So, there’s space between them and the mid managers because with senior management coming down, there’s no space for the mid managers to go back into. So, senior leaders have to create that space, and they need to trust the management below that.

But the management at the mid level need to trust the staff, that they can take care of a bunch of stuff, to allow them to go back into their roles and do this. And that calls for a trust strategy, as I call it, across the business. And …

LESLIE MORSE: Yeah, and what I love is that, nothing about what you’re talking about so far actually has anything to do with like, core Agile the way we define it.


LESLIE MORSE: This is all of the stuff that actually enables all of that to work well and achieve business results.

STEPHEN PARRY: Absolutely, because most of the … I’m going to perhaps, be controversial for somebody. Most of the Agile transformations work on the assumption that the organization is probably not too bad. There’s lots of things can do it, but there are foundations in there that are gaping cracks. And as soon as you then move them into trying to do Agile at an enterprise level, those gaps become Canyons. And you know who falls into those canyons? It’s your customer.


STEPHEN PARRY: And you fall in after them. So, we have to get the foundations right. And, when I go in, I ask three questions. Very simple, it says, “Look,” I said, “Can we deliver today’s business?” And they’re stunned, and they say, “Well, we’ve got lots of trouble, we’ve got all of this.”

I said, “Right, so you want to transform this organization, and that’s another burden on an overburdened organization. So, let’s get what are the foundations?” Like, management training, can they plan and organize a day’s work? And you’d be surprised, Agile often, this strips them of that ability, paradoxically.


STEPHEN PARRY: So, some of the basic skills are not there. And, we’ve drifted away from that.

LESLIE MORSE: Yeah, and actually, I wonder as you just think about the framing of that first question, and it really made me be more of a lead into the second question is, how does this idea, kind of the definition of insanity come up? Because even if people are acknowledging yes, we’re not delivering today’s business in the way we could, there’s really that challenge of, “Well, do you want to do something different? Because if you don’t, then you’re just going to keep getting the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” So, how does that weave into this conversation?

STEPHEN PARRY: I want to flip that in another way.


STEPHEN PARRY: There are people knowing that they are trapped. Even if they think in an Agile way, they’re just so much around in what I call the organizational and operational infrastructure, the stuff that planning and organizing, it makes all the stuff work, that you have to untangle.

LESLIE MORSE: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

STEPHEN PARRY: And everybody says, “Well, that’s connected to that. That’s connected to that. Where do we start?”


STEPHEN PARRY: And that’s the thing. What I do is, I look, can we deliver today’s business? I say, “Okay, what’s your go to market strategy? Okay, that sounds as if that should be good. What’s your operating strategy? How are you planning and organizing your delivery capabilities?”

“Well, this is how we’re doing that.”

“Okay, is that appropriate for that go to market strategy?” And they said, “Well, we think it is.”

And then, we say, “Okay, so what structures are you putting in place?” And we put these structures in place. But those structures come very much from what I call a make and sell, industrial model set. And that’s where the trap happens. You’ve now set the organization up to be a mass production type organization into little silos. And then, you expect them to do the highly responsive top-end knowledge work.

LESLIE MORSE: Yep, it’s diametrically opposed.

STEPHEN PARRY: When, by design … Absolutely, but they’re not aware of that. But now, the scene is set. So, the trap has been set long ago. Then, you give each of those managers a responsibility for improving capability. But capability to do stuff has lots of components. But you’ve siloed all of those off, okay?


STEPHEN PARRY: And then, how does the work flow? Now, Agile is great at making the world work flow. But if the managers above that can’t give enough people, can’t manage the amount of work that’s coming in, the variety, the variation in that work, and the overburden, then their ability to do Agile at higher levels is going to be smothered.

So, we have to say, “Well, how do the guys at the top really understand the consequences of that?” And this is where the idea of big picture collaboration comes from. And what I’ve done in large organization is said, “We need some forums to just say what is disconnected.”

And this means, we have found problems that go beyond my immediate area, and I’m interdependent.


STEPHEN PARRY: And, we have formats for big picture to bring those people together regularly, to review how the organization is joined up, are our goals aligned, and are we helping each other? And this comes back to that theory is, you have to make your manager successful, because now they look at, this is what’s happening at my workflow level. This is because there’s no capability to do that, because we haven’t had the training, the investment, the automation, and those managers in the middle.

Why is that happened? It’s because the structures are wrong, and the strategy around how much we want to pay, all of that. So suddenly, what emerges as a problem on the shop floor, shall we say, can be attributed all the way up to the stream to the senior management, who then can see how their strategies manifest themselves on the ground. And there’s a huge learning, huge learning …

LESLIE MORSE: And that transparency and feedback loop is so important.

STEPHEN PARRY: Absolutely, because we go back to the three things that we said was overburden. Well, where does it come from? Okay, and it comes from a lot of places. The way we organize the work, how much we are trying to do. We’re trying to keep the cost down, and all of these other things, which are important features. But unfortunately, a lot of the costs they’re trying to keep down by strangling various silos is putting the total cost up, because that is generating unnecessary work, or inefficient work, and no room to improve. So therefore, the death spiral will continue.

And, it’s understanding that those three levels have to work together and have to talk the same language.

LESLIE MORSE: I venture to say, no one can really argue with you about this formula that you’re laying out. But, what is it that organizations actually need to fundamentally do, to start getting towards what you’re describing here?

STEPHEN PARRY: I will describe this in a little experiment I usually do in conference audience.


STEPHEN PARRY: There is this well-known pictures of Einstein, and this well-known picture of Marilyn Monroe.

LESLIE MORSE: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

STEPHEN PARRY: But, it’s been done by, I think it’s somebody at MIT, and it’s about certain psychological patternings. And it’s done to design a picture on a bus shelter so that if you’re a long way away, you’ll see one picture. And as you move towards it, you’ll see somebody else.


STEPHEN PARRY: And the key to this is, when you’re close, you can’t see the other picture. You have to run up the street. And you can’t see the other one, so it flips and changes. Because this is working on your psychological brain.

LESLIE MORSE: Mm-hmm (affirmative), yep.

STEPHEN PARRY: What I use this for, I got people up on the stage and somebody at the background. And I say, “Okay, I’m going to show you this picture. Somebody famous, at the front, you say who it is. Don’t tell anybody. Same at the back, 15 seconds, up it goes. Of course, the ones on the stage see Einstein. And the ones at the back of the audience see Marilyn Monroe. And, we shout. And they say, “Are you sure? Are you looking at the same thing?”

And they said, “Yes.” So, I get them to change. And they go, “That’s unbelievable.” And I then say to all the audience sitting in the middle, “Okay, so what did you see?”

“Well, I sort of saw Marilyn Monroe with a bit of a mustache.” Okay, so let’s just unpack this. What the guys at the front see, it’s this old and craggly … I’m not doing Einstein down, but he’s a lot older and less good looking than Marilyn Monroe.

Okay, so they’re facing the reality at the workplace. The senior levels, they’re above the clouds. They think it’s all okay. They think the baby is beautiful, it’s like Marilyn Monroe.


STEPHEN PARRY: All right, so what about the people in the middle? Well, they can see a bit of each. They can’t see it fully, but they talk to the front line and they keep saying it’s Einstein there. Talk the top guys, and that’s Marilyn Monroe. And they say, “Well, how can I deal with this?”

So, the middle guys make it appear that they’ve integrated both of these. And they haven’t. They’ve just smudged the picture so that two ends can happen. And this is why the top and middle, and the front end, need to get the same picture.


STEPHEN PARRY: And, that’s what a big picture collaboration does. This is the reality. We get to see Einstein, but you don’t need Einstein to fix it.

LESLIE MORSE: That … Yeah, I love that exercise. I’m starting to wonder, I’m like, have you just given away a secret of something that’s going to happen at the Business Agility Conference in Vienna?


LESLIE MORSE: So, have we clued people into something they might get to experience face to face?

STEPHEN PARRY: Yes, absolutely.

LESLIE MORSE: That’s great.

STEPHEN PARRY: And, it can be used in a number of ways. That’s in the hierarchy, but also end to end business.


STEPHEN PARRY: Okay, it works horizontally and vertically. And that’s why you need management to integrate vertically and horizontally.

LESLIE MORSE: Yeah, so, I gather that there’s probably an aspect of not only just mindset, but we’ve alluded to transformation. And having the right culture in the environment, and kind of climate for this sort of shift to happen, has got to be critical. What work do you do there?

STEPHEN PARRY: Yes, if I just go back to your operating strategy transpires into a structure, how you have that capability, and it’s coming from an industrial model. So therefore, even if you’ve got people with the right attitude, they hit this glass ceiling.

LESLIE MORSE: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

STEPHEN PARRY: Because they’re surrounded by that. But once you’ve got managers at all level understanding that that is an artificial construction, like a television and not a tree, okay, they can redesign that. But what needs to change? And I’ve been doing some work with a lot of work psychologists in a number of universities for a number of years now, and we’ve developed a model called climetrics. Which means, what is the climate? This climate works above a culture level. What that climate says is, is other practices, thinking, feelings, and perceptions of managers, leaders and staff; do they perceive the way they work is organized, is driven through a mechanical make and sell model, which is, “We’ve made this, now we got to push it.”

And that’s an old paradigm. And if your business doesn’t change very much, that’s great, that’s great. But, if your business is changing a lot or needs to change because your customers and what you produce a lot, that’s going to lock you in in the past. So, you need to have what I call an adaptive climate. A Sense and Respond climate where management role is much more to listen and adapt, rather than direct and control. That’s what the industrial model fixes.

And you have to understand what it is about the operating strategy, the structure, capability, and flow, which includes your measurement systems, your reward and recognition. And this sounds like, “Oh, Stephen, we’re going to boil the ocean.” And I said, “No, we’re not, okay? We are riding on the top of the ocean.”

It may be stormy, but we are creating a vehicle to ride those storms, not sink. So, we’re not doing that. So, how do we create a vehicle that can survive the storms of this while we work out what parts the organizations need to realign. And what I found out from the climetrics work, it used to take me about four years to do a large organization, say, between 2,000 or 15,000, about four years.

To get that with climetrics, I went down to 18 months, even for the larger organizations.


STEPHEN PARRY: Why? Because the climetrics were looking at different parts of the organization. And we were looking at this profile of adaptability or mass production. And that then, told us what in the existing environment we could reuse, repurpose, and what did we need to create anew. And, when I was working with the university, I said, “Look,” I said, “sometimes I do this stuff here and I think it will work elsewhere, and it just falls flat. And I have no idea why.”

LESLIE MORSE: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

STEPHEN PARRY: And, with the climetrics, what that did was allowed me to say, “This bit is okay. We don’t need to touch that. We don’t need to spend time. We need to connect that with X, Y, and Zed.”

So, what the climetrics does, it gives … Think about climate across a whole organization, like a continent, like Europe. Europe has a climate. But, not all of Europe has the same climate. Like, in Italy, it’s very different to the U.K. and Scotland, unfortunately.


STEPHEN PARRY: Okay, but combined, it has that. So, think about climate like the weather here. Then, you got to layer it down, you say, “Well, by country, there’s these variations. And some areas, the climate was absolutely great. And other areas, it wasn’t.”

LESLIE MORSE: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

STEPHEN PARRY: And, this is what it’s telling me, you don’t have roll out programs to make them all do it if they’re already doing it. And I mean, with the right behaviors and attitudes. Without the constraints. So, now you can focus on those areas of your business, which might be different business units which might need to change, to integrate them.

But then, you can go down another layer and say, “Well, we go down to the towns, because even towns in a city, in a country, can vary.”


STEPHEN PARRY: So now, those are teams and units.

LESLIE MORSE: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

STEPHEN PARRY: So, now you can now design an intervention approach to then get these to move towards the climate that you’re trying to create overall across Europe. But you don’t need to spend time where they’re already there.

LESLIE MORSE: Yeah, if this idea of work climate and really cultivating that is sort of, kind of what I’m picking up from you is kind of the secret sauce to this Sense and Adapt sort of way.

STEPHEN PARRY: It is, yes.

LESLIE MORSE: How do people get started?

STEPHEN PARRY: The way to get started with that, I have a number of publications which says, “These are some of the elements that you need to be looking for in a climate.”


STEPHEN PARRY: What I’ve devised is a very, a simpler version of the more complex climate study, which is done in connection with the universities, because they have the statistical tools to break it down. What I’ve created is much more manual one where you can say, “Well, what climate is in my team?”

LESLIE MORSE: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

STEPHEN PARRY: Okay, and a climate is an aggregate. Even if you’ve got one or two players that think completely differently and behave, climate is an aggregation. There is no climate if a certain percentage has not bought into it, which is why individuals often find it difficult, because the climate for other people is different.


STEPHEN PARRY: All right, so, I will be talking about this at the event, and I will part of my work will be saying, “Okay, let’s go to the top line, adaptive, Agile climate.” And I’ll be asking them to fill in as part of my session, either before, or just before, during, a very simple questionnaire. And I’ll be looking at four major areas, how well do they engage and deeply understand their customers? How well they take that information about their customers and how they’re performing and share it with everybody else, the customer and how they’re performing? Do they talk to other people?

LESLIE MORSE: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

STEPHEN PARRY: And then, how do they make choices about what to experiment with? And how do they then create the leadership for new products and services that we need to experiment with? And then finally, there’s the last stage, which is the loop for this, which says, “There are things we just need to improve, and there are some things that we need to transform.” And that’s an important distinction.

Improvement is doing what you do, but a bit better, or maybe much better. But fundamentally, there’s no change in the form.

LESLIE MORSE: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

STEPHEN PARRY: Transformation means going beyond your current form, and that’s where transformation can not be achieved through improvement. It’s a completely different mindset. It’s a completely different way of looking at the world, and it involves your customer at every stage. So just understanding that brings the basis of collaboration, what do we need to do for our customers? What’s getting in the way? What are the disconnects that we need to collapse? What parts of the organization and infrastructure do we need to start tweaking?


STEPHEN PARRY: And in one case, we even had engineers designing the vice president’s job. And they were saying, “Look, for us to work as engineers in this, to be adaptive, to do this, this needs to be your job.” And they also went to HR and said, “This is what you need to be rewarding us with. Not this other stuff, because that’s driving us in the wrong direction and putting up costs.”

Now, you imagine the senior management team and HR and in accounting, suddenly realize what the true cost of their accounting practices were, because that’s what they told them.


STEPHEN PARRY: That’s Sense and Respond.

LESLIE MORSE: That’s great.

STEPHEN PARRY: And managers need to learn to listen and adapt.

LESLIE MORSE: Yeah, for sure. So, if people aren’t going to be able to be at the conference in Vienna and learn more from you at the Business Agility Event there, how might they learn more on their own and start exploring this idea?

STEPHEN PARRY: There are the best place is, there’s a resource on my website, which is lloydparry.com.


STEPHEN PARRY: And, there are loads of blogs on this, so take a rummage around in that. But when you’re on the site, there’s a document called Adaptive Business Practices, which is a primer for this, which talks a little bit about what I was talking about today. And there is another publication which is new out called Setting The Seeds For Change Readiness, which looks at, what are the foundation factors that make transformation of any kind, but especially an adaptive one, fruitful.

And they are the gotchas that only turn up when you’re in the middle of a transformation and it’s too late to do something about it. Even if you don’t want to do a transformation, they’re good stuff to do, to make the business better.

LESLIE MORSE: Oh, great.

STEPHEN PARRY: And, I’ve got another publication coming out which is a whole series of roles. There’s the designer, there’s the people who are the change makers. There are people that need to help others adopt new ways of working. And most importantly, that’s often leaved out is, the manager needs to be trained and educated on how to run a Sense and Respond business when all he’s known is a make and sell business.

LESLIE MORSE: Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. Well, Stephen, thank you for kind of helping open people’s eyes to this idea of all these different dimensions of business agility. I really appreciate it, and the fact that we’ve got some resources, we can go learn more. There’s a lot to explore here, and I really appreciate your time.

STEPHEN PARRY: Great, thank you very much for a very enjoyable podcast. And thanks for making me work. That’s great.

LESLIE MORSE: Yeah, no problem, no problem. This has been fun. And thank you to our listeners.


LESLIE MORSE: Yeah, thanks for everybody tuning in. This has been another edition of Agile Amped. If you learned something new, please tell a friend, coworker, or a client about this podcast. You can subscribe online to hear more inspiring conversations.

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