Knowledge hub
Aug 28, 2023

Business Agility: The Vision

Explore how to navigate our complex world by living Business Agility. Embracing an agile mindset shifts the focus back to (customer) value and enables us to adapt and improve swiftly. Work becomes meaningful again and a joint endeavour. Such a transformation does not only benefit the customer, but also the organisation and employees. Let’s embark on this journey together!

Why Agility?

The Focus on Value

Look at Picture 1. It shows the number of weeks we live during the duration of our lives. We spend around half of our lives in the “career stage”. Every week in this stage, we spend about 20-25% of the time on our job, which makes up around 33-38% of our time that we are awake. This means, that for half of our lives, we spend more than a third of the time we are awake every week on our work, resulting in 17,5% of our awake moments in life, or roughly 80000 hours, in total.

Now the question is: How much of that time do you feel is spent on something that is of value to anybody? In contrast, how much time is spent in useless meetings? How much time is spent on tasks, which only value lies in going through the motions and ticking off some boxes?

If your answer to the latter is: “Oh, a considerable amount!”, then my question is: What are you getting out of this job, so that you are willing to spend this significant amount of your life on something that you do not perceive as being valuable? Is the amount of money you take home every month really worth to spend a considerable fraction of your lifetime to do rather meaningless tasks just because your bosses boss decides this for you?

The Agile Mindset takes us back to focus on value. Customer centricity and employee satisfaction are one of the key concepts in Business Agility. The focus on value makes us reflect on whether what we do is really effective in creating value for our customers, employees, or the organisation’s architecture that will bring value in the future. Optimizing value means that we systematically cut out whatever structures, tasks and processes which inhibit us in this ultimate focus on value.

“Focus on (customer) value” – this Lean-Agile urge may sound like a Duh!-statement. After all, would anyone advocate to focus on something that doesn’t bring value? And yet, in today’s organisations we usually find ourselves spending quite a lot of time on activities that we do not find to bring any value effectively.

Creating customer value may have been the original intention behind traditional organisation models or project management approaches, such as the waterfall one. Processes and procedures were put into place to efficiently pass value through the organisation to eventually end up at the customer. The problem: While we were so busy implementing and maintaining all these structures, we lost sight of what the original goal has always been: creating value for the customer. We forgot that all these processes and plans were just means to an end to create value and instead made it our main focus to follow them relentlessly.

Putting back the focus on customer value, the Agile mindset reminds us that we have to (re-)organise our structures and processes around value. Optimizing the system to create value implies that we need to continuously keep evolving our structures, processes and plans. Agility – the ability to gracefully adapt to change by frequently inspecting & adapting work processes and outcomes – is especially essential in this increasingly complex VUCA world we live in.

Our life: An overview

Picture 1: Each row represents a year of our life, divided by the number of weeks/ year. The labelling of the different stages is based on averages of a typical European.

Free Transformation Journey webinar

The Gladwell Transformation Journeys Webinar Series have been designed to support you on your path towards a successful Business Transformation. We aspire to enrich your theory & practice repertoire as change agent and your perspective on transformation processes.

Date: November 30th, 2023

Navigating our complex world with an Agile mindset

Picture 2: Navigating our VUCA world by approaching it with an agile VUCA’ response. (Source:

Today’s workforce consists mainly of so-called knowledge workers. As opposed to the “blue-collar” workers, preforming mainly manual tasks, knowledge workers are defined as high-level workers who apply theoretical and analytical knowledge to develop products and services. This kind of creative development is intrinsically more complex than the manual tasks we are used to from the industrial conveyor belt related work.

Quite generally, our world has become increasingly more complex and uncertain. Our world has become VUCA:

  • Volatile: Our world – including its industries & markets – changes with increasing and differing nature, speed, volume and magnitude. The more volatile an environment, the more it responds to the change.
  • Uncertain: In today’s world more is unknown than there is known. The only certainty is uncertainty. We can only predict the future very limitedly. This is what is referred to as the cone of uncertainty.
  • Complex: Today’s world consists of a multitude and diverse set of interconnected factors that need to be taken into account when making (work-related) decisions. This complex interconnectedness of various aspects means that we need to move away from our linear understanding of the world, towards an understanding that input and output may be related in non-linear (not proportionate) ways. Hint: This is one of the reasons why waterfall project management – a linear methodology that requires a project to be completed in sequential steps – is not suitable anymore today.
  • Ambiguous: While modern science provides us with a vast knowledge about that facts of our world, many decisions need to be made on basis of the interpretation of these facts with respect to their meaning in a specific context. In our ambiguous world there may not be many absolutely “rights or “wrongs” but rather a “suitable” depending on the context.

The Agile iterative approach can cope much better with a VUCA world than the sequential & linear waterfall approach. VUCA’ is a behavioural leadership model, developed to counteract each of the four aspects of VUCA with a constructive Agile response:


  • Vision: In a world that is undergoing constant change, a shared vision aligns members of the organisation, customers & stakeholders. This vision gives purpose and meaning, which increases the autonomous motivation of employees, and, in turn, their commitment to the vision.
  • Understanding: The Agile’s way of incremental & iterative experimenting shines light on otherwise hidden factors and thereby reduces uncertainty to the extent possible at a given moment in time.
  • Clarity: By simplifying some processes, some complexity can virtually be reduced. Think of it like that: Usually, in a family, we always sit at the same spot at the table – because it makes life simpler. Instead of being faced with a choice each time (in fact you can choose from a number of places), you sit down at the same place – voilà you virtually reduced the complexity of the situation. Another example: while a supermarket presents us with a huge amount of choices of what we can eat, many families tend to buy the same products and cook the same meals with little variation. This reduces our cognitive load when deciding what to eat and how to satisfy the family. This virtual reduction of complexity makes our daily lives easier; however, a true “control” over complexity is naturally not possible. Therefore, I would add that facilitating self-organisation also helps to embrace complexity instead of trying to control it.
  • Agility: Adaption of the approach to match the desired outcome helps in a world where what is suitable is context-dependent. Agility provides a graceful response to changing/ unknown customer needs. I personally would add that ambiguity tolerance also helps in constructively dealing with ambiguity and that it is an important aspect of the Agile Mindset.

Gladwell’s Vision

Gladwell’s Vision: The Future of Organisations

We see the future of organisations as being agile, not only doing agile. Methods follow from living the mindset & values. As a result of being agile …

… organisations live the Scrum value Courage. As psychologist Brene Brown points out, this term comes from Latin and refers to the heart; courage means to be oneself by accepting our imperfections. In connection with a growth-mindset, courage will give us the strength to personally grow.

… In the ideal future, people won’t dread Monday mornings anymore, but actually find that their work enriches their lives. Not everything about a job can be fun, but empowering work environments and a good team spirit will compensate for the pain of the less fun parts and will make the fun parts even more enjoyable. Employees are – to a large extent – autonomously motivated to perform their work.

… We envision employees perceiving that they are valued for who they are and what skills, knowledge and talents they can bring to the table. They feel valued in their unique way of contributing to the organisation. Colleagues inspire each other to create synergies and get the best out of one another.

… We picture employees to find their job not tiring, but challenging – we go home at the end of the day and is “exhausted”, but in a good way. We did not have to waste energy on unnecessary bureaucracy and creativity impeding cultural aspects such as a lack of failure culture. We feel that we could really use our (cognitive) resources & creative energy to its potential. And that this makes a contribution towards society in some way.

… We envision true and constructive teamwork. An empowering team spirit includes for us:

  • Mutual alignment & focus on a goal/ vision.
  • Creating an environment together, which fosters:
    • Psychological safety (including interpersonal trust and mutual respect): everybody feels like they can be themselves and authentic. That way we can work professionally without having to wear a mask.
    • Psychological Ownership of one’s roles, responsibilities and commitments
    • Constructive and encouraging feedback instead of diminishing criticism
    • A failure culture where we encourage each other to try out new things without fearing the risk of failure
    • Transparent communication
    • Empathetic and active listening without judgement
  • Everyone carries their own bag, spots and acts on opportunities. There is no one that always leans back, and no one has the feeling to be forced into being the initiator. Because everybody is. And everybody helps each other out where needed.

Implementing the vision

Now, let’s implement the vision together!

If this vision resonates with you and you’d like to know how to get started, or have questions, drop us a message. Our passion is to bring Business Agility into the world, so we gladly become your training/ coaching and knowledge partner on your transformation journey.

Talking about knowledge partner … This is the start of a series of blog articles, which will go deeper into the Agile mindset and relevant concepts, such as systems thinking, self-organisation, forms of motivation, psychological ownership, psychological safety and “Measure what Matters” and many more. Stay tuned 😊

Free Transformation Journey webinar

The Gladwell Transformation Journeys Webinar Series have been designed to support you on your path towards a successful Business Transformation. We aspire to enrich your theory & practice repertoire as change agent and your perspective on transformation processes.

Date: November 30th, 2023

Written by Julia Heuritsch, SAFe Practice Consultant & Agile Coach