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Q&A with Jamie Meyer

Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with Jamie Meyer ,Success Designer. Social Development Architect. designed @ninecarat.success

Agile environments demand a different kind of leadership. From your experience, what are the key qualities of leaders who thrive in and foster agile cultures within their organizations? 


Qualities are subjective to an individual’s style and characteristics. Agile Leadership does not need to be restricted to one type of Leader. What makes Leaders successful in designing and fostering Agile Environments is the way they go about leading. A Leader of agility can reconcile disparate elements, appreciatethe significance of how components contribute to a broader scopeand are versed in causality.  


Leaders of agility form plans by asking the right questions, listening well and understanding how the perspective of others fits into the broader scope of the company’s ecosystem. Compounding the information, the way it interplays with other facets and how it can be used to design the best outcomes. In doing so, they concurrently bring out the highest quality performance and contribution from their Teams.  

When designing infrastructure and strategy. They can see each piece’s details and limitations, much like a jigsaw puzzle. They can identify the value each piece contributes to the bigger picture. Their approach recognises what talents and resources are available, their best possible application and how to construct a solution that capitalises on those assets and plays to their strengths. While simultaneously recognising what assets are absent and how to either mitigate or acquire what is necessary for success.  

During implementation, Agile Leaders consider both proactive and reactive possibilities. They can communicate a desired outcome so that while the Team follow the strategy they are focused but not fixated. And are better able to recognise alternatives, roadblocks and opportunities throughout the process. Such Leaders also know that once the symphony is composed it is best for them to transform into a proficient and multidimensional conductor.  


 With a growing emphasis on sustainability and ethical business practices, how do you see agile methodologies contributing to the development of more sustainable business models and practices? 


Sustainable business requires agility. However, ethics practices cannot be agile, they should be constant and the navigating markers for agile methodologies. This is the very reason why things like ‘green-washing’ and ‘purpose-washing’ don’t work. They are superficially agile, and ethical and are too trend-focused to truly feed a company’s sustainability.  

I don’t see agility as the precursor to sustainable models and ethical practices, for agile practices can easily be applied nefariously. When applied effectively the degree to which ethical practice and agile methodologies can contribute to success is significant. Not only to the bottom line and growth of a company, but the model itself has the potential to impact societies and economics without ‘washing’ or having a particularly charitable agenda.

While a specific area of impact can be worked into the company model, the model itself is already a contributor. As an example, an unsustainable company creates temporary jobs and a false expansion of the market. As it begins to fail, increase debt levels, lose money and make positions redundant the ripple effect creates chasms that did not exist before. Shaking the sustainability of other businesses and People’s lives. Unethical practices exacerbate this effect and reach of this lapse, somewhat like gasoline.  


Agile methodologies are just like any tool, they can be used ethically and unethically. As such, they are not solely enough to build a truly sustainable business. The collapse of Lehman Brothers is a perfect example. Cracks caused by legal yet unethical practices eventually have a kryptonite.  


I see ethical practices as a foundation and agile methodologies as the structure and building blocks for sustainable business models.  

You mentioned the acceptance of remote work as a significant change in recent years. How do you envision the future of work in terms of organizational structure, employee engagement, and productivity with the continued evolution of technology and work practices? 


Remote Work is a substantial change that has occurred in recent years, it’s necessity and implementation have contributed to many companies reconsidering all facets of traditional business models. It has impacted the office and talent infrastructures of companies, the levels of employee engagement, productivity and implementation of technology.  

While a great step in a new direction, to fulfil an agile and sustainable business model I see the need for further changes around departmental pyramid infrastructures. To be replaced with network and ecosystem models, particularly regarding employee advancement. Instead of vertical departmental progression, companies adopt a fluid ecosystem progression driven by employees’ strengths and applications.  


In most companies, if you work in an entry or mid-level position and are good a it, you are promoted to the direct next senior position. In some cases, this is the next best possible position for the individual. In other cases the more they incline the less inclined their skills are transferrable to the position. I have seen companies lose exceptional talent all for the sake of a direct but wrong promotion. 


In an ecosystem model, departmental promotion is not as necessary and both employees and companies benefit from promoting talent to the most appropriate position. This involves assessing the application of their success in their current position, the strengths and traits exampled within their work and interaction with their Team and others. Rather than a simple overview assessment of their general performance.  

In models where positions are more fluid and individual assets lead advancement employee engagement and productivity are not only high but of high quality, with decreased levels of wasted training and disruption costs - I don’t think companies realise the costs involved with the wrong promotion.  


As far as the evolution of technology and the future of work, I will again reference tools and their intention. The chosen intention of technology within companies will entirely dictate the future they experience. And honestly, this is an area for which I have great concern. 

In instances like remote work, we have used technology to complement, facilitate and enhance ways we can work. A positive use and evolution for the implementation of technology. But in other instances, companies have strangled the development of their employees with so much technology, in turn suffocating the evolution of skill available and now find themselves asking why they hire People when they can replace them with technology. This thread of intention and progress always reminds me of the discovery of radium. Initially a cure for everything that eventually killed People with its side effects.  

Just as companies who eliminate all of their tenured experience suffer, companies who eliminate People will too. Somewhere we have adopted the idea that technology is more flawless than human error all while overlooking the sizeable faults and errors present in technology. Technology as a tool to enhance ecosystems contributes to a sustainable future. Technology to replace portions of ecosystems is severely problematic, not just for the sustainable success of a company but the sustainable success of a much larger scope.  


Agility is often discussed at the organizational level, but personal agility can be equally important. Can you share your insights on developing personal agility and how individuals can apply agile principles to navigate their careers and personal growth? 


Personal Agility is equally important, not only in the context of our contribution to a company but also in applying our best possible performance and expanding the repertoire of tasks we can accomplish. We can get tied up in roles, titles and the responsibilities of each. Pair that with the expectations of others and we stifle our ability to complete a task and limit what tasks we think we are capable of completing.  

I can use my Grandparents as an example here. They are in their eighties and have common sense in droves. But if I put them in front of Netflix with a remote, show them the side menu and ask them to find ‘My List’, they freeze. Why? Because they aren’t accustomed to the application, despite having the skills to learn to navigate it, they resign themselves to the fact they don’t know and have no transferrable knowledge. The foundation of Personal Agility is discovering our natural aptitudes and strengths and leading with them. Using them as a framework to take on any task. In doing so we become more competent, more potent and more agile by creating a resource to build on when acquiring new skills and capabilities.  


When we begin with, What can I do? What do I know? How does it fit? How can I use it? And what is left unaddressed? A task becomes less daunting and we realise that we do not need to know the task or learn everything the task requires only the portions we do not already know or have transferrable skill for. 

As far as career trajectory and personal growth, such a foundation enhances both. We eliminate our unknowns, remove restrictions and competently address everything in our path.  


The same can be said for what we choose to learn and learn about. Not all the knowledge or learning we seek out needs to be directly transferrable to our career path or goals. Sometimes it can merely be interesting. Our interest in it allows us to easily understand the layers of the information we are consuming and potentially find ways to use that understanding in our work. There need not be a direct correlation, in some cases the perspective we garner from our interest is exactly the perspective we need to solve a problem. When I visited The United States this last year, my Dad was restoring a 1968 GMC Double Cab Pickup.

The old carburettor was not sufficient for the performance he wanted out of the rebuilt engine, so he purchased a different make and model. The box included every nut, bolt and pipe required to install the carburettor. However, due to the age of the existing engine, it didn’t naturally fit. Now me, I would have assumed that the part didn’t fit and that you were not able to modify such an integral part of the motor, if it didn’t fit the way it came then it wasn’t the right part. But my Dad, a motor mechanic by trade, cut and filed and adjusted and brought new screws to make the Holley carburettor fit. It was impressive to watch and gave me many tangible examples in my work moving forward, which as you may have guessed, has nothing to do with rebuilding car engines.  


Implementing agile practices in small teams or startups is one thing, but scaling these practices across large, complex organizations presents different challenges. What strategies have you seen work well in scaling agile, and what common pitfalls should companies be wary of? 


Startups have the advantage of designing their business as agile frameworks from the onset which makes scaling agility easier, they are merely multiplying what exists. However, when it comes to existing businesses, I don’t necessarily agree that it is easier for a small business to be more agile than a large or established company. Both have pros, cons and challenges. While the implementation and application of agility has a more complex ratio in a large company, it only becomes a simpler application in a small business by size alone. Restrictions are present for all entities outside of their size. 


Small Businesses tend to be caught in niches. Their expertise, talents and resources are so specific that agile paths are not recognised or ignored. Their market offering is so definite that becoming agile in the market may jeopardise positioning and brand integrity. They have smaller networks and are generally isolated, isolating their agility ability,and are restricted in their exposure to alternative expertise and the ability to acquire it. Things that larger companies have in spades.  

Particularly now, when most small businesses are focused on recuperating losses from the last 5 years and trying to stabilise their revenues in changed and new market environments. Being too slow, being too agile and in what direction is becoming costly. While the network is smaller, is the challenge to design and implement it really less? 


Large companies on the other hand have access to the tools, resources and expertise to design agility. They also have a greater number of contributors and perspectives on how agility can be applied and work. They certainly have more data and tools, in this way size works in their favour. Their greatest challenge is that they have more rocks to turn over than a small business, they have more places to look where the opposite of agility is hiding. More knowns, more known unknowns and unknown unknowns to consider.  

Many fall into the trap of segmented agility, application at the top or department-specific. While they introduce facets of agility, what they also accomplish is the creation of more friction. To achieve sustainability, agility needs to be multi-dimensional.  

Large companies also have a harder time parting with what works when they are moderately successful, becoming more focused on the short-term impact and cost of moving into an agile model. In times of deficit or fear of sustainability without agility, its implementation is used as a reactive response.

However, as agility requires matrix thinking it is less effective in these instances. Harley Davidson is the perfect example of what happens when agility is misunderstood and misapplied. While trying to secure its future, its offering was diversified to secure a growing market and target upcoming consumer sectors. In doing so, it became more rigid in existing areas, deterring its existing die-hard consumer base. Guised as proactive agility, it was implemented as reactive fear for their future and led to the strangling of their success and the redundancy of many jobs and locations.  


Businesses small and large that do agility well understand that it is a designed framework of dominos and not a strategy to be applied. They see the network of contributing factors to their framework. They make the most of any crisis, determining the points of proactivity that could have been beneficial, they learn from what is absent in their business as much as what is present. They understand the value of small movements, their impacts and their consequences and they look at compounding factors across their infrastructure. Designing methodologies of agility into their frameworks that complement the success they have achieved, the success they have in mind and the potential success they have not yet considered. 




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