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Q&A with Ross Libby

Updated: Jan 6

Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with Ross Libby, Chief Value Officer.


How would you describe your career path?

My journey has been a series of inflection points centering around connection, collaboration, and community. 

My career began with an internship at Taylor Corporation in the Shared Services department.  Especially as I look back, I see important connections (and economies of scale) that shared services and centers of excellence provide for their organizations.  Connections that serve as foundations for cross-functional collaboration to flourish and communities to come together. 

Next, I spent over 12 years at Target Corporation serving as everything from Business Analyst to Product/Agile Coach.  Several connections made there I still have to this day; thanks to collaborating with so many on initiatives and products that delivered tremendous learnings and results.  During this time, is when I first started engaging with the Agile community attending events like the Business Agility Conference, hosted by the Business Agility Institute. 

After that, I joined Thomson Reuters Business Agility Center of Excellence.  Looking across industries at that time, this was a progressive team for a few reasons, one of which was that we were part of the People function (HR).  Based on this strategic set-up, we created cross-cutting connections, drove innovative collaboration, and built a vibrant community which delivered exponential impact and garnered recognition with the “Overall Transformational Initiative” award at the World Agility Forum. 

I now serve as the Chief Value Officer at AgileSherpas supporting an amazing team who delivers remarkable services to our incredible clients.  We exist to make the world of work better by bringing agility within reach for all.  This is an environment for connection, collaboration, and community to come together. 



How do you think agile practices have transformed companies over the past two years? 

With change being the only constant, agile ways of working and thinking have certainly supported companies' transformations.  Specifically, agile has the ability to unlock the potential of the people, process, and system. 

Mahatma Gandhi said, “A nation’s culture resides in the heart and soul of its people”.  If you were to switch out the word "nation's" for "organization's", it helps highlight how critical people are to the world of work. Agile was brought into existence by people that cared, and Agile has continued and evolved because people still care. Agile transcends industry and functional area. It could care less about title or tenure. It does not differentiate between a business that has been around for 10 decades or 10 days. Agile is about connection and community.  Plain and simple, it’s people helping people, and it’s people powering purpose driven organizations. 

Processes and structure can be amazing.  They shape movement, amplify force, and allow for scale.  However, outdated or rigid processes and structure can hinder rather than help.  When I talk about connecting things in a business agility sense (might be strategy to execution or a team in one department to one in another), I like to describe a steel thread because it has the strength to keep things secure while offering the flexibility for movement.  Additionally, when steel threads are braided, they work together as a cable with magnified capabilities.  These cables on something like a suspension bridge bares the tension with strength and flexibility allowing for safe passage from one side to the other even in extreme conditions.  That is what we want our processes and structure to do in business agility.  Effective organizational movement that allows for speed and purpose so that we can reach the desired destination in a safe and timely manner despite its surroundings. 

The industrial era of organizational design viewed the system as a machine to be controlled turning the knobs and replacing parts.  Over the course of time organizations have come to be appreciated as living and breathing systems, which should not be a surprise when we think back to people being the heart and soul of an organization.  Agility has helped with evolving the thinking around organizational design.  This does not mean blowing it up and starting from scratch.  Rather, think about turning the organization on its side.  The reality is that a matrixed organization will still exist (likely with good reason).  However, the primary lens through which we define areas and teams should focus more on the strategies (customers, markets, value streams…) rather than the departments and domains of expertise.  How the system is designed will dictate where the focus is placed.  Where the focus goes, process follows, and peoples’ energy flows. 


What successful cases of agile transformations have you had the opportunity to observe that have particularly stood out to you

Being at places like Target, Thomson Reuters, and AgileSherpas has given me the chance to be hands-on with agile transformation learnings and successes. 

Target’s transformational journey (and specifically the Dojo) has been the source for many presentations and articles.  I even had a few opportunities to share my experiences (Greasing the Gears: Calibrating for Enterprise Business Agility).  As I look back, I believe its successes boiled down to the convergence of powerful grass-roots momentum, strong leadership vision and direction, and investments to support continuous learning and improvement. 

During my time at Thomson Reuters, the transformation hinged on disruption, adaptation, and innovation with numerous successes along the way all centering around customer co-creation, business turnarounds, and change champions.  The Tax and Accounting Professionals business unit was a great example of how this all came together.  Being on their agility journey for over a year, disruption formed the Tax and Accounting Professionals ways of working to construct a structural, operational, and cultural transformation built to scale across functions because it adapted based on learnings and innovated based on customer, growth, and people trends. 

At AgileSherpas, transformation is core to our consulting, coaching, and training services that focus on marketing orgs, teams, and individuals.  Because no two transformations are the same, we co-create with our clients taking an iterative approach to design, pilot, and scale new ways of working so that critical capabilities and mindsets are embedded in a self-sustaining culture of agility.  The full range of industries have been touched by these transformations from  human health/life sciences and pharmaceuticals to financial institutions and business services



Will agile practices continue to generate interest? What challenges do you see in the context of deploying these practices? 

Will the word “Agile” continue to be used?  Perhaps, but perhaps not. More importantly though, will the values and principles behind the word “Agile” continue to be business critical?  Certainly! 

The world of work needs prioritization and that steel thread connecting strategy to execution more than ever.  Agile mindsets and practices done well provide for effective and efficient value delivery.  Research has shown that agility is good for reinvigorating culture, streamlining operations, and driving impact.  Bottom line is that agility is good for business. 

However, like anything, agile practices will need to weather industry trends and corporate pendulum swings which tend to bring a mentality of out with the old and in with the new (or maybe it is just what’s old is new).  Luckily, agility has resilience and adaptability in its DNA. While application of any practice, including agile ones, can fall flat if too one-dimensional or rigid.  The Japanese martial art concept of Shu-Ha-Ri is often associated with agile to remind individuals, teams, and organizations that following the rules supports firm foundations, but innovation and transcendence only come through continued growth where rules that don’t apply are left behind and new ones come to be.  Such an approach allows for a Yin and Yang balance to be found where vital polarities, such as centralization and decentralization, co-exist instead of competing in a centers of excellence vs. cross-functional teams cage match. 

While industry trends turning heads and corporate pendulum swings will likely continue, do we have to accept that this inertia builds like an erratic wrecking ball?  Or how about we bring agility within reach for more to harness the momentum into a rhythmic metronome producing a new beat for a better world of work! 

Connect with Ross on LinkedIn :

If you have an inquiry for AgileSherpas, you can contact them HERE.

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