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David Clifford, Leveraging the values of Agile post-COVID-19

The following excerpt is transcribed from the Zoom event that took place on 21 May 2020.

Key points

  • The implications of being a better leader means embracing social connection and empathy for others. 
  • People naturally work with agility and this should be applied within the organisation.
  • There is a need to let go of a master plan and have a sense check of what will and/or won’t work in the changing landscape.



David is a Business Agility Coach and Consultant with Innodev. Innodev specialises in enterprise-level digital transformation and portfolio management solutions. As part of Innodev’s Leadership Team, David helps organisations build greater levels of resilience and agility in an increasingly complex world. David also Co-Hosts a podcast on Agile ways of working called Rethink Everything.


The Heart of Agile

Many of us have observed and experienced the changes of working remotely after spending many months social distancing and/or in isolation. As we begin anticipating life after COVID-19 the types of questions that are front of mind include:  How do we move forward from here? How do we take what we’ve learned over this period and change our workplaces?

This session brought together the theme of embracing a ‘new normal’ and applied the principles of Agile. Specifically, referring to The Heart of Agile and how the principles cited are relevant to our work environments in a post-COVID-19 world:

  • Collaborate closely with others to generate and develop better starting ideas. 
  • Deliver small probes initially to learn how the world really works. Expand deliveries as you learn to predict and influence outcomes.
  • Reflect periodically along the way. Think about what you’ve learned in your collaboration and from your deliveries.
  • Improve the direction of your ideas, there technical implementation, and your internal processes.


Agile behaviours

Agile is essentially a mindset that is based on values and principles. These elements are not about the process, tools, or frameworks but simply about how you approach the world to find better ways of developing outcomes. This mindset also does not belong in one particular industry or place, but rather to whole organisations and can be used to encourage the following agile behaviours:

  • Individual interactions over processes and tools. People are critical to achieving outcomes and we must empower them to get work done however they feel is best. When the work is driven by the process or tools, then the teams are less responsive to changes and less likely to deliver outcomes.
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation. Agile streamlines documentation but does not eliminate it. This is because documenting causes long delays and wait times in development. Working software or features are the only true measurement as documentation rarely delivers value. Outside IT environments, this value may translate to ‘customer satisfaction over comprehensive documentation’.
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation. While negotiations are important, collaboration really matters. Through collaboration, it is easier to meet the needs of the customer to achieve better outcomes. 
  • Responding to change over following a plan. Being more emergent and developing a plan as you progress based on the evidence and experience you’ve gained is more purposeful and can give you a competitive advantage rather than following a pre-determined plan and ignoring the signals.


Agile in post-COVID-19

In the months of remote working, there are new observed behaviours that have been adapted: 

  • Meetings starting with a brief chat to ask about everyone’s day before diving into business.
  • More intentional breaks between meetings to move away from screens.
  • More active check-ins from leaders.
  • Improved team collaboration.

Building on these behaviours makes room for a changed mindset that encompasses the values of agile:

  • Increased check-ins and more personal interactions from leaders.
  • Leveraging on collective wisdom by giving everyone on the team an equal voice.
  • Streamlined documentation where value can be added and given.
  • Letting go of an ‘x-year’ detailed master plan, instead having a sense-check of what works and doesn’t work in the current environment.


Implications for leaders

“Being a better leader means embracing social connection and empathy for others.” – David Clifford


As we’ve shifted to remote working, we’ve gone from seeing someone at work to seeing the whole person outside of the workplace and in their own environment. This look into people’s lives has likely developed a tolerance to the family-life, achieving a better work-life balance.  This shifts the leader’s perspective from being all about command and control (getting tasks done) to become more outcome-focused. Doing so fosters a sense of community because there is more focus on the individual, and a leader’s interactions with the team would not be seen as transactional but rather personal.

Hierarchy, structure and bureaucracy are roadblocks that stop people from being agile. By holding on to bias and assumptions people will not be encouraged to grow. A ‘growth mindset’ should be embraced by leaders so that people are engaging in testing, learning and adoption as they move around within the organisation without being confined in one department. 

Moving forward, many master plans will likely be disrupted and potentially no longer valid. As people change the way they work, new constraints or opportunities will arise and changes need to be made so that organisations remain relevant to customers. These changes can start by asking: 

  • What goals are we looking to achieve now? 
  • What needs to be completely removed? 
  • What goals are no longer relevant or feasible?

Planning in smaller windows (6 weeks over 18 months) also allows for the ability to pivot quickly when needed and gives room for more purposeful action that welcomes change over simply following a predetermined plan that ignores signals.


About the Future Of Now series

Our goal at More Space For Light with the Future of Now (FON) series is to build a community of like-minded passionate professionals. Initially, this series was created as a small in-person gathering to provide a knowledge share for our and our event sponsors community of clients and partners. However, by switching our operations to remote it has allowed us to raise the bar, and include our global network.

Our vision is the same, regardless of the potential scale of remote FON events. We intend to bring together like-minded professionals to share, inspire, and explore new opportunities for growth. So you can discover new ways of working to bring back into your organisation.

If you wish to connect with the broader community and join the ever-growing FON community on LinkedIn click here.


More about the organisations connected to this event

  • morespaceforlight.com.au – A strategy and innovation consultancy specialising in both in-person and/or remote workshops, design programs and Design Sprints.
  • MURAL.COheaps of new templates and tools. Sign up it is brilliant.
  • spacesworks.com – globally located co-working spaces.
  • hacker.exchange – a global education company that is supercharging the next generation of startups & leaders.
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