Applying Agile Concepts to Strategic Planning

The Agile Manifesto may have been written initially for software, but its application to Strategic Planning works and it changes Strategic Planning from an event into a process. So, why not apply Agile concepts to Strategic Planning? I believe that planning should be a process not an event.  See “Swift” Strategic Planning.

I facilitated an Agile Strategic Plan for a group of organizational leaders who had hired a consultant a few years prior and the plan wasn’t working for them. The consultant took the leaders off-site for a week to work out their plan. The plan ended up being 84 pages long with loads of Baldrige Key Performance Indicators, but the plan ended up as “shelfware” for two years. The leaders wanted me to develop the plan a different way, so I applied Agile values to make the plan useful, as follows:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
  • Working software (plan in this case) over comprehensive documentation.
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
  • Responding to change over following a plan.

First of all, we set a plan target of four pages long – the length of the U.S. Constitution. That’s adhering to the second value – working plan over comprehensive documentation. Reading 4 pages, versus reading 84 pages, makes a big difference. It also means that it makes it easier for the stakeholders to absorb and understand the plan, making it useful.

Looking at the first value, individuals and interactions over processes and tools, we developed the plan in facilitated workshops. Structuring the workshops to include multiple layers of leadership as participants incorporated the third value, customer collaboration over contract negotiation. We kept it simple, i.e., no complex processes. The leaders of the organization knew their industry – if not, strategic planning was not the solution to a lack of industry knowledge.

We further followed the Agile values by scheduling the facilitated workshops to last 4- to 8-hours to occur once a month. That meant that we never attempted to hammer out the entire plan in one workshop and each subsequent workshop began by reviewing the feedback and suggestions. We defined each “sprint” to define a portion of the plan, e.g., a complete Mission statement or a complete Vision, or a complete SWOT. In between, the leaders took what they had developed and shared it with others gathering feedback and suggestions. This brought in stakeholder collaboration and interaction.

Finally, once the Agile Strategic Plan was complete, the organization leaders defined a process for continuous review. They assigned a person to manage the plan and they reviewed the plan at every monthly staff meeting. The review was for progress, changes, and additions – i.e., it was a living plan and never “complete”. That supported the fourth value of responding to change over following a plan.

In addition to following the Agile values, we also were able to follow the Agile principles. Our measure of success was the plan. We provided continuous delivery of a working product and welcomed changes through the iterative workshops (“sprints”). Stakeholders were involved and leaders were motivated in a supportive environment. Face-to-face conversations were the norm in gathering feedback and suggestions. Sustainable development was accomplished through short, iterative workshops with continuous attention to excellence, good design, and simplicity enabling the plan to be useful. In the facilitated workshops, the leaders drove the process and we began each workshop with a reflection on previous work to improve following work.

Developing a Strategic Plan once a year and then waiting until the next planning cycle to update, makes no sense – the world doesn’t wait.

Why Racism is a Hard Mindset to Change

I watched the Bill Maher show the other evening and it made me think. Mr. Maher was apologizing for using the “N” word in a previous show. He admitted that it was wrong and explained that it was a comic comment and not meant to hurt. He was sincere, but I watched as one of his guests, Ice Cube, didn’t quite buy in to it and it made me think about racism…

Prejudice towards any person because of their race is wrong, no matter how you explain it. For most people, including myself, it is an intellectual belief. However, I didn’t “get it” until it happened to me – I was 51 years old. There is no way that I can compare what happened to me, a one-time occurrence, with what happens to people who have been and still are being discriminated against because of their race.

I was living in Puerto Rico, where English-speaking North Americans are not the privileged class. I had closed my restaurant and hired an auctioneer to sell my equipment. After the auction, the auctioneer took the proceeds and disappeared. So we went to the District Attorney (DA) to file charges. My wife, Millie, and lawyer accompanied me – both are Puerto Rican born and fluent in Spanish. We entered the DA’s office and introduced ourselves. The DA was conversing in Spanish and my wife asked if she spoke English, she did. Then my wife asked if we could conduct the discussion in English because I was not fluent and needed to be involved in the discussion. She declined saying, in Spanish, “We’re in Puerto Rico and here we speak Spanish.” My wife got upset and told her what she thought of her comment and the DA threatened to have her arrested. The rest of the meeting was conducted in Spanish. Millie was translating, but I was not able to participate; I was left out of the discussion. I never before have been marginalized because of some characteristic that made me different from others. I felt powerless (you don’t argue with a DA), angry, and marginalized for the first time in my life – it hurt.

When I got home, I called my friend Paul and told him what happened and how I felt. Paul has felt that way his whole life because of the color of his skin. He once spoke with a client on the phone and then, when they met in person, the client said, “You didn’t sound black on the phone.” What happened to Paul was racist, and I can sympathize with Paul because the comments and words people use bring back the feelings of being marginalized. Labeling people because of one or more characteristics is wrong. It creates a divide between people.

So, back to Bill Maher’s comment. It was racist, perhaps unintentional as he stated, but when people have to deal with intentionally racist comments, it hurts the same. It’s about how it feels. I felt one instance of racism and it was hurtful. I can’t imagine how someone feels having to deal with it his or her entire life. That’s why racism is a hard mindset to change. When you are part of a “majority”, you don’t get to feel how racism feels. When you are part of a “minority”, you get to feel how racism feels 24/7. Understanding it intellectually is a good thing, but not sufficient to “get it”.

I hope that we stop using discriminatory labels because “in total darkness, we are all the same” – Janet Jackson.

History of Gary Rush Facilitation vs MG Rush Facilitation

The Unabridged History of “MG Rush Performance Learning now MG Rush Facilitation & Coaching” and “MG Rush Systems now MGR Consulting & Gary Rush Facilitation”

“The Internet plays a big part in the life of a modern human being. People rely on the internet for their education, trade, socialization and entertainment; among many other important aspects of human life.” – reference.com. However, it also facilitates false, misleading, fraudulent information – there is nothing that ensures that what is said or posted on a company website, blog, LinkedIn bio or business, or other media is accurate or true. I want to share my company history to clarify confusion. You may ask “why now?”. Believe me, “I’ve been trying since 2005, to no avail. I don’t mind competing on equal ground, but I do mind competing against myself.

In 1985, I founded MG Rush Systems, Inc., created and developed my own structured facilitation technique – FAST – Facilitation Application Specification Technique and became widely recognized as a leader in the movement towards structured facilitation, transforming the facilitation industry. I wrote a facilitation “how to” manual – The FAST Session Leader Reference Manual – and developed training on “how to” be a Facilitator – FAST Session Leader Workshop class. While writing the manual, I wrote an article for Computerworld “A FAST Way to Define System Requirements”, describing the different variations of JAD.

In 2004, I sold to Morgan Madison & Co. the non-exclusive rights to reproduce the FAST and FORM class materials and use them to provide The FAST Session Leader Workshop class – subject to royalties from 2004 – 2009. I signed an addendum that provided Kevin Booth, Founder, and Terrence Metz – 1999 FAST Session Leader Workshop class alumnus, the exclusive use of “MG Rush” identity – logo, internet domain, client and prospect client list, e-mail addresses and telephone numbers. I transferred my facilitation know how to Terrence Metz to provide FAST public and in-house Facilitator training as of June 2004 as “MG Rush Performance Learning” a division of Morgan Madison & Co. (not affiliated with Gary Rush, IAF CPF).

“The greatest homage we can pay to truth is to use it.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Terrence Metz (my brother-in-law) asked me for permission for the exclusive use of the MG Rush identity (“Identity” is a combination of color schemes, designs, etc. that a firm employs to make a visual statement about itself to communicate its philosophy) including but not limited to the logo, internet domain, client list and FAST newsletters written by me (“including but not limited to”, I quote, “…courts have proved willing to consider that “including” or “includes” is restrictive even when modified by “but not limited to” – Ken Adams, Specialist in Contract Language and Contract Automation) to jump start their business. I consented in good faith and signed an “addendum” written by Terrence to that fact, not a “sales agreement” – it did not constitute a sale, transfer, or acquisition of MG Rush Systems – the company or my name “Gary Rush, or achievements of either; and I never consented to him claiming to be in business since 1985.”

The above stated “addendum” was attached to the non-exclusive sold rights to reproduce the FAST and FORM class materials and use them to provide The FAST Session Leader Workshop class. In this instance, in reference to the MG Rush identity, only what was listed – name, logo, domain, client list, and newsletters – is to what I consented. If Morgan Madison & Co. had acquired “MG Rush in 2004, then asking permission to use the identity would have been moot.

In 2004, I ceased operations of MG Rush Systems now MGR Consulting and left the U.S. to pursue Millie’s and my dream of becoming a restaurateur – “MG Rush” dba Miracles Restaurant in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. After a one-year absence, I returned to consulting to continue my legacy as a recognized leader in the field of Structured Facilitation and Facilitator Training, changing my company name from MG Rush Systems to MGR Consulting. I updated my FAST class materials and began teaching – The FAST Facilitator Workshop class (a proprietary technique developed by me) as MGR Consulting.

In 2007, I created FoCuSeD™ facilitation and the FoCuSeD™ Facilitator Academy – 1st Holistic Facilitation Technique. I became the International Association of Facilitators (IAF) Incoming Chair and from 2008 – 2011, I chaired the IAF.

In 2007, Kevin Booth, Owner and Founder of Morgan Madison & Co. aka MG Rush Performance Learning, registered the name “MG Rush Systems” and assumed the name “MG Rush”. In 2015, Terrence Metz and Lorijo Metz bought Morgan Madison & Co. from owner Kevin Booth. In 2016, they dropped the name “MG Rush Systems” and assumed the name “MG Rush” – not associated or affiliated with me – now MGR Consulting.

I’ve spent 30+ years of my life’s work developing my facilitation technique and Facilitator training business, reputation, and achievements and I hope this helps clarify the confusion that exists between “Terrence Metz and Lorijo Metz now owners of Morgan Madison & Co. (assumed name: MG Rush and MG Rush Facilitation)” and “Gary Rush” of MGR Consulting, Inc. Two separate companies with different business ethics.

As I stated earlier, the Internet plays a big part in the life of a modern human being, but it also facilitates false, misleading fraudulent information. Thank you for understanding.

Dealing with Adversity

Dealing with Adversity – I’m writing this because I led a charmed life until I was 50 years old and then, all hell broke loose. For the past 13 years (yes, I’m 63), I’ve been dealing with business loss, family loss, financial loss and stress like I’ve never had before, life-threatening and life-changing illnesses in family members, and family dysfunction. Every aspect of my life went from joy-joy to stress. Yet, I keep persevering. My adversity is nothing like what many people are going through, so I don’t need sympathy – I’m still healthy, alive, and I have my family. I wanted to share some thoughts about going through adversity and hopefully getting to the end.

Stay Positive

This sounds trite and cliché, but it’s important. It’s also very difficult. When you are working hard to turn things around and it just doesn’t happen, it’s difficult to wake up yet another day and be positive. Some days, I have to work very hard at this. When I tell someone else, who is going through the same adversity, it gets to sound old after a while. Saying, “We have to be positive because things will change.” for months in a row, gets tired, especially when things don’t seem to change. However, this the only way I know to cope. If I lost my faith that things would change, I’d lose all hope and that would be the end. Keep reminding yourself, “Keep the faith and stay positive – everything changes.”

Don’t attack those in your boat.

It is easy to lash out at those closest to you – proximity is dangerous. Unfortunately, they’re going through what you are, so it only makes it more difficult for you and for them. We all go through various degrees of adversity and when someone decides to dump all their grief on you by attacking you, it only makes it worse. Listening to someone’s grief is important – they need to get it out and need someone to listen. It’s not easy, though, when that person is in your boat and you are dealing with the same adversity – especially if you don’t have someone to listen to you. As a Facilitator, my job is to actively listen and remain neutral. That’s great, when I’m being paid to do my job or when I’m not in that boat, too. It’s impossible when it is affecting me at the same time – I’m involved, like it or not. Blaming, attacking, and ridiculing go too far and just makes the situation worse. Hold on to those in your boat and be each other’s life preserver.

Try something new

In business, especially when things are not going well, continuing the same way generally doesn’t help. Look for other ways to bring in clients and make money. All of my major changes in business: creating FoCuSeD™, developing on-line classes, learning how to work social media, writing more, etc., were ideas that I initially resisted because, “Let’s keep doing what works”, but realized that I had to change something. All of these changes have helped me stay current and creative. So, if all else fails, try something new.

Stop asking, “Why is this happening?”

Most people look for reasons as to why this is happening to them. Theologians spend their life trying to answer this question and asking “why?” about the meaning of life is a valuable question for all of us to contemplate. However, asking, “why is this happening to me?” just makes the situation worse. Good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people with little or no rationale. Looking for something you did to deserve this is not only unanswerable, but it also makes you a victim. I believe in Karma, over the long term, and always try to do what’s “right”, like most people. However, accepting the fact that “shit happens” can help keep you moving because it helps keep you in charge instead of being a victim. So, stop asking, “Why is this happening.”

Don’t blame others

Problems are caused by a lot of reasons, some brought on by what others have done. Whether it was malicious to you or just thoughtless, blaming them only allows them to make you the victim. That goes for you, too. Blaming yourself for doing something “wrong” doesn’t do any good – it still makes you your own victim. Being a victim doesn’t help change the situation. Whenever I blame someone, I’m giving them power over me. So, instead, I’ll distance myself from those causing me problems. I don’t need to be around them, but no one can do anything to me if I decide not to allow it. No one can stress me out unless I allow it. Keep the power in you and don’t blame others.

Don’t become bitter

When we deal with adversity, we learn things. If what we what we learn makes us bitter, “I’ll never …!”, that can cause us to miss out on future opportunities. I don’t want to be naïve, so I will learn to protect myself, but not at the expense of becoming so angry that I lose sight of what’s good in my life and lose future opportunities. Don’t become bitter. That leads me to…

Remember always to be grateful

I’ve been dealing with lots of difficulties and sometimes it’s hard to remember what’s gone well. My son almost died because of Western medicine, so we found a way that saved him. He is the most remarkable success story for what happened to him and is 95% back to where he was heading to 100% – plus we all learned a lot. That’s amazing and I’m forever grateful. We lost a great deal of money, but never lost our family – money is replaceable. My wife and sons, Millie, Alvaro, and Sean, are all here, healthy, and we are very close. We’ve supported each other constantly throughout all of this. We are best friends. We can always count on each other. That’s amazing and I am very grateful. We have our health and are able to do what we need to do and I’m very grateful. This helps me remember, that no matter how difficult it gets, I’ve got some amazing things to be grateful for. Always remember to be grateful.

We deal with adversity differently

There is not a “right” way to deal with adversity. There are a lot of suggestions and clichés, but each of us copes differently. Harassing or ordering someone to be positive or pick themselves up, or whatever, doesn’t help. Setting an example helps sometimes, but don’t expect anyone to just jump up and follow what you do. Being patient is important, although sometimes difficult. We all have to figure out how to cope for ourselves. The only justified interventions are when the coping mechanism becomes destructive, such as drugs and alcohol. We need find what works for us and keep it from becoming destructive. Just remember that what works for you, does not work for everyone. We deal with adversity differently.

So…

Those are some of my thoughts about dealing with adversity. Adversity is difficult, but it also helps us grow (I know, cliché but true). Remembering that how we deal with adversity says more about us than overcoming adversity, although that’s nice, too. There is always adversity waiting for us around the corner, but then, there’s another corner after that, so how we deal with adversity gives us tools for the next time. I wish y’all well and hope you find your ways to deal with adversity.

Business Ethics – “Scarcity versus Abundance”

Business ethics means that I’m a competitive guy and I like to win, but never at the expense of someone else. Unfortunately, there are those people who believe that in order for them to win, someone else has to lose (zero-sum). It’s based on a belief in Scarcity – resources are limited so we won’t share, that’s win-lose and it’s the basis behind greed and unethical behavior (poor choices, negative outcomes, and fear). In Abundance – resources are limitless so we can all share, that’s win-win and it’s the basis behind ethical behavior (wise choices, positive outcomes, and gratitude). With the resources available, zero-sum (greed) is unnecessary – Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of Zero-sum: of, relating to, or being a situation in which a gain for one side entails a corresponding loss for the other side.

I’m writing about this because as a small business, I often work with other small businesses. We compete for jobs but we join forces when a job is larger than one business can handle. We promote our businesses but work with other competitors to grow our facilitation industry (see my Facilitation Masters Conversation Series” videos). We advertise what we, as individual businesses, have to offer. We don’t steal other’s accomplishments to promote our own business and/or to win a job. We have to represent ourselves honorably. There is nothing honorable about winning when false, misleading information is promoted.

When a competitor wants to “destroy the competition”, they view the world as zero-sum. For instance, one of my competitors:

  • Uses and tags my name, “Gary Rush”, to benefit their business. The only business that I’m associated with is – MGR Consulting, Inc.
  • Takes credit for my 30+ years of accomplishments. I’m the only one who created FAST Facilitation and FoCuSeD™
  • Claims to have been in business longer than fact. I’m the only one who founded MG Rush Systems, Inc. in 1985 and renamed it MGR Consulting, Inc. in 2005.

We live in a world of abundance so there’s enough for all – no need for greed. Small entrepreneurial businesses today and tomorrow need to work and collaborate with each other to grow their industry so that everyone benefits.

Ethical businesses win through good work. Unethical businesses win through misleading and deceit. Ethical business is not about “destroying the competition” (win-lose). Zero-sum (Greedy/Scarcity) ultimately becomes lose-lose whereas Positive-sum (Sharing/Abundance) is always win-win.

Critical Skills for Success…

I heard an excellent keynote presentation at the Central Indiana IIBA Business Analyst Development Day (INBADD) given by Carla Taylor of IDEAvize regarding “The Future of Work”. What I find fascinating is that the skills she listed as “critical skills for success” in the coming Collaboration Revolution of 2020 are the same skills I teach in my 5-day FoCuSeD™ Facilitator Academy class. These are facilitation skills that apply in business and in life.

Critical Skills for Success

Carla listed the following skills; let’s explore:

  • Self-Awareness and Emotional Intelligence
  • Connect In: Building your network / virtual team
  • Teambuilding and Trust
  • Communication Skills
  • Critical Thinking
  • Innovative Problem-solving
  • Collaborative Solutions

Self-Awareness and Emotional Intelligence

I teach creating self-awareness, which allows students to improve through awareness. When debriefing a student’s final facilitation case study, I first ask him or her, “What do you think?” I want the student to be aware of what he or she did and its impact on the group to reinforce the learning.

I discuss Emotional Intelligence (the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically) teaching “how to” deal with anger, give feedback, understand people and their motivations, understand the impact of diversity, and manage conflict. When facilitating, you also need to be aware, through observation and active listening, of the people, ensuring all participate. Note: Observation and Active Listening are critical skills for emotional intelligence.

Connect In: Building your network / virtual team

Developing a virtual team requires a different approach – unlike face-to-face communication, teambuilding is much more difficult: people communicate 55% through facial expression that you lose in virtual teams (even with video conferences, visibility is limited). With virtual teams, you also lose face-to-face small talk, which lays the foundation for co-workers to see each other as people, increasing trust. I teach “how to” facilitate effective and productive virtual workshops / meetings and the challenges virtual teams face. I cover building trust because without trust, there is no team. Note: Trust is critical for teambuilding to happen.

Teambuilding and Trust

This is a core skill for a Facilitator. I cover two models of how teams evolve and the key characteristics that make a team – trust being the foundational characteristic because it removes defensive barriers. Teambuilding is core to my FoCuSeD™ Holistic Facilitation Process Design – I don’t believe that teambuilding and the workshop/meeting process are separate – a group becomes a team only when everyone comes together for the greater whole –teamwork happens.

Communication Skills

This also is a core skill for a Facilitator. Knowing “how to” present yourself to enhance your communication skills ensures that, what is said, is heard and understood. I teach “how to” present yourself and clearly communicate your message and “how to” actively listen for effective comprehension through physical, tangible actions, and words.

Critical Thinking

I teach this as part of Active Listening. Critical Thinking is actively listening and feeding back – pulling together the fragments of the message into a whole to form a better understanding helping the people synthesize what has been said – often having significant impact on their ideas. Note: Your ability to synthesize grows with experience, as you are better able to pull together the fragments of the message into a whole.

Innovative Problem-Solving

I provide students with numerous tools to look at a situation, determine what needs to change, and what to do to change it. I include defined annotated processes to use to solve problems along with tools to help stimulate creative ideation. Note: To be innovative requires understanding that you need PTS (Permission To Suck) without judgment and knowing “how to” use tools, such as Brainstorming, Cognitivity, Creativity Breaks, etc., to stimulate ideation.

Collaborative Solutions

Consensus is essential to collaboration and I define “consensus” and “how to” guide a group to consensus. Collaboration is defined as, people working together to reach a common goal and it is important to understand that a group does not collaborate without a reason – they collaborate to accomplish something.

So…

Leaders who have developed these skills are the ideal role of the “Servant Leader” – the Leader of the future. As we move towards an era when outsourcing is commonplace, co-creating, coworking, and the gig economy increases, the above skills become more critical. The ability to bring people together and accomplish good work in business and in life – facilitation skills – is a skill set that cannot be outsourced. Increasingly, these skills are being included as core competencies in many job roles because people develop better ideas that benefit the greater whole. These skills are the most important skills to develop in the 21st Century. gary rush facilitation

Central Indiana IIBA Business Analyst Development Day – INBADD

I attended the Central Indiana IIBA Business Analyst Development Day (INBADD) last week. It was very well done and met some great people. I presented in the morning discussing Facilitated Process Modeling – had 50 attendees and they all seemed to like it.

I described “how to” facilitate building process model with clients to enable Business Analysts to understand the use of Process Modeling along with the steps to build one in a facilitated workshop. The session was all about “how to” facilitate Process Modeling.

Topics includeed:

  • What is a Process Model?
  • How is it used?
  • How do you facilitate building a Process Model with Business Clients?.

Presentation Abstract

gary rush facilitator gary rush facilitator

Gary Rush, IAF CPF presenting FoCuSeD™ Facilitated Process Modeling at INBADD 2016.

Photos courtesy of John R. Durgin, CBAP, CSM, CSPO, MBA

Internet networking…

“The internet plays a big part in the life of a modern human being.  People rely on the internet for their education, trade, socialization and entertainment; among many other important aspects of human life.” — reference.com

However, it also facilitates false, misleading, fraudulent information — there is nothing that ensures that what is said or posted on a company website, blog, LinkedIn bio or business, Facebook, or other media is accurate or true.

My recommendation to you all is to go to the “International Association of Facilitators” – IAF website whether you are looking to hire a group Facilitator or a Facilitator trainer.  The IAF provides assurance that you are hiring a bonafide IAF CPF Facilitator without intention to deceive.  Gary Rush, IAF CPF, group Facilitator and Facilitator trainer since 1985, is a long time IAF member, IAF CPF Assessor, and former IAF Chair – I think we can say he is bonafide.

Specialties: Group Facilitation | Facilitator Training | Coaching | Leadership | Strategic Planning | Data Modeling | Team Building