agile, leadership, change

Don’t Force it – Allow it instead

The other day during a yoga class I found myself in an unfamiliar position. A kind of twist and stretch that had me questioning if the human body is supposed to do that. As I attempted to breathe calmly, I noticed much huffing and puffing in the room as others similarly found this position unfamiliar. The teacher then said: “Now notice if you are forcing or allowing this position”. Some of the huffing and puffing subsided as the class collectively worked to allow the position rather than force it. My breathing slowed and the once new position now had a familiar feel to it.

I realised that in my quest for flexibility and agility I was doing the very thing that works against achieving it – forcing rather than simply allowing.

How often do we do that? Force something to work rather than taking a different approach? In yoga we set intentions – I will reach my foot, I will balance on one leg etc, and we work towards those intentions accepting that we are on a journey of flexibility of body and mind. Just like a personal or professional goal, we set an outcome then work towards it. We know that forcing it has mixed (if any) success, and that applying behavioural flexibility opens up new options for achieving our goals that we may not have considered until we set out.

Many organisations set an intention to ‘be more Agile’, yet are not prepared to be flexible in their approach – the very antithesis of agility. They attempt to force change in the interests of working at pace (or efficiency) only to find their efforts unsuccessful. When we seek to be more Agile, what we are really trying to do is connect our people and teams with their work in a meaningful way. That takes time and space to allow the change. It takes leadership to set the intention and trust in the teams to make those connections themselves (with capability support and coaching of course).

When we try to force it, it doesn’t work. When we allow it to happen, it DOES work.

How to Allow

Some strategies I use in my day to day that create the space to allow change to happen include (but are definitely not limited to):

  • Set the intention or outcome and be open to question it and challenge it. Is it still relevant? I always recommend writing the team goal or outcome on a wall somewhere so people are reminded of it every day. It means we stay on track and make decisions that align to achieving the goal.
  • Ensure the outcome is measurable, and the team is clear on the evidence they need to see, hear and feel in order to know they have achieved the outcome. Visualise it. When measures are set, check in. Are they realistic?
  • Reflect often. Are we doing the most valuable work we could do to achieve the outcome? What other options have we not thought of? One of the best questions we can ask is ‘what else?’

Think of a challenge you are facing – what change are you working to influence? How can asking yourself whether you are forcing it or allowing it make a difference? I would love to hear your strategies for creating space to allow change too!

Take Action

I will be sharing these strategies (and more) in my upcoming workshop on Design Thinking for HR Leaders with Kristyn Haywood in Sydney on the 12th September and Melbourne on the 14th September. I would love to see you there. Follow the links to register, and of course feel free to contact me if you would like more information.




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About Emma Sharrock

Emma is the author of The Agile Project Manager: Thrive in Change with Agile. An experienced change leader, Emma is passionate about working with people to facilitate successful change. Emma utilises Agile techniques, coupled with the Agile mindset to coach leaders and teams to achieve their business goals.