Top takeouts from Business Agility Vienna

Jun 09, 2019  ·  Brenda Leeuwenberg

Sandy Mamoli and I recently attended the Business Agility Vienna Conference, where Sandy presented about Self Selection. (20 min video)

Top takeouts from Business Agility Vienna

If you’re in any way involved in introducing Agile across an organisation - as a coach, consultant or company - I highly recommend the Domains of Business Agility from the Business Agility Institute. It is an extremely clear and digestible guide to all the different areas that need to be considered, the stages of adaptation of Agile, and resources to help you on the way.


There are also a series of Business Agility conferences held around the world which have a distinctive format that allows for presentations, deep dive discussions and panel conversations.


There were many great sessions but my top 3 (aside from Sandy’s of course) were:


Bjarte Borgsnes - Beyond Budgeting and the Illusion of Control.
It’s always impressive to hear Bjarte speak but particularly interesting to see how Beyond Budgeting is an enabler of Business Agility. He highlighted the distinction between leaders who talk about teams, collaboration and shared goals, versus managers who set up systems of individual rewards. He spoke of the hypocrisy of espousing the principles of trust and autonomy but then requiring detailed travel budgets; and the importance of having finance and HR working together to enable business agility, and outlined the principles and processes for making this possible.


Phil Abernathy - Crafting a business agility transformation.
Speaking as someone with extensive experience of business transformations and large scale adoptions, Phil emphasised the key aspects of a successful adoption:


  • Decide on the WHY - what are the motivations for doing this
  • Commit to it - exec leadership has to own the transformation
  • Support it - the dollars come from all the programmes that will stop because of the transformation.
Phil Abernathy

He spoke of the core leadership capabilities being to design for flow, create clarity of purpose, and to control without controlling. And using the principle of ‘an inch at the top is a mile at the bottom’ he explained the importance of getting agility into the exec team through getting them to collaborate.


Pia-Maria Thoren - Agile and HR/Management.
This talk stood out for me because it highlighted how the spread of Agile into the wider organisation has major impacts on areas that traditionally may not have been so involved. While it is vital that an organisation has the right people, and great processes for supporting and looking after them, I do not agree that HR should own the Agile transformation - which is what Pia-Maria was promoting with this presentation. I agree that HR needs to be involved, that their involvement helps to ensure there are good processes and a good culture across the organisation. But the understanding of an Agile mindset and how that ripples through people, is only part of the picture. How that mindset feeds into practices is where the rest of the people in an organisation have a deeper and more practical understanding.


I always find it fascinating to get insight into how Agile transformations are handled and how Agile is implemented in other cultures or countries. When you travel to a conference in another country you go with a sense of anticipation for what you might learn, fully aware of your own knowledge and experience gaps - especially coming from NZ where we frequently feel like we must somehow be behind. But one thing that stood out for me hearing these talks - in Vienna and also in New York (where Sandy spoke at and attended the conference earlier this year) we realised that our work in NZ is not at all behind the world. In fact our Agile stories and journeys are fairly advanced and we too have lessons to share.

Top takeouts from Business Agility Vienna