what’s our manifesto for agile management of covid-19?

we can't stop the waves with this pandemic, but we can learn to surf . . .

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We all have a blind spot and it’s shaped exactly like us. – Junot Diaz

What is so difficult for President Trump and his “inner circle” to navigate an increasingly uncertain world? 

Uncertainty is a natural and unavoidable part of life. Nevermore, so, as this pandemic heightens risk over the economy, employment, finances, relationships, physical and mental health.

Lessons are beginning to emerge. We are all different in how much uncertainty, vulnerability, waterfall, or agility we can tolerate in life. Some of us enjoy taking risks and living unpredictable lives. Others are finding the randomness of life deeply distressing. But all of us have a limit.

President Trump took the bait, including the currency, didn’t he? Every single election is a “change election.” Our election process, and election cycles, put something and someone at risk of changing. Promises of change and resulting change resistance create situations of change fatigue, uncertainty, vulnerability, waterfall, or agility.

Trump is the soup du jour for “top-down” or “command-and-control” management. He works best in “predictable and certain atmospherics and optics.”  

However, when we look at the opposite extreme?

This pandemic is tutoring us all on the long-game. It is unclear what to do, or it is even obscure what to pay attention to in navigating an increasingly uncertain world. A top-down, command-and-control approach to leadership, says Hal Gregersen, “can become an extremely dangerous Achilles heel for any leader.”

Failing to recognize chained in the cave thinking and performing (and how to break free from it), blind spots, truth tellers and mindshiftersmokita, and breaking free of normalizing the abnormal (it’s still abnormal!), will harm leaders and organizations in the long run.

Familiar Traps

Getting into character (like muscle memory), as President Trump does in front of the media and public, does not help in responsiveness to anxieties and fears, containment or mitigation of this pandemic. Neither is using simpleminded gaslighting or shaming his handlers. “Whistleblower racket” in the latest Twitter tantrum. How is that been, how is that working out? Undoubtedly, not so good has it?

This bias, as a business, as usual, has been and is one hell of a trap. It genuinely has not been describing the authentic complexity nor preparing us for the human side of the change — the range of significant change initiatives that must be swiftly enacted on behalf of the American public.

Instead, President Trump and his “inner circle” are lost in the bias for convoluted command-and-control, waterfall, Alison in Wonderland logic. Intricacies of the onset, pandemic spread, mitigation, and offering help are more baffling than authentically enlightening for public health, front line responders, or the American public.

Waterfall models adapted from operational processes of more traditional, highly structured environments. Changes later in the process are very expensive —  Working Harder, Not Smarter. Development processes in which progress is moving steadily downward through the phases from planning, analysis, design, build, and test.

The COVID-19 pandemic demands fluidity. It requires leaders of all shapes, sizes, and flavors, to embrace change and, yes, take risks. You cannot keep thinking you can engineer “risks” out of our ecosystems or the environments (or expanding paved areas) we cohabitate and pay rent throughout the globe as a business, as usual.

“We must manage better the human side of change where people just aren’t going to inconvenience themselves unless we’re forced to.”

Many of you are likely not to remember, as I do, the 70s Mother Nature “Chiffon” Margarine Commercial — “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.” Or the crying Native American PSA commercial — Keep America Beautiful.

Why is it so difficult for us to connect our non-productive present-life circumstances with the source causes? Develop or provide methods (including behaviors) to change those that can and should be changed?

We can discover the hope that healthy change is possible, and we can gather determination to seek help to make those changes.

Human Side of Change Management

If President Trump and his “inner circle” are not ready to lead an authentic change? The human side of change? Then they are not prepared to navigate us through fluidity to get to the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic, are they?

  • Organizations don’t make people; people make organizations.
  • Organizations don’t change; people change.
  • Change or Be Changed. Disruptor or Be Disrupted.

Brent Gleeson, says, “a great vision for change is only as good as how and when its communicated.” A vision without buy-in, Thomas Gray, says, falls flat. It fails to inspire, motivate, and align us toward a new and crucial common purpose.

What then is this vision with buy-in for public health, front line responders, or the American public? What can inspire, motivate, and align us toward a new and crucial purpose to navigate us through fluidity to get to the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Channeling Agile to Drive Human-Centric Change

Agile change management, as I write about elsewhere, and lead in coaching and change management partnerships, is the adaptive and iterative planning and execution of human-centric change management practices that encourage flexibility and speed.

If organizations want to make effective change? They need to recognize and deal with the principles of how change happens within agile organizations. Have the tools to make this authentic work happen. Identify the principles and practices for managing change in agile, fast, iterative, environments.

The Manifesto for Agile Management, truth-tellers and mind shifters, and rebooting mindshare are undoubtedly one of the lenses to identify and interpret “this influence” and should be influencing how people function and are functioning, and the events unfolding in this pandemic.

So, too, is channeling Agile to Drive Human-Centric Change to assess and observe President Trump’s and his “inner circle’s” mindset that is applied to containment and mitigation initiatives. Including their behaviors driven by their mindset.

This mindset says a lot about why President Trump and his “inner circle” is hampering, scrubbing, or preventing the wealth of experience the scientific community could bring or are waiting to bring, to the containment and mitigation initiatives. Guide the people side of agile change management and the best course of action.

Agile management allows patterns to come into focus, opening up a range of interpretations and actions that would not otherwise be possible for containment and mitigation of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It seems apparent that State and Corporate Leadership, including their stakeholders, change agents, change brokers, and change champions are heeding the call for Agile Management.

But there is still a long way to go in a relatively short period to ready ourselves for Agile Management for mitigation (since containment has left the building) the likes I had never seen before or had thrust upon me in my lifetime.

Manifesto for Agile Management

Riddle me this. Are we uncovering better ways of structuring and managing organizations to increase their lifespan in a continuously evolving, complex human-friendly business environment?

Moreover, where ecosystems of leadership, employees, or labor force are managing agile organizations to collaborate or co-partner, authentically, to contain and mitigate COVID-19, including future epidemics or pandemics?

Are we accomplishing these goals by practicing, not only tradecraft but streetcraft as well; the vision, mission, and principles of Agile Management? And helping others do it? 

This coronavirus pandemic is teaching us valuable lessons. Significant life events. How well do you think we are doing? What’s our scorecard look like in applying the Manifesto for Agile Management?

  • Decentralization and distribution of decision making and execution instead of central authority and distributing orders.
  • Producing and managing feedback loops from all levels of the business environment feeding directly to relevant teams instead of steering committees and boards attempting to understand and translate market needs and trends with limited intellectual capital.
  • Developing and managing the sharp focus for every group and function derived from clear organizational goals instead of fuzzy goals and managerial instructions.
  • Developing and managing hybrid teams resourced with all the required expertise needed to establish and maintain a clear and unified purpose instead of silos (departments) driven by their own organizationally disjointed purposes.
  • Developing and managing self-organized teams operating under full autonomy instead of rigid central designed groups with assigned participants.
  • Focusing on emergent properties and increasing business variety to deal with complexity, risks, and failures instead of concentrating on individual responsibility and blame tactics.
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“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” — John Kabat-Zin

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