Relating Messages of Popular Books to Path to Agility®

By: Andy Cleff | Dec 03, 2021 |

I’m one of the many Agile Velocity coaches who like to read books. (Or in my case, listen to audiobooks while running.) 

Recently, we started chatting about how the concepts of the books we love love love relate to the Path to Agility®, our Agile transformation framework that delivers results. Somebody said, “Maybe there’s a blog post in that!”

This post  (might be the first in a series, who knows) focuses on organizational agility, the impact of leadership, and covers these titles:

Agile Leadership Drives Measurable Outcomes

When we think about leadership and transformations through a Path to Agility (P2A) lens, we explore ways of developing a modern mindset–with 9 business outcomes at the core:

Let’s dive into each of the books and connect some dots to the various elements of P2A including Agile Outcomes, functions that come as a result of developing an Agile mindset and fundamental capabilities within an organization. 

Leadership Agility: Five Levels of Mastery for Anticipating and Initiating Change

In Leadership Agility, author Bill Joiner talks about mastering the competencies needed for sustained success in today’s truly complex, fast-paced business environments. 

Joiner identifies different levels that leaders move through in developing their own personal agility: Expert, Achiever, Catalyst, plus two more (grab the book for those 😊).

I found the book very engaging, it’s down to earth just like Joiner! It provides a guide to help leaders identify their current level and provides real world things that they can do to increase their level of leadership agility. It’s practical, concrete, and shows leaders and managers at every level how they can grow to bring greater agility to the initiatives that they take every day. 

Studies show a direct correlation between overall leader effectiveness and the ability to function as a Catalyst Leader that builds a self-sustaining environment and enables people to operate with autonomy in support of broader sustained overall organizational agility.

P2A Tie In’s

The concepts in Joiner’s book impact the following Agile Outcomes (these are expanded in “Path To Agility Connections” below):

  • Agile Leadership
  • Team Empowerment

Leadership Is Language: The Hidden Power of What You Say and What You Don’t

In his first book, Turn the Ship Around, David Marquet described his experience as a US naval captain. When I read it, I thought “Agile transformation on a nuclear attack submarine! No way….” Marquet started out trying to be that standard leader through command and control, inspiring speeches, giving clear orders so that the team could execute and he found out…well I’m not gonna be a plot spoiler, but he found out pretty quickly that what he learned in the Naval Academy was a very outdated model of leadership that just didn’t work. 

In this follow-up book, Leadership is Language, Marquet expands on how he empowered his crew to make better decisions at a pace faster than he could have done alone. He describes how he made his way out of chaos step by step through the power of language. Both his and that of his crew.

As a leader he worked to harness the wisdom and experience of those who were closest to the issues, leveraging their eyes, ears, and minds as collectively they developed a climate of collaborative experimentation. A place where people would speak up when they noticed problems, rather than sweeping things under the deck.

Marquet emphasized the value of a growth mindset, “Don’t shun feedback, seek it. Leaders embrace their ‘get better’ self and tame the ‘be good’ self” – which leads us to the next book.

P2A Tie In’s

The concepts in Marquet’s book impact the following Agile Outcomes (these are expanded in “Path To Agility Connections” below):

  • Sustaining Improvement
  • Team Ownership

Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well

The audiobook is wonderfully narrated by the authors Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen. (They co-authored a previous title called Difficult Conversations, which is a classic) 

In Thanks for the Feedback, Stone and Heen talk about how leaders, bosses, and colleagues alike know that feedback is essential for healthy relationships and professional development. But so often they dread it, often because they want to be accepted for how they are, and for “what got them here.” 

At this juncture of conflicting desires is the opportunity to learn and grow. The authors provide powerful guidance on ways to ask for, give, and receive feedback from all around, up, down, and sideways.

P2A Tie In’s

The concepts in Stone and Heen’s audiobook impact the following Agile Outcomes (these are expanded in “Path To Agility Connections” below):

  • Sustaining Improvement
  • Agile Leadership

7 Rules for Positive, Productive Change: Micro Shifts, Macro Results

The fourth book, Seven Rules for Positive Productive Change is by Esther Derby

Derby offers guidelines for change by attraction, an approach that draws people into the transformation process so that instead of fearing it, they embrace it.

She writes about leaders purposely giving space and supporting people to deal with change. To help them see what’s valuable about the future. In that way, resistance fades because there’s nothing to push against, only something that people want to move towards. Derby’s approach clears the fog and provides a way forward, as it honors people and creates safety for the change. 

P2A Tie In’s

The concepts in Derby’s book impact the following Agile Outcomes (these are expanded in “Path To Agility Connections” below):

  • Purpose Driven Leadership
  • Team Empowerment
  • Compelling Purpose

Path To Agility Connections

In the Path to Agility framework we have identified Agile Outcomes.

Each Agile Outcome aligns with and helps accomplish one or more of the aforementioned Business Outcomes. 

By incorporating the ideas in the book titles reviewed above, leaders will move the needles on the following:

Agile Outcome Description Related Business Outcomes
Compelling Purpose The organization is aligned and motivated by a clear organizational purpose, vision, set of objectives, and a compelling purpose for change and improvement. Continuous Improvement
Team Ownership The team is self-organizing to collaboratively take ownership of their work and improving continuously to deliver value more effectively. Predictability, Quality, Productivity, Continuous Improvement
Team Empowerment Leaders are shifting to team-based responsibility and performance over individual results by supporting team autonomy, building a continual learning and improvement culture, and demonstrating their own agile leadership in the ways they lead (communicate, behave, and think). Employee Engagement, Innovation, Market Responsiveness, Continuous Improvement
Agile Leadership Leaders are creating the necessary environment for success by offering clear vision and goals, guiding and developing their people, removing team obstacles, moving decision-making to those closest to the work, optimizing the end-to-end system, and promoting craftsmanship and high quality among their teams. Employee Engagement, Quality, Innovation, Market Responsiveness
Sustaining Improvement Create a lasting, perpetual environment to support continuous organizational improvement. Continuous Improvement
Purpose Driven Leadership Leaders ensure a clear purpose and foster an environment, inspiring, aligning, and empowering teams to be innovative and adaptive. Employee Engagement, Customer Satisfaction, Market Responsiveness


Then with good measurements to create feedback loops leaders will know if they are heading in the right direction. So they can amplify the good or, if needed, adjust course. Doing so helps lead towards successful organizational transformations. 

Learn More

If you’re in listening mode, grab the audiobooks. Else, order a hard copy or download the digital version to your kindle. 


We also have some podcasts you can tune into: 

Path to Agility Certification

If you want to continue your Path to Agility journey, check out this page where you’ll find information on becoming a certified Path to Agility Practitioner. You’ll learn more about how to communicate the value of your work to executives and leadership. You’ll also be able to support them in their leadership agility, much like the books covered above.

Have you read these books? What did you think? Do you see additional similarities between the books and P2A and other frameworks?

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