Vital Agility

from sense & respond to sense-making & respond


In our Vital Agility workshop, held at the Agile People Day, we asked ourselves what sense making means and how important it is for agile teams. In complex dimensions, in fact, predict and control, the usual logic of action for simple contexts, based on problem-solution, does not work. There are so many variables that come into play and there is no certain direction to take. The best technique to adopt in complexity is to sense and respond, i.e. to observe what is happening and build a response based on the perception of what has happened: a way of thinking that allows us to take different actions depending on the reality.


Between sense and respond, on the other hand, there is a fundamental variable, sense making, which allows to activate the decision-making process. In this dimension, in which the construction of sense takes place, it is possible to discover the logic behind our way of observing, the scripts that guide us in looking at reality and the meaning we attribute to things.


the construction of sense with vital agility


Only after we have looked at all of this we can decide how to respond. Before starting on any project, it is therefore fundamental to recognize how we observe and what influences us, starting from the assumption that we interpret the world according to the idea we have of it and not according to what we can see from reality. Agile, for example, works as a methodology only if we first work on the construction of sense, both in terms the group and individuals. For this reason, our purpose as facilitators is to support agile teams to face this process effectively, creating safe spaces that allow them to go deeper under the surface of the events that happened and generate dialogues as opposed to simple conversation. It’s a journey that involves questioning of ourselves and accepting that our view of the world is absolutely partial.


Agilità vitale – Agile People Day

We interpret the world according to the idea that we have of the world


So if we want to observe the dynamics that lead a group to look at a situation in one way or another, we must ask ourselves: what is influencing our point of view, what are we not noticing, what is polluting our view? And then we must find the hidden guides that interact with our perception of reality. This is a reflection that concerns the group dimension, but also each single person. Because if the individual does not ask these questions, it becomes difficult to expand to a team dimension. All of this can happen if the conversations consider three different levels together. The first is the cognitive level, which is how we think. Then there is the more emotional level, so the feelings attached to an experience and finally the relational part, how we interact with others.

Respond: towards the creation of a possible future


Following sense-making, we finally move on to the respond phase: in this phase the effective actions that the reality really needs emerge. Thanks to deep and authentic sense-making, which brings into play the various levels mentioned above, it is possible to generate new ideas and concrete actions. The risk is otherwise to re-propose, perhaps with a slightly different finish, the same models that have already been implemented.


The one proposed at the Agile People Day is an inside-out reading of the agile path, a vital agility, a journey that cannot be approached with objective convictions, but in the sense-making sees the union and the enhancement of points of view, questions, perceptions of individuals and teams to generate behaviors and actions that point to a very possible future.


Agilità vitale – Giulia Comba

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