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Through sun, rain and one big snow day, the first cohort of the Agile Leadership Academy (ALA) made it to graduation.  As we at LitheSpeed prepare to kick off the next round of the ALA program in September, we wanted to pause and reflect on what we learned through an invigorating first year.

A New Model

Though Sanjiv and I had been shaping an Agile leadership program in our minds for years, we were finally able to make it a reality in early 2016.  We chose to create a unique quarterly model based on our own experiences in other (non-agile) leadership programs, deciding that a single one or two-day class really wasn’t up to the task of launching an agile leader from scratch, and certainly not sufficient for those undertaking large-scale, long-term personal and organizational transformations.  We dedicated weeks to building content, testing and learning as we went along, and adapting from session to session as the year progressed based upon feedback from our cohort.  It was a Lean Startup style experiment for us, intense but ultimately thoroughly validated.

A Broader Perspective

Most agile learning programs focus strongly on the team, which of course is the heart of a delivery capability.  But increasingly, organizations have realized that focusing solely at this level is a surefire recipe for limited success.  Agility must scale and cross silos, and indeed gaining alignment across organizational boundaries was one of the big wins that participants noted in this past year’s cohort.  Leaders grew to understand how agility applied to them personally, and to their organizations.  The rise of methods like DevOps, spread of Design Thinking and Digital Transformations, application of agility to HR, sales, marketing, finance and more all echo this progression to holism. Given the inherently adaptive nature of the agile mindset, a host of different patterns and techniques might apply depending on a leader’s specific role and situation.  This breadth of focus made the ALA program challenging to create, but beautifully variegated, and we found that there was something in it for everyone.  Technology leaders honed in on the DevOps module, HR leaders enjoyed our exploration of agile performance management, and marketeers found our jargon-free examples of business agility refreshing.  We provided numerous practical custom-built tools and frameworks to drive personal growth, plot organizational redesigns, win over fellow leaders and more.  But the most critical aspect of the program was the demonstration of how to think and strategize with agility in mind; participants left each workshop with plans that fit their situations, and evolved these approaches throughout the year.

To Certify or Not to Certify?

Evidence of a new attentiveness to prospective agile leaders’ needs is everywhere.  For instance, the Scrum Alliance has launched a new Certified Agile Leadership (CAL) program, with which we have aligned the Agile Leadership Academy, and we offer standalone CAL courses too for those looking to get started. But here’s a dirty little secret: we don’t think leaders particularly need certification, and feedback from participants supported this notion.  What they do need is a support system.  These are people leading extreme change initiatives, often in corporations employing 10,000+ people.  Such high stress roles called for ongoing mentorship, sounding boards, peer conversations and an aligned executive team.  So, while we did indeed offer certification, it was and remains more about the journey than the destination.

Getting Out of the Building

Finally, leadership isn’t something that can be optimized in the classroom alone. We got out there and visited living, breathing organizations, taking our participants on site visits to agile shops of all shapes and sizes to experience firsthand how various leaders have approached their respective organizations’ goals and challenges. This past year we visited The Motley Fool, Walmart, OPower and US Citizenship and Immigration Services, offering windows into dramatically different companies with widely differing approaches.  Everyone had their favorites. We’re lining up another great set of visits next year. Think you’ve got a great story to share?  Let us know; perhaps your organization could be the next model for others to follow!

Onward and Upward…

All in all, it’s been a wonderful ride, and we’re busy prepping new and richer experiences for the next time around.  To those in our initial cohort, we thank you for joining us on this ride, and look forward to seeing your continued growth into the adaptive leaders our rapidly changing world needs in the years to come.  To everyone else, join us in September and see how much fun agile leadership can be!

-Arlen Bankston, Agile Leadership Academy Founder


Executives delve into the Foundations of Lean and Agile Leadership during the first workshop of the Agile Leadership Academy™.

Agile Leadership Academy 2017 Cohort

Agile Leadership Academy 2016-2017 Delegates

Global trailblazers in Agile management Sanjiv Augustine and Arlen Bankston launched the fast-paced, graduate style leadership program: The Agile Leadership Academy™. An elite cadre of delegates from Fortune 500s and the federal sector gathered in Herndon, Virginia for the first of four sessions, focusing on Foundations of Lean and Agile Leadership.

The 1.5 day session experience began with a site visit to The Motley Fool, a mature agile organization in Alexandria, Virginia. Participants learned about the Fool’s agile journey from Chief Projects Officer Max Keeler. Commenting on the site visit experience, an ALA delegate explained that it was “great to see agile in action.” One delegate “enjoyed seeing a team work so differently than our own” and another was intrigued by the Fool’s “innovative working model that is evolving in culture and process.” The ALA’s future site visits will survey a variety of medium to large companies in both the public and private sectors, highlighting those where agile has been deployed both broadly and deeply.

On day two, Sanjiv Augustine and Arlen Bankston led delegates through an intensive day of leadership training and peer working sessions. Delegates took home personalized plans based on the ALA’s transformational tools to apply at their organizations for the upcoming quarter. They also signed up for monthly calls with Agile Leadership Academy mentors, to receive personalized coaching as their journeys continue.

For those interested in dropping in for a single session, the highly anticipated Scaling Agility session takes place September 12 and 13, 2016, followed by free attendance to the Agile DC Executive Summit on September 14. While executives may attend a single workshop, those who attend all four workshops will receive the additional credential of ALA Certified Graduate™.

For more information and to register, see

See press release here:


The 2016 Agile Leadership Academy™ kicks off June 13-14 in Herndon, Va. Agile executives start shaping the future of agility through the Foundations of Lean and Agile Leadership workshop.
ALA Workshop Agile Foundations

Leading Agile experts and entrepreneurs Sanjiv Augustine and Arlen Bankston facilitate this accelerated graduate-style program to leadership agility. The inaugural year-long Agile Leadership Academy™ begins with a fundamentals workshop: Foundations of Lean & Agile Leadership. Executive delegates will gain core Agile knowledge from a leadership perspective to shape the future of agility in their organizations. The foundations workshop will feature a site visit to a leading Agile organization in the DC area on day one. On day two, Agile mentors will share case studies to highlight the staggering results of Agile transformations, use first hand insight to steer leaders away from common pitfalls, and share groundbreaking practical tools for executives to apply at their organizations.

Delegates benefit from a network of peers who can identify with the most pressing demands of the executive role in an Agile organization. Delegates also get mentor and peer support – from hiring and firing, to budgeting, de-siloing Agile to non-IT departments, and envisioning and launching a total business transformation strategy. By bringing expert Agile guides into their executive circles, delegates leave the Agile Leadership Academy™ with custom tools and ongoing guidance. The Agile Leadership Academy™ program also features input from industry thought leaders and ALA Ambassadors, including Jeff Sutherland, JJ Sutherland, Pat Reed, and Dot Tudor.

Join the inner circle of Agile executives who are ready to embrace Agile cultural change organization-wide, and lead with purpose, speed and agility. The Agile Leadership Academy™ is fully aligned with the learning outcomes of the newly unveiled Scrum Alliance Certified Agile Leadership Program, as highlighted here:

The Agile Leadership Academy™ is a one-year program launching on June 13-14, 2016 in Herndon, VA.

Join the 2016 cohort for four quarterly one-day sessions:

  • Foundations of Lean & Agile Leadership (June 13-14, 2016)
  • Scaling Agility (September 2016)
  • Lean Product Management & Design (December 2016)
  • Business Agility (March 2017)

To register for the 2016 cohort, visit

See press release here:



Shape the Future of Agility

The Agile Leadership Academy™’s one-year long, experiential set of workshops and projects takes senior management and executives on a journey of personal growth and learning, giving them peer support, mentor insights, and practical tools to take their organizations to the next level of agility.

While the benefits of Agile methods have sparked a wave of fulfillment and collaboration on teams worldwide, now senior managers and executives hold the key to spreading Agile methods across silos and deep into the non-IT departments of their enterprises. With content and tools based on 15+ years of experience with enterprise Agile adoptions, landmark thought leadership and ideas curated from executive networks and summit events, the Agile Leadership Academy™ prepares executives to create, transform and lead Agile organizations.

Join the Agile Leadership Academy™ for:

*ALA Certified Graduate™ credentials after the completion of four workshops and corresponding projects *Pre-event networking receptions *Site visits to leading Agile organizations *Free access to Lean+Agile DC & Agile DC Executive Summit conferences *Collaborative learning with experts and peers

Lean & Agile methods deliver faster results, higher quality, and more innovation, but it takes leadership to realize these sorts of results across an organization.

“The position of leadership in agile transformations has too long been ignored; it’s a tough job, and much easier to learn, connect and grow with support from both experts and peers,” said Sanjiv Augustine, Agile Leadership Academy™ Founder and Ambassador. Agile Leadership Academy™ Ambassadors are a global representation of industry leaders who have transformed lives and organizations with Agile methods.

The Agile Leadership Academy™ is a one-year program launching on June 13, 2016; Join the 2016 cohort for four quarterly one-day sessions: *Foundations of Lean & Agile Leadership (June 2016) *Scaling Agility (September 2016) *Lean Product Management & Design (December 2016) *Business Agility (March 2017)

To register for the 2016 cohort, please visit:

See this press release here:


ALA Blog
Defining The Agile Organization Agile methods have been around since approximately the early 80’s; from RAD and JAD, to Spiral Development, Scrum and Extreme Programming.  However, these methods have historically focused on improving the performance of teams within development groups, while largely ignoring the broader environments in which these teams must exist – the “agile organization”. To this end, I have written a draft, based upon the Agile Software Development Manifesto, which defined the facets of methods which called themselves “agile”.  The “Manifesto for Organizational Agility” lays out the following principles, divided into three core areas: Manifesto for Organizational Agility Organizational Design & Leadership
  • Self Management over Hierarchy – Self-managing groups allow for more localized decision making, which is faster, more motivating, and more scalable when done properly. Keep hierarchies as flat as possible, but support meaningful commitments through clear localized decision-making policies, dynamic role allocation, and pull systems with visible rules.
  • Wholeness over Work Focus Alone – Support employees’ well being, motivation, growth and value orientation through organic, human work environments, flexible hours, workspaces, tools, approaches, and connection to a resonating purpose.
  • Evolutionary Purpose over Static Missions – Agile organizations should be ready to deal with rapidly changing competitive environments and customer needs. Let missions and roles evolve organically, from within, and based upon demand, by encouraging experimentation and enhancing feedback loops.
Portfolio Management
  • Experiments over Business Cases – To save money and improve creative focus, prototype and test ideas before funding them by applying agile portfolio management, and using techniques like the lean startup, UX approaches, and hackathons. Make this all operationally possible through devops-style integrated, flexible capabilities.
  • Product & Service Flow over Transient Projects – To allow for faster starts and more knowledgeable and dynamic working groups, establish stable teams and feed them dynamic flows of work via versatile, standing teams, agile portfolio management and enablement of continuous delivery/deployment capabilities.
Product Design
  • Iteration by Observation over Iteration by Opinion – Get feedback through real-life usage and empirical data, not just internal demos via continuous delivery, lean startup-style techniques and lean UX.
  • Holistic Product Teams over Unilateral Product Owners – To drive better innovation and lessen handoffs, use the whole team to drive product design, with facilitative rather than dictatorial leaders, design thinking, collaborative design patterns, story mapping.
  These are my thoughts, based on seventeen years of experience across industries, but organizations are complex entities, and there are other facets to consider.  Those of you who have undertaken this journey may have other thoughts, and I’d love to hear them. -Arlen Bankston See more about the Future of Agility here: