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In this instalment of our CGI3R blog series, we asked four of our Agile experts from across Canada to reflect on working with clients to quickly Respond, Rebound, and Reinvent their businesses and ways of working in times of crisis.

Featured experts

  • Jean-René Rousseau (JR) is an Agile transformation strategic advisor and the director of CGI’s Agile Centre of Excellence in Quebec City.
  • Nuno Borges (NB) is an organizational designer focused on transformation strategies among enterprise clients. Nuno represents the Emerging Technology group in CGI’s Toronto practice.
  • Andrew Goddard (AG) is an Agile coach in the National Capital Region.
  • Waldemar Schneider (WS) is an Agile coach who leads CGI’s Agile Community of Practice in Western Canada.

What stood out to you the most over the last several weeks?

JR: Being in this Agile journey for more than 15 years, it’s amazing the level of agility I see right now. The level of emergency created by the pandemic forced organizations to move fast and to give only high-level directions to teams and to trust them to get the job done. I’m also surprised how collaborative we can still be while working remotely. I have to admit; I was skeptical, given the “face-to-face conversation” Agile principle I’ve been teaching for many years.

NB: What really stood out to me was the growing divergence between how we need to fundamentally change in a post-Covid world, and the stoic belief that traditional strategies simply need to be improved. In times without precedence, the solutions that start with "be better at…" must be replaced with "be different than…".

AG: Lately, what transpired from the situation is the state of collaborative tools and the ability of organizations to try to quickly adopt them, the ingenuity of people to learn and work with new tools as well as the limitations and learning curves for people working in these unprecedented times.

How do you see the business and human impacts of COVID-19 being managed?

NB: We are in a 'Black Elephant' episode, to modify a Nassim Taleb concept. The implications of this is that we DO NOT know, nor can we predict how we will come out of it. What we can predict, however, is that society will change in meaningful ways. The way we conduct business will similarly change. The recommendation is to accept the uncertainty and rapidly iterate new organizational designs to allow something innovative to emerge. There is no playbook for what is currently happening, and organizations should resist the tendency to look for a quick answer.

JR: I see great human sensibility among leaders within CGI and from our customers. I see more empathy, more vulnerability. It’s now normal to “not know what will happen,” which is not common among leaders - especially executives. Usually leaders like detailed plans and like to be in “control”. In an Agile world, we want leaders who can tolerate uncertainty and who are comfortable adapting their strategies as they go and decentralize decisions.

How do you see your area of expertise evolving?

WS: New tools help people stay connected from a distance while still being able to have fun, organic interactions. I see people connect and support each other now more than ever. We see success when there is a clear purpose for the team(s), a product vision, clear goals, transparency, and a culture of trust. Lean and Agile leaders establish the vision and the guardrails for their desired outcomes, then empower their teams to explore the “how.” The Agile world is evolving because I can see leadership increasingly focus on the trust and the outcomes cross-functional teams create together, rather than monitoring and controlling their activities. We are faster to adjust and we help each other to explore ideas, share information, and learn more rapidly. Agile helps us to pause, reflect, and improve.

AG: I haven’t seen a marked difference in approach with existing clients. I think where we all will need to evolve, in a business sense, is in how we connect with others beyond our current span of influence. As social creatures, we have built trust with each other over the years by being face-to-face and sharing experiences together. This will indeed be a true challenge in the social distancing world.

What does the future look like to you from an Agile perspective?

NB: This is an important time for our company and our practice. The rules of emergence don't allow us to simply rehash older concepts by polishing their exteriors. We have to accept the fact that we don't have all the answers and to trust in our ability to continuously innovate solutions. Promoting this among our clients is a critical strategic advantage we can offer them. As a leader of Agile teams since before 2001, this is the most Agile thing we can do right now.

WS: I think that organizations need to be quick to adjust to customer needs and new business models. Agile is crucial for organizations to be successful, ensuring customer needs are met by creating awesome experiences that engage them. I can see that organizations that invested in business agility, new ways of doing business and sharing information quickly, are better positioned to respond to our current pandemic situation, and will be faster to rebound and reinvent in these rapidly-changing markets. With CGI’s 3R initiative, we provide customers guidance on how to be best stay afloat now while designing a more prosperous future.

AG: I’m hoping we can take a pause and really reflect on what ‘work’ means and our role as ‘humans’ in it. These situations help us see the global effects our species has on the planet and each other. I’m hoping we can find more compassion and curiosity in this time.

JR: I like to think that with each crisis comes an opportunity. The reflection on how our organizations are build and manage were already ongoing. Burnout rate and employee disengagement are signs that something needs to change in the way we approach work. I feel (and hope) those reflections will just accelerate.

CGI has extensive experience helping clients achieve large-scale agile transformation projects across Canada and the globe. Our pragmatic, value-based, end-to-end agile transformation framework encompasses the strategic consulting as well as hands-on practitioners, trainers and accelerators needed to design and implement successful transformations. Read more about CGI’s agile services here.

About these authors

Jean-René Rousseau

Jean-René Rousseau

Director, Consulting Expert, Agile Center of Excellence lead in Quebec City

Jean-René is a strategic advisor in Agile-Lean transformations with 16+ years of experience using agile practices to drive business efficiency. Passionate about organizational performance powered by Agile-Lean principles and practices, Jean-René has led agile implementations across 20 organizations varying in size, mainly focusing on the ...

Andrew Goddard

Andrew Goddard

Director, Consulting Expert in National Capital Region

Andrew has 15+ years of experience helping organizations deliver tangible business outcomes using agile ways of working and thinking. He is a certified professional co-active coach and graduate of the Co-Active Training Institute’s (CTI) leadership program.

Waldemar Schneider

Waldemar Schneider

Senior Consultant, CGI’s Agile Practice in Western Canada

Waldemar leads CGI’s Agile Practice in Western Canada. As an experienced Scrum Master, Agile Coach and Certified SAFe® Program Consultant (SPC) with years of experience using an Agile approach and the Waterfall methodology, Waldemar works closely with teams and stakeholders to identify business objectives and ...

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