Agile Thinking

Applied Agility Thoughts & Insights

Newton's Story

An apple, something we know in our everyday lives. We grow it, harvest it, we eat it – year in, year out. That is what an apple is all about - nothing more, nothing less.

Simple – it’s the same in business. We go along with what we know and believe to be tried and true.

That is until something happens!

A man watches an apple fall from a tree, and suddenly all is changed.

An idea is born - An idea that made everything he knew as a truth questionable.

This man’s observation of a simple natural action presented him and his world an opportunity to change all that had been thought truth.

In fact, once he observed that apple fall and understood what it had given to him, he knew the old ways had to change.

Should you observe an apple fall in your business; will you be ready to observe it, to pick it up and to benefit from all that it presents to you?

Let’s gather a bushel of apples together and see what the bushel can tell us collectively.

Practical Project Management for Agile Nonprofits
Practical Project Management for Agile Nonprofits cover

Non-profits are businesses with strong volunteer and board components, in which it is often more difficult to achieve results than in a for-profit business. Applied Agility believes in using the proven techniques of traditional project management, tailored with the streamlined sensibility of the agile management movement, to help non-profits optimize scarce resources, improve volunteer performance and retention as well as eliminate the chaos and improve the results of fund raising and other critical projects.

Purchase Practical Project Management for Agile Nonprofits by Karen R.J. White

Blog Categories
General Project Management | Resource Optimization | Volunteer Management | Non-Profit Challenges | Performance Measurement | Strategic Planning

Reconciling the Past, Present and Future while Living in the Now

With the past, I have nothing to do; nor with the future. I live now. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Change is the Law of Life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future. - John F. Kennedy

How does one reconcile the wisdom shared by these two leaders? Emerson emphasizes living in the here and now. The past is done with, nothing more can be obtained from it. Yet, we are also advised to learn from the past, to not repeat the errors of yesterday. So, that implies we learned those lessons in the past and brought them with us into "the now", and perhaps they will go forward with us or perhaps they will be left in "the now".

Kennedy has a more forward looking perspective. His message is that if we only look at the present, the now, then we will miss the future. How can that be? The future will someday be "the now." I have chosen to understand his statement to mean look to the past and present in preparation for the future. Know there is a tomorrow, and understand what from today, "the now", can be brought forward with us.

Project work reflects the wisdom from both men. Past projects are done, we close the books on them and we let them go. Yet, do we really let them go? It is human nature to bring our experiences positive and negative - as well as the knowledge gained in those projects, forward into future projects. We never really start a new project truly in "the now". Should we?

If we assume that no two projects are identical, how can the lessons learned from the past apply to the current, or to the future? We potentially have new team members, new project sponsors, and new objectives to accomplish. We ourselves are "new" in that we have matured or learned something during the earlier project. And all this newness might invalidate the benefits of those lessons learned.

Now this sounds like heresy to me as I write these thoughts down. You see, we are taught from the earliest age to conduct lessons learned, to learn from our collective experiences.

What do you think?

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Volunteering - Good for Your Health!

Wow! I know I enjoyed being paid in hugs for the volunteer work I perform. Now I learn that I might also be paid in my senior years, with a lower blood pressure!

A study recently published by Carnegie Mellon shows that older adults who volunteer for at least 200 hours per year decrease their risk of hypertension, or high blood pressure, by 40 percent.  And that 's a big decrease!  So, if you are worried about hypertension, get out there and volunteer!

You can find the study's press release at : //

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Non-Performing Volunteer

I had an interesting conversation with one of my nieces over the weekend. She is a relatively new event planner with a national non-profit based in DC and we were talking about the challenges of managing projects that are reliant on volunteers for completion.

We found ourselves wondering if this social model of philanthropy can continue with the ever increasing demands being placed on it. Should a more business-like approach be required? Should volunteers be asked to sign agreements, and what are the penalties if they don’t fulfill those agreements? In Kate’s situation, the failure of a volunteer to perform means she needs to alter her personal plans and step into it, or throw another volunteer “into the fire” at the last moment - something she is loath to do.

We didn’t come to any satisfactory conclusion. For many volunteers, extra-curricular commitments must take a backseat to employer demands when there is a conflict. Perhaps the non-profit should scrutinize the work they expect volunteers to perform, and if crucial to the success of the event, contract it out or assign it to staff; don’t rely on the volunteer. In other words, use the volunteers on the non-critical tasks.

What about it? How do you handle the situation of the non-performing volunteer? We would love to hear your thoughts.

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