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Agile Leadership - Three inputs model | Part 3

The last model relies on an environmental form of management to build state change. It is also longer term and rarely instant. Individuals and companies can work on state change by altering any of the three inputs to state.

NEUROLOGY: includes our entire autonomic nervous system, brain, perception, stereotypes, psychology and thinking.

PHYSIOLOGY: is our body, movement, energy, eating, breathing and posture.

BIOCHEMISTRY: the state of our blood chemistry, hormones, neurochemistry and the influence drugs and medications have on us.


FIGURE 2: State Circle, Ian Snape, 2015



What we think about affects us.

Being bitter, angry or resentful at work creates a different state than turning up thankful, grateful and happy. Our thoughts affect our state, and our state affects our output. What is the nature of your “water cooler” conversations? 

I know one law firm that has a five minute stand up morning meeting every day. The only topic is to celebrate the day before. Everyone is encouraged to talk about something that went well. After working with them for two years I saw a dramatic improvement in productivity, interpersonal relationships, turnover and stress levels.

Undergird agility with changes to neurology by:

Investigating how our self-talk is
Becoming aware of the language being used, it belies our beliefs
Becoming aware of where attention is being put. That’s where you will go.


Our state can be profoundly affected by our physiology. 

The position and comfort of the skeletal framework, the correct operation of the nerves and autonomic nervous system, the operation of the lymphatic system via movement, macro and micro muscular movements. Think about the way a head ache or back pain can affect your state. Remember that the physical system acts as an interface and can run both ways. Be happy and smile; smile and be happy.

Undergird agility with changes to physiology by:

Employing an ergonomics consultant to check office furniture, getting membership of a gym and consumption of water during the day  and spending 30 minutes a day exercising (see Dr Mike Evans 23 and ½ hours)


We all come to work with varying levels of neurochemicals running around our body. 

Endorphins from exercise, cortisol from stress, adrenalin from anxiety, serotonin from our food, neurotoxins like coffee and alcohol all affect our state. Hormone levels from our age, gender and family genetic heritage and other chemicals from our medicine affect state too. 

Once again these are two way cycles, being produced as a response to our environment, activity, rest, what we eat and medicines, and also producing responses in our hunger, energy levels, attitude, perception and relational adaptivity.

Undergird agility with changes to biochemistry by:

Helping staff follow the circadian (rest) rhythm (think Spanish siesta), educating on the positive benefits of healthy eating and avoiding alcohol and raising awareness by using a food diary and energy level rating system

Accessing the Non-conscious

The thing about most of the processes outlined in these three models of state change is that they are almost all ‘non- conscious.’

Consider your awareness of self-talk, your stance, breathing, sleep, the language you use regularly or the biochemical responses you are having right now. They are all operating beneath consciousness. You cannot see them, they are buried. To change state, we need to start becoming aware of what’s going on under the hood, to pick up the signals.

The non-verbal parts of our being: the right hemisphere, the heart and gut brain, and autonomic nervous system can’t use words. Those non-conscious processes do communicate with us through our natural reactions to things, the way we filter information based on past experiences, our flight or fight survival instinct, gut reactions and non-specific pain. So are we listening to their signals? Are we aware and trying to interpret the signals? Anyone who has gone through diagnosis of a dietary intolerance (e.g. gluten, nuts or lactose) will understand this process. It takes time to learn to trust instinct. But even organisations can learn to do it.

Consider the Toyota Corporation putting in the Andon cord system in their manufacturing process.  After dividing each product assembly into lines and each line into five workstations, they instructed the staff in each workstation to “pull the cord” if they saw or sensed something was wrong. If a person did this, the entire factory production line stopped and the supervisor responded to the issue within 60 seconds. Now that’s agility.

Change Management

Imagine moving from the old way (factory) to the new way (agile and modular with empowered personnel). Such large scale change necessarily requires us to think about change management practise. Whilst this is not a discussion about change management, we must bring it to bear if we want agility to filter down.

Cultural change is most effective when it starts at the top. Indeed that’s where it started for SemCo and Toyota, with executives deciding to trust their staff.

“Change leaders often fail to address culture… all successful change management initiatives start at the top, with desired change exhibited personally by leaders.”

- Lou Gerstner, IBM CEO

Imagine that we have begun to exhibit a will to change, our leaders are on board and a few people are beginning to take up the change. They will begin to share what they know, and influence those around them. Perhaps one affects three of their closest work mates, and eventually those three affect another seven, but because the message and impact is reduced by distance from the originator, four of those fall away and return to old ways of working. This process unfolds down the line over time.

Once enough people in the organisation have managed state change (becoming more agile), culture change becomes possible. As culture changes there will be a natural propensity toward systemic change: policy, process and principle set agility in place. As systems set up the organisation for agility, it becomes change ready.

Change readiness is the ability to continuously initiate and respond to change in ways that create advantage, minimise risk, and sustain performance… which results in corporate agility. This self-reinforcing cycle can assist your organisation, and your own leadership to remain agile in the longer term.


FIGURE 3: Corporate Agility Cycle, R Holmes, 2017


Holmes, R., (2017). Limitless, pp59.
Hill, C., Jones, G., (2007). “Strategic Management: and Integrated Approach,” pp407. language_shapes_who_you_are
Semler, R., (1995). “Maverick!”
Snape, I., (2015). The Neurocoaching Manual, Section 3, pp4.
Willis, J., (2015). “The Andon Cord.”

Take a look part one and two of Agile Leadership