Unlocking Agility Beyond Tech — Transformative Insights from Unexpected Sources

Romell Avendaño
4 min readOct 16, 2023
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Believe it or not, agility is everywhere.

But for some reason, there’s a belief that agility only lives in a niche, in a particular market, that is, in a digital world of technological challenges, with a truly disruptive product that is going to change the world made by the big technology company or the most revolutionary start-up.

Yes, this is true in many cases, but that does not mean it is a rule of an exclusive agility club where only a few can enter. Again, agility is everywhere.

So, if you are looking for inspiration about agility in contexts other than the one described above, I have three books that will change how you see agility.

Turn the ship Around

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You’ve probably seen or heard this book a lot (or not), but it’s an incredible reference to start. Written by L. David Marquet, a retired Navy Captain, it tells us how the worst submarine in the fleet (The Santa Fe), with many tiny but disruptive changes and a lot of trust and autonomy over its crew, became the best.

Something that I loved about this book, and the reason for my recommendation, is that it is full of many lessons about agility, teamwork, resilience, and trust. Because you can more easily think about agility in a business, in a large company, or with the development of a digital product, but the Navy?

I can’t imagine a place more structured and hierarchical than a military institution, where a chain of command matters, decisions are not made lightly, and orders must be followed because people’s lives could depend on it.

So the courage you have to believe that it is possible to change things without breaking the rules (and even less on a nuclear submarine) is not less, and even more so when the changes happen through people you trust.

A fantastic quote from this book that is the original thought of the whole shift is: “True leaders don’t create followers; they created more leaders.”
That is the spirit that guides this entire great story.

Unreasonable Hospitality

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If you like to cook and are always looking for a new recipe or the right ingredients to prepare and share an incredible meal with friends and family, then you know that cooking is an enjoyable and creative activity. Still, it also requires planning and preparation; it could even be a race against time. The truth is that there is much work to make a great dish, and the kitchen can be a very stressful place, especially if your reputation, income, family, lifestyle, personal goals, employees, etc. Furthermore, the kitchen has a long history of traditions, culture, and ways of working that, at high levels, can be very competitive.

But wait! This post is about agility. Right? So why do we talk about cooking and food?

Again, because agility is everywhere.

And suppose you still don’t believe me. In that case, I recommend this reading written by Will Guidara, which tells the story of how he elevated the service of haute cuisine and the restaurant business under the premise that serving others is one of the things in life that most personal and professional satisfaction can give one human being to another. It is a very vivid reading about the reality of restaurants, haute cuisine, and beyond-reasonable service through the eyes and first-person narrative of Will Guidara himself. It is a wasteless book filled with many anecdotes and stories wholly infused with the spirit of agility.

I wouldn’t like to give you spoilers, but I will leave you with some really powerful quotes from this book.

Hospitality is a selfish pleasure. It feels great to make people feel good.

A “cult” is what people who work for companies that haven’t invested enough in their cultures tend to call companies that have.

You can never underestimate the impact (for better or worse) of a leader’s gesture.

The first time someone approaches you with an idea, listen to them carefully, because how you handle it in the moment will dictate how people will contribute in the future.

Bonus track

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And if you like series, cooking and have access to FX, you can find “The Bear” there, which has, in addition to high doses of adrenaline, complex characters and top-notch actors, a theme completely immersed in the world of the kitchen and how even in the most inhospitable situations you can take your business from point x to point y, and with the collaboration and heart of your work team. If the latter is not the purpose of all change we seek and desire, what is then? ;)

If you like, you can leave me any comments or impressions about my article, it would help me a lot to improve…

Thank you for reading ;)

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Romell Avendaño

Life is a DIY project, that's why I write about technology, innovation, knowledge management, agility and more. Also I'm Obsidian Fan. I'm not a Robot! ;) 🤖