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  • Writer's pictureMike Freislich

Where to start with Flight Levels?

Updated: Jan 25

As a practicing Flight Levels Guide, I often get asked the question,

“I’m interested in Flight Levels, but where should I start?”

Something I love about the way the Flight Levels training path has been designed is that there is no predetermined “right” sequence to learning. This means that would-be practitioners can choose your own adventure, guided by what is most relevant to you right now. Flexibility of this kind is of course accompanied by a fair amount of uncertainty, since before we start something, we don’t know what we don’t know. So with this as the challenge, I’ll do my best to provide you with enough information to empower you to choose the right starting point (or continuation point) for your Flight Levels journey.

Disclaimer: If you’re just collecting Agile badges, then do what you like and ignore the rest of what I write! I operate from the view that badges aren’t the goal. Rather we should be after practical, relevant know-how that inspires new thinking and achieves better results in our lives and our places of work.

The Workshops

There are numerous “workshops” provided by Flight Levels Academy Guides and Coaches. We refer to these as workshops rather than training, because we experience working with real content and scenarios while we learn. Also, the workshop formats are useful, not just for change agents and coaches to gain knowledge, but more importantly for co-creating change within your organization. The key Flight Levels workshops provided are:

Flight Levels Introduction (FLIN)
Flight Level 2 Design (FL2D)
Flight Level 3 Design (FL3D)
Flight Levels Systems Architecture (FLSA)

Do not be misled by the use of numbers in some of the workshop titles, into thinking that there is an implied sequence! Your decision about where to start should be purpose-driven. I will explain the purpose of the workshops next.

Flight Levels Introduction (FLIN) is your passport into the world of Flight Levels. It contains prerequisite knowledge for participating in any of the workshops. The FLIN provides ESSENTIAL UNDERSTANDING of how the Flight Levels, the problems it seeks to address and many practical examples of how it is used. During this self-paced, online workshop you will be prompted at various points to examine your own context through the lens of the concepts you are learning about. Given the self-paced format, this course also acts as a foundation level knowledge multiplier, if you seek to reach many people in your organization as part of a transformation initiative. If you are looking to use it for this purpose, feel free to contact me to discuss your needs.

Flight Level 2 Design (FL2D) is relevant if you are seeking ways to COORDINATE multiple teams around a single product / service delivery, or to design and operate a portfolio system that manages the delivery of multiple products and services. This is a common starting point since the act of managing the work that affects multiple teams is notoriously prone to dependencies, fluctuating priorities and role confusion. During this workshop we address not only how to make the work visible across multiple teams, but also how to structure the interactions between the people involved in a meaningful way, so as to avoid “death by meeting”. In addition, we touch on how to introduce Flight Levels into your organization. Organizational change is non-linear, meaning you can’t just plot out a plan from current state to desired state. It’s important to have an agile (iterative and incremental) approach to implementing change. You will see examples and gain an understanding of how to go about this.

Flight Level 3 Design (FL3D) is valuable if your primary challenge is how to CONNECT STRATEGY to the execution systems that realize it. In short, having a great strategy does NOT mean that it will be realized. A problem common to most organizations I’ve worked with is the void between the people envisaging strategy, and those executing it. This is the cause of much frustration and unfulfilled expectations. Additionally, I find that strategy lives in documents (powerpoint presentations, word docs etc.), which are neither a useful medium for communicating what needs to be done nor for tracking progress towards our goals. You will learn to make the strategy explicit, visible and executable in your team, product and organization. We discriminate neither on the method of defining strategy, nor on the scale of strategy i.e. whether it's group strategy, company strategy, department strategy, product strategy etc. Rather we focus on working with the strategy that exists and connecting it to the underlying execution systems in the organization so that we can inspect and adapt frequently. Also, you do not have to be a strategy expert to gain valuable practical insights from this workshop.

Flight Levels Systems Architecture (FLSA) is where we make sense of the complexity surrounding the interconnectedness of the numerous work systems that comprise an organization (or a part of an organization), in order to simplify the flow of work throughout the organization, not just within one product, area or team. A common pitfall when thinking about organizational workflow, is to base our designs on the org chart. Since there is no perfect org structure, nor a structure that will stand the test of time, we need to think differently. In order to have a more malleable, and applicable work management system across the company, it has proven more effective to ground our design in the operational structure (i.e. how work happens), which means we can adapt more quickly without critical dependency on expensive, emotional and time consuming org chart restructures. FLSA is at the heart of BUSINESS AGILITY. If you are embarking on a transformation or trying to revive an existing transformation, this is an invaluable workshop. You will learn to design the virtual, operational organization, by identifying and connecting needed operational systems together with each other along with the strategy that drives them. You will learn about the interactions needed to keep work moving, and how to employ agile change management to co-create the architecture to build momentum for improvement across your organization.

A typical learning path

Given an understanding of the available workshops, a typical learning path from start to finish could look like this:

Before immersing yourself in Systems Architecture, it is advisable to do at least FL2D, FL3D or both, since the architecture comprises multiple FL2 and FL3 systems. Without deep knowledge of how the work systems tick, FLSA may be a step too abstract. If you already have deep experience in managing flow-based coordination systems such as scaled Kanban systems and portfolios, then FLSA could be a valid starting point for you.

How far you take your journey is dependent on your own goals. Let’s explore those last two options.

Expertise beyond the workshops

On completion of FLIN, FL2D and FLSA you may be interested in gaining more in depth experience with running workshops within an organization, or even to facilitate your own public Flight Levels workshops.

Flight Levels Coach Program (FLCP) is a significant commitment for expert coaches, middle managers and senior managers, who want a sound knowledge of how to achieve business agility with flight levels. This includes the ability to design and run your own private Flight Levels workshops and access to training plans and materials to assist your real-world Flight Levels journey. The program is broken into 5 modules, containing a total of 22 facilitated sessions and12 intersession peer working events. To be eligible for this advanced program, you will need to at least hold a FL2D and FLSA accreditation.

Flight Levels Guide (FLG) accreditation is valuable if you intend to help to shape the Flight Levels of the future, run accredited workshops both inside companies and as public classes, provide certification to participants, and always be up to date with the latest training materials. To become a guide, you must have completed the FL Coaching Program. You are then able to register as a Flight Levels Professional (FLPro), and gain accreditation as a guide (FLG).

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