Slow Agile. Aim High, Achieve More

Helio Borges
6 min readMar 8, 2021
The Slow Agile path to Systems Leadership. Image:

This is the second article of a series covering the unfolding journey of the “Slow Agile” project, from the initial idea to the current stage — Core Team Formation. Read the first article here.

“COVID-19 has given us the license to be innovative and bold, to aim high, and to achieve more, working elbow to elbow to develop a breakthrough methodology that will allow existing corporations not only to innovate the Agile way but also to transform their culture the Theory U way, to allow the whole corporation, not just the Agile teams, to innovate and to adapt to the complexity of the post-COVID times.” The Slow Agile Core Team

Aim High, Achieve More. The Slow Agile Systems Leadership Model

We were inspired by the Cabrera Research Lab Systems Leadership Model, represented by the ST-SL Pyramid. “The ST-SL Pyramid illustrates the deep connection between Systems Thinking (ST) and Systems Leadership (SL). Systems Thinking (Distinctions, Systems, Relationships, and Perspectives. DSRP) drives not only individual learning but also organizational Learning. This in turn drives organizational Capacity to do the organization’s Mission (repeated actions) which brings about the organizational Vision (the desired goal state). These four functions — VMCL — are universal to all organizations.”

From Systems Thinking/Mapping to Systems Leadership

Systems Thinking. “Thinking in more complex and robust ways of causality to include context, multiple perspectives, etc.”

January. From Who am I? To How can I contribute? From being conscious of the complexity of Distinctions, Systems, Relationships, and Perspectives, to identify and contribute with our individual strengths to the Core Team’s strengths.

February. To become a Core Team with a Purpose.

March-April. To seek stakeholders with whom to build Global Partnerships.

May. To become a global platform for organizational and societal Innovation and Cultural Transformation.

June. To become a Global Movement in the making.

Systems Leadership. “Helping organizations to behave more like superorganisms that self-organize, learn, and adapt to their changing environment.”

We Searched for a Third Core Team Member, and…

It is a requirement of the u.lab2X 2021 program that the project founders select Core and Extended teams. Upon receiving the Presencing Institute’s letter of acceptance to the program in December 2020, Riccardo and I met to decide how we would select teammates. Both of us decided that we needed to look for a third member of the Core Team who should be an Agile practitioner, to even the leadership field because I embodied Theory U and Riccardo both, Theory U and Agile.

We were realistic and conscious of the fact that Slow Agile was an out-of-the-way voluntary research project conducted in the middle of a pandemic, thus, we did not know what to expect from our search. Nevertheless, we published the request on social media, and we began receiving applications to join our team from very qualified professionals from different countries.

…Found Much More Than We Were Looking For

The results left us humbled and in awe, letting us percolate the thought that our project might have Social Field Resonance. Fortunately, the liminal space opened by the Christmas festivities gave us time to reflect, and in January we concluded that in times of downloading, denying, de-sensing, and absencing, we should walk our talk, opening, including, sensing, and presencing. Consequently, it was with a happy heart that we acknowledged that the Social Field did not provide us with one person to complement our team, but with several ones, with whom we would be proud to share this journey. Therefore, given that we believed in The Law of Two Feet, we opened the Slow Agile doors to everyone who had applied.

Today we have a Core Team of more than 13 people from seven different countries: Deborah Maarek, from Belgium; Barish Goland, from Canada; Barbara Gronauer, from Germany; Paola Perini, Riccardo di Biase, and Pietro Bonato, from Italy; Ana Laura Juvino, from Spain; Mairim Quijada, and Helio Borges, from Venezuela; Eliana Triggiani, from the UK; and Jean Hartman, Cathy Lamenzo, and Peter Baverso, from the USA.

We had our first meeting on January 12, and since then, we have met twice a week for two months. During that time we have developed a very organic and unique way of working.

We are all co-leaders with authority to propose, object, design, and implement not only our own way of working as a diverse, inclusive, multicultural, and multinational core team, but also to comply with all the activities suggested by the Presencing Institute to keep our project on purpose and within the schedule.

Additionally, we are a self-organized team whose members leave their egos at the door and concentrate on our work, focusing on a purpose greater than any one of us. The more we work on our Slow Agile project, the clearer we see the final picture and our path ahead.

COVID-19 has given us the license to be innovative and bold, to aim high, and to achieve more, working elbow to elbow to develop a breakthrough methodology that will allow existing corporations not only to innovate the Agile way but also to transform their culture the Theory U way, to allow the whole corporation, not just the Agile teams, to innovate and to adapt to the complexity of the post-COVID times.

To illustrate, the following is a composite of our individual goals, expressed when we started the project.

WHAT is the initiative you feel called to create?

…Merging Theory U and Agile into a new Transformational Change Management approach

…to improve the team ability to work together to solve difficult problems with creative solutions

…To create a new approach that fosters a CULTURE of transparency, communication, and collaboration to solve complex social and organizational problems.

…To develop a methodology that can help enterprise teams to understand, ideate, and launch new endeavors with the highest positive impact possible

I offer my peace at being with the unknown and exploring the edges where new ideas often spring from

…to derive a scalable, effective approach for companies or other organizations.

WHY does it matter? What system do you want to impact?

… The adult learning and social finance systems

…I want to help bring about improvement to the work I do.

…human system of collaboration and co-creation

…to improve our team capacity to listen and dialogue, and to actively listening to what is happening in the field.

…To see business as a profitable way to solve customer’s problems and at the same time develop employee’s potential.

…To help companies decide slow and implement quickly.

…fostering a profound sense of change from a holistic perspective

…to lead more business people to show up to work connected in a positive way — to their hearts, to each other, and more

…It is about connecting agile working methods for product development and product realization with theory U

HOW can you prototype your idea over four months, to learn what you need to advance it?

…To learn what is slow but steady and speedy …

…To test and experiment with some of the ideas within our agile teams in our organization.

…To go to the edge to see what is happening in similar or totally different environments, interviewing stakeholders, collecting valuable information, then prototype and iterate. Learn, learn and learn.

…To anticipate road maps, desktop walkthrough, and other types of tangibles, to choose live experiments that would be useful.

…To set up a sample project to prototype theories and approaches.

…I am connected with other companies in the region and would inquire there which company or group of company representatives would be interested in trying out our concept.

…I plan to be present with my team as we confirm our schedule and roles. I will show up, I will share, I will research and network. I will hopefully offer surprises that help us move into the shared social body with fun and light-filled hearts.

WHO do you need to involve, listen and reach out to?

…I have an intuitive knack for coming across just the right resource at just the right moment

…Colleagues, peers, my main working stakeholders

…involving both business decision-makers and employees.

…To explore if this could evolve into a “train the trainer” concept

…We can propose to our organization to conduct experiments within our agile teams.

…To foster our team’s collective seeing, sensing & presencing … freeing to experience slow.

…I’d like to involve circular economy startups and no-profit associations.

…Entrepreneurs, small and medium-large enterprise leaders would be perfect to run and test prototypes

If you are curious about how to build self-organizing teams, please contact me at to have a generative conversation.

Next article: Becoming a Core Team with a purpose



Helio Borges

Executive & Team Coach & Mentor. Cultural Transformation Change Agent & Consultant. Twitter: @hborgesg. Instagram: @heboga. FB: helio.borges.35. Uriji: @hborges