The Three Cultural Pillars of Organizational Agility
How to gain organizational agility using our intuition — the agile culture code
During the pandemic, many companies experience their corporate culture as a source of strength that helps them deal with the need to rapidly adapt and face new challenges. A valuable insight. A starting point. Because organizational culture is us. This crisis disrupts us. It gets us unstuck. Let’s take the chance and make the company culture sustainable and a breeding ground for agility.
Many of us are currently in the home office or increasingly working remotely. This physical distance allows for a greater mental distance, which helps us to see things more clearly and understand better, what we need at work to be at our best.
We are seeing companies adapting very quickly to the circumstances of the pandemic, changing their business models, delivering added value where it is most needed. We see how companies enable remote work within a few weeks and create new digital infrastructure. Teams that experiment with new ways of working together and grow closer together — while physically apart.
This crisis disrupts us — It can get us unstuck
When we boot up our laptop in the morning in our home office, we have certain feelings. Maybe frustration with rules that do not make sense or with bureaucracy. Maybe worried or isolated? A feeling of paralysis, of not being able to implement or achieve anything despite good ideas?
Or maybe we have positive feelings: Joy and curiosity about how we interact with our team today, and which ideas we can hatch and implement? A feeling of belonging or being able to speak openly and experience support. To be heard and to achieve something together. In such a culture, agility can blossom.
Often a crisis reveals our strengths but also pinpoints the pain points. Today, we can either be passive observers, risking that newfound strengths will be buried soon under a “new normal” and bad habits will stay unshaken or sneak back once we adapted. Or we take action.
Transforming the culture
As long as we are open to learning new things and allowing new experiences, culture will continue to develop. And it is precisely now in the crisis that we are learning.
What does an agility-supporting culture look like? Reviewing agile companies through psychological lenses, we see a common denominator in their culture. The TEC model (Puckett, 2020) deciphers this “agile culture code”, revealing three dimensions with three facets each that determine the ground for agility.
The TEC model of agile culture
Enabling agility requires Transparency, Empowerment, and Collaboration.
The first element of the TEC model is transparency. It is the basic prerequisite for all employees to be able to think strategically, decide data-based and utilize their creative abilities to contribute. Equal access to information promotes discussions on equal footing and trust.
The three facets are:
- TRANSPARENCY WITH INFORMATION AND DATA (“INFORMATION”)
Access to information and data enables strategic thinking at all levels. Informed decisions can be made on every level. Trust and eye level are promoted.
- TRANSPARENCY WITH INTENTIONS AND PLANS (“INTENTION”)
Transparency with decisions and plans means no hidden agendas and people no longer waste energy on speculating. When the purpose and mission behind the strategy are known and intentions behind objectives are clear, people can become creative in finding more or better ways to achieve the goals. If everyone knows what is important at any given time, they can prioritize and adjust.
- TRANSPARENCY WITH RESULTS AND IMPACT (“EFFECT”)
Motivation arises when people see that their work has an impact, that it is seen and appreciated, and that they can make a difference through their work. Feedback and making the results and outcomes measurable or tangible is essential. It also enables everyone to optimize their work and adapt to circumstances change.
Empowerment means giving people back control over their work. People create value instead of executing a duty. Teams organize themselves based on their unique talents and preferences to best get the job done. The initiative is taken.
The three facets are:
- FREEDOM TO ADAPT AND CREATE (“FREEDOM”)
Adaptation is critical in fast-changing markets and must happen directly at the front to have an immediate effect. For this, teams need the necessary room for maneuver. To be innovative and find creative solutions, teams also need freedom for exploring and experimenting.
- EMPOWERMENT FOR (SELF-)LEADERSHIP (“EMPOWERMENT”)
Decisions are made on the “lowest level” possible, where they are needed. Teams not only decide how, where, and when work is done. They are empowered to define goals, make changes, and set priorities.
- OWNERSHIP WITH THE TENDENCY TO ACT (“OWNERSHIP”)
Entrepreneurial thinking and acting are strengthened by end-to-end responsibility for projects and inspired by the possibility of contributing ideas and leading initiatives from everywhere in the organization.
Knowledge is shared, competency is multiplied, creative and execution potential is bundled. People reflect together and grow the company’s capacity for learning and adapting.
The three facets are:
- COLLABORATION THROUGH EXCHANGE AND SHARING (“EXCHANGE”),
The networked solution requires connected minds. The innovative solution requires combining existing knowledge new. The solution of complex problems requires the inclusion of different perspectives.
- COOPERATION THROUGH CONTRIBUTIONS AND FLEXIBILITY (“CONTRIBUTION”)
People do not focus on fulfilling a particular job role. Instead, it is everyone`s responsibility to decide day by day how to best use their talents and abilities to add value — regardless of which team, department, or role.
- COLLABORATION THROUGH JOINT LEARNING AND GROWTH (“LEARNING”)
Only where employees learn together does the organization learn. Mistakes are discussed openly, feedback is shared, people review and adapt together continuously. People support each other`s development.
We all “can do” agility. We just have to be allowed to.
The TEC model is asking basic questions that we need to be answered to succeed:
1. Do we have all the information we need to make strategic and tactical decisions? Do we have a clear view of the customer and/or the impact of our work, so that we can align and prioritize to focus on maximum value creation? And we? Do we provide feedback to others?
2. Do we have enough freedom to optimize our work and be creative? Are we empowered to self-organize and self-steer? Do we have end-to-end responsibility? And we? Do we stop micromanaging and empowering others where possible?
3. Do we have the network and flexibility to initiate collaboration and support beyond given team structures? And we? Do we actively reach out to others to grow our network and share our knowledge? Are we ready to support others? Do we have the room and psychological safety to reflect and grow together? And we? Do we openly talk about our mistakes and truly listen to others?
Intuitive, right? That’s why we don’t have to change our “mindset”. We master agility since childhood. How else would we have learned to walk?
This article was previously shared here.