Blog | Why High-Performing Teams Need an Agile Culture to Thrive

Published October 18, 2018 by Andrew Cocks, Scott Heyhoe

Employee Engagement Team Performance Leadership Culture
Why High-Performing Teams Need an Agile Culture to Thrive

We’re all familiar with the pressures that modern businesses face. They operate in a globalized and fast-moving landscape. Traditional hierarchical organizational structures with their associated cultures are out of whack with the need for speed. It’s probably little wonder that creating the organization of the future was rated as the number one challenge by 88% of respondents to a Deloitte survey.

For a business to successfully fend off new threats and seize new opportunities with ease, they need to morph into a more devolved and networked structure. But, this approach to transformation is only possible if you have the right culture in place. A point illustrated by a recent PwC survey where 63% of managers said that company culture was growing in importance.

 

The impact of culture on performance

Coupled with this need for agility, the way that people work has changed. Very few employees now work in isolation. Teams are now ubiquitous and so company culture and mindset must support team-based ways of working so that teams can innovate to thrive. The company culture should be open, empowering teams to make their own decisions, while leadership needs to provide the tools to communicate and work collaboratively.  

Culture impacts the actions people take and the behavior they display. For many traditional businesses understanding current culture and how it needs to change is the first step to embracing a successful team approach. Simply announcing a new structure and expecting everyone to change won’t work. Everyone has to understand that there is a need for change (in other words, there has to be a common itch that requires scratching). You then need to lead change from the top by explaining what the benefits are to everyone personally and how it will impact them behaviorally. How will it change what they do, on the ground, on a day to day basis? Then, monitor progress, listen to feedback and target interventions to ensure that cultural change can be successfully embedded.

 

What does a high-performing culture look like?

Whatever the type of organization, a successful, a high-performing culture promotes certain, recognizable traits:

 1. Commitment to innovation. Whether it is a process or something bigger, the overriding culture is to continually look at what the organization does and how it can be changed or reinvented to make it better.

 2. Decision-making, autonomy and accountability. Teams are empowered to make decisions, without needing to refer it upwards to senior management. Culture is not command and control, but provides freedom within certain constraints, dependent on the type of business. For example, financial services organizations need to meet strict regulatory compliance requirements – these parameters need to be clear.

 3. Leadership supports a culture of failing and learning. If you don’t make honest mistakes you won’t learn or grow. Leaders need to ensure that team members aren’t afraid to take calculated risks or to share when things go wrong (providing they take lessons on board going forward). This means moving away from a culture of ‘shooting the messenger’ to one where messengers are actively encouraged.

 4. Freedom and empowerment to solve and challenge. Customer contact centers are the perfect example of where a culture of freedom delivers clear benefits. Empowering agents to solve customer problems, rather than just measuring them on metrics such as calls completed results in happier, more loyal customers who recommend a brand to others.

 5. Tap into the collective intelligence. In an open culture, teams work together to share their knowledge and experiences. This is part of being collaborative and learning from best practice (and failures), rather than having a closed mindset where employees believe that they personally have all the answers.

 6. Keep your ears to the ground. Listening to the insights and feedback that agile teams share helps your overall business to foresee potential obstacles or opportunities and act on them in good time.

 7. Focused on self-improvement and progress. High-performing cultures imbue employees with a growth mindset, meaning they want to learn and improve personally, as well as driving their team forward. That means ensuring that there are opportunities for giving and receiving constructive feedback to support this.

Moving to a high-performing culture and an agile, team-based structure is essential to organizational success, but it can appear daunting, particularly if businesses have been based on traditional, hierarchical structures. The good news is that there is now a wide range of workplace technologies and productivity tools that can support collaboration between teams and across the organization, enabling you to transform your culture and put in place a more agile, team-based structure. Tomorrow’s business challenges require a completely new approach.

Find out more about transforming your business by building a culture that enables agile teams by watching our on-demand Webinar, Agile Times call for Agile Teams.


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