Thursday, July 7, 2022

The culture code of organisational agility

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Now during the crisis, we all realize what matters when it comes to how well and how quickly we can adapt to changing circumstances. The secret lies in how we work together, how collaboration happens, and what conditions have been created. It lies in the corporate culture. Culture not only eats strategy for breakfast, it determines our survival fitness.

Research and practice agree that organizational culture is the biggest obstacle and at the same time the biggest lever in agile transformations. It is therefore not surprising that a closer look reveals that it is the corporate culture that successful agile organizations have in common and that distinguishes them from traditional companies. 

What does it look like, the “agile corporate culture”? 

The TEC model (Puckett, 2020) describes the common denominator of an agility-promoting and -enabling culture across three pillars: 

Pillar 1: Transparency

Transparency ensures equal footing in discussions and dialogues, creates trust and ensures that each individual can think strategically. There are three aspects to this: 

1. Information: transparency with information and data 

Following the latest trends, evaluating customer reactions, knowing what is happening on the market and what possibilities the technology will create tomorrow – staying ahead of developments is only possible if each individual acts as “spy” – becomes a collector and analyst of information. Everyone must therefore have direct access to all relevant sources, ideally a clear line of sight to the customer. Also important is transparency with company figures, internal metrics. Only in this way can everyone make strategic decisions and develop relevant ideas. 

2. Intention: transparency with intention and plans 

In order for ideas and initiatives to be bundled and aligned, it is not only necessary to have transparency with the vision and long-term strategy. Plans must be communicated and the intentions behind decisions (strategic and operational) must also be transparent. To generate trust. But also to enable everyone to become creative in the achievement of the goals. 

3. Effect: transparency with results and impact 

In order to enable self-organization and thus rapid targeted reactions to the market and changing customer needs, it is necessary to be able to make decisions not only on the basis of data or feedback (e.g. customer reactions, quality indicators). It must also be possible to track success in order to see where adjustments need to be made along the way and after delivery or launch. Where there is no direct view of the customer (external/internal), the contribution/ impact of a job and its tasks to the company’s success must be transparent. Only when we know how our actions influence company success, when we know which of our activities is currently the most relevant, for instance, can we prioritize and adjust. 

Pillar 2: Empowerment

While entrepreneurial spirit is omnipresent in start-ups at the beginning, as the company grows it often falls short where it is most needed – with the teams and individuals on the front line, facing the customer, producing the deliverable, who do the value-adding work. Here is, where we need empowerment to self-organize, to self-steer, to allow for agility. More precisely, it takes: 

1. Freedom: freedom to adapt and create 

We need freedom to develop your own ideas, test how to work more effectively or adapt to change. You need room to maneuver in order to try out something new. Time to be creative, to play. The Freedom to self-manage and decide how, when and where we work. If we have no room to jiggle, we cannot explore, we cannot adapt. 

2. Enablement: empowerment to take charge

Making and implementing strategic decisions autonomously, teams that set and pursue goals on their own initiative and responsibility. This not only realizes the collective potential of the company it also enables maximum speed and adaptability at every level. 

3. Ownership: ownership with a bias toward action 

Ownership means that employees develop their own ideas, turn them into initiatives and take on end-to-end responsibility. They become entrepreneurs within the company. 

Pillar 3: Collaboration

New things are created when old things are combined in new ways, when knowledge and experience and ideas are shared. This is also how learning happens. When it comes to implementation, you need to strike powerful, employees who can combine their strengths. Unconditional collaboration, flexibility and fluidity in roles is needed. More precisely: 

1. Exchange: collaboration through exchange and sharing

Connected solutions need connected people. The company will only benefit from the knowledge and experience of its employees if they are available to everyone, where and when it counts. It must also be known what has been or is being worked on elsewhere in order to make use of synergies. 

2. Contribution: collaboration through contribution and flexibility

The structure of an agile organization is flexible. When it comes to roles and job profiles, too. Performance is no longer defined by doing one’s “job”, but by using one’s skills where they create the greatest added value. No matter in which team or in which role. In this way, structures in flexible networks are constantly being formed anew for each new goal. 

3. Learning: collaboration through learning and growing together

Agile organizations are successful because they can adapt quickly to change. Because they – if they have to – reinvent themselves to be and stay successful. Advancement through reflection and adaption. This starts with individual teams, which continuously learn, optimize and adapt, which have the courage to take risks, to make mistakes and learn from them together. 

Being able to consciously approach and shape the culture from the very beginning is one of the greatest treasures of start-ups and holds the secret of success later on. It is often only a few measures that need to be taken to put culture on the right track. A model like the TEC model can prove helpful. 

Source: Puckett, S. (2020). THE AGILE CULTURE CODE – A guide to organizational agility. BusinessVillage.


Dr. Stefanie Puckett is a psychologist working as a director at metaBeratung. She has lived and worked globally for several consulting firms, in management and global roles for a Fortune 500 company, and ran her own business. She works on the topic of agile transformation as a consultant, executive coach and author.

Statements of the author and the interviewee do not necessarily represent the editors and the publisher opinion again.

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