Resources | Leadership Agility

The Secret Ingredient for Successful Agile and Business Agility Transformations

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Ron Laudadio
on February 27, 2023
The Power of Collaboration and the Importance of Teamwork

A marketing team that worked for a large retail organisation was known for leading the development of many successful co-branding deals in the past. But this time, the stakes were higher. Leadership insisted that they needed to create an exciting co-branding deal as quickly as possible because of its strategic importance to the organisation’s future. Most co-branding deals took months to structure; leadership wanted this deal within a few weeks.

The marketing team didn’t back down from the challenge to try to figure out how to get such a complex deal done in such a short time. They gathered members from the legal, procurement, strategic, governance, and communications teams and invited them to a 3-hour workshop. The goal was to find a way to reduce the time it took to create a co-branding deal together.

But soon after they got together, something unexpected happened. Instead of scrutinising the processes they typically followed, they slipped into the deal-building mode, and before they knew it, they were collaborating and co-creating a co-branding deal. For the 3 hours, the group was in a zone, ideas were flying back and forth, and they were all pitching in views of how the deal could work. They worked with a sense of purpose and determination. In just over two hours, they had co-created a deal they were confident they could quickly get approved and ready to present to the partnering organisation. 

Once they were done, the team was amazed by what they had accomplished. In just a few hours of effective collaboration, they had achieved something that typically took them months. They were all proud of their teamwork and the results they had achieved. The marketing team felt like they had hit a home run with a new way of co-creating co-branding deals, and their colleagues from the other departments were just as pleased.

The group of representatives had every intention of following the gates and steps of the process required but instead found a new way of working together that didn’t jeopardize the processes but complimented it. The difference between the past and this co-branding deal was how they worked together.

From that day on, the leaders referred to the marketing team as the “speed demons,” and their co-branding deal was the talk of the organisation. They had shown that anything was possible with an engaged mindset, superior collaboration, and a can-do attitude; to overcome the processes and typical working styles that stall achievements.

The Secret Ingredient to Agile and Business Agility Success

What drives successful Agile and Business Agility transformations is not what you might expect. Despite our typical attention to processes, procedures, methods, techniques, and approaches, success relies on one additional crucial ingredient: healthy, highly engaged teams capable of superior levels of collaboration. Real, uninhibited collaboration where individuals feel valued, essential, and empowered to engage fully and contribute to the best of their abilities within a team effort.

Like the marketing team that worked out a co-branding deal in hours instead of months, we see firsthand that achieving the desired Agile and Business Agility outcomes is through healthy, highly engaged teams capable of superior levels of collaboration; the techniques and processes they follow are secondary. 

The essence of an organisation lies in the people working together, not in the process they follow. This has always been the case and always will be. The difference these days is the introduction of Agile and Business Agility which represents the first major organisational shift that redirects our empowerment from the process to the people. 

An exceptional camera system is just a tool for an exceptional photographer; having one doesn’t automatically make someone an exceptional photographer. Just the same, Agile and Business Agility techniques and methods are the tools of highly engaged employees and exceptionally inclined collaborators, and forcing people to use these techniques and methods doesn’t create success, nor does it create highly engaged and exceptionally inclined collaborators. 

Traditionally, operated organisations favour the methods and techniques we are familiar with in most organisations. Highly productive organisations use Agile and Business Agility methods and techniques as employees work together and achieve outstanding business results. The key difference between them and traditionally operated organisations is simply how people choose to work together and collaborate. A highly engaged and collaborative work environment with exceptional collaboration capabilities can be created by hiring a consultant to coach the leaders 1:1 and hiring experts to teach Agile and Business Agility techniques to the teams. Your performance as an Agility leader will design the success or failure of your Agile or Business Agility transformation.

The Leader's Recipe for a Thriving Agile Transformation

As a leader, you play the most crucial role in ensuring the success of your transformation. Your dedication and focus on creating healthy, highly engaged, and collaborative teams are your single most important objective when trying to improve business results with Agile or Business Agility. You are ideally suited to make it happen because your behaviours shape the behaviours of others, and you own the power to make operational changes in your group. In doing so, you ensure success with your Agile or Business Agility transformation.

For leaders, this is the three-step recipe for a successful Agile Transformation:

1. Introduce a new mindset and paradigm to your organization by familiarizing them with Agile and Business Agility techniques and processes. (Easy)

2. As their leader, create, cultivate and curate people into engaged and highly collaborative teams. (Hard)

  • Establish the ingredients required for highly engaged employees.
  • Establish the ingredients required for superior team collaboration.

3. Empower the teams to choose what processes and techniques serve them best to achieve their objectives. (Easy)

Recipe for Highly Engaged People

According to evidence, more than half of the employees are checked out in the workplace and doing the bare minimum to get by. The consequences of this mindset on individual and team productivity are catastrophic. Employees’ selfish mindset of just doing enough to survive is crippling most organisations and is so widespread that it is considered the norm for traditionally operated organisations. Agile and Business Agility mature organisations have overcome this challenge by turning this phenomenon around.

As a leader, evidence shows you have the most influence in creating an environment for highly engaged employees. There are specific ways to achieve it.

With the right advice and coaching, here are the norms you need to implement in your workplace for highly engaged employees:

  1. Meaningful work: Engaged employees led by an inspiring vision feel that their work is meaningful and has a purpose that improves the world in a meaningful way.
  2. Valued employees: Engaged employees are confident their leaders and team members are genuinely interested in their well-being and success.
  3. Esteemed contributions: Engaged employees feel respected and appreciated by their leaders and team members for the value of their skills and contributions.
  4. Supportive work environment: Engaged employees feel supported and encouraged to grow and develop, are free to ask questions, get constructive feedback, and without negativity or judgement, can just be themselves.
  5. Clear roles and purpose: Engaged employees understand exactly how their skills and contribution help the team achieve shared objectives.

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    Recipe for Highly Collaborative Teams

    Evidence suggests that collaboration positively influences business performance granting the organisation the two most significant benefits of efficiency and future preparedness, bringing dramatic benefits for both business growth and employee engagement, Collaboration has substantial benefits, including increased value, improved performance, and more sustainable business models (Rosen, Evan. “The Culture of Collaboration: Maximizing Time, Talent and Tools to Create Value in the Global Economy”), and it is essential leaders focus on establishing these norms in the workplace to create highly collaborative teams.

    With the right advice and coaching, here are the norms you need to implement in your workplace for highly collaborative teams:

    1. Shared Goals: Teams clearly understand and share aspirations for their goals and objectives and work together to achieve them.
    2. Shared Accountability: For overall team cohesion, all team members are collectively responsible for achieving the team’s goals and objectives.
    3. Positive Relationships: Teams members have positive relationships with each other, characterised by respect, mutual support, and a willingness to help each other succeed.
    4. Inclusivity: An environment where all team members feel valued and respected and have a strong shared sense of belonging.
    5. Diversity: Teams with diverse perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds are often more creative and innovative.
    6. Open Communication: Teams communicate openly, honestly, respectfully, and frequently to work together effectively.
    7. Empowerment: Teams feel empowered and comfortable to take risks, make decisions, and take ownership of their work.
    8. Leadership Support: Teams feel well supported by their leadership and comfortable seeking help to overcome obstacles and challenges.
    A Metaphor as a Guide

    A simple metaphor can be used as a guide to creating a healthy, highly engaged, and collaborative workplace. By treating everyone in the organisation as close family, a leader can design an approach that is conducive to success (of course, while maintaining professional boundaries). Behaving as a family leader who cares about their employees’ futures, the approach should provide an opportunity for employees to thrive while working for the organisation.

    What is paramount is that you must use this approach silently. Don’t disclose to others that you are doing this; use the metaphor to craft your mindset, behaviour, and actions, not your words. If you tell people what you are doing, it will feel contrived, and you will fall into negative behaviours. Make this metaphor your daily intention, not your mission. 

    Among others, there are a few positive outcomes to such an approach, such as:

    1. Increased Motivation: A leader who treats their team as a family is more likely to create a supportive and nurturing work environment, which can increase motivation and job satisfaction.
    2. Stronger Bonds: Treating team members like family can foster a sense of belonging and camaraderie, leading to stronger bonds and a more cohesive team.
    3. Increased Trust: When leaders treat their team members like family, they create an environment of trust, openness, and vulnerability. Team members are more likely to feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, opinions, and concerns with their leader.
    4. Improved Communication: When leaders are approachable and supportive, team members are more likely to communicate openly and effectively, leading to better collaboration and problem-solving.
    5. Better Decision-Making: When leaders consider the well-being and happiness of their team members, they are more likely to make decisions that benefit everyone, leading to better outcomes for the team as a whole.
    Your Primer to Getting Started Today

    As a leader, you can get started today. Here is a primer for you to start:

    1. Learn more about how leaders shape the norms responsible for highly engaged employees and highly collaborative teams in the workplace.
    2. To start, use the family leader metaphor as a helpful tool to guide your leadership approach.
    3. Hire a personal coach experienced with high Business Agility maturity for support in establishing norms.
    4. Support the teams with experienced coaches for team-focused guidance on how to adopt Agile and Business Agility methods and techniques.
    5. Hold teams accountable for outcomes, and give teams autonomy with how they effectively apply the Agile and Business Agility techniques.
    6. When a team is ineffective, assess and fix the norms before fixing the methods and techniques.

    The success of an Agile and Business Agility transformation relies on healthy and highly engaged teams that are capable of superior collaboration rather than just following processes and techniques. Highly productive organisations leverage Agile and Business Agility techniques to work together and achieve outstanding business results. The difference between these organisations and traditionally operated ones is how people choose to work together and collaborate.

    As a leader, you play a crucial role in creating healthy, engaged, and collaborative teams. You can achieve this by introducing a new mindset, curating people into engaged teams, and empowering them to choose their processes and techniques. Hiring a personal coach and supporting your teams with experienced coaches can help you achieve this.

    Treating everyone in the organisation as close family can create an environment of increased motivation, stronger bonds, increased trust, improved communication, and better decision-making. You can get started today by learning more about how leaders shape the norms responsible for highly engaged employees and highly collaborative teams and by using the family leader metaphor as a helpful tool to guide your leadership approach.

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