Part 4: What Makes A Successful Team: Agility

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Are your senior teams able to effectively and efficiently adapt to the current business environment/context?

In this article we explain the importance of a senior team being able to continuously adapt and re-invent themselves and provide practical advice that will allow you to increase your team’s performance.

What is Agility and why is it important?

Unlike other team performance models, our six-dimension Successful Teams Model focuses on a senior team’s ability to navigate in today’s volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) environment - we call this: Agility.

Due to the VUCA state of the business world today, it’s critical that senior teams can adapt and/or reinvent themselves on an almost constant basis - depending on what is being asked of them.

Over the 25 years of coaching senior leaders and teams, we’ve seen how being agile in today’s climate is paramount to success and that’s why it’s the fourth dimension of our model.

Successful senior teams with excellent levels of agility experience the following:

• Able to practice and maintain agile principles in VUCA environments.

• Create innovative, practical solutions and know instinctively whether to change direction or persevere.

• Take appropriate risk, being bold when they need to be and are flexible enough to change or modify their approach - if the current one isn’t working.

• Continually learning and applying that knowledge to improve and stay competitive in the market.

Senior teams with poor agility likely experience:

• Don’t change direction when they need to.

• Lack creativity and innovation to stay competitive in the market.

• Very rigid and slow in decision making.

• Competition likely to overtake and/or travel down a very different path.

Read on to find out the four key ingredients to being agile…

1. Creativity and innovation

Creativity and innovation go hand in hand and are crucial to a sustainable, successful business. Senior teams must always be at the forefront of developing better, more articulate products and services to beat the competition - but these innovations must also be practical.

Using principles from The Lean Startup by Eric Rise, we teach our clients the importance of quickly changing direction and pivoting in response to external factors and customer feedback when designing a product and/or service. This enables them to stay ahead of the competition and deliver a product and/or service that they know the client/customer needs - not what they think they need.

This helps them avoid the IKEA effect, which is a cognitive bias that if you build it and maintain it, then you’re resistant to changing it - which is detrimental in today’s climate.

2. Flexibility in decision making

In today’s ambitious world, senior teams rarely have all of the detailed information required in order to make a sound decision, nor the time to wait for it. This means that they have to take risk in their decision making, although ideally, it would be well informed – based on all the information they do have.

With this information a leader and team must also recognise whether or not the path they are on is still the right one: should they continue on or change direction or pivot? These decisions need to be made quickly and timely when they gain clarity.

If team’s fail to do this, they could be travelling down the same track as Blackberry and Nokia did when they failed to innovate with the rise of Apple and the smart phones - let these companies be your warning!

3. Balancing risk and reward

Successful teams will use the information they have to balance the risk and reward of their decisions – from being bold with decisions and taking a stance to being strong enough to retreat and start a new or different path if required.

4. Continuous learning and improvement

The one constant is that the world is continuously changing, so each member of the senior team must always be enhancing their skills and knowledge and applying it where appropriate.

They need to have a radar out to learn new ways of doing things and incorporating them into the team as the world around them changes. This is the only way they’ll stay competitive in their industry.

Spotify has done this really well using the principles of agility. Each team or ‘squad’ is able to use different tools and strategies in order to solve the problems required and perform at their best. If enough of the same tool is used, other squads will also start to use this tool, as it takes them down the path of least resistance.

So how can you increase your senior team’s levels of agility?

The unsatisfactory answer is that it depends - and that’s where our model comes in, as it can diagnose strengths and problem areas, which we then use to create a road map to success!

One of our financial services clients wanted to be more agile, entrepreneurial and willing to take risks. They were a very successfully global company and wanted to help senior leaders shift the culture of the senior teams ready for when VUCA hit the motor industry.

One the things we did with them was host ‘Screw Up Night!’. In order to be more entrepreneurial and innovative, you need to try stuff and not be worried that if you fail you might be fired!

Senior leaders need to be comfortable with failure and the best way to do this, is have them talk about their biggest failures - or screw ups - and the lessons they learnt. For when we fail, we learn well and we learn fast.

At the end of the evening, the senior leaders then voted for the biggest screw up and that leader got a prize!

This evening helped the participants feel more comfortable with their weakness and failures, and enabled them to get used to the fact that failure is okay as long as you learn along the way.

To find out how we can help you increase your team’s performance and success, send an email to Christina.Grieve@ascend.world with the subject ‘Successful Teams Model’.