Home Management Performance Management for Agile Organizations: Overthrowing The Eight Management Myths That Hold Businesses Back
Open information, as we discussed in the last chapter of Part II, is concerned with initiating an information channel that encourages and equips employees to perform in proactive ways. There are four strategies to overcome what’s referred to as the initiative paradox. These strategies are goal alignment, boundary refinement, sharing information, and active accountability.
At the other end of the communication spectrum, closed information is based on the misguided belief that employees can’t be trusted with sensitive information. Conservative and risk-adverse managers favor restricted information channels when communicating to employees. This information vacuum, however, is a substantial liability in promoting enterprising behavior.
Agile performance is ignited by timely, relevant, regular, and shared information between managers and employees. This exchange of information is ultimately about ensuring that the employee and their boss have a similar outlook on the direction the enterprise is heading. Clarity of purpose means the employee feels comfortable exercising their initiative; they have a better understanding when and how this can be achieved. Acting in a non-prescriptive and proactive way is a fundamental attribute of agility.
All seven dimensions of agility are enriched when suitable initiative is exercised. The employee who is encouraged and prepared to be enterprising is receptive to new ideas. They’re more open to look for ways of improving systems and processes, solve problems with a degree of creativity, and genuinely respond quickly to the needs of the customer. With communication barriers, the employee understandably sticks to the “official” process or protocol; in short, they play it safe. This compliant employee can then defend their actions and point to “doing things by the book.”
We’ve all been on the receiving end of someone saying in their defense, “I’m simply following the rules and regulations,” when a situation calls for using initiative, much to our frustration. Compliance—rather than creativity—is the safer route, at least in the mind of the employee in these risky situations. This means that when there is uncertainty about displaying initiative, the methods and procedures the business uses takes precedence over achieving business outcomes. Open dialogue and a free exchange of information between the manager and employee can break this dependency on safety and compliance.
Apart from the company, employees benefit too. They’re more engaged, feel confident to be proactive, and are more accountable for their own behavior. These benefits unquestionably increase their intrinsic motivation and enjoyment of their work, and eventually this should benefit their career.
In summary, as I said at the outset of this chapter, cultivating a culture that dramatically reworks the dominant psychological contract is the key to managing ongoing agile performance. I’ve provided you with a framework based on eight shared values of the culture conducive to stimulating agile performance. So the obvious question now is: Where do I start?
The starting point is to evaluate the current organizational culture, using the frameworks in this chapter. Once the culture has been benchmarked, you can then implement some of the strategies I have shared with you in Part II. What you implement first will depend largely on the results of your evaluation and the priorities of the business. Start with one value.
By successfully changing one of the eight values, you’ll simultaneously shift other values. These eight values are integrated. For instance, by flexibly deploying the skills of a workforce (flexible deployment), new skills are required (learning and development). Or, by shifting from a function- based to cross-functional organizing structure (project-based work), this affects non-job roles such as the team role (performance-focus). If you’d like more information on the tool I’ve designed to benchmark organization culture, take a look at one of my previous books—Attracting and Retaining Talent: Becoming an Employer ofChoice,2 or contact me directly.3
At any rate, I wish you well on your journey to managing agile performance.
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