High-performance organizations, in today’s jargon are agile organizations. Organizations that not just survive but flourish in a volatile world while tackling the challenges that come with disruptive technological advancements. High-performance companies are those that have made agility a conscious and continuous resolution. For organizations to not just keep up with the newest market disruptor but leapfrog their way to exponential growth, it is important to be nimble and innovation hungry.
The market has seen a number of exemplary failures of strategy and focus in organizations that once ruled the roost like Blackberry, Nokia, Yahoo and Kodak. At their root, these were failures of leaders who could not guide the organization towards alacrity and innovation.
Dale Carnegie’s survey on agility takes a detailed look at what it takes to be agile in a rapidly changing business environment. The survey lays down the key pillars in building an agile foundation.
Enable empowered people with a common goal
A company can only be as agile as its workforce. And an individual can only be as flexible as he is empowered to be. For high-performance organizations, it is essential that empowerment is a goal, right down to the individual level. These empowered employees need to be steered towards a broader goal that enables overall agility.
According to the Dale Carnegie survey, a clear focus on creating value for the customer provides a true north for everyone in the organization and supports agility in several ways. When disagreements arise over strategy and tactics, a shared commitment to delivering on the organization’s purpose can help keep people in dialogue, working together toward a solution. When competing priorities threaten to complicate the decision-making process, a customer-centred purpose provides people with a reliable way to assess their relative importance, make trade-off decisions and then explain those decisions to others with confidence.
Be risk ready
Agility requires accepting a certain level of risk. Resilience, therefore, is essential.
Organizations must willingly accept a certain level of risk that comes with empowering employees to act without waiting for every last option to be fully vetted. High-performance organizations are those that can make speedy decisions and trust their employees to implement them successfully.
Promoting positivity in a corporate world might seem utopic to many people. But what most don’t realize is that positivity is not an intangible attribute that is driven by individual emotions, it is in fact an attainable culture that can be embedded in the DNA of a company. High-performance organizations don’t dwell on their failures. Instead, they profit from it by treating them as valuable lessons. Organizations can develop an environment that minimizes the fear of failure by creating a positive corporate culture that supports risk-taking and makes it okay to fail. Leaders can start by admitting their own mistakes — and they shouldn’t be quick to blame others.
Artificial intelligence is making headlines and changing the way people live and work, but experts suggest that how well analytical techniques scale up in reality will depend heavily on the quality of a company’s human skills and capabilities, including social intelligence. Dale Carnegie’s survey asked respondents which skills they feel will be needed to stay competitive as artificial intelligence and automation become more widespread in the workplace. More than 7 in 10 chose soft skills over hard (STEM) skills. Social Intelligence is key to building a high-performance culture that promotes collaboration, innovation and effective communication.
Effective tools and processes
It is truly said by someone that information is the most valuable commodity in today’s world. High-performance organizations gather quality data through interactions with employees and customers to generate insights. They also work on removing obstacles to speed and productivity. According to the Dale Carnegie survey on agility, agile organizations view customers and employees as integral to the value creation process; they’re the people who have ideas that can help innovate to improve products and experiences. Whether a firm’s data collection process is technologically sophisticated or not is less important than their asking the right questions, facilitating meaningful interactions with employees and customers, and analysing feedback and data promptly to turn it into insights that can be acted upon.
Enhance the capacity for action
When insights emerge, information-sharing is critical. The speed and efficiency with which information is shared decides the ability of an organization to thrive in a VUCA world. Involving employees in initiating ideas for change is key for agility; those who are closest to the needs of customers are in the best position to identify problems and generate solutions. What’s more, employees who have a hand in ideating the change from the beginning will be instant advocates. Communicate the need for change in a way that connects it to the organization’s purpose, appeals to employees’ motives, makes the change objective clear and creates accountability. Since success depends on trust in leadership, it’s important to note that creating and maintaining trust in senior leadership is a challenge in many organizations.
A learning culture
Learning and development is a key driver of agility in an organization. In fact, studies show that organizations that have managed to trickle down a culture of learning are ones that have outperformed their competitors. The Dale Carnegie Survey showed that 68% of respondents feel that getting additional training would be very or extremely important to avoid losing their job, given advancements in AI in the workplace. In fact 64% respondents said that they are looking to their employer to provide on the job training. It has become extremely essential for high-performance organizations to provide learning opportunities that prepare the workforce for the future of work. Alongwith that,a crucial differentiator that sets high-performance organizations apart is that they have embraced a culture of continuous performance review. This helps them reconcile easily with change and even failure for that matter.
Shifting from individual leaders to leadership teams
High-performance organizations are slowly moving away from top-down hierarchies to leadership teams full of well trained and empowered employees that are given the resources and tools to make decisions and execute. Peer networks also help in being proactive towards change and implementing new projects efficiently. This requires organizations to work towards instilling leadership skills in employees across the board.
High-performance organizations require an attitude of openness to new information and learning, positivity toward change, and confidence in an empowered workforce. Agility thrives in an environment of trust and psychological safety, where people are engaged and connected to a customer-centered purpose. And it requires an effective set of tools, processes, creative and social intelligence, and competent change in leadership.