Mindset, meditation and mettle: nurturing Agile teams

We are witnessing the next stage of the Agile evolution ­– from being a mechanism to deliver software to a much broader digital business enabler and tool for facilitating cultural and behavioural change.

The basic premise of business agility is to create an organisation that is flexible and able to respond rapidly to change and then adapt, all while delivering value to the business and customers. For individuals, it is about becoming more resilient, adaptable and courageous. The business agility model is based on the development of five key attributes:

Key Traits for Building Sustainable Business Agility

Key Traits for Building Sustainable Business Agility, click image to expand

Organisations are looking to embark on digital transformation, enhance the user experience, bring together ad hoc technology processes, improve capabilities, build a more cohesive team and change mindsets. Business agility is proving to be an important stepping-stone on that journey.

So how do you start ? It is a lot to do with changing the mindset which can make a huge impact on an organisation “becoming agile.”

Mindset: Innovation is not just for technology

We still see organisations today operating in a manner that reflects the hierarchical management systems of 100 years ago. No wonder organisations such as Netflix, Google and Atlassian are envied; they have eroded traditional barriers, discarded conventional management text books, and are operating in an innovative environment that best suits their own needs. Many companies know that they need to change in order to compete, but don’t know how to get there or, more importantly, how to get their teams on board to change. Operating more efficiently and effectively is only part of the equation. Management needs delivery mechanisms to change the culture and behaviours of the team.

We believe in both a coaching and consulting approach to embed new ways of working across teams. Educating teams on Lean Change, and having access to agile tools and techniques creates an interactive, engaging, collaborative experience. This helps teams to outline their purpose, behaviours and establish their direction.

Meditation: Slow down to speed up

An important part of change is giving individuals time and space to digest it. Business agility advocates kicking off team meetings with 3-5 minutes of mindfulness exercise. At DXC, we have witnessed first-hand how enormously powerful the addition of mindfulness has had on teams.

Participants have not only embraced the practice, but have taken it to the next level. Some teams have started up their own regular mindfulness sessions in the workplace to enhance focus, awareness and performance, and reduce stress. Even the skeptics have found these mindfulness practices extremely beneficial as they provide valuable time to recharge. Those who were less inclined to formally “meditate” have found other time-out activities (e.g. exercise, quiet rooms) to help clear the mind and reset. There is mounting evidence that these simple practices enhance focus, productivity and improve mental health.

This is not an overnight process. Ironically, many of us are employed in positions that require us to think. However, giving individuals space to do just that is infrequent and maybe even out of the ordinary. Everyone is so busy that we often do not find time to pause and reflect on personal behaviours. Mindfulness is just one tool that we use in business agility that gives teams permission and time to regularly reflect on their personal behaviours and performance. Granting permission for reflection is not always easy in large organisations, but the benefits associated certainly should make it a common practice in the workplace.

Mettle: Call it as you see it

Continually high performing teams are not going to materialise unless you can build trust and respect.  Honesty is key to building this. The practice of courageous conversations is core to the success of business agility. It allows team members to be candid and honest with each other, and they have agreement to continually refine this skill in a safe and professional way.

This is a common attribute of high performing teams — they act on “critical moments” by having courageous conversations. Finding the mettle to speak up when you are naturally introverted, when a senior team member exhibits undesirable behaviours, or remembering to thank someone for a job well done takes courage and effort as well as coaching and support from management.

One of the most significant results of we have observed is an improved sense of team that developed through having more “real conversations”. At DXC, we have seen more and more courageous conversations occurring closer to the actual critical moment, as well more critical moments being identified. This demonstrates an increased awareness of opportunities to speak up, but also an increased level of empowerment, maturity and honesty amongst team members, driving improved team performance. Poor performance and behaviour is simply not tolerated and it is addressed in the moment in a professional way.

Another surprising side effect flowing on from courageous conversations is the reduced amount of time spent in “meetings.” We have seen, across the board, more meetings cancelled or redirected. We’ve also seen them become more targeted, with direct conversations leading to better meeting outcomes. Experimenting with and improving the efficiency of meetings has resulted in hours of effort saved, improved productivity and better decision making for our clients.

Mature, connected, coherent teams

Research shows that individuals and organisations will move towards sustainable high performance if they continually develop these attributes through practice. The adoption of these practices builds life skills such as resilience, adaptability, courage, trust, and nimbleness that will hold the individuals in good stead for the remainder of their careers. All the while, it brings the organisation an evolutionary culture of continual incremental improvement and performance that is behaviour driven.

Our client, Sarah Rose (Delivery Lead, Agile Transformation) stated after embarking on the business agility journey with DXC that “Our delivery now, compared to what it was a few months ago, is far superior. We even had a team achieve 100 percent delivery against their objectives for the first time. I certainly feel the team is now willing to have those honest conversations they need to have. Overall, our team is far more homogeneous and connected than ever before.”


Paul Jenkinson

Paul Jenkinson is a digital business transformation executive and innovative thought leader. His specialities include; business agility, lean change, management 3.0, open space agility, solution focussed coaching and executive leadership development. Paul is collaborative, engaging, transparent, honest, emotionally aware, diligent and articulate professional; who thrives on assisting individuals and organisations fulfil potential and realise objectives with sustainable integrity.

RELATED LINKS

The Age of Agile

What is Lean IT? – A new focus on old ways

Lean Change: A unique approach to managing change at speed

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