AMA
Playbook

Using Agile Leadership to Increase Employee Productivity

October 24, 2017

Employee productivity

We have never lived in a more complex time. As technology, globalization, and the collapse of time add new elements to the productivity equation, every organization must create a more streamlined and results-oriented culture to increase employee productivity, remain competitive, and meet the demands of our 24/7 economy.

The AMA seminar Leading Disruptive Change and Innovation explains that when complexity is combined with disruption in any industry, companies find that doing a few things really well is not enough to gain and keep a competitive advantage. Instead, they must become good at learning to continually do new things. Complexity involves situations where there are unknown unknowns and where the patterns in the landscape and relationships are not obvious and based on cause and effect.

A results-oriented work environment

Agile leaders are keenly aware that external forces beyond their control are impacting the workplace. Companies that have not woven flexibility and the ability to pivot into the fabric of how they do things will fail to create a results-oriented work environment and soon cease to exist. Adaptable organizations do the following:

  • Read the signs in the environment and act on those signals
  • Experiment with different possibilities and test for customer preferences and responses
  • Extend influence to suppliers and customers
  • Mobilize effectively by moving decision making across smaller and local units that can try things quickly and get rapid feedback
  • Use simpler and common methods of understanding and operating across all levels

Agile leaders create adaptable teams. They look for individuals who have the experience to help support an adaptable organizational culture. You want people on your team who:

  • Have previously managed/worked in situations with high degrees of uncertainty
  • Were previously successful in generating knowledge from the unknown
  • Are comfortable experimenting to discover unanticipated demand for a product or service
  • Know how to pull together a team with complementary skills for on a project specific basis
  • Created workarounds in a rigid super-structure to get the right things done quickly
  • Went forward based on a hunch or sense of the “right” general direction, rather than facts

While one person will rarely have all of the above experiences, in combination team members generally cover most of them and consistently show results.

Organizational culture and leadership

In a disruptive world, the leader’s mindset includes behaviors that demonstrate courage, a willingness and ability to change, and risk taking. Start moving your team in the direction of agility and adaptability by thinking differently and behaving like a disruptor:

  • Question the status quo
  • Observe customers, companies, design
  • Experiment!
  • Seek new knowledge
  • Connect the dots

The mindset you bring to change will shape your overall experience in driving an organizational culture that can produce results in a disruptive world.

When you’re working on challenging, exciting possibilities for the future, the long hours and lack of resources feel less onerous. But don’t forget about self-care: Sleep, healthy eating, exercise, and generative renewal practices will reduce stress. Also, you can spread the work and foster engagement, team learning, and support by discussing challenges with others, practicing collaboration, and sharing progress from experiments.

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About The Author

Nicole Morgenstern is a learning solutions and alliance manager at American Management Association. Prior to joining AMA, she spent several years in international development and education with the Institute of International Education, International Organization for Migration, and Department of State.

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