When the global pandemic first hit, businesses that were able to rapidly respond to shifting market conditions and ways of working weathered the storm, and in some cases, even boosted efficiency and productivity.
The need to be agile isn’t new, though. Agility has always been a market differentiator. In a pre-pandemic world, some of the globe’s biggest brands, including Kodak and Toys R Us, weren’t able to adapt to changing market conditions, prompting spectacular failures that have become case studies for MBAs and business courses.
That said, the current pandemic has accelerated the need for new technologies and ways of working. Being agile has become the new normal – the key is that a business cannot be agile if its people do not have agile mindsets.
New ways of working require new mindsets
According to the 2021 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends, executives identified “the ability of their people to adapt, reskill, and assume new roles” as the top-ranked item to navigate future disruptions, with 72% selecting it as the most important or second most important factor.
41% of executives said that building workforce capability through upskilling, reskilling, and mobility is one of the most essential actions to transform work, but they also believed that only 17% of their workers are very ready to adapt, reskill, and assume new roles.
Here’s the challenge. There is often an assumption that ICT professionals are naturally agile and that IT departments will be at the forefront of change in a business. In reality, the journey toward agile transformation includes a significant shift in organisational culture, specifically workforce attitudes, core company values and mindset, and IT professionals require as much support becoming agile as their colleagues.
3 mindsets that are the foundation of an agile workforce
Begin with a growth mindset
As South African organisational futurist and best-selling author John Sanei teaches us, being agile is as much about learning new things as the ability to unlearn the old. This means it’s important to focus on employee mindsets first. This will determine the pace at which change can take place.
An employee who fosters a growth mindset believes that they can change their abilities, talents, and intelligence. Someone with a fixed mindset, on the other hand, does not believe they can change these attributes.
Consider how this changes the way an employee engages in the workplace. Someone with a growth mindset is not afraid of failure because they want to try new things and grow. They have confidence in their own abilities and are keen learners. Fixed mindset individuals, however, fear failure and avoid challenges. They lack the confidence to show that there may be gaps in their skills or knowledge, and as a result, they do not grow because they don’t actively seek new knowledge.
A robust training programme that supports employee growth and agile thinking is an excellent way to foster a growth mindset. New agile ways of working also require an understanding of agile methodologies.
For example, while most organisations know that they need to work in more agile ways, agile delivery teams are created in isolation of each other. This prevents teams benefiting from shared lessons learnt, engaging with business functions across the organisation, or even understanding why an agile approach is being used.
Torque IT offers an Agile Project Management certification that focuses on developing skills and solutions incrementally, enabling project teams to react effectively to changing requirements, whilst empowering project personnel with new agile ways of working and thinking, and encouraging increased collaboration and ownership.
Foster creative mindsets
According to Deloitte, post-pandemic research has revealed that employees who were given greater responsibility and choice quickly aligned their interests and passions with organisational needs and fulfilled their potential in ways that leaders had not even realised was possible.
In this case, the lesson is simple – if you start with a good pool of talent and then give them the freedom to be creative within the framework of the business’s purpose and values, agility will naturally result. As creative strategist and best-selling author of Strategic Design Thinking: Innovation in Products, Services Experiences and Beyond, Natalie Nixon says, “The opposite of reactive might not be ‘proactive’ but instead ‘creative.’“ In other words, if you want to be agile, you need to foster creativity within your workforce.
Creative minds also tend to be more open to change and the idea that they aren’t always right. They are interested in discovering if there is a better way to do things.
An employees with an open mindset will focus on finding the truth, even if previous assumptions and ways of working are proven wrong in the process. They are comfortable with ambiguity, actively look for new and different perspectives, and view different opinions as opportunities to learn.
This aligns with agility, which requires seeing new and different ideas as opportunities to think and navigate ambiguity more effectively, not as threats to oneself or position.
Boost promotion mindsets
Promotion mindsets are all about winning and gains – they aren’t fearful of what they might lose because their eye is on the prize, not on problems that need to be avoided.
Promotion mindsets navigate change very differently from their peers. They anticipate problems (welcome them even) and are open to exploring risks. They follow a mantra of ‘no pain, no gain’ and do not allow external events to send them off course. They make the necessary changes to stay on purpose.
Improving mindsets within your workforce
If your employees’ mindsets resist change, you will not be able to promote and develop agility. Even worse, survival instincts may kick in, and your workforce will actively reject changes and fall back to old ways of thinking and working.
The challenges of Covid-19 have given organisations an unparalleled opportunity to accelerate digital transformation and develop new, agile ways of working – do not lose this advantage now.
To focus on and improve employee mindsets, organisations must do three things:
Share with employees which mindsets support agility. Before anyone accepts or pursues change, they need to see the value of change for their own lives. Growth, creative and promotion mindsets support businesses – but they result in greater success for employees as well.
Discover each employee’s current mindset together. Don’t assume your employees are conscious of their mindsets. Most people aren’t aware of their mindsets. Work closely to explore the ‘lenses’ that your workforce views the world through.
Identify which mindsets should be developed. Identifying current mindsets and choosing which mindsets should be developed empowers employees to focus on learning and improvement – even if there are bumps along the way. Remember, once people become conscious of the fact that their vision is negatively impacted by the glasses they are wearing, all they need to do is take them off and replace them with better – and newer – ones.
If you want to develop a truly agile workforce in your organisation to face external market demands better, focus on and develop the foundational drivers of agility: growth, foster, and promotion mindsets.
By: David Steyn – Head of Solutions for Paracon