With the business environment becoming more and more complex, volatile and unpredictable, more and more businesses are implementing broad organizational changes that include transitioning from traditional forms of hierarchy to more flexible ones, based on networks of autonomous, polymorphous groups.
n today’s demanding business environment, the team is the basic “structural” element since the complexity of today’s business problems and projects excludes assignments to individuals functioning independently. The basic concept of flexibility is that those who do the work are best suited to decide how this is going to be organized and executed. Teams are planned in such a way so as not to depend on other individuals or groups and in order to have all the necessary means, capabilities and knowledge to implement the project they have been assigned with.
Soft skills contribute to the creation of agile human capital and a culture of continuous learning and improvement
Teams operate autonomously by applying agile practices (e.g. story mapping, sprints, standups, retrospectives, short iterations), while team leaders do not have the role of the traditional manager or supervisor (for instance, they are not responsible for the assessment of team members, although they contribute to the process by providing related feedback) and their main responsibility is the creation and preservation of a team environment where members feel safe to undertake initiatives, cooperate and become inspired by the team’s purpose. Their role is not to decide but to ensure that all opinions are heard and that their teams make decisions that support the company’s objectives and strategy.
Similarly, the role of senior executives is not to define the content of the teams’ work but to create an appropriate work environment and to communicate with the teams constantly to ensure that their members understand how their goals are linked to the company’s strategy and the challenges it is facing. Thus, senior executives can inspire employees by providing meaning and direction to their everyday efforts.
The new roles of employees and executives are a big challenge encountered during every effort towards agile transformation. A company’s senior executives may doubt new management practices or be unable to give up control to the teams, or employees may be hesitant or not qualified enough to take over that control. This means that, besides the need for digital skills and knowledge, which have received a lot of attention, companies should place similar emphasis on skills related to shared leadership, management, team dynamics, communication, cooperation, counseling, guidance, developing initiatives, continuous learning, creativity, and resilience in uncertainty. For example, an employee possessing great skill in new technologies but lacking the necessary team and communication skills is more likely to cause significant problems to a team’s operation instead of contributing positively to the successful completion of its work. Similarly, a leader possessing great experience and knowledge of the business environment maybe become an insurmountable obstacle to the empowerment of the company’s teams unless he or she embraces the principles of shared leadership. In fact, a lot of companies place greater emphasis on these soft skills, since requirements in technical skills cannot be predicted in the long term, whereas soft skills contribute to the creation of agile human capital and a culture of continuous learning and improvement.