Confirmed: “A Company Can Keep Its Workers Happy while still Being Efficient”
20 de May de 2021
20 de May de 2021
No. Talking about ‘human capital’ isn’t playing to the gallery. Currently, more and more companies are becoming aware of the importance of taking care of the individual over the structure. It’s them, the workers, the ones that can bring their energy and creativity to the company — as long as their initiative is not killed by macro dynamics. A good leader should coordinate and channel those qualities.
Taylorism and the assembly line —famously depicted by a despairing Charles Chaplin in ‘Modern Times’— are long gone. The new technologies, professions and derived businesses demand new strategies and new ways of working — more interconnected, more complex and adapted to uncertainty. In one word: Agile.
With this principle in mind, at the beginning of the new century, 17 thought leaders in the United States laid the foundations for what later became the Agile Manifesto. A corpus of values and principles among which this one stands out: “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools”. This model, born in the software development sector, applies to every organisation. .
Ana Ríos —Head of Staffing / Agile and New Ways of Working Director at CaixaBank— addressed this topic at EAE’s Alumni Webinar: “Agile Methodologies for a New Leadership''. As usual, at Check-EAE, we go through our experts repertoire to do what we do. This time, we contacted Iván Zamarrón, Professor at the Operations and Data Science Department and Director of EAE’s Project Management Programme.
Technology was a landmark in the road towards a change in the production model. Nothing is or will be the same. Together with this —or derived from this—, the internet of things and AI also played their part, as Ana Ríos points out. Companies couldn’t do anything but accept the new stage and adapt to a model that forces them to rethink the place of the workers in the structure. We live interconnected, depending on each other and watching over each other. How could the company remain indifferent to this dynamic?
Ana points out that the taxi business is a clear example of the disruptive power of technology. The arrival of Cabify, Uber, etc. changed the scene in a heartbeat. “Change is permanent and value must be assigned having that in mind”, she adds. The Agile methodology was born amidst these sprouting of ideas — a methodology that “isn’t really new or modern, but that has been around for more than 20 years”. Its core ideas address topics like adaptation, change in leadership, efficient work and joint efforts and they are the foundation for a word that we must become familiar with: Scrum.
Check EAE: This claim has been approved. Iván adds that the Scrum methodology —probably the most widespread Agile methodology— started back in the 80s and was designed by two Japanese under the wing of the Innovation and Lean culture on process quality management. In turn, Scrum is largely based on Deming’s (PDCA Cycle) “Continual Improvement” that was designed in the 60s. “The truth is that the history of Agile is a doctoral thesis on itself. It’s a puzzle… a historic melting pot. Quite rich and complex at the same time”, Iván points out.
These new methodologies aim to boost teamwork — tearing down walls, screens and divisions, bringing the archaic inflexible hierarchisation and the “Modern Times” assembly line to an end. This is what experts, such as Ana, refer to as “Doing Agile”. Through iteration —which is another concept that comes from software development— no one can be left behind. According to Ana, the foundation of “Business Agility” is focused on people: “A company can keep its workers happy while still being efficient”.
Check EAE:Zamarrón approves once again! And he stresses that today’s greatest concern for the Agile community is that “everyone knows that making an Agile organisation is the way to go, but nobody knows how to do it or how to carry it out across the whole company”. Getting it right is key for achieving success.
“Rafa Nadal isn’t anyone’s boss, but he has managed to have an impact on us all”. Through this quote, Ana exemplifies Agile leadership. Even if some roles inside of a company are always kept, managers don’t necessarily need to be the leaders. A leader must be someone who has an impact on the rest of the workers. Being a manager doesn’t involve leadership per se — at least not in the classic, eminently vertical sense to which we’re used to. “If we don’t lose the hard roles —Anna states— we’ll only be changing hierarchy on the surface”.
Check EAE: Double Checked: viewed and verified. Iván strongly agrees with these ideas. He further adds that “the role of the ‘Agile Coach’ is one of the most important focal points in the community”. He defines this figure as the leader of the transformation across the whole company and in all its domains: strategy, culture, organisational model, talent, change, product, etc.
No one is good at everything, but we can all do our bit. Ana describes this dynamic as a constant dialogue —or a ‘skills map’— between skills and roles inside the company: hard skills and soft skills. On the one hand, there are hard skills, which are necessary for leadership. They are those specific skills that make it possible to carry out specific work for which some people are more suitable than others because of training and experience — two things that, in turn, can be acquired through training and education.
Check EAE: Iván approves. He thinks that the skills map is crucial and adds that Agile competencies certification —whether soft or hard— is an obsession of the professionals of the sector: “The trend on professional certifications that cover both sets of skills is a priority when it come to employability”.
On the other hand, there are soft skills. These fall into three categories: First, those which focus on producing value, on staying profitable and on continuing to exist as a company and becoming better. Secondly, interpersonal skills, which address communication, working in a team, being transparent and listening to each other. Finally, intrapersonal skills, which makes for better professionals and people. According to Ana, “empathy is ingrained in us, or else we would have gone extinct as a species”. Everyone has their own soft skills and, just like hard skills, we can work in order to improve them. As for Ana, she encourages us to produce value and to constantly improve — regardless of the role we play.
Check EAE: This statement has EAE’s double check —viewed and verified—. Iván confirms that headhunters are currently more concerned with the development of soft skills like “transparency, adaptation, inspection, courage, commitment, respect, openness or focus”. There’s an increasing interest on learning and the maturation of capacities that foster “self-knowledge, communication, team cohesiveness, constant learning, collective intelligence, generative conversation and team reflection spaces”.
It’s becoming more and more common for companies to understand that old recipes are just that, old. And, just as we live in a socially interconnected world, we must apply iteration concepts to companies, making the sum of talent their fundamental purpose. The “Modern Times” factory, hierarchised, vertical and alienating, has given place to an Agile environment, capable of leading in this new technological context and facing uncertainty with optimism.