Empowered teams: doing the right thing

(instead of doing everything right)
Empowered teams - doing the right thing

What is more important on the job – doing things right or doing the right things? – Most people will probably answer “both”. Nevertheless, in the context of changing corporate cultures, it is worth thinking about this question in its absolute either-or variant. For a long time, companies were primarily concerned with doing things right. To put it simply: Always work through what has been ordered and don’t make any mistakes. In the world we live in today, this approach no longer works very well. In the face of a rapidly changing environment, companies are constantly having to decide what is the right thing to do. Even at the risk of making mistakes.

Stronger in a swarm

To do this, they need teams that can dynamically align their working methods and roles with what needs to be done, using their collective strengths and insights. Because one thing is clear: No one can solve the complex challenges of our time alone. No one, not even the person with the most impressive job title, can always know which path is the right one. This requires the senses, experience, insights and skills of many people.

But what is the best way to bring these to the table?

When we talk about the transformation of companies and the associated cultural change, it is usually about giving more authority and responsibility to individual employees. However, this is only one aspect of team empowerment. Before that, the focus should be on what the individual can and wants to contribute to the team. Employees’ knowledge, talents, skills and competencies do not have the same quality and relevance at all times and for every task. Take “knowledge”, for example. This is considered a valuable skill in the knowledge society. But how valuable is knowledge that cannot be translated into concrete action? Knowledge without knowing how to bring it into the team in a meaningful way is useless for companies.

Banal yet ingenious: measuring preferences and strengths

What companies need today are employees who want to actively shape the world around them with what they are really good at. And who can translate their knowledge and skills into meaningful action in collaboration with others. How well and how quickly transformation takes place. And whether companies manage to change in the long term depends on the skills of each and every individual. And the skills of teams as engines in companies.

For these engines to run well, the individual parts must be anchored in the company with the right tools. We have developed the so-called “Preferred Performance Contributors” (PPCs) as effective tools. PPCs represent a new, innovative approach to team dynamics. In contrast to traditional management tools and personality assessments, which often promote generic roles and stereotypes, they focus on the natural inclinations and individual strengths of team members. They help to identify specific preferences through which employees prefer to contribute best to team success.

We have identified six areas of preference:

  • Vision & Ideation
  • Networking & Promotion
  • Creation & Prototyping
  • Structuring & Facilitation
  • Analysis & Criticism
  • Scaling & Production
The individual PPCs are determined in three ways:
  • Through a self-assessment by the employee: How do I want to contribute?
  • (optional) through peer feedback from colleagues: Where did you perceive me particularly strongly?
  • through an AI-based personality test specially developed by us: From what I know about you, the following preferences are likely.

The AI test uses an algorithm that extracts relevant personality traits from answers to open text questions. And creates an AI-supported prediction of the PPCs.

The result of the analysis is a ranking of the six PPCs for each employee. It is important to emphasize that all contributions are in principle equally valuable. For companies, it is important that they can play out the right preferences in the right combination at the right time.

An example from one of our customers, a large software company: The team wondered why they never managed to meet deadlines. Many products were far from market-ready. Instead, they kept developing new features with great enthusiasm and energy. The analysis finally shed light on the situation. As it showed that the PPCs “Scaling and Production” were not among the top 2 preferences for any of the team members. “Creation & Prototyping”, on the other hand, were strongly favored. This gave the team a basis for rethinking tasks and roles so that they can bring products to market on time in the future.

In principle, employees can meet all preferences, but depending on their personality type, one may suit them more than the other. Intuitively, we probably tend to want to expand our strongest preferences with additional skills and experience. At the same time, it can be exciting (or necessary) to delve into the less obvious areas of preference. Either way, the analysis provides a good basis for discussing individual preferences and strengths with colleagues and positioning the team well for upcoming tasks. A nice side effect: psychological safety and the feedback culture in the team are also strengthened.

World in motion – teams in motion

PPCs empower teams to constantly redistribute roles and responsibilities in order to do the right thing and avoid major mistakes. A reorganization can result, for example, from new external conditions or from changing preferences among the team members themselves. This is because skills and preferences change over time and depending on the phase of life. For example, an employee who has always been a gifted networker in the forefront but suddenly has to care for a relative may want to focus more on providing structure and support in the background. Or they may want to take on a role that perhaps does not match their previous PPCs at first glance. But which they can fill well in their current situation with appropriate further training.

Perhaps the results of the AI analysis (in which desired answers have little chance) will inspire them to look at possible new roles. That they have not yet considered based on their self-assessment and colleague feedback (both of which tend to fall into certain patterns).

The example shows very nicely that PPCs are not fixed attributions. But primarily promote dialog and awareness in teams and ensure that employees do not wither away in their silos, but can become as effective as possible. And that from day one in the company. If new employees are familiar with their preferences and role expectations, they can reach their full potential more quickly. PPCs turn them from pure skill owners into skill users and ultimately – ideally – into drivers of change and transformation, driven by the need to do the right thing. Even at the risk of not always doing everything right. 

A good team can handle that.

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