Our guest poster, Remi Caron, is the Chief Technology and Innovation Officer at FastTrack Company – a patented product for tracking luggage. 

We live in an increasingly VUCA world (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex & Ambiguous) in which business disruption is becoming the new normal.

For companies to prosper, or simply survive, being able to respond adequately to endogenous and or exogenous shock is more crucial than ever. Scanning your periphery has become a critical aspect of modern business in order to at least predict, and potentially avoid, endogenous shock. Many disruptions could potentially be foreseen before they hit.

According to Intel’s Andy Grove, the pattern of industry change is akin to that of the melting of snow:

“when spring comes, snow melts first at the periphery, because that is where it is most exposed”

By paying attention to information from the periphery an organisation can recognise emerging shifts in the environment. It can also be a source of opportunities, expose the area of strategic attack or a source of strategic blunders. Where is the periphery? One answer is that the periphery is wherever your attention is not!

In my working life, I combine start up work, with gigs for more established businesses wanting to become more digital. I was intrigued about the relationship between business resilience and team agility in a world facing more disruption.  This lead me to investigate what makes the strongest mix – combining elements from established corporates with the agility of small startups (I recently completed my MBA (Business & IT) with my thesis on this topic at Nyenrode Business University).

Resilient teams

In order for organisations to be resilient, they require resilient teams, because such teams are more likely to be productive, creative, and highly functional. Resilient teams are those that are able to recover from setbacks and continue to pursue organisational goals in challenging circumstances.

The concepts of agility and resilience are related, but not the same. Agility implies the ability to change direction quickly, to avoid collisions or identify and seize chances. This demands continuous investments in technology, systems and particularly in people. I am a strong believer and longtime advocate, implementer of agility in teams and companies. I also believe that it is more important to look for and support agile behavior, rather than implementing a specific agile methodology.

Heterogeneity

As part of my research, I looked at whether the influence of team heterogeneity on team resilience is a significant factor. Common wisdom teaches that heterogeneous teams are more resilient (Mastering Turbulence, McCann & Selsky get your copy here) so when building new teams, one of the most important questions managers are confronted with, is whether teams should consist of individuals with heterogeneous personality styles or not. My research focused on how resilient teams could best be build or organised. I wanted to know whether Agile teams are generally more robust. (I gathered data on agile principles and not a specific Agile methodology.)

In my research, I looked at the relationship between team heterogeneity and team resilience on the one hand, and the mediating effect of agile behavior on the other hand. I also looked at the moderating effect of empowering leadership and the effect of learning teams (those who embrace failure and adapt) on the relationship between agile behavior and team resilience. Mckinsey has recently published a great article on how to build an agile organisation.

The results of the study clearly showed that team heterogeneity has a positive influence on team resilience. Team agile behavior also positively influences significantly team resilience.

My research provides empirical support for the assumption that teams in which the individuals vastly differ on the Big Five dimensions personality test (Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism, Introversion and Extroversion) are the most resilient teams. Secondly, I proved that the positive link between team heterogeneity and team resilience (which is supported by my study) functions as a promoter of autonomy within teams.

Conclusion

Finally, the research data provided evidence that heterogeneous teams are much more engaged – the more diverse, the more engaged. If engagement in teams is related to resilience, it follows that engagement is a shared basis for team heterogeneity and team resilience.

The first practical implication is that team diversity must be promoted and implemented in organisations. The contribution of this research is the identification of a positive effect of heterogeneous personalities on team resilience. In fact, the study shows that organisations should build teams that contain people that differ significantly on personalities.

A second one addresses team leads/managers: an empowering leadership style is needed to support the application of agile behaviour by a team. Once the team has accomplished this, the empowering leaderships style has no measurable positive effect. It seems that empowering leadership helps creating agile teams (but is not necessarily required to sustain them).


Remi Caron be speaking at the CIO Benelux Dialogue in May. The CIO Benelux Dialogue will bring together 60 industry leading CIOs, CDOs, Directors of IT and Transformation from across the Benelux region, offering exclusive networking and benchmarking opportunities with both your peers, and industry experts. Find out more.

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