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Unleashing Talent in an Agile Culture: Leading through Trust and Ownership

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This chapter is from the book
No one person can know everything and needs to rely on the talents of others to be successful in a role, on a project, or in the marketplace. With the increasing pace of change, trusting each other—and unleashing talent—is critical.

The Big Ideas

  • In today’s rapidly changing world, we need to unleash the talent of everyone in the organization.
  • The combination of a culture of trust and everyone knowing and owning results is the foundation for innovation and motivation.

Who Moved My World?

Perhaps it has always been this way: Some organizations rise and then fall; others do well, plateau, and then somehow hang around; still others bring it together and then stay for a long time as leaders. However, today these cycles move so much faster. We often joke that the title of the next great business book should be “Good to Great to Gone.”

In our quiet moments we ponder the reasons for this acceleration in hopes of finding ways leaders can help their company succeed.

Certainly the ubiquity of technology drives part of the change. Every aspect of life is now digital: the books and newspapers that some of us still read; the games we play; the way we communicate with each other and our customers—it has been years since we wrote a letter. The work tools are now all digital. We review and approve expense reports from the tiny screens of smartphones—usually while pretending to listen to coworkers during a meeting! A common theme among technology analysts is that the technology part of the marketing budget will soon outgrow the budget of the IT department.

Consider also the ways in which we are incredibly connected. We can collaborate with almost anybody in almost any way at any time. We now pull off major projects with people we never meet in person. The ease and fluidity of collaboration mean that ideas flow much faster and get implemented much faster. All of this has us hurtling onward.

We also think the instant availability of any and all services contributes to the constant dynamic nature of this new normal. There is no need to wait for the things that used to take some time—and thought. If you need a new business application, one exists for you from someone. If you need to create a new application, the development, test, and production environments are just a website and a credit card away.

The net result is constant change at an increasing pace in an environment of incredible uncertainty.

Just a few years ago, a major consumer technology company was declared to be the most innovative company on the face of the earth. Today, the same people who made that claim are saying that the company has lost its way. What happened? A competitor developed a new product that is taking market share away. We suspect this cycle will continue and include other companies that come up with something new and amazing.

With technology everywhere and changing all the time, our jobs, customers, and competitors can change in an instant. In this world of rapid change and ambiguity, what hope do we have of keeping up? What can we possibly do?

We propose that in the midst of this accelerating change, some things become very important.

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