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Exploring core business competencies for the modern workplace

A common problem with collaboration is that too many participants come together. While an immediate solution to this is often to limit participation, it’s instead better to consider who should really participate in the first place.

Office block in Belgravia, London, UK. Image by Tim Sandle
Office block in Belgravia, London, UK. Image by Tim Sandle

How can workforces be trained to be effective and to gain the skills that businesses need? There are different approaches that can be taken and some business leaders struggle through a lack of real-world case studies.

To find out about one approach, Digital Journal caught up with Xero CTO Mark Rees.

Rees explains how his company adopts a multi-perspective approach: “At Xero, we constantly look at ways to evolve the way we work; embrace radically diverse perspectives and collaborate on problem solving. That’s why we have dedicated coaches and experts focused on continual improvement, which in turn, leverages the creativity and productivity of our people.”

 This means looking at our daily behaviours through the lens of three interrelated competencies. These are:

  • Continual improvement
  • Collaboration
  • Ritual

Rees says any of his employees can bring these to life, however “Xero’s leaders have a special responsibility as these are each leadership competencies.”

As to what these competencies entail, Rees explains:

Continual improvement

According to Rees: “To create space for continual improvement, consideration needs to be given to what can be done differently next time to improve results. In practical terms, this can simply be a matter of asking questions such as: “How exactly do we engage in systematic improvement of our practices?” and “When exactly do we take the time to reflect, gather insights and revise our approaches using those insights?” The process behind this is called reflective practice and it consists of three phases; planning, doing and reflecting i.e. plan actions, do them, and then reflect on how well those actions accomplished their purpose. The reflection phase is critical as it helps to determine exactly how you will apply learned insights to the next round of ‘doing.’ It’s all about getting better at getting better.”

Collaboration

Rees explains: “A common problem with collaboration is that too many participants come together. While an immediate solution to this is often to limit participation, it’s instead better to consider who should really participate in the first place. This should always include genuine stakeholders (or representatives of stakeholder groups) who have a stake in the outcome. When your work impacts people’s lives, you have a responsibility to understand those impacts, from their perspective.

“Another common challenge is finding the best or most appropriate solution in a sea of possible solutions on the table. Before gathering together to produce countless sticky notes, grouping them into themes and then voting on them, the best place to start is by building a list of success criteria. This helps to flip the question from ‘which solutions do we like the best?’ to ‘which ideas best satisfy the criteria we established?’”

Ritual

Rees ends with: “Most organizations are full of rituals, but these rituals are not always mindfully designed and fit for purpose. Like anything we design, work rituals should be based on the goals you are seeking and your strategies for achieving them. The best place to start is by facilitating a retrospective on existing rituals within the team, such as 1:1’s, team meetings, coaching sessions, WIP meetings, stand-up’s etc. Consider your rituals, confirm their purpose and reflect on how well they are serving you. What can you stop or start to improve their value?”

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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