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Katie Armstrong: making collaboration culture

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In a period of change and uncertainty, how can you ensure all your team members are happy, engaged and effective? How can you create a culture of success and collaboration? And when is it time for senior management to take a step back, having complete faith and trust in their teams to do the right thing well? Simple, empower people with AMP.

We have used the AMP model (autonomy, mastery and purpose) to create a culture of talent and leadership development that gives our team members enough freedom, guidance and knowledge to do the things they feel are right for the business and its growth, as well as their own personal development.I would love to say that this has been an organic culmination of innovation and cool tech start up mentality – there’s maybe a small element of this – but actually, we’ve fostered this culture over a couple of years and it is an ongoing effort from all levels of management.

A couple of years ago, we underwent an internal restructure as we prepared the business for growth. One of the key challenges we faced in and after this change was a disengaged, demotivated team (with hindsight, the change could have been managed differently). We wanted to make sure that everyone was working towards the same shared goal, felt valued and really wanted the business to succeed. To do this, we needed to surpass the expectations of our customers, and to do this, everyone had to be working harmoniously and effectively together.

The P in AMP stands for purpose. Studies by behavioural psychologists like Dan Pink show that people will naturally be more engaged if the big picture is understood. This allows team members to understand where they can make their contribution and the purpose of action. Our business plan is defined and written by our CEO and senior management team. We then write our own department strategies, sharing both those and the business plan with our teams who write their own objectives in line with the department and wider business goals. Everyone likes to be in charge of their own destiny and the freedom to define your own objectives, we have found, really motivates people.

All strategic documentation is shared internally in the spirit of sharing the knowledge and this allows teams to understand what other departments are working towards – we have found this boosts collaboration and cohesion. As an aside note, our business could not function without our social collaboration platform. This platform provides a virtual workspace for groups, departments, projects, document repository, link sharing etc. and I’ve never worked in an organisation that doesn’t have a social collaboration tool so really cannot imagine life without it.

Of course, people need support in meeting their objectives and a 121 framework works well for us. A monthly, in-depth check in with line managers and team members to understand what they’ve achieved, what’s next on the to do list, any training required. This makes appraisal time really easy, enjoyable and productive as you look back over the 12 monthly 121’s. We also use 360 appraisals alongside Insights personality profiling, based on four primary colour energies, to understand how others see you, what your personal learning and communication style is and what your strengths and weaknesses are. I love insights – it’s scarily accurate! I lead with sunshine yellow, closely followed by fiery red! Insights is a great way to understand where the gaps in your team are and how to get the most out of your resource.

We have just come out of another period of change, preparing for our next growth phase, having revisited our strategy at the start of this year. The framework described above is being reinvigorated and management refreshed in training, in line with our structure, to make sure we do not lose the things that are great about brightsolid.

Culture and collaboration are an ongoing, everyday effort that needs to be sold and bought in to internally, a part of my job I love as I believe company culture, customer experience and brand are intrinsically linked. You can’t succeed at one.