The Keys behind the Culture of Agile High-Performance Organizations

In our mini-series on corporate culture we have been publishing during the last weeks in our blog, let´s discuss today a fundamental question: What is it that makes a company an Agile High-Performance Organization? Of course, applying agile principles and following the HPO Framework of the 5 factors


  1. Quality of Management 
  2. Openness/Action Orientation
  3. Long-Term Orientation
  4. Continuous Improvement/Renewal
  5. Quality of Employees


is a must. Top-down? After all, it´s factor 2 that makes an Agile HPO a true, i. e. a successful Agile HPO: it´s the interaction of management and employees and how they handle outside business transactions. It´s about beliefs and behaviours – it´s about mindset. It´s culture.


“ActioGlobal has conveyed their experience to all levels of our organization with commitment, enthusiasm and perseverance. We had to make a change of Mindset, more digital and far from the habits we had grown into by the time. With ActioGlobal, we have achieved transparency, empowerment and growth of the people who are part of Angelini, improving our alignment and teamwork. We have certainly increased our speed,without losing the rigor and, above all, we have learned to focus on what is important to our customers, increasing our level of ambition.”

Marta Jornet, Angelini Pharma


A look back: Culture – what is it? Per definition, it is formed by the collective behaviours, norms, and beliefs of an organization or group. Short, simple and true. There is a manifold ways of defining culture. After all, we have to understand what culture IS and WHY it is what it is. The momentum of culture is powerful and has to be handled carefully since it´s as fragile as glass and can spoil well-intended change efforts. On the other hand, if done right, it is as hard as steel and sustains progress.


Culture is sometimes treated as some mystical element in an organization with a lot of question marks. The mystery can be solved easily: examine what gets done, how it gets done, and then dig deeper to find WHY it gets done. To identify these three issues, it’s important to make observations or draw conclusions like a scientist: base them on data and evidence. Play the role of an outsider, go and see and ask why to understand. It´s very likely that you will not get an answer on your questions because people just DO, they can’t explain the HOW and the WHY. These habits and attitudes are among the most difficult to influence (and change?). HPO culture is flexible and adapts to what is needed – and often it is precisely change that is needed.


On your way to become a
High-Performance Organization, our playbook will help you keep the right direction.



HPO Culture

As I said before, to some point culture often is kind of a mystery to an organization, an almost invisible element. But there is a clearly visible and above all measurable element in a company for its successful culture: performance. It´s the outcome, the result of what people, teams, leaders, customers achieve together by collaborating, executing projects, innovating, delivering what is needed (sometimes it might also be helpful to pay attention to things the organization DOES NOT do …).


There are 2 parts that disclose the culture of an organization and have an immediate influence on “how the organization REALLY operates” and not how they would like it to:


  1. The visible part: The behaviors, conversations and artifacts that can be observed. 
  2. The “invisible” part: Meaning the purpose and values of the organization that cause these behaviors, conversations and artifacts to take place or be developed.


They cannot be considered separately since their merging creates the culture.

So, actually, what is it that makes the HPO culture work? There are long lists of characteristics to define workplace culture but the valuable items on these lists are focused and obvious in the more than 150 High-Performance Organizations we of ActioGlobal have built in 32 countries all around the world.


Here is a listing of the keys behind the culture of Agile High-Performance Organization.


  • Technical mastery as a basis
  • Continuous iterations to define standards and improve
  • Leaders not being “bossy” but being facilitators, coaches for their people to make them grow
  • Applying tools, systems, AI to enhance capability
  • The Gemba: Leaders and their people meet there regularly to learn – directly and together.
    The best place for problem-solving, too.
  • Sharing data to enable re-application but avoid recurrence
  • Providing different work models, work designs and granting non-monetary perks and benefits to ensure the people´s well-being and unleash their power to experiment and innovate
  • Providing challenging and meaningful work plus the opportunity for growth
  • Making all people understand and share the main transformation purpose as well as the the vision and the strategy of the organization
  • Leaders AND their people both take ownership
  • Decision-making need as sense of urgency
  • Incorporating business mastery in the structure of self-organized, self-sufficient teams
  • Making information accessible for everyone in the organization, being clear and transparent, so that everyone feels involved. This point serves two purposes: people are aware of what is going on and how they can contribute and they feel recognized and accepted as partners.


For the beginning, I will focus on the three main characters in the play:


Teams – Leaders – Communication.


Communication and Information – no secrets, please

People communicate – every minute, everywhere, in a lot of different ways. We are a communications society. A company also has to be a communicative organization, being open, transparent, immediate. Being a living organism, it´s vital to EXchange information, news, knowledge.


Communication means to collect and distribute necessary information. Communication on business matters top-down and vice versa. Inside-out and outside-in with customers and society. It does not make sense to keep secrets.


Moreover, it also has to be an interpersonal communication  – leaders with their teams, teams with other teams, members of a team. Updates on business matters, the status of work, how far has the innovation proceeded, what can be improved and sharing knowledge.


A great tool for communication in a company is involved in the OKR-system: the Daylies, Weeklies … short check-ins to keep everyone on track toward the common purpose. If these communications follow the rhythm of the Drumbeat to make them a routine, just the better.


No excuse: there are a lot of technical possibilities and innovations to ensure a regular communication, no matter whether people work on-site or remotely.

It´s a phygital world.
To get all your people on board – internal and external experts dispersed probably across several countries –
our Agile Phygital Framework is the appropriate instrument. →


Important topics but whe should not forget an important point of communication to make people and the company grow: Feedback by Radical Candor.

Feedback gives you wings but Radical Candor makes you fly. And it is that difficult. It´s not just sit down with a colleague and talk, it is about active listening to understand, it needs preparation, the right situation and place, clarity, openness, what both colleagues tell each other should make them both grow, lead to commitments …. Best you read our article on Radical Candor: High Performance Feedback.

For leaders and teams stay tuned until next week.

We invite you to talk to one of our experts on HPO to discuss your individual requirements.

Have a video call when it suits you best.



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