It’s a complex world we live in, and to succeed, companies need to change how they operate to deal with that complexity. Why do some companies perform better than others in their industry – and not just a few percent better, orders of magnitude better? These two seemingly unrelated challenges formed the crux of December’s Leaders in Tech | Berlin event. Csaba Tamas of AWS told his story of learning how to become a better leader and understanding how to motivate and align technology teams in startups, traditionally-organised companies, and other structures. A select group of technology managers and leaders joined in for the talk and discussion in the elegant offices of blueReport (by Cognita) in Berlin on the border of Mitte and Wedding neighbourhoods.
Csaba Tamas describes himself as a culture geek, and his talk and presentation reflected his deep passion and obsession with organisational culture, leadership, and performance. In addition to sharing real stories from his career working in traditional companies, startups, and at Amazon, he also matched these experiences with insightful theoretical models and frameworks, along with book recommendations for those who wanted to learn more.
Cultural ingredients of high performance, innovative teams
Csaba Tamas started off by posing the question of how to achieve high performance in a world that is volatile, uncertain, full of complexity and ambiguity. While these descriptors don’t seem to be conducive to the development of effective and innovative companies, there are companies with “performance enhancing” cultures who succeed both on technical as well as business measures. The defining characteristics of these highly effective and innovative companies are
Once these are in place, the momentum that builds over time thanks to the business and performance cultures in these organisations results in long-term success and continuing relevance in the modern world. As Csaba says, companies need to “create an environment of trust where failure is an option.”
Here are some of the most concepts covered in Tamas’ talk:
Jim Collins’ Flywheel effect, a concept about cumulative effort and building momentum. Find out more about it here.
Organisational vector theory, as explained by Elon Musk, shows the importance of alignment in achieving team and organisation goals. Read more about it in this article.
Douglas McGregor’s description of two types of management mindsets: Theory X vs Y. Wikipedia
When Two plus two equals ten: group culture, illustrated through Peter Skillman’s experiment with kindergartners and business school students by Daniel Coyle in Culture Code
Daniel Pink’s motivation 2.0, which pinpoints autonomy, purpose, and mastery as the essential ingredients to motivating teams.
To see how all these different concepts fit together, you can watch the full video recording of Csaba Tamas’ “Cultural ingredients of high performance, innovative teams” talk
Csaba has shared his slides from his presentation, they’re available here.
Austin Fraser has built a vibrant community around the Leaders in Tech events, convening CTOs, CIOs, VPs, heads of IT and all kinds of leaders in technology. With hand-picked participants and speakers for each event, the conversations around the talks are just as valuable as the talks themselves. Thanks to Austin Fraser and blueReport for a great event!
If you’d like to read more about Csaba Tamas, check out the interview with him on the Austin Fraser blog, “The role of the leader is to suck out the poison from the system.”