Agility and interdepartmental cooperation… legitimate demand or modern fantasy?

Agility and interdepartmental cooperation… legitimate demand or modern fantasy?

In an increasingly competitive world, modern companies need to be more agile to adapt ever quicker to a fast and demanding world. In the same way, in an increasingly collaborative world, large organisations now also need more flexible and more open profiles, capable of interdepartmental relationships when working on projects. All the recent management discourse thus tends to converge towards a single, horizontal and shared alternative model.

There is a problem and key question regarding the motivations of the employees concerned… are they really in phase with these new needs?

At PerformanSe, we administer over 200,000 motivation questionnaires per year among employees in very different positions, sectors, age groups and levels. This year we had just wanted to compile and analyse the responses that we had obtained, based on our own model designed around 9 pre-defined motivation types. However, whatever the age, gender, level of studies and year of taking the questionnaire, the results are generally very consistent. The top three motivations are systematically Achievement, Organisation and Autonomy meaning wanting clear personal achievements, needing a precise framework and wanting a certain amount of freedom to be able to develop. Similarly, the motivations that almost always come bottom of the list include Belonging and, above all, Altruism. In other words, a deep sense of a collective identity and service to others.

Whatever you think of it, the natural motivations for today’s employees – and age is not a factor – are therefore not well suited to the suggested changes. An agile and interdepartmental structure does not actually satisfy the need for clear personal achievements at all which is the first key motivation. In the same way, systematic sharing of responsibilities on an increasingly horizontal basis does not support the need for clear autonomy within a structured organisation. Hence the discrepancy… which very clearly explains – at least partially – the difficulties that organisations face when migrating to more flexible and more open systems.

‘We need to forget that nothing will get done without the men and women who do it.’


So what can be done? Northern European countries, who often have very effective job protection plans and are very organised and show solidarity, could maybe show us the path to follow. How? With small autonomous teams with well-defined missions, in clear structures organised around a very strong sense of work well done and customer service, in this way giving clear value to everyone’s efforts. There cannot be collective agility without willingness for personal flexibility. There also cannot be close collaboration between departments without real solidarity or pleasure of developing together. However, nobody has ever been motivated by interdepartmental cooperation in itself, nor respect of the process, nor the incantation of agility, nor the spectre of the competition…

We need to forget that nothing will get done without the men and women who do it. Otherwise we risk not getting very far, whatever the quality of our intentions and significance of the environment. The motivation of our teams today is not an option actually. It is not the cherry on the cake of effective management. It is the one and only lever that we really have to create feelings and results. This motivation does not belong to us however, it is theirs first and foremost. It is up to us to understand it and respect it…

Nadia Nardonnet, Managing Director, PerformanSe



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