Tag: Organisational Design

Capability Development and The Future of Work

Building Progressive Capabilities to Support New Business Models

Can you imagine the experience of staying in a fully automated and robot-serviced hotel? Driverless cars? ‘Remote’ surgeries across continents? We soon could be as forecast in a recent report from PwC: The future of work – A journey until 2022. The disruption of our future work patterns, practices and places is everywhere at the moment and is set to be one of the most significant areas of change over the next five years. This leads squarely into the need to look for new innovations and, specifically, the range of capabilities required in order to remain relevant and optimise those innovations.

Fourth Industrial Revolution

Organisations are seeking new business models to evolve to in order to build opportunity in a challenging environment; in itself an opportunity for major innovation, this is also driving an imperative for capability development. It has been forecast that 65% of the jobs our primary age children will be doing have not yet been created. The World Economic Forum’s Jobs of the Future report referred to a Fourth Industrial Revolution, predicting a potential net loss of 5.1 million jobs -largely from the office and administrative job functions – with gains in computer and mathematical; and architecture and engineering related fields. Coupled with changes in the way that work is undertaken, such as increasing flexibility, the rise of freelance workers and ongoing globalisation within emerging markets, capability development is a major differential in organisational competitiveness.

Important Tips on Capability Development

As many businesses are embarking on a major journey of change that is focused on building progressive capabilities to support innovations and new business models, the following tips are important:

  • Language is critical in capability development. We need to speak a positive language which builds skills and capabilities, and breeds a positive mindset linked to the vision, values and leadership behaviours that form part of the high-performance culture;
  • One size does not fit all; there is always a need to shape and adapt capabilities for an organisation, whether it be in defining them or building learning and development plans around them. Off-the-shelf programs rarely cut it, customised and ‘fit for purpose’ capability development is required to embrace opportunities;
  • Ensure clarity of communication; capability development is about supporting the growth of culture, a mindset of change and providing relevant learning opportunities. Address the ‘why’ we are doing it first and then the ‘what’s in it for me question;
  • Align to HR strategy; ensure that capability development underpins the strategic drivers of the business and is embedded across the range of people processes.

In any great hotel, many would agree that the ‘awesome’ in service comes from a blend of finely tuned attention to detail and fantastic experiences. Capability drives this kind of business model and it is hard to imagine robots would replace humans as such; nothing is ever this black and white. However, there is no doubt that a multitude of important factors, including rapid technological advancement, will push organisations to evolve their thinking and approach to future growth. Investment in building the right capabilities to support this evolution is crucial to such innovation and creating a platform for success.

Embrace Ambiguity

Embrace Ambiguity – creating legacy with the agile mindset

This article was previously published in the July 2016 edition of Entrepreneurs and Innovation Magazine (a UK publication) and just in case you missed it, the full article is below; 

‘Change’ is occurring at a pace unprecedented in history.  By example, the Roman Empire essentially used the same military strategy to create its empire over 700 years with little modification, a successful model that had longevity.  By contrast military technology today is changing at lightning speed, it is not that long ago that ‘drone warfare’ entered our vocabulary, the ability of a ‘pilot’ to sit in an office in Arizona and fly missions anywhere in the world.  The next step will be ‘drone warships’, obviating the need to have crewed ships.

‘Change’ is no longer a matter of choice.  If you fail to change you will be left behind.  Amazon is currently developing the capacity to deliver parcels by drone.  The recipient will spread out a receiving mat in the backyard and the drone will land and leave the parcel.  Is the courier industry contemplating this development with their fleets of vans?  It is easy for an industry to miss the wave, who goes to a video store any more?  Movies are delivered to you, streamed over the Internet.

No industry is immune to ‘change’.  In fact ‘change’ is probably a wrong descriptor, it sends the message that this is a momentous exercise that once completed will provide breathing space till the next ‘change’.  An unnecessary impost imposed by a new management regime to make its mark.  Preferable sets of descriptors to ‘change’ are ‘evolve, adapt and mitigate’ with ‘agility’.  ‘Evolve’ indicates you have read the winds and your business is at the cutting edge, leading the pack.  ‘Adapt’ is reading the metadata to tell you what is likely to happen, not what is happening, making sure you do not get left behind by the evolutionary businesses.  If a company is reading the traditional ‘measures of performance’ it is probably at risk of missing the next adaptation.  ‘Mitigation’ is something you want to avoid; it means you are peddling hard because you missed the wave to ‘evolve and adapt’ – you lacked ‘agility’.

To ‘evolve and adapt’ is a 24/7 event; it requires an organisation to be ‘agile’.  Everyone in the organisation needs to be ‘agile’, not just those defined as managers.  This universal requirement reflects the one critical change from the 20th to the 21st Centuries.  ‘Knowledge and information’ in the 20th Century were largely controlled by a limited number of people.  Teachers, for example, were ‘knowledge and information experts’, a position attained by their education, experience and what they had read in books; there was a ‘monopoly’ on knowledge and information and its dispersal.  Now there is no limit or control on the access to knowledge and information, it is no longer a monopoly or a ‘top down process’.  The Internet potentially make everyone an ‘expert’.  Managers should no longer be appointed on what they know, it should be on their agility to consume and interpret new information and reformat it to define how the organisation needs to evolve or adapt.

The term ‘disruptive industries’ has entered our vocabulary.  Essentially people thinking with ‘agility’ outside the box to deliver an old service in a new way.  Disruption is really just evolution, turn an industry on its head and become a monopoly supplier is a smart strategy to making significant revenue quickly.  Why enter a business sector and mirror the way it currently operates, taking the small, start up margin you can eke out while you establish your business?  Shooting to undermine the margins of your competitors by a new way of operating makes more sense, agility at its best.

Established businesses operate with a mindset that the counter to ‘disruptive players’ is to ‘change’.  This is usually an expensive and disruptive process.  It can impact on the ‘bottom line’; the assumption is short-term pain for long-term gain.  Unfortunately most change is premised on what is happening now, or in the immediate future.  ‘Change’ rarely discriminates between previously ‘good and bad practice’; everything goes.   Change is usually based on an embryonic understanding of the future and a large dollop of experience of the past, however, what if the past experience is invalid for the future?  Surely it makes more sense to continuously ‘evolve’ with ‘agility’ as the accepted best practice.  Sequential ‘change’ is a hangover from the 20th Century.

‘Agility’ is an organic process.  It is a mindset that needs to be embedded in the operating style of everyone in an organisation.  It is the only counter to the increasing number of ‘industry disruptors’ and dynamic change.  The key features of this organic and agile process are:

  • It shouldn’t involve expensive, time consuming and disruptive change and restructure
  • It should ensure that everyone is empowered to be an ‘agile contributor’ to the evolution of the organisation
  • It should be non-hierarchical to ensure that a master-servant attitude does not stifle creativity
  • It should encourage networking, knowledge accumulation and sharing – it should encourage self research and the contribution of ideas
  • It should value knowledge, ideas and ‘out of the box’ solutions’ by demonstrable reward
  • It should encourage free thinking and support education
  • It should value ambiguity and uncertainty and celebrate ‘jumping on the next wave’
  • Most of all – it should value ‘agility’ in personal contribution, structure and investment decisions

Importantly the mandating of ‘agility’ to the people in an organisation should not be open slather.  There is ‘good and bad agility’.  ‘Bad agility’ is the actions of rogue traders in the financial market, while making money for their company and themselves it is done unethically.  ‘Good agility’ is framed by ethical standards and clearly enunciated values and principles that are understood and persistently reinforced.

The business world will increasingly become ambiguous – the only solution is to embrace ‘agility’ and to join the team pushing the  ‘evolutionary’ envelope.

Who is your “True North”?

Change2020 works with a variety of industries and many different leaders. Within this diversity, the one thing that resonates as critical for the success of these individual leaders is having either someone or a small number of people who are their True North.

Bill George’s book – Discover your True North: Become an Authentic Leader (2015) – building on his 2007 book (True North) – confirms that authentic leaders are true to themselves and to their beliefs. Authentic leaders are needed for future and this has become the “gold standard”.

A person who is a True North is someone whom the leader trusts explicitly, is able to act authentically with and whom he/she can express vulnerability. They are people who can provide a leader advice, support, guidance and feedback as they manoeuvre through the complexities of the changing and ambiguous business environment – filled with challenges, opportunities and risks.

Every leader needs a True North – no matter how experienced, competent or successful.

As a senior executive, my True North was a person over 10 years my junior. Her name is Monica. Monica understood me as a leader – my motivations, drivers and values. She was courageous enough to tell some home truths or suggest alternatives for me to consider. At times, Monica was just there to listen when I was trying to work through a problem. She didn’t always agree and she told me when she thought I was wrong.

Monica was initially a fellow employee who had a matrixed reporting relationship with me. The trust-based working relationship developed over time as we worked towards the common purpose and achieving business results.

My True North made me a better person, a better leader with better business outcomes.

I gave my True North “permission” to:

  • Tell it like it is
  • Challenge my assumptions
  • Work with me to resolve problems
  • Push me outside your comfort zone
  • Remind me to remain optimistic
  • Get me to think differently
  • Make me laugh when I was starting to take myself too seriously

It is sometimes lonely as a leader and having at least one True North should assist you to be the best version of your authentic self while delivering business results in an environment of continuous change and ambiguity.

Do you have a True North? Or have your identified your True North?

Values-Based Partnering

Shared Values and Trust are Essential For Organisational Transformation

Change is an opportunity not to be feared; a Change2020 mantra.  To seize these opportunities requires individuals to be open-minded, curious and agile,  to respond to new requirements or expectations as they inevitably arise during major transformation. Crucially, this means that trust is a key currency of partnering in change programs to ensure the delivery of outcomes in complex, multi-stakeholder environments. In our experience successful change is also shaped by a context of shared values in order to create an agile approach to organisational transformation.

Organisation and Change Partner

Shared values are a key aspect of the fit between an organisation and change partner. Change partners, like Change2020, create a level of trust that supports a positive and forward-thinking approach, as there is an implied willingness to collaborate in order to undertake the constant analysis and review required during a change program. However, values can become conflicted and lead to unsettlement that is disruptive to the implementation process.  Larger transformational change programs with multi-stakeholder demands and colliding change initiatives increase in complexity and this scenario, in particular, can lead to values conflict. The risk of communication breakdown also increases, leading to a reduction in focus on partnering in change, resulting in an erosion of trust.  A climate of uncertainty can quickly unfold as behaviours are often being demonstrated which are counter-intuitive to shared values, resulting in blockages and barriers to the change program.

Leadership, and specifically change leadership is necessary for preventing blockages and barriers and for keeping real partnership as the priority. Shared values are often about keeping hold of basic principles, such as standing side by side with each other and remaining cognisant of day-to-day realities.

As a change leader you can build your approach to values-based change by:

  • Always knowing what your values are and what you stand for: we are all change leaders;
  • Understanding the values not process or power-underpin your change program;
  • Keeping an open mind and an agile mindset so that you can address ambiguity and uncertainty;
  • Remembering that the specific change program is a moment in time, it is not the absolute conclusion;
  • Considering your behaviours, including your body language and basic manners, when dealing with others; and
  • Communicating, engaging and collaborating as widely as possible– there is no gain in deceptive behaviour.

If change is the one true constant in organisations, today, then ambiguity is the one true certainty underpinning a transformation program.  Shared values drive trust and collaboration and are needed amongst all stakeholders in order to manage fluctuating demands and evolving expectations.  Often the real need for leaders’ is just to keep perspective.  Embrace ambiguity: see change as the opportunity.

The Challenge of Trust

Trust is Essential in Building Better Organisations

Trust is the currency of strong values, successful service delivery and great relationships.  Put simply, we work to build trust and break down barriers in order to transform organisations, teams and individuals. However, when the level of expectation between two parties differs it can lead to an inherent conflict of trust that is difficult to overcome. While this may seem straightforward, the question for leaders’ is: do we really demonstrate trust in our people, despite what we say?

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Engage, Engage, Engage

Establishing and Reinforcing Positive Emotions to a Successful Employee Engagement

If we are witnessing one transformation in the workplace it is the role of engagement as the single most important driver of successful change. Or, put another way, we are understanding the real risks of failing to engage with employees as part of change and the legacy issues that this creates. So why is there often a disconnect between the seemingly simplistic idea of engagement and the reality of workplace change? The answer lies in recognising the decisive role emotions play in employee engagement.

Establishing and reinforcing positive emotions is central to successful employee engagement. It provides a separation from ‘business as usual’ activities in order to reflect and understand the progress of change, with all of the emotive sensitivities that this brings. A leader’s ability to observe cues and responses supports the development of constructive interpersonal relationships.

4 Key Emotions Leading to Engagement

Research demonstrates that emotions are the principal drivers of employee engagement, with a study showing that the engagement level of employees who experience positive emotions is five times higher than those who experience negative emotions. The argument is that leaders should focus on building commitment by building involvement with a focus on interpersonal relationships. In addition to feeling valued the study found that there were four key emotions that lead to engagement:

  • inspired
  • confident
  • empowered
  • enthusiasm

So how can leaders build these emotions in their teams?

Great leaders operate with high levels of emotional intelligence and are equipped with compassion, empathy, and humility in order to place themselves in the shoes of others. They may not have all the answers but support and engage with their teams in spite of ambiguity. They also:

  • put themselves out there, they take the lead to solve problems and tackle issues;
  • build a vision around story-telling, consistent behaviour and an unwavering belief;
  • spend time with the troops, they ask questions, they sit and listen, they are a part of the team;
  • encourage others to take a risk, make a decision, promote an idea; and
  • are real.

All too often change is stifled or fails because of a lack of engagement and is a result of not anticipating the emotional impact of all decisions, even the apparently straightforward. There is a need for constant judgement and refining of the objectives of engagement, rather than assuming people are transitioning in accordance with a plan or timetable.

The challenge as a leader is to prioritise engagement; change is a given, but its success is not. Our experience tells us that this likelihood increases significantly if engagement is at the core of the change strategy.

The Merry-Go-Round of Middle Management

I have a hunch that it is unpopular or perhaps risky to be in a middle management role. When the squeeze is on, the middle layer is often the first to go, and when times are buoyant the accolades and gratitude are aimed at the executive leadership team.

To expand on this point I was recently speaking with a client in the utilities sector and he told me that he is one of 14 direct reports to his manager. “Fourteen!” I exclaimed. He said, “Well it has improved, when I joined he had 21!” I challenged him on this but he was able to take me through the structure role by role and it was clear he was telling the truth. I asked what sort of relationship he had with his leader and he replied “I leave him alone. I am capable and like my autonomy – and he has enough squeaky wheels to deal with!” We then discussed his career ambitions and, while not striving for the top job, he is certainly keen to move beyond his current level. I asked him how he was going to get there – sadly “I have no idea” was the response; “They expect us to be great at our jobs, bring in the projects on time, keep our customers happy and avoid conflict with the subbies – but we are not shown the way in terms of our career path.”

This started me thinking over the challenges of being in middle management. How do you get beyond that level if investment is low? Or what if your role is made redundant and, when you apply for your next role, you are considered still to be middle management as you are yet to perform at senior or executive leadership level?

The phrase ‘war for talent’ has gained much significance during the past 15 years and there has been a tendency to focus on retaining high performers or top executives within this debate. However, recent research has called this into question. In a recent global survey of HR professionals by KPMG 59% of respondents agreed that there was a new war for talent and that war is different than in the past. The research finds that addressing skills shortages is a higher priority now than two years ago – and will become critical in the next two years. It states that skill shortages appear likely to increase as globalisation and competitive pressures take hold across sectors and industries and improving economic conditions spur employees to seek new jobs. Notably the findings reported that there is little evidence that typical ‘war for talent’ practices that focus on high performers actually contribute to improved business performance. Respondents agreed that it was time to turn to new, more holistic strategies for managing talent, with two-thirds of survey saying it is more important to address the talent needs of all employees in the context of the business and its strategy, and just over half agreeing that pursuing high potential talent at the team’s expense puts the business at risk.

In a similar vein to the KPMG research described above, the findings of a 2011 survey by the American Society for Training and Development across 2,000 mid-level managers found that only 11 percent felt well prepared to handle their increased responsibilities and challenges over the next two years.

Much has been written about the challenge of bringing people through the ranks to fulfill executive roles, but these results make it clear that the issue requires deeper analysis of existing views on leadership development. Specifically, at the middle management level has there been enough focused development to instil confidence, belief and ability to be ready for executive roles? I suspect not.

The reality is that it is not so much a question of how much has been invested in development, rather the kind of development that has been provided. Middle managers still need to translate big picture vision into day-to-day practice, so how much has been done to build strategic capability? Equally, has there been a transition from a focus on the execution of middle management responsibilities towards building leadership capability? Leadership is central to all levels of an organisation – it is necessary to embed authenticity and a sense of connection to the overall purpose of a business amongst all those who influence and inspire people.

It has been reported that up to 80 percent of future leaders will come from within organisations. Whilst research suggests a more holistic approach to talent management is needed, there is clearly a question over how this translates to the experiences of middle managers in the current climate – a period of time where building business capability is crucially dependent on the quality of people, especially at this level. To cite the often quoted phrase, what happens if we invest in our people and they leave? Well, what happens if we don’t and they stay?

Here are some other critical reasons for investing in and retaining middle management:

  • They are your successors;
  • They are often the ones with first hand relationships with team members;
  • They have a high level of intellectual property which is often hard to replace;
  • Retaining and developing talent is a lot cheaper than recruiting new and untested talent;
  • Business is becoming more complex, especially in relation to communication and information flow – middle managers have firsthand experience of the impact on employees and how to get key messages across;
  • The are the gateway between strategy and execution: the middle ‘makes it happen’;
  • They are connectors for the culture and translate the vision and values of a business every day;
  • Leadership is required at all times, both good and bad, so there is a need to have a back up to support executives when required;
  • They have ideally had the chance to ‘act up’ and can respond well in a crisis or when unexpected events occur;
  • People are more likely to want to perform when there is investment and recognition; and
  • Loyalty yields results.

As businesses begin to move into a recovery phase the issue of the new war for talent is a key priority. Channel your investment in development across the spectrum of leadership and ensure that all those with accountability for people have the level of mental preparedness and insight that is necessary to provide authentic, practical and motivational guidance. Middle managers are the gateway to delivering strategy and their ability to both understand this journey, and be ready for the step up when ready, is a crucial success factor for long-term business sustainability.