The time of rethinking how we work has finally come.
The undeniable uncertainty of what will be post-COVID, of the long-term impact is still unsettling. One thing is certain though, the pre-pandemic way of working was in fact not working.
It’s dishearting to see that as human species we need to be forced into something as dramatic as the current pandemic to change. It wasn’t enough to have all the necessary signs and data that were proving us wrong. Seeing that the career ladder winners were in reality not winning. Long commute to work, unsustainable carbon footprint, wear & tear, too little time with family, stress and a long list of mental health issues that have worn us down but not been enough to motivate and drive a substantial innovation in the way we work.
Now we are forced to take part to a mass experiment where we are all asked to quickly respond and adapt to the new norms of home-working, lack of physical connectivity, isolation and uncertainty.
I’m optimistic that this will give us the chance to rethink the norms and for organizations to introduce a post-pandemic way of working that is more human.
In the meantime, I’d like to reflect on how agility, resilience & purpose can drive companies beyond survival mode and what tools can be immediately utilized.
1) Two-speed organisation.
“If the rate of change on the outside is greater than the rate of change on the inside, the end is near”, Jack Welch.
While start-up and SME have low level of complexity, hence generally good at responding quickly to change, big oganisations are constricted in their ‘mastodon specimen‘ way of working and are anything but agile. Enough to think about a budgeting process that works on quarterly or annual basis. Or performance evaluations which are typically run on yearly basis and post-mortem. The clock used by those organizations rarely mirrors the one of the market and consumers who are always-ready.
Considering that not everything can, or should, all of a sudden be transformed, how can an organization quickly add mechanisms to accelerate the reactiveness to the market?
The answer lays into adding a new gear to the system. A gear that consents a company or part of it, to drive at a different pace…a much faster and agile one, for that matter, where decisions-at-speed become a reality.
This can be accomplished in different ways, either with part of the business housed in separate units which act accordingly to more fluid and free systems. Or with a C-Suite Taskforce system within the existing structure. In the latter however, the team needs to be given authority of decision in order to act quickly. From my experience those taskforces work when they are kept within a restricted core team. Avoid by all means involving too many managers who are not directly involved in the implementation. Everyone will have their say and the process will be slowed down once again. Taskforce accountability means decisions are made by the people closest to the action. The team owns the issue and its outcome.
The objective of those taskforces is to be quick and in line with the gear of the market – not the one of the organization.
2) Finding meaning to build resilience.
“Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how'.” Viktor Frankl.
In his book “Man’s search for meaning”, written after he had survived life in four different WWII concentration camps, including Auschwitz, Viktor Frankl urges readers to understand the impact of purpose – the reason-why - on human existence.
“In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.”
For an organization, purpose is defined by the reason for being beyond profit that guide its growth and societal impact. For long a concept often confined as something that interests only marketers and brand aficionados, and that in some cases considered to even have an antagonist effect on profit. However, it has been widely proven that companies with a strong purpose are the ones that stay afloat and rebound much faster in difficult times.
“A purpose-driven approach facilitates growth in new ecosystems, it allows companies to broaden their mission, create a holistic value proposition, and deliver lifetime benefits to customers”, HBR.
Hence it’s pivotal in unifying the organisation during dramatic change and transformation. Purpose helps employees to understand the reasons behind new directions and be less unsettled in the face of dramatic change.
Purpose should not just be a brand strategy exercise, limited to fancy presentations and office posters but moved to the core of any organization. Purpose is meant to drive strategies and actions of any company which wants to be resilient in the times of crisis and stay relevant in a fast-changing world.
Let purpose be the guide.
3) Real-time responsiveness for new expressions of connections
Charles Darwin said: “It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.”
When there is no sense of the overall system and we are quickly asked to adapt to new-ways of working, silos can automatically mushroom across organisations.
Real-time responsiveness can drive more cohesiveness across team members and informed decision-making. This goes beyond having access to real-time intelligence and more about giving the conditions to teams to respond fast to change.
We can have all the real-time intelligence and data available, yet if the team is not strongly integrated, horizontally-managed and engaged into intelligence-sharing the outcome will highly likely be suboptimal.
In rigid organizations things tend to be top-down and done through fixed processes. Generally employees at the bottom of the pyramid may have no understanding of the bigger picture and hence not fully enabled to effectively deal with situations as they arrive.
Examples of real-time responsiveness are cross-functional agile teams and real-time feedback systems. In the case of the former, those teams have quick regular stand-up meetings, they rarely relay on emails for communication, use group chats, utilize easy-to access workflow showing who is working on what and where the priorities are.
Every new connection driven by the desire to collaborate cross-functionally can be a new expression of the real-time responsiveness that today environment requires.
Now we have an opportunity to innovate how we lead. We can come out of this mass experiment in a better, more meaningful, sustainable, agile and resilient way than how we got into it.
Words By : Francesca Ciaudano, A marketing Strategist and Chief Resource Curator and a Conscious Leadership Advocate at Ciaudano
Imiges By : Unsplash.com