Navigating your organisation’s Vision and Critical Success Factors for change

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As we move in to the next “post-pandemic” phase, following the last 18 months of disruption that we’ve all experienced globally, we’ve been worrying about the question:

“How do you know you’re doing Future of Work (and Business) right?”

Is that from the point of view of society, the organisation, as a leader or an individual worker? Do we mean at a particular point in time, or is there a desired end state? Even before this period of enforced transformation we’ve believed that FoW is a continuing thing, happening now and next, not something you can tick off as “done and dusted”.

Of course it needs to be through all of those different lenses, and we need to have the ingredients, capabilities and characteristics in place so that we are ready for the unexpected. “Doing it right” means being prepared for the next health-, climate-, political- or business-related disruption. Prepared, and ready for agile change – for being in what we call a permanent state of reinvention. The Future of Work outputs cross over and connect with what Bloor Research describes and defines as Mutable Business™. The two concepts interlock, interact and support each other. But are we there yet?

There’s never been a better time to be a worker with special skills or the right education. However, there has never been a worse time to be a worker with ordinary skills and abilities.”

The Second Machine Age, Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee

There is no doubt that automation in its various forms from robots to artificial intelligence is changing employment in the 21st century dramatically. The often cited 2013 Oxford Martin School report by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne “The Future of Employment: How Susceptible Are Jobs to Computerization”, estimated that 47% of jobs are at risk of automation, and has been taken up by the doom-mongers who believe this industrial revolution is different from the previous ones. Will new jobs that we haven’t even imagined yet be created, as the repetitive and complicated but formulaic work shifts out of human hands? Their report talks about tasks in terms of:

  • Perception and Manipulation
  • Creativity
  • Social Intelligence

When brain surgery can be performed by a robot, you might start to think anything is possible. Artificial intelligence and robots might be incredibly efficient and smart at perception and manipulation, but being as creative or as socially intelligent as a human is a long way off. McKinsey suggests that bots, algorithms and machines will do up to 25 percent of the work in the Banking industry, but that should free up employees to focus on higher-value tasks and projects. Glass half full or glass half empty? We don’t know, but we can and must prepare.

Vision

It was ten years ago that Marc Andreessen told us Software is eating the world. Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft amplified that just before the pandemic with:

Every company is a software company. You have to start thinking and operating like a digital company. It’s no longer just about procuring one solution and deploying one. It’s not about one simple software solution. It’s really you yourself thinking of your own future as a digital company.”

That backdrop sets our vision. You yourself thinking of your own future in today’s digital landscape. A positive aspect of the last 18 months is that many people and organisations have realised, in the midst of a crisis, that it really is possible to do things differently. The future of work is going to be achieved by highly flexible, diverse, and inclusive workers. For them to succeed they need an environment that encourages and supports collaboration and continuous learning. For the business to execute it needs to deploy well-chosen technology wisely, with business processes rethought as part of the process, rather than simply automating business as usual processes or a last century approach. The business needs to review its operating model, and keep on reviewing it, in order to adapt to the uncertainty that we are experiencing, with more of it to come.

In today’s global, knowledge-based economy, to support continuous change, our approach to human resources is more important than ever. Suddenly employee well-being is top of mind. We hear CEOs saying that talent management and engagement are things that have been left unsolved and that they are looking for partnership and expertise. A common theme across all organisations is the demand for more tech-savvy people who can adapt and solve problems. Successful companies will pick and choose what they need to outsource and what they need to become expert at themselves. They’ll invest more in learning, training, and development and capitalise on the different needs and strengths of a multi-generational workforce. The future is both challenging and exciting, but as algorithms and learning machines take on the standard, repetitive tasks in the work, our jobs can be freed up for more challenging, interesting things, that energise us and contribute real value, both for ourselves and the organisation. The smart organisations are focussing on creativity, innovation and doing things differently.

Aims

What are we actually trying to achieve? Perhaps, for some people, “success” means cultural or psychological well-being, independent of conventional working norms. Here, though, we are thinking more in terms of being a successful employee or entrepreneur. For business, our objective is a flexible organisation with the ability to rapidly adapt, change its operating model and steer itself in a new direction. We want to build stronger, more technologically competent, more rounded, open thinking professionals out of all our people. We need an organisation where IT isn’t providing the business with a service, but where it is an integral part of the products and services we deliver. We need to be thinking “end-to-end” across the whole organisation, with multidisciplinary teams that have a mix of marketing specialists, product and commercial specialists, user-experience designers, data analysts, security professionals and software engineers. We want an organisation that focuses on solving the customers’ needs and is united by a common purpose and definition of what success is.

Critical Success Factors

For each perspective we started with on the future of work, here are three critical success factors to consider:

For the organisation:

  • Double down on your strategic focus, starting with why you do what you do, communicating your purpose as clearly as possible across the whole organisation.
  • Adopt an agile approach, with cross functional teams instead of departmental silos, continuously reviewing your operating model to adapt to new threats, whether they are new competitors, new technologies, or new external circumstances. Think “adapt or die”.
  • If you haven’t already, flatten your organisation to move from a command and control to a distributed model, that moves decision making closer to where it needs to be, with your empowered employees at the customer interface.

For Leaders and Managers:

  • Adopt an unlimited mindset that engenders a culture of collaboration and experimentation; that allows failure as a learning exercise and as an integral part of problem solving and innovation.
  • Listen and learn – think “you work for them” rather than “they work for you”.
  • Get passionate – it’s the inspirational leaders who have followers rather than co-workers.

For the Individual:

  • Keep learning – the more you develop your knowledge the better, and get tech savvy if you aren’t already.
  • Improve your skills – get better at what you do and focus on improving your soft skills of communication, listening, empathy, problem solving, critical thinking and creative thinking – critical ingredients for future proofing yourself against automation.
  • Get connected – build up your network both personally and professionally, and keep building it.

When you think of the future of work, what do you imagine? Our vision is for organisations that think like a start-up, but at the scale of an enterprise. We see leaders who inspire us with their ideas and clarity of purpose. For each of us as individuals, there is no doubt that the better trained, educated and skilful we are the lower are the chances of us losing our jobs. And, we see the possibility of truly revolutionary futures, including “universal basic income”, and with some people working for the good of society rather than for conventional business success. The future is here now – as an organisation, leader or individual you need to start thinking differently and getting prepared.

If you’d like to discuss how we can help get you prepared for the way work and business is changing, then please click here to arrange a free 30-minute consultation with one of the Bloor Navigator team to walk through our Mutable Self-Assessment.

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