In the Mutable Business™ framework an organisation maintains a permanent state of reinvention, so that it can survive today’s disruptive business landscape, by adapting its Business approach, its Technology and its People. Your leaders and managers and co-workers are at the heart of the transformation your organisation needs to make to become mutable – you can’t do it without them. The people factors expand in to our Mutable Business™ – People framework.

It starts with Leadership. Our research shows that the digitally savvy companies have leaders who encourage teamwork, explain their purpose with clarity, and promote an environment of openness and sharing. In her book The Management Shift, Vlatka Hlupic shows that many successful companies share a management style characterized by an open mindset, an unbounded culture, strong team cohesion, inspirational leaders, a strong sense of purpose, and passion for the work the company does. These are the characteristics that 21st century leaders and managers need to be able to handle in today’s rapidly changing business landscapes. To get employees, customers, and investors on board, leadership needs to communicate the big idea—the “why” of what they are trying to achieve by reinventing their business.  Following the pandemic and the big shift to homeworking for many knowledge workers, smart organisations like Siemens announced publicly a change in their working culture and leadership style.  They now focus on outcomes rather than on time spent at the office, empowering their employees to choose the work environment where they can perform to their best.

There has been so much research produced over the years showing that Employee Engagement really does help the bottom line that no one can deny that benefits really do exist. We can show that it drives customer satisfaction which drives profits. There are analytics now behind employee engagement which are key to the whole process, from interview questions to the proactive retention of the best employees. In successful organisations the Human Resources or Talent Management function now has a seat at the table. For your business to be mutable you need all of your employees to be on board.

Successful mutable businesses look at their Organisation Structure. There are many options for effective organisations, from quite structured hierarchies to very open styles – there is no one “best” option. What you should be aiming for is the adaptability, agility, and cohesion of a small team with the power and resources of large enterprise. The most successful organisations combine transparent communication with decentralised decision-making authority. You need to break down the walls between silos. We recommend learning lessons from military thinking, the approach of special forces, and the wisdom in General (Ret.) Stanley McChrystal’s book Team of Teams. The best practices of the smallest units can be translated to work across organisations with thousands of people using the right approach and technologies to get everyone on the same page. The Mutable Business™ – People framework is faster, flatter, and more flexible.

Peter Drucker supposedly said Culture eats Strategy for lunch. In truth your company strategy is very important too – this isn’t an either-or situation. However, for transformational change the company culture is a vital factor. Successful companies have a strong identity. The founder knew their “why”, their reason for being, the core purpose of the venture they started. That translates in to the Shared Values of the organisation. We are strong supporters of the McKinsey 7s approach to organisational effectiveness. Both in its model, and our Mutable Business™ – People framework, Shared Values are at the heart. The values are the norms and standards that guide employee behaviour and company actions. They are the foundation of every organisation. In carrying out your reinvention you need to work with the company values in order to enable change; or begin to change the culture in the right direction to support the shift that you will need to make.

Surrounding the Shared Values are two more ingredients. The more successful organisations are better at Storytelling. It is a skill we all have to get better at. At all levels within your organisation storytelling allows us to digest information more easily and connects that information to emotions. Whether it’s the leader explaining why, a manager making their case to the C-Suite, or a team member talking to a customer, your messaging needs to be clear, unambiguous, consistent, and factually and morally correct.

To be a mutable organisation you need to adopt a Startup Mindset. You need to think more like a small team with limited resources, but with a vision to scale to enterprise level quickly. Don’t reinvent the wheel, if a solution exists leverage those existing resources. Think prototype and Fail Fast, but assess the risks, managing the impact of failure to avoid regulatory and legal compliance issues. Think about getting things done, asking for forgiveness rather than permission. Collapse your time to market.

Startup thinking goes hand in hand with an Agile approach to processes and management, doing things in short, iterative cycles with the customer at the heart of the process, but to be truly mutable you need to add more. Lean thinking allows you to deliver amazing products that delight customers as efficiently as possible, and a continuous Learning mindset will help with this too. You should be constantly thinking about what works and what doesn’t, correcting your course as you go. “Post implementation review” is an opportunity to do things better next time, not an opportunity for assigning blame. These are the management characteristics that combine to make you mutable, and more successful.

The smarter organisations recognise that the ability to mobilise the collective intelligence of all of their organisation is key. Collaboration is vital for the Mutable Business™. True collaboration is a mix of cooperation, coordination and communication. The best companies implement some form of social collaboration or enterprise social network to connect their people. That helps them create, innovate, and solve problems together. It helps them involve and mobilise the right people across different functions. It helps their teams learn from and with each other. However, effective collaboration needs investment, mentoring, and guidance in support of whatever workplace technology you’ve chosen. By making workplace data easily accessible, we are entering a new era supporting transformation, with collaboration helping at the heart of the value chain.

In today’s rapidly changing business landscape of connected markets and new technologies the Mutable organisation needs to foster Creativity and Innovation. Without them you are in danger of being left behind like a Kodak or a Blockbuster or a Nokia. Traditionally, organisations allocate resources to basic research, but look to find breakthrough innovations by thinking differently, looking at adjacent markets, synthesising ideas across domains, or by learning to embrace a more open innovation approach with diverse resources and partnerships. The Mutable Business™ encourages this approach and creativity at every level of the organisation. We define creativity as the process of having original ideas that have value. You need to promote that culture, along with allowing your people to learn by doing and encourage them to take risks. Creativity is about fresh thinking, and new ideas, and those are the life blood of business reinvention.

Finally, this Mutable Business™ – People framework can’t operate stand alone but has to drive and support your Business models and ecosystems, as well as harnessing our Mutable Technology framework to provide the right tools to get work done.


Diagram: The Mutable Business™ – People
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