We don't know what's next for business - but what we do know is how to help you be ready. This blog is all about anticipating the future and positioning you for success.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Checklist for Business Success

For many businesses, the weakened economy has created unprecedented pressure to cut costs, eliminate waste, and improve performance efficiencies. As a result, innovative and creative organizations have become models for working smarter.

Here’s my checklist of 8 initiatives for making 2012 your most successful year:
  1. Clarify the mission, purpose, of the organization. It all starts here. If employees don’t understand why the organization exists, and more importantly how what each employee does aligns with why the organization exists, the rest doesn’t really matter.
  2. Identify the competencies required to be successful in each job. No one works the same way they did three or four years ago. Take a fresh look at work processes to ensure recruitment, hiring, training, advancement and performance management systems are aligned with the individual characteristics required for success in each position. This includes knowledge, skills, abilities, self image, traits, mindsets, feelings and ways of thinking.
  3. Maximize technology. Utilize the cloud, social media, and technological advancements to ensure maximization of efficiencies and elimination of duplication. Don’t overlook sophisticated tools available to streamline labor intensive processes so often found in departments such as HR. HRSmart is one example of an easy to-use technology that improves efficiencies while saving time and money. 
  4. Embrace new work models. Employees today want flexibility to work where, when and how they want to. A recent study by CoreNet Global indicates that radical changes in technology and the way we work will require evolving to a landscape of flexible workplace strategies, including allowing employees to BYOT (bring their own technology), teleworking, and replacing cubicles with open, collaborative workspaces.
  5. Prepare leaders for the future. Change is happening quickly and executives and managers are required to keep up with the pace. Embracing a leadership development program that couples learning with executive coaching allows individuals to personalize the learning while modifying their preferences related to things such as how they communicate, embrace differences, and model change acceptance.
  6. Embrace sustainability. No matter what your business focus, there are ways to make a difference to three bottom lines: social, economic, and environmental. Although the concept of sustainability has become somewhat diluted by the overuse of the word, stay focused on the original intention – to meet present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. I’m sure you can find ways to make a positive impact.
  7. Develop adaptability and flexibility. The reality is that continuous change is here to stay. Teach all your stakeholders how to embrace it and more so, how to look beyond the change and envision what will be required by the next wave. If you didn’t catch it earlier this month, read my article on Succeeding with Chaos.
  8. Do your homework on global trends and forecasts. It’s impossible to always keep your finger on the pulse of such a dynamic globe. However, since our economies and financial systems are more entwined globally, it’s critical to stay aware of what’s going on around the world and operate in a fashion that understands the impacts of the "butterfly effect." The world is becoming smaller everyday and by the time you hear it on the evening news, or read it on Google News it’s too late. Position yourself for a view into the future to guide your change management strategies.
So What's Next?

So what’s on your list that I missed on mine? Perhaps you’ll take a moment to leave a comment and share it with us.

As a business owner, I’m sensing that businesses and government agencies are more interested in talking about change initiatives this year than the last two. That’s a good sign. We can’t get the economy growing again without businesses, especially small businesses, taking the initiative to make the necessary changes for the future. Yes, there is risk with taking action. However, the decision to do nothing also carries tremendous risk and could lead to extinction.

We’ve all got to do our homework when it comes to global trends and forecasts. Perhaps what I listed as #8 on my checklist should be #1. Checking in on the research and ideas of futurists such as Richard Worzel and others from time to time can be very helpful in aiding you to envision what the future might bring and to help prepare for the impact those changes will have on your business. Attending conferences, such as those presented by the World Future Society, to engage with thought-leaders offers a wonderful front row seat for a peek at what’s to come.

The world has and continues to change and so must we. My checklist is a mix of organization development and human resource management tasks to be considered in concert with each other. If you haven’t already done so, take stock of where your organization is on these eight actions I’m suggesting will make a difference in the success of your organization. Based on that assessment, organize your To Do List, getting buy-in from stakeholders. Where necessary, fill in resource gaps with outsourced expertise and get busy positioning your workplace for the future. It’s right around the corner.

As always, I welcome your comments to my posting. Please click below to share your thoughts. If you found this article interesting and helpful, I’m very happy for you to pass it along to others. Have a great week.

This article was written by Deborah A. King, SPHR, CEO and Sr. Organizational Effectiveness Consultant with Evolution Management, Inc. Debbie and her team are energized about changing times and can help your organization navigate the human and operational journeys to the future. Contact us for more information; www.evolutionmgt.com; 770.587.9032

Key Leadership Skills in the “Human Age”

The ManpowerGroup recently published a report on How to Navigate the Human Age. Not surprising, an incredibly important element of their findings is driven by the fact that as the world gets smaller and more integrated, our business strategies and challenges are shifting from local and domestic issues to ones influenced by global activities.

Their findings indicate the world is upside down. Things like qualified human talent, which seemed to be abundant in years past is now scarce, and information which used to be elusive is now readily available and everywhere. No wonder businesses are looking for "new models" for addressing these significant changes. What do these increasing inverted trends and influence of world events have to do with the way we lead our organizations? Here are a few key findings from their research. You can read the entire report here.

Organizations Need to be Strategic About
Emerging Markets – Not just in the neighborhood, but around the world
Impacts of Globalization – Not just in business but politics, economics and social issues
Sustaining Talent – Workforce planning, recruiting, stretching, engaging and retaining
Technology – Embrace advancements for "better mousetraps" as well as resource savings
Sustainability – Do what’s right for social, economic and environmental impacts
Data Management – Lots of data everywhere; be ready to manage it and comply with privacy regulations

Organizational Structures and Systems Need to Address
Proper Workload Balancing – Full-time, part-time, contractor, outsourced, robotics (Yes! Robots!)
Fluid Workforce Management – Grounded in proactive, innovative and flexible systems
Collaboration – Embrace horizontal work models to leverage talent and development opportunities
"Glocal" Mindset – Operate with local conscious within a structure of dispersed locations
Alliances – Partner with government and training institutions to advance curriculum and skill sets

With these shifts in organizational focus, leaders of the future will need to update their competencies to include:
  • Demonstrating Adaptability – The report re-emphasizes what we’ve been saying for the past several years. Everyone, especially leaders, needs to be adaptive to the fast pace of change and the ambiguity that this speed brings. Individuals with a preference for lots of details and methodically dotting of all the "I’s" and crossing all the "T’s" may find themselves frustrated and stressed if they can’t transition their styles to accommodate the needs for faster business decision making.
  • Managing and Analyzing Data – So much data is readily available; getting comfortable with the balance of how much is enough, and what to do with what you have will be critical.
  • Thinking Strategically about Sustainability – Employees, candidates, vendors, customers, all organizational stakeholders are raising expectations for how "responsible" a business should be when it comes to social, economic and environmental issues. Incorporating an element of sustainability into your decision-making model is a must.
  • Collaborating – Leaders will need to not only build teams internally to collaborate on innovation, but they also must have the attitude, communication and presentation skills to motivate all types of partners to work together. Leaders with a command-and-control style will be well served to work with a coach on shifting to a style that incorporates partnerships and alliances.
  • Innovating and Creating – The workplace of the future needs to be built on a culture that encourages and rewards "dreaming," "playing," and occasional failures. Organizations will need to keep reinventing themselves if they are to survive – maintaining a competitive edge will be impossible without fostering new ideas.
  • Mentoring – Leaders can best pass on knowledge and experiences through stories. They’ll need to connect with their leadership development programs and invest in spending time with future leaders. In addition to the capacity to mentor and coach, organizations will be well served by establishing executive coaching programs in conjunction with a leadership development curriculum, in order to nurture the professional and business development capabilities of talent in the leadership pipeline.
  • Workforce Planning - More than ever, organizational leaders need to be aware of the competencies required for the future and lead efforts to develop internal talent with those skills, as well as create a pipeline (internal and external) for attracting and retaining those talents. The old cliché "organizations are only as good as their people" was never so appropriate.
  • Leveraging Technology – Leaders may not have to know how all the bells and whistles work, but they do need to be able to envision how technological changes can be utilized to improve competitive advantage, save time and money, and respond to the sophistication of their customers.
  • Embracing Differences – Leaders set the tone in their organizations for cultural norms and philosophies. As the workplace expands, employee expectations, traditions, religions, ages, gender identity, etc. will continue to diversify. Global leaders will need to demonstrate their commitment and dedication to respecting all kinds of differences in the workplace and weave that value into everyday expectations and practices.
  • Managing Time and Stress – Since the world isn’t going to slow down, leaders need to become experts at managing time and stress. Competencies such as delegation and practices such as meditation or exercise programs promoting wellness should be encouraged to help leaders sustain their energies and capacities for the speed of business.
So What’s Next?

It’s exciting to peek into the future. The ManpowerGroup’s report offers this view by linking events around the world that impact, and will continue to influence, what happens at our business locations. From a holistic, global vantage point we can already see that individuals who have the capacity to lead others utilizing the competencies noted above will be highly sought after. In order to retain this talent, organizations will need to review and modify their practices to ensure the appropriate level of support, empowerment, and challenges are available for them

Getting your arms around the kinds of change that are on the horizon may best be accomplished by collaborating with external change experts who have an unbiased perception and the expertise to guide the exploration process to determine what is necessary to move from the current organization to the organization of the future. From a neutral position, they can assist leaders with the articulation of the future design of the structure and development and implementation of change initiatives to align the culture, practices and expectations with future success.

I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record: "Organizations cannot rely on the practices of the past to be successful in the future. Design is a signal of intention." But it’s true. It’s all going to be about change – time to get comfortable with it, in order to survive.

As always, I welcome your comments to my posting. Please click below to share your thoughts. If you found this article interesting and helpful, I’m very happy for you to pass it along to others. Have a great week.

This article was written by Deborah A. King, SPHR, CEO and Sr. Organizational Effectiveness Consultant with Evolution Management, Inc. Debbie and her team are energized about changing times and can help your organization navigate the individual, team and organizational journeys to the future. Contact us for more information; www.evolutionmgt.com or 770.587.9032.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Succeeding with Chaos

Have you been paying attention to the fast-paced, mainly technology-driven changes taking place in our world these past few years? Have you been watching as technologies have imploded traditional models for business, news and politics, blazing new paths into how we communicate, work, sell, and live? Are you struggling, maybe even trying to read the tea leaves in order to make sense out of what all these changes mean? Well, perhaps the chaos we’ve been observing and experiencing has really been a precursor for what we’ll be dealing with in the future – ambiguity!

I recently read Robert Safian’s Special Report: The Secrets of Generation Flux which appears in this month's Fast Company magazine, and strongly recommend that you check it out. In it, Safian explores the parallels between Chaos Theory and the uncertainty rocking our organizations from the board rooms to the cubicles. One quote in particular summed up the uniqueness of the dilemma. This is a comment offered by D. J. Patil, Data Scientist with Greylock Partners on how forecasting business strategies has transitioned to a process resembling the work of meteorologists:

"There are some times when you can predict weather well for the next 15 days. Other times, you can only really forecast a couple of days. Sometimes you can’t predict the next two hours."

Isn’t that the truth? So how do organizations succeed when there is so much change and chaos around the globe impacting so many different markets? What impact will the speed and adoption of technologies have on traditional business planning models and our abilities to conceive paths for growth and expansion, particularly as the possibilities to glimpse at what the future requires continue to decline?

Safian starts with one certainty:  "the next decade or two will be defined more by fluidity than by any new, settled paradigm; if there is a pattern to all this, it is that there is no pattern." Now, I don’t know about you, but that certainly sums up what I’ve been experiencing within my business and client engagements. The only thing we can really count on is that things are going to change; and those changes are being driven more rapidly than ever by diverse individuals and situations around the globe.

Safian defines his term Generation Flux (or GenFlux) very broadly – it’s not so much an age thing, as it is a psychological attitude. GenFlux includes those individuals with a "mind-set that embraces instability, and that tolerates – and even enjoys – recalibrating careers, business models and assumptions." Considering what we know about personality types and work preferences, this definition will terrify a lot of people, while others will be extremely motivated by the blank paper and box of crayons they’ve just been given.

Here are a few of the "secrets" I took away from the report:
  • Chaotic disruption is rampant. No industry or corner of the globe is safe.
  • Clarity of mission and purpose is critical. 
  • Institutions as we’ve known them are out of date and too much structure and "rules" are pointless.
  • The ability to acquire new skills is the most important skill set.
  • We need to improve leadership development approaches to strengthen confidence for working with changing technologies, as well as uncertainty and risk.
  • Trying to replicate what worked yesterday only leaves you more vulnerable; let it go. 
  • Building adaptability skills is a requirement to be future-focused; a skill Safian labels as a signature trait of Generation Flux.
  • Strategies built on nostalgia erode opportunities for risk-taking and growth. Accept that the world is shifting and that new patterns are required.
  • The "long" career is dead. Employees will be changing jobs, and companies, at an increasingly faster pace.
  • Command-and-control hierarchical structures are disintegrating.
  • What helps one organization succeed is not guaranteed to work for another. Change strategies must be customized to the organization, mission, values and culture.

So What’s Next?

According to Safian and the GenFlux leaders he interviewed, firms that excel in the future will be those who have developed leaders and employees comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty. They will be organizations brave enough to question their status quo, even when the answers may be surrounded in fog. These organizations will aggressively seek out ways to plan and implement change initiatives, not waiting for change to approach them.

Mr. Safian concludes his article with an appropriate quote from Charles Darwin:

"It is not the strongest of the species that survives; nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change."

As a passionate Change Management Consultant, this article was exciting to read. It was exhilarating to be able to intellectually conceptualize what I’ve been feeling and seeing. But at the same time, I know organizations historically haven’t been very good at assessing, designing, and implementing change. History shows that some change initiatives fail because leaders underestimate the time or investment required for moving the "operational" and "people" meters in a successful manner. Or, they fail because sponsors got impatient and decided instead to mandate employee change, or worse, they didn’t approach the change in a collaborative way, with as many stakeholders as possible, and resistance became the kiss of death.

Whatever the reasons, we need to get better at it and improve our results. If one or two decades of change will be required to advance us to the next pattern of predictable business norms, that’s a lot of change. That’s why I think that in addition to building competencies necessary to be successful in a world of ambiguity, leaders must also develop competencies for leading change.

I truly enjoyed Mr. Safian’s article and hope you will take the time to read it. In addition, the video link on my whiteboard below is an interesting look at applying Chaos Theory to planning. Although David Thorpe is speaking about fractals and urban forms, his message is transferrable to organizational planning. He recommends two great books in this video that I think you’ll also enjoy:

Leadership and the New Science by Margaret Wheatley and Chaos: Making a New Science by James Gleick.

Thinking about the operational and human resource impacts of a changing global marketplace can be overwhelming for any organization. Consider these questions:
  • What could the organization do differently if strategies where intentionally aligned with clear mission and value commitments?
  • What does fast-paced change mean to the levels of structure and empowerment supporting hiring, engagement and developmental strategies; especially if employees are no longer content with structured and traditional career paths?
  • The term "blended background" seems to strengthen an individual’s probability for success with change and ambiguity. What does that do to rigid qualification standards for selecting candidates, projects, locations, products and services?
Are the ideas of Generation Flux a fad? I don’t think so, and I think concepts like these and others written about by well-known thought leaders are pointing us to a future mandating "think-on-your-feet" creativity. Surely the fact that thought leaders are even taking the time to explore these concepts warrants at least a new look at what your organization is doing and what it could be doing if it let go of fear.

We’ve got some exciting and challenging days ahead. I hope I’ve given you new food for thought. I welcome your comments to my posting; please click below. If you found this article interesting I’m happy for you to pass it along. Have a great week.

This article was written by Deborah A. King, SPHR, CEO and Sr. Organizational Effectiveness Consultant with Evolution Management, Inc. Debbie and her team are energized about changing times and can help your organization navigate the uncertain journey of individual, team and organizational change. Contact us for more information: www.evolutionmgt.com or 770.587.9032.