Meeting the Most Pressing Organisational Challenges

Having written about “the defining issue of our time” last week, it seemed like remarkably good timing that this week PWC’s 19th Annual Global CEO Survey should come to my attention now. It certainly makes for some interesting reading, not least because:

  • The “defining issue of our time” did not even appear on the list.
  • The insignificant number of HR related issues. In fact only two out of eleven could be said to fit that description: Availability of key skills (# 4 – identified by 72% of participants) and Lack of trust in business (#10 – identified by 55% of participants.) And it could easily be argued that the latter is not an HR issue.

This is not good news for the HR profession. Nor does it appear to be good news for employees either, as it suggests that employee issues are not high on the agenda either. Although employees can take some comfort that 48% of CEOs expected to increase headcount while only 21% expected to reduce headcount, the lack of any clear link to that “defining issue of our time” – creating economic opportunity – has to be a major concern. After all, a root cause of that issue was identified as the replacement of people with robots and the increase use of artificial intelligence (AI).

As previously indicated, I am also inclined to see the potential for job losses as a result of AI and the need to create economic opportunity as the defining issue of our time. You need look no further than the growing youth unemployment in so many countries for evidence of this.  Thus I was extremely concerned by this difference and couldn’t help wondering if it was further evidence of the “paradox of management” and the ingrained attitude of debasing the human aspects of business as a result of considering employees exclusively as costs?

As a result, I decided to take a fresh look at the PWC list, with a view to assessing how many of these issues could be said to be self-inflicted. By that I mean, how many of the critical issues might be the consequence of extended bad business practices. Naturally the results are highly subjective but this is the list I came up with.

PWC CEO concerns vs culpability

Even if you don’t agree, I think you will accept that they are all challenges that will be far easier to meet – or even avoid – if businesses make a greater commitment to their social responsibilities and empower their people to meet them. Here are some of my initial suggestions.

PWC CEO concerns and solutions

I doubt whether the list is exhaustive and it may be contentious, but at least they give a basis for moving forward. Needless to say, it is rooted in the belief that giving greater responsibility to your people; making them more accountable and committed to embedded values and good business practices, is the only way you will ever build the shared values and the culture and the ethos to create a credible brand with loyal customers. The PWC list is indicative of fears that reveal a backlash against real and perceived business malpractice and malfeasance where profit and self-interest have replaced sound commercial and economic thinking and risked killing the goose that lays the golden egg.

Unfortunately, self-inflicted or not, the CEO concerns identified are very real threats. Ultimately, we would all suffer if they become reality. Consequentially it is in everyone’s best interest to find a way to ensure that they don’t. Thus, despite the list’s failure to specifically identify “the defining issue,” it is implied by inversion. So, if their concerns are not to come to pass, it is essential to reverse the trend. And the only way to do this is to create greater economic opportunity.

My entire business is based on ideas as to how you could help bring this about. Perhaps we can work together to make it happen. 

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If you like what you have read contact me today for a free 30 minute conversation about how my ‘Every Individual Matters’ Model can provide the catalyst to help you create an organisational culture of ‘Love at Work’ : one where everyone cares and the business becomes our business, so embracing change and transforming – and sustaining – organisational performance.

_____________________________________________________________________________

Bay Jordan

Bay is the founder and director of Zealise, and the creator of the ‘Every Individual Matters’ organisational culture model that helps transform organisational performance and bottom-line results. Bay is also the author of several books, including “Lean Organisations Need FAT People” and “The 7 Deadly Toxins of Employee Engagement” and, more recently, The Democracy Delusion: How to Restore True Democracy and Stop Being Duped.


Mastering Change

Cameleon - symbol of natural change 123rf.com 15265487_sChange is not an unnatural phenomenon. On the contrary, it is entirely natural. Life is all about change. Evolution itself is a process of continuous change. Our emergence from primordial mud reveals a permanent push for progress, and, for humans as a species, that drive persists. Continuous improvement is not the organisational phenomenon that we have come to associate with the term. It is the fundamental law of life. It permeates everything we do.

So why do we have so much trouble dealing with change?

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Mastering “The Paradox of Being Human”


The whole conundrum around the struggle between selfishness and selflessness, with its biological roots – or what Simon Sinek calls “The Paradox of Being Human” – gives us so much more to ponder than just the innate conflict between individual and organisational objectives for which I proposed a solution last week.  The biology – summarised again in the table below – is also significant because it suggests happiness or satisfaction is situational and is therefore transient, which implies that “the pursuit of happiness” is a futile exercise: at best a fleeting goal. 

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“The Paradox of Being Human” and Its Implications in Organisations

“The Paradox of Being Human” is how Simon Sinek refers to life’s constant conflict between selfishness and selflessness: between “me” and “we.” We spend our lives vacillating between the two perspectives; zigging towards our own wants and zagging towards pleasing others. Yet our survival depends on our ability to juggle these opposite, apparently mutually-exclusive, demands. And always has.

So much so that, as I wrote last week, humans are biologically programmed for it. The table below illustrates the paradox and provides a succinct summary of this biological balancing.

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Why Employee Engagement Efforts Aren’t More Effective

In his book, “Leaders Eat Last,” Simon Sinek expounds on how the human species has been biologically programmed for survival. He describes the chemical stimulants that the body produces under different circumstances. He identifies 6 different chemical reactions and the situations in which they are produced. These are, briefly, as follows:

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Human Capital Reporting: Breaking the Impasse

A third of FTSE 100 companies are withholding vital workforce related information from their annual reports, including skills challenges and employee turnover. New research from the Valuing your Talent partnership finds that this failure to adequately communicate the value of people to business is creating a clear risk to users of these company reports, such as investors.

That was the opening paragraph to a broadcast email I received from the CIPD this morning. Feeling a flicker of hope, I downloaded the executive summary immediately. Alas, the phrase, “Including skills challenges and employee turnover” should have warned me of the kind of narrow constraints that would dash my hopes. I cannot help feel the report avoids the real issues.

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Meeting the Most Pressing Human Capital Needs

What are executives’ major concerns these days? I was grateful to get a fresh insight recently when I obtained a copy of the Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends 2016 report. This gave me a wonderful opportunity to identify the trends and ascertain:

  1. What are executive management’s most pressing concerns?
  2. To what extent my ‘Every Individual Matters’ model meets those concerns?

And I am happy to report that the answers were extremely satisfying. The trends are a clear barometer of the way that organisations are changing. There was nothing surprising about them or the concerns that are driving them. They are clearly long-term changes and, as such, will reshape the organisation of the future. And my ‘Every Individual Matters’ Model goes a long way to addressing nearly all of them. Let me explain why I feel so positive about this.

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Process vs. People: Closing the Divide



The Divide 46846103_sI am continuing to read Brian J Robertson's book "Holacracy" and reflecting on the ideas it introduces. It does describe what the sub-title promises: “The Revolutionary Management System that Abolishes Hierarchy.” And, in doing so, it offers something interesting, innovative and, apparently practical. Yet, despite offering a much-needed solution to one of the major challenges of our times, I was finding myself surprisingly unexcited. Then I realised why.

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Evolution, Not Revolution, Powers Innovation and Change

Change_000004016383XSmallHaving long championed the idea of organisations as organisms – as living entities rather than as machines – I have lately become increasingly aware that this is the key to eliminating hierarchy and burying command and control. It also demands a fresh approach to change and is essential for the innovation so vital for commercial – and economic – success. Because organisms only change through evolutionary process.

In fact, if you accept revolutionary change to be any non-evolutionary change, historically, most effective change has happened through evolution rather than revolution. Even the agricultural and industrial revolutions were more evolutionary changes than revolutionary. Most revolutions that can be identified as occurring at a specific time – e.g. the French and Russian Revolutions – could be said to be revolts against a very unsatisfactory status quo rather than specific efforts to introduce pre-designed, and tested, new models. 

Consequently it seems logical that embracing change as an evolutionary process will enhance change management initiatives and help any organisation survive and thrive in our fast-changing world. It is, therefore, encouraging to find so many others are thinking along the same lines.

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Tension vs. Stress and How to Eliminate One to Avoid the Other

Stress free zone 42646457_sI am reading Brian J Robertson's  book "Holacracy".  As I do it has dawned on me that the reason why command and control management has not been buried – despite longstanding claims that it is dead – is because we have not yet found a model that replaces our hierarchical structures. I know that is rather an embarrassing admission to have to make, but the truth is I had never consciously thought about it in such simple terms before, despite all my efforts to help inter it. I am therefore grateful for the opportunity to reflect on why that has been the case and to develop new ideas that will further the cause. 

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The Paradox of Change

“It takes a lot of learning to keep something stuck.” That was what Nora Bateson said at a recent development session I attended. Only a single sentence – one of literally thousands in a mind-stretching day. Yet it stood out and continues to haunt me days afterwards. Why?

Perhaps because it opens passages of possibilities. What is stuck? What is learning? Why would learning prevent release? It certainly hints at an unrecognised paradox. How can learning keep you stuck when we all know that learning is the solution: the way to move beyond most sticking points? Those were some of the avenues that my mind started to wonder down. The paradox path is particularly rewarding.

Etymologically the term “stuck” implies a stasis: a situation in which movement has ground to a halt or in which thinking has reached an impasse. Often, however, it is used more loosely to describe a lack of progress; where things continue in the same manner they always have. Either would be a state where Einstein would say you need to change your consciousness in order to change your experience.

This is particularly significant when it comes to organisational change, for to shift the thinking of the organisation you have to change the thinking of the people who work in it. It is possibly the failure to recognise this that leads to the failure of the large majority of change initiatives. Too often we see organisations as machines and the people in them as cogs and so consider change as a mechanical process: an attitude typified by the term ‘business process re-engineering’ to frame efforts to design change and “unstick” an organisation.  As a result we issue instructions and simply expect change to follow.

By definition, people are all that can change an organisation and the way it operates. And people are biological animals. Consequently you would accomplish organisational change far more readily if you look upon your organisation as an organism rather than a machine. After all, Mother Nature doesn’t have a whole army of change agents and business process engineers on call to project manage progress. Life is perpetuated by a permanent capability to adapt. It is called ‘evolution’.

Adaptability 10631670_sIn her formal talk, Nora showed a slide with two trees. The same species and apparently only a few feet apart, they had grown differently and had very different branches, heights and shapes. This illustrated how they had each interacted differently with their environment, adapting to their respective situations, and the different needs their relative positions had demanded. Organisations should be just as adaptable to their environments. After all, change is just as much of a constant in business as it is in life.

For me this example highlighted the paradox of our approach to change. We regard it is unnatural rather than natural. As a result, instead of letting organisational change just evolve, shaped only by life and our overarching purpose, we try to impose it.  And when we do that we significantly constrain our efforts and ultimately jeopardise our prospects of success.

As human beings we are distinguished by our superior intelligence and our ability to apply it. This places us above any other life-form. It means we have to be just as capable as a tree – if not more so – of adapting to our environment. So not putting this to ability to use in organisations is wilfully stupid and wasteful. We need to use every ounce of intelligence available to ensure an organisation responds to ever-changing conditions and adapts and thrives. This means every individual matters and we need to ensure that every individual is in that position.

Leonardo da Vinci said “All our knowledge has its origins in our perceptions.” If you accept the logical premise that knowledge is accumulated learning, then our learning has to be founded on our perceptions. This means:    

  • It is our learning to date that keeps us stuck.
  • We need to learn more to move beyond our current situation.
  • To learn more we have to change our perceptions.

For any organisation it is therefore axiomatic that the more people are involved, and the better they communicate, the more perceptions will change and the quicker the organisation will adapt. The following diagram, which I have used before illustrates this point and underpins the argument for a biological or organic approach.

The Learning Cycle

It has become fashionable to talk about the need for unlearning as the way to get unstuck and move ahead. And this is certainly one way to look at things. This, however, tends to diminish what people have already learned and the foundation on which they need to build. It may be better to simply recognise what is inhibiting movement. The “filters” can help here.  They graphically depict the barriers to learning that can keep people stuck.

Purpose, context and relationships push people to move beyond the constraints historic learning can impose. This enables them to progress and thrive. And our organisations should provide these essential ingredients. It is a reciprocal need, for our organisations need people who are sensitive enough to what is happening around them to change their perceptions in order to progress, develop and grow. Releasing control and letting people respond in the appropriate way to what they see is the only way to create a learning organisation, where evolutionary change prevails and ensures its ability to survive, adapt and grow.

_____________________________________________________________________________  

If you like what you have read contact me today for a free 30 minute conversation about how my ‘Every Individual Matters’ Model can provide the catalyst to help you create an organisational culture of ‘Love at Work’ : one where everyone cares and the business becomes our business, so embracing change and transforming – and sustaining – organisational performance.

_____________________________________________________________________________

Bay Jordan

Bay is the founder and director of Zealise, and the creator of the ‘Every Individual Matters’ organisational culture model that helps transform organisational performance and bottom-line results. Bay is also the author of several books, including “Lean Organisations Need FAT People” and “The 7 Deadly Toxins of Employee Engagement” and, more recently, The Democracy Delusion: How to Restore True Democracy and Stop Being Duped.