Where does your company rank in the echelons of “best employer” or “best company to work for”? After all the likelihood is that, even if it is not ranked, it will have taken, or considered taking, part in the evaluation. Ranking has become ubiquitous. We have league tables for schools, universities, hospitals and who knows what else. Perhaps the time has come to question whether we have taken this competitiveness too far, and to recognize the practice as counter-productive, insidious and invidious.
Last Saturday I was privileged to be part of my niece’s wedding. It was a memorable occasion, on a beautiful sun-drenched day with joy, love, and fun extending throughout the day and the late-night dancing and celebration. Sunday, however, was different, despite being just as beautiful a day. It was as though the goodness had gone on honeymoon with the bride and groom, and, the weeks’ of planning and preparations now over, the rest of us were left feeling unfocused, flat and purposeless.
This contrast exemplifies the way our attitudes and expectations shape our experience. Nothing had really changed, yet the world felt different. It is undoubtedly a better place when love is prevalent.
Reflecting on this I started questioning why it takes a wedding to bring out all that latent goodwill, fellowship and friendship. Yes, a wedding is a formal declaration of love and common purpose between two people, but it is merely symbolic. The substance exists without it and, apart from formalising it and providing a legal and/or moral framework for the union, the ceremony intrinsically changes nothing. So why isn’t it more evident in everyday life?
“It's happening. In the last three weeks alone, Foxconn announced it will replace 60,000 factory workers with robots, a former CEO of McDonald’s said given rising wages, the same would happen throughout their franchises, Walmart announced plans to start testing drones in its warehouses, and Elon Musk predicted fully autonomous car technology would arrive within two years.
Whether it's worker displacement, the skills gap, youth unemployment, or socio-economic stratification, the impact on society will be staggering. I’ve said it on multiple occasions and believe it even more so every day: creating economic opportunity will be the defining issue of our time.”
Those are the words of Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, taken from his publication of his email to all LinkedIn employees announcing the company’s acquisition by Microsoft. Like Weiner, I am concerned about the proliferation of artificial intelligence (AI) and its implications. Thus I am delighted by his recognition of the phenomenon and its impact. It is undoubtedly the defining issue of our time, not only because of the need to create economic opportunity but because of the dangers inherent in failing to do so effectively.
Change 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?
“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.
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:
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.
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:
- What are executive management’s most pressing concerns?
- 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.
I 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.
Having 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.