There’s been a massive disruption in the last few years with technology impacting virtually every aspect of life. Faster computing and newer technologies are creating newer ways to serve customers, reducing inefficiencies and impacting bottom-lines. We can’t avoid the reality of these technologies anymore, which are run on intelligent algorithms that analyze user-inputs and develop in real-time. It’s obvious that the next wave of technology will impact the way we do things and impact jobs; taking away some and adding some others to the economy. We can already see organization structures become flattered and team size smaller, with people working in remote, or on contract for specific assignments. All this will impact the way we have known work e.g. leadership, performance, careers, value frameworks…all will get impacted by this wave of change.
Resisting change has never been an option for any species or organization, and evolution is a testimony to the fact that anyone who did resist change, perished. So how do we manage this change in an organizational context? The answer could lie in systems thinking i.e. looking at the inter-linkages of systems and balancing the harder aspects of change with the softer aspects of mindsets and culture.
So how do we do this?
The 7S Framework of McKinsey provides us one such systemic model that can help us manage change in a holistic manner. It consists of the Hard Elements of Strategy, Structure, Systems and the Soft Elements of Shared Values, Style, Staff and Skills. An approach could be to run a diagnostic to assess current awareness and adaptability to this change. Needless to say, most businesses get the Hard Elements right, but it’s the Soft Elements that don’t get adequate planning or attention. There could be a reason for this....the soft elements are difficult to measure and even more difficult to implement as they are deeply wired into people’s mindsets and behaviour! It’s therefore imperative that business along with HR and OD isolate these measures while designing the intervention.
The OD team could design a diagnostic or do an analysis using the existing organizational survey, industry reports, run a scenario planning workshop along with the top team to arrive at a roadmap for this change. The scenario planning workshop can be quite useful and should be designed around the business strategy and analyze the cultural impact of the change, on the way people do things. These ways in which people do things are the softer elements of change. Scenario planning is something that the Armed Forces use during sand models and war games and is extremely effective. Some challenging questions that could come up in such a workshop are “How the organization drives core values with an increasingly distributed and diverse workforce?” “What style of leadership would organizations need to build, to manage performance with remote teams?” “How do they see the skills matrices changing on the back of the evolving business landscape?” Some of these questions will throw up interesting scenarios which will link back to the people plan.
Outputs from this diagnostics and design work will flow into the People Plan, which should include work-streams that address the Soft Elements of change. These work-streams will link-up to impact the overall organizational readiness and culture for the future. Interim pit-stops should be designed into this journey and draw from Business and HR Analytics on elements like performance data, customer surveys, managerial effectiveness, attrition and employee health surveys. HR/OD should then measure needle change and present this data to business to provide another nudge and also link this back to the overall design.
“Culture eats strategy for lunch” and that is what organizations will have to work on to adapt to the new landscape. The changes to come will not just impact technology, but the way people interact with each other and get things done. They will impact culture and focus on this aspect of change will pay rich dividends.