Uncertainty is not going away! We need to get over it! I was speaking with a friend of mine recently who works within a global cosmetics company. She described relative chaos within the organisation as it tries to move its HQ to the continent, sell off a profitable set of brands, invest in influencer brands, redesign the whole business while still supporting it’s country teams who are trying support todays customers! At the same time, their best people are leaving, thinking why should I put up with this @#&%?!!
The impact of BREXIT, rapidly changing customer needs, and new disruptive technologies on our core markets are substantial and will continue. We can agree that this is driving organisations to continuously re-intepret how to shape themselves in order to thrive within this environment and create meaningful work for their people. So how can we do that?
The first thing to recognise is that Uncertainty is here to stay. This statement is as much for me as it is for everyone. We need to recognise uncertainty is the new normal, we need to stop trying to return to simpler times! As my friend said, “as this is the new normal, this means we need to discover how everything needs to change to enable a thriving organisation, including how we think about the world, how leadership needs to evolve, how people work together, the operating model, behaviours, culture, everything!!” Personally, I’m not convinced everything needs to change though organisations certainly need to be fundamentally transformed.
The next is to understand the organisational dynamics aka capabilities which you need to design into the organisation. A combination of academic and practice-based research suggest the following:
Sensing – continuous organisational sensing aka strategic analysis is critical in a dynamic environment. This allows the organisation to understand what is, and what could potentially happen in the marketplace. Traditionally this is limited to a small group of people at the top of an organisation, however it is clear that engaging a wider range of people aka “sensors” in this activity will build a better understanding of market dynamics, mitigate unconscious bias and enable more accurate decisions on how to respond. A number of issues which organisations may need to “get over” is that the role of leadership has fundamentally changed, see Naomi Stanfords recent blog on Conversations on Leaders with Nick and Nick, and that their people can actually be trusted to make or contribute to strategic decisions. Practically this could be designed into an organisation as a facilitated large group process, which could be further enhanced by an ideas generation digital platform to draw the wisdom of crowds from within your organisation and even beyond.
A “key predictor of organisational performance is whether or not the organisation has a high level of strategic analysis capability, coupled with a flexible and adaptable organisational structure”
Responding – this is where many organisations fall down in their attempts, often because a “sticking plaster” of agility was attempted rather than a fundamental rethink of the organisation, it’s leadership, operating model and culture. When asked to support a redesign project one of the first things I consider is how fast is change happening externally and then which parts of the organisation need to operate at the same speed of change, see The Ambidextrous Organisations for more. This is important as different skills, structures, processes, leadership, decision making processes and culture will be required depending on the different clock speeds of change across the organisation.
Adaptive governance is then needed to make decisions at the right time to ensure time and resources are correctly balanced across the parts which are operating at different speeds to ensure ongoing relevance in the marketplace.
Finally to ensure ongoing alignment, coordination and to minimise silo working lateral processes need to be designed into the organisation, these may include using digital coordination platforms, formal group processes as described above, and integrator roles. However it is important to note that less is more with lateral processes to prevent the organisation ossifying.