Enormous transformations in the way we live, think, and work pose significant challenges for companies. Because they have no blueprints for the right answers. Only one thing is for sure: the way we organized things yesterday (and in many cases, still do today), can’t keep up with today’s pace.
Everything is moving faster. And becoming more complex. Cities are growing as the countryside becomes ever more deserted, and news from faraway places reaches us almost instantaneously. Yesterday’s irrefutable certainties are obsolete today. A feeling of permanent overload is increasing, and all this leads to one thing: insecurity.
No, we’re not talking about 2018. This was the general prevailing mood from 1870 to the 1920s. In Europe in particular, people were experiencing, in real time, how technological progress was casting doubt on everything that once seemed forever certain. How is today any different? The answer is: it's happening even more quickly. Changes that used to take decades now happen in the course of just a few years, or even months. In 2007, Apple launched the iPhone – and within a few short years the world was a different place. An entire economy has sprung up around the concept of the smartphone, which nobody could even have conceived of before January 9, 2007. The entire e-commerce industry of eBay, Amazon, Airbnb, Uber – none of this existed, nor was even imaginable, ten years ago.
These enormous transformations in the way we live, think, and work pose significant challenges for companies. Because they have no blueprints for the right answers. Only one thing is for sure: the way we organized things yesterday (and in many cases, still do today), can’t keep up with today’s pace. Organizational models that are Taylorian at heart, based on divisions of labor and clear responsibilities with defined hierarchies and command & control-centered leadership, don’t fit in a world in which planning time has been reduced to a few months.
While traditional organizations used to focus on reaching top-down goals through clearly defined steps, today they need to adapt to constantly-changing circumstances as quickly and as effectively as possible. And, ideally, anticipate the next transformation. A company’s success no longer depends on employees simply following directives from leadership. After all, leadership does not know, and may not even be able to imagine, the best way forward.
The principle of leadership has shed its centuries-old responsibility for determining the path from A to B and ensuring that everyone follows that path as smoothly as possible, and within a given time frame. What, then, does leadership mean now? “Today, leadership means guiding, and setting a framework within which employees can seek, and find, the best path themselves”, says Professor Nils Hafner of Lucerne University. At its core, it means making a company's business strategy understandable for each department and employee, and working with employees to implement this strategy successfully. It’s no longer a case of “I know where we need to go, and how to get here,” but rather of “We need to get to A, and we’ll find the way there together.”
Today, leadership must be adaptable, it must react to constant new developments, and above all: leadership must support employees and empower them to find their own way. In company leadership, coaches and enablers have replaced traditional bosses - depending on the situation, of course, and adapting to it.
The most important task is that of the enabler. Leading in an environment in constant motion meanscreating enthusiasm among employees and empowering them to find and implement the best solutions themselves. Above all, this means encouraging employees to experiment, and giving them to the freedom to try things out, as well as reassuring them that making mistakes along the way is not a problem, but rather something that is desirable. After all, it is only by thinking in new ways that we can do things differently than in the past, and only by trying new things can we make new discoveries and creations. When people are afraid of being punished because something didn’t work, they stick to what they know and cannot become effective.
Leadership also means empowering employees to take responsibility for their own work and for the results they achieve. Leadership doesn’t always mean leading simply by virtue of being leaders. Leadership also means following other team members when their experience, knowledge, and capabilities allow them to take the lead in certain situations.
This sounds good, but it has clear consequences: the end of the command & control system also means that company leadership is not (solely) responsible for the results, whether good or bad. Success belongs to everyone who contributed, but the same goes for unattained goals and bad results.
This introduces a new attitude and a new mindset for leadership and employees alike, and in fact for the whole organization: readiness and the willingness to build actively, to take responsibility and think beyond daily tasks, to network, and to place group success over personal success.
In the dynamic environment in which we work today, the roles and tasks of both leadership AND employees are changing. Employees take the driver’s seat for their own development, their contributions to the company’s success, and their daily work. Together with their peers and together with leadership.
We don’t need bosses. We need enablers!
The Solution Package Leadership & Workforce Transformation shares this responsibility for collective success with staff members by offering features to help them be highly motivated and to allow them to work on the tasks best suited to their skills.
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When it comes to transformation there is no black and white, radical short-term changes are not an acceptable option. Many things are already working well and there is no need to replace them buy something completely. The right way is always an evolutionary development into a more agile system. Companies who want to transform their out-dated structures into a more people-centric system have to know their status quo and the goal.
In an agile environment in which hierarchy has been replaced with shared leadership, it logically follows that feedback should no longer come from those in charge, but from the colleagues we work withwith whom we wrok every day.
Goals are no longer a top-down directive; instead, employees set their own goals and measure their own success. This success can be evaluated both on the individual level and in terms of contributions to the larger company goal. This makes personal accountability both widely appreciated and valued.
In the marketplace, employees seek out new challenges for themselves. They find tasks that correspond to their own goals, skills and interests. This leads to higher motivation, making things easier for managers.
Transparent, smart profiles for all employees show who has which skills, and ensure that tasks are assigned to the right people. What people work on isn't determined by their place in line, but by their actual skills and interests.