One possible next normal is that decisions made during and after the crisis lead to less prosperity, slower growth, widening inequality, bloated government bureaucracies, and rigid borders. Or it could be that the decisions made during this crisis lead to a burst of innovation and productivity, more resilient industries, smarter government at all levels, and the emergence of a reconnected world. Neither is inevitable; indeed, the outcome is probably more likely to be a mix. The point is that where the world lands is a matter of choice—of countless decisions to be made by individuals, companies, governments, and institutions
“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”~Jon Kabat-Zinn
Based on a post by Chatsworth Consulting Group
It seems as if many of us are surfing. Not the kind of surfing that first comes to mind – warm weather, big waves, Hawaiian shirts – but surfing nonetheless.
We are facing huge difficulties and issues at work, relentless challenges, one after the other. Like waves crashing upon us. And it seems like we have choices of how to respond. We can fight what’s beating at us, we can give up and go under water, or we can learn to surf.
Life throws things at us. Bosses who think they have to be bossy to be the boss. Colleagues that are not very collegial. Friends and family that need more than we have to give. We can face physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual challenges, all at the same time. And we can either get wiped out by the waves crashing upon us, or we can learn to surf.
For someone, surfing meant that she couldn’t do everything on her to-do list to her usual standards. She took an hour to comb through the list – delegating what she could, dumping what wasn’t absolutely necessary, and doing what she had to, even if she didn’t do her ultimate best.
For someone else, surfing meant recognizing how upset he was at a situation at work, and choosing not to negatively voice his disagreement, as he had done in the past. Instead, he surfed –he felt his anger, noticed what set him off and why, and decided to simply let it go. A great step for him.
Surfing can mean a myriad of responses. What it always means is riding the wave. Getting up on your board, softening your knees so you don’t stand too rigid, and letting the waves take you along for the ride. You certainly will have more success than if you fight it. You might even enjoy it.
How do you surf?
In a perfectly predictable world, what’s the best way of organising a business? My guess is that it would be run like a perfect machine. Or like a big, monolithic computer. Programmed in best in class business processes. In a world with no surprises, you could build the perfect machine, program it perfectly by complex business processes, hire only the ‘resources’ that fit perfectly into those existing processes, and hone the whole organisation to deliver the ideal input/output ratio.
In fact, this is the way most businesses are set up. At least it’s the target state of most traditional companies. This is because the world used to be much more predictable and therefore better suited to such ‘Tayloristic’ models. The underlying goal was to distribute known packages of work in the most efficient manner. Today, however, things are increasingly unpredictable and fast. And this has some fundamental impacts. In such an environment, it’s impossible to plan the perfect organisational machine.
So, rather than planning for efficiency, forward-looking businesses are rebuilding their organisational structures around agility, robustness and innovation. And as businesses adapt to this new normal, the top-down management structures of old are coming under pressure. It’s easy to see why: the centralised decision-making, business siloes and organisational hierarchies of old put barriers in the way of adaptable operations.
Organising around adaptability
What does the future-fit organisation look like? For me, the answer’s simple: businesses need to put in place a structure which gives their people the freedom to act autonomously and quickly. It’s a simple idea, but one which demands profound change.
The first step is to enable employees to accept ownership over things, again. Interestingly enough many engaged leaders are caught by surprise, how difficult this is for many of their employees. Many experiences and traditional ‘tayloristic’ principles have to be ‘unlearned’ to accept ownership. Decision ownership has to be pushed out to every single employee and allows to think and decide for themselves. Step two goes further; creating an organisation in which employees are encouraged to seek out the most important and immediate challenges for the company, and to solve them.
At Siemens, we call this ‘ownership culture’: employees are empowered to make decisions for themselves and proactively drive change. We know that we can’t “switch it on” from one day to the other. But we implement it as an increasingly fundamental guiding principle across the company. The model is like that used in Open Source software development, where developers work in loosely organised networks to solve challenges. And it’s an approach makes perfect sense in a wider business context; after all, who’s better placed to understand how to improve the business and adapt to change than the people on the front line?
Here, the role of the manager changes. Rather than telling employees what they should work on, managers act as coach and guide their teams through their work. Their role is to ask those important ‘why’ questions to help employees stay on track. It’s an incredibly rewarding role and one that we know managers embrace once they’ve made the initial adjustment from linear management processes.
At Siemens, we’ve gone further and encouraged self-organised, bottom-up communities to flourish. These are entirely created and run by employees, with absolutely no functional management oversight. Indeed, they spring up in response to challenges that are often not even on managements’ radar and earn their legitimacy through their value-creation, purpose and passion of the employees that participate in them. There is no filtering process for the best initiatives, but it is evolutionary and the best will survive.
One such initiative is Grow2Glow (G2G). The aim of G2G at Siemens is to help women unlock their potential through coaching and find the inner strength to strike out for new horizons. The programme helps match trained coaches within the Siemens family with women who request coaching. Today, some 140 qualified coaches across all areas and disciplines respond to the needs throughout the company. The role of management in this success has been limited: all we’ve done is give the network the space it needed to grow.
I still rememeber the initial days when it was not mere than the initial idea of some engaged people, who wrer not beeing completely sure whether they’d be ‘allowed’ to start this at that time. Absolutely amazing what it has grown into in less than 2 years, globally.
Another great example of the power of self-guiding networks can be seen in the development of some of our most visible internal tools at Siemens. One of the tools was intended to be a simple way of showing employees our organisational structure. Traditionally, we would have briefed a group of designers to build it based on our specification. Instead we opened the project up to our employees and told them to create the solution they wanted. As a result, we now benefit from a far more user-centric AND feature-rich tool than everything we would have imagined. And it’s not finished: through our social page employees are still contributing new ideas to make the tool ever-more relevant and useful for them — at an amazing speed!
Unlearning the past
As professionals, we’re taught to be efficient. To work only on the jobs we’ve been tasked with. To play our roles as cogs in a well-defined machine. As managers our task was to program this ‘monolithic computer’ with best in class business processes. Ideally with business processes that treat people as anonymous resources rather than individuals. But this approach is no longer fit-for-purpose. Instead, as employees we must take ownership of our work and focus change and innovation on those areas where we know it needs to be focused. And as managers, we must give employees the space and freedom to innovate while providing coaching and support to ensure their innovations thrive. We must, in short, unlearn Tayloristic approaches and embrace flatter and more fluid organisational structures. This is not easy, especially for people who are long trained in such an environment. But the result will speak for itself: even more rewarding careers and better business outcomes.
By Robert Neuhauser, EVP and Global Head of Siemens People and Leadership
Jun 26, 2017: Weekly Curated Thought-Sharing on Digital Disruption, Applied Neuroscience and Other Interesting Related Matters.
By Luis Gallardo, Be-Yond
Curated by Helena M. Herrero Lamuedra
We tend to think about resilience as something individuals learn through experience: Get knocked down and figure out how to brush yourself off, and chances are, you’ll be back on your feet faster the next time you’re thrown for a loop. But the truth is that resilience is as much a characteristic of high-performing groups as of high-performing individuals. And many of the leaders I know aren’t quite sure what resilience is in the first place, much less how to imbue their workers with it.
Resilience, according to the American Psychological Association, is “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress.”
Unfortunately, business throws some hard punches—not just at individuals, but at entire teams and companies, too. We’ve seen structural changes, angry clients, and missed sales opportunities cause companywide tension. Left unaddressed, these stressors snowball, creating toxic work environments. This can lead workers to mismanage stress, become disengaged, or even give up.
That puts the burden on leaders to take a proactive approach toward building team resilience. Here are three simple techniques that can help.
1. BE AN ALLY, NOT A CRITIC
To build workers’ resilience, you need to buffer their collective stress. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic have confirmed that social support is essential for stress management within and among groups.
While you don’t need to be everyone’s best friend, you do have to cultivate a sense of belonging and self-worth among employees so they can thrive. That doesn’t mean withholding constructive feedback—just ensuring that you give it alongside encouragement and in a spirit of support.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai embodies that ally-to-all mentality. A former project manager described his leadership style to Forbes as inclusive and relationship-focused, saying, “He has great relationships. He’s just not a polarizing figure.” Last October, Pichai made his first round of promotions as CEO and, in sharp contrast with CEO Larry Page, picked company veterans based primarily on their congenial, amiable personalities rather than sheer technical abilities.
To counter stress, encourage employees to take time off, express your confidence in them, and don’t admonish them when they struggle—help them through it. Kindness costs nothing, and it can pay incredible dividends by building up team resilience.
2. REMIND EMPLOYEES WHY YOU’RE ALL IN IT TOGETHER
Working eight-hour days, five days per week, for 50 weeks each year is hard—and that’s if your company still abides by the fading standard workweek. No matter how hard you work, if you’re just in it for the money, keeping up productivity and engagement is nearly impossible. Your teams will weaken and their work will suffer, especially when rough patches hit. To shore up their resilience, you need to continuously remind them why they work as hard as they do.
Bocconi University researcher Nicola Bellé confirmed this with an experiment on nurses assembling surgical kits—a tedious job with potentially life-altering consequences. Nurses who met the health care practitioners who were using the kits made 15% fewer errors and worked 64% longer than their peers. Simply seeing their own impact boosted the nurses’ resilience.
To increase employees’ stamina and coping skills, remind them how their work contributes to the larger purpose that animates your team and your company. Office-bound teams should visit job sites or clients’ headquarters so they can see and hear about their impact firsthand. Encourage happy clients to email compliments directly to those responsible for their accounts.
3. LET TRUSTED TEAMMATES CHOOSE THEIR DUTIES
While inflexible, overstressed workers don’t manage crises very well, more resilient people function better collectively, sharing the pressures of change and uncertainty among themselves. But it’s up to leaders to give their team members the latitude required to form that group resilience. Communicate the company’s end goals, then step back and encourage employees to work toward them in self-directed ways.
Holacracy isn’t for every organization, but all leaders should afford their most trusted employees the flexibility to choose how to execute their own duties. Newer employees might need more direction at first, but veteran team members know what needs to be done, and how they can contribute.
Sometimes the most supportive thing you can do is step back. The skills your employees can gain when you do will serve all of you better when the going gets tough.