Change the focus. What if.....?

As you start to read this article, I ask you to stay with me and take a leap of faith in where I am heading.

The disruption

Every organization in every sector is feeling the disruption of what is being termed the fourth industrial revolution.

This revolution is led by technology, digitization and automation, and accelerated innovation on a global stage.

This is not the first or last disruption but it is distinct due to its velocity, scope, breath and depth.

It is the acceleration of innovation and the velocity of disruption that is challenging businesses. It brings uncertainty, it is hard to comprehend and anticipate, and it continues to take us by surprise.

The focus

In an attempt to respond to the unknown unknowns and volatile change that has no precedent, leaders of organizations are focusing on the things they have always focused on. 

·      Short and long term profit

·      Shareholder return

·      Operational efficiency

·      Competition

·      Metrics

These were the focus in an industrial age model.

This old lens on business will not enable organizations to transform in a way they must in order to remain relevant and survive.

Organizations will have to reexamine not only how they do business but also how they are led and managed.

The old ways of working will not get you to where you want to be.

The change

What if we stopped focusing on these things and started to really focus on people?

What if we focused on our people and realized those ledger items such as profit, return, competitive advantage, operational efficiency etc. as a result?

It is my firm belief that in this era of disruption, a shift in focus is imperative unless organizations want to die a slow and painful death.

What if we focused on the following?


When employees are given autonomy and allowed to self-manage, great things happen.

Autonomy is directly linked to employee engagement and motivation. It increases feelings of ownership and loyalty. This means that talent is both retained and attracted. Increased employee engagement leads to increased productivity and profitability.

In a fast changing environment where rapid decision-making is an imperative, decision-making has to be placed where the decision is best made. This doesn’t mean in the boardroom.

It is often the customer facing staff, the sales person, the account representative, the marketer, the operator, the designer, the technician and so on who are best placed to make a decision for the good of the organization. They know what can be done and have the context to make informed decisions.

Autonomy encourages experimentation, creativity and innovation, which are critical activities for organizational survival today.

No one ever did anything awesome or great just because they were told to.


What if we focused on motivating our people? Employee disengagement is at an all time low globally.

Research is also telling us that employee turnover is also at an all time low. Many would think that is a good thing.

But put the two facts together and you have got a disengaged workforce who are not going anywhere.

I call that complacency and it is an organizational disaster. Employees are turning up to work but they are doing so just for the paycheck. 

Motivation is not achieved through a performance review. People want intrinsic motivation. They want regular conversations - not one every 6 months. They want real-time feedback. They want to create their own aspirations and expectations.

They are looking for a sense of purpose. They want to feel trusted and respected. 

Leaders need to allow employees to focus on the outcomes that they want to create and be ready to help remove obstacles if needed.

Leaders need to provide a sense of shared purpose that aligns with organizational direction. When everyone understands how what they do makes a difference to them and the organization, they will give it their best.

When people are motivated, they will do outstanding work and performance will rocket.


If we treat people as robots and expect them to only do what they are told to, innovation will never happen.

What if we focused on creating a working environment where everyone is encouraged to experiment, create and innovate?

This environment celebrates failure as a learning experience. There is no-blame attached to failure.

Innovation is the lifeblood of any organization. Without innovation, the competition will run all over you. Without innovation, someone else will come up with a better way to do what you are doing today.

Organizations that do not innovate could (if not will) lose market share and profitability; experience decreased productivity and efficiency; suffer attrition of key staff; and probably cease to exist.

Leaders need to convey the importance of innovation and its benefits to employees. They need to make employees aware that while innovation may appear risky, the fact is that not innovating and not trying something new is actually the biggest risk.

Leaders have to lead by example and provide employees with the time for innovation, creativity, and experimentation. They need collaboration space and recognition of their innovation efforts. There should be rewards for innovation even if the idea isn’t implemented.


What if we focused on agility, speed and adaptability? What if we created a truly agile culture with less of a focus on hierarchical control and more of a focus on empowering people to make decisions?

If we did this we could respond to ambiguity and uncertainty with flexibility and speed.

We could create an enterprise mindset that views unanticipated change as an opportunity for transformation.

When we can flex and adapt we can respond to rapidly changing markets and environments and maintain competitive advantage.

We can increase customer satisfaction through increased efficiency, improved products and services that deliver the value customers want, when they want it.

Let’s focus on enabling people to adopt new ways of working and new ways of thinking

Organizational agility and the ability to not only survive but also thrive in a world of constant and rapid change will be dependent on the development of people with substantially new mind-sets and capabilities. 


We have to equip everyone in the organization to thrive in the face of constant change. This means providing resources, tools and techniques that can be accessed by anyone, at anytime, from anywhere and on any device. 

Resilience is not about bouncing back after a setback. Resilience is about bouncing forward.

Experiencing a setback is an opportunity for reinvention. Reinvention is reflecting on the setback; examining what went well and what didn’t; learning from it and deciding what to do differently in the future.

A setback provides the possibility for improvement when seized with a growth mindset.

Resilience has benefits for both the individual and the organization. 

Benefits for the individual include better physical and mental health; improved cognitive functioning; reduced fatigue and burnout; life perceived as a series of challenges not problems; and maintained inner calm in stressful situations.

Benefits for the organization include higher productivity; higher profitability; lower turnover and absenteeism.

Bottom line

If you took that leap of faith and got this far - thank-you

I am not saying that organizations should ignore profits, competition and shareholders.

What I am saying is that if we don't give equal or more focus on our people, the consequences will be dire.

If we focus on the people, I believe that the short and long term profit; shareholder return; operational efficiency; competition and metrics will take care of themselves.

There has to be a fundamental mindset shift and recognition that it really is all about the people.

And I haven’t even mentioned collaboration, reward and recognition or learning and development yet! Another article?

Karen FerrisComment