Technology and New Ways of Working Will Not Be The Answer. Culture Will. Part 2.
In Part 1of this article I discussed why technology and new ways of working will not be the silver bullet that organization are looking for unless they have the cultural foundation required for success.
I ended Part 1 with these words.
“Leaders need to work diligently to build a culture that embraces constant change, delegates decision making, avoids the unnecessary bureaucracy brought about by hierarchy, trusts people to do the right thing, encourages collaboration, experimentation and creativity. This culture provides psychological safety where there is no negative consequence for ‘having a go’. Experimentation and risk taking is encouraged within provisioned guardrails or principles.”
How do leaders bring about that sort of transformational change?
The workforce needs to be prepared for new technology and new ways of working. Communication is key. What are the benefits for the organization and individuals within it going to be and what are the risks of not doing it?
New ways of working and the introduction of new technology can bring out uncertainty whether that is related to potential job loss or capability to adjust.
Many analysts in leading research organizations are predicting that artificial intelligence will not kill jobs but rather create new and more satisfying ones. This is a powerful message if delivered with empathy and compassion to address the uncertainty.
Leaders need to have a compelling story about the need for change and the risk to not only the organization but also the individuals within it, if the change does not take place. This could be the threat of a start-up in the sector or new products and services from existing competition.
Technology and new ways of working can bring about massive disruption and that has to be anticipated and people prepared for it.
Consider having to break down silos to enable DevOps and more agile ways of working? Consider having to remove levels of the hierarchy to allow more agile decision-making to take place? This could change organizational and team structures.
This could have a devastating impact on a manager who perceives their status is based on the number of direct reports they have.
A significant change in culture could be needed where a person’s contribution to the organization is valued more than the size of the team they manage.
These things will be needed but they need to be built on a solid and sound cultural foundation.
Effective communication is more about listening than communicating. Ongoing communication should be based on what is being heard. What do people want to know? What are they asking for? Are they hearing what your message was intended to convey? Is what we are hearing negative, positive or both?
As it is often said, “We have two ears and one mouth for a good reason”.
We have to actively listen and hone our communication accordingly.
Leaders also have to respond to what they are hearing. Think about how you feel when you are asked for feedback and you never hear anything back or never see anything change. It’s like you took the time and energy to provide feedback that just disappeared into a black hole.
Leaders have to acknowledge what they have heard and respond accordingly.
Learning and development
Everyone in the organization, at all levels, will need to be equipped with the capability to adopt new technologies and new ways of working.
Leadership will need to understand the advantages and opportunities that the changes will bring so that they can leverage them for organizational advantage.
Middle management will need to understand what the change will mean for their teams and the benefits it will bring including enhancing decision-making capability.
Front-line employees will need to become familiar with the new technologies and working arrangements.
This will entail a mix of education, awareness, coaching, on-job training and immersion in business simulations and scenario workshops.
Constant and disruptive change can take a toll on everyone in the organization. Leaders need to ensure that they have resilience and that their people do as well.
Everyone in the organization needs to be equipped with the tools and resources to enable resilience.
This includes education, coaching, support and access to a platform that provides resilient resources everyone can access from anywhere, at any time and from any device. Resilience is not built from wellness programs and employee assistance programs alone. These programs need to be augmented with access to supporting resources 24 x 7.
Leaders at all levels of the organization need to be visible and be seen to walk the talk. They need to demonstrate their commitment to the changes taking place
Leaders need to encourage open discussion and dialogue about the changes taking place.
They need to meet with people and find out how they are tracking. How are they feeling? What additional support do they need? How is adoption of the changes progressing?
Leaders need to recognize and reward those people who are adopting change and moving the organization forward in the right direction.
They need to recognize the innovators, the experimenters and those prepared to disrupt the status quo. They need to recognize the collaborators and those prepared to work across traditional team boundaries and to create teams that are diverse and interdisciplinary.
They need to acknowledge those people who are making a difference.
This type of recognition will inspire and motivate others to do the same.
As I said in Part 1 of this article, this is a journey not a project. We have to get people involved for the long haul and support them throughout the process.
Leaders need to continually check-in with their people and determine if the changes are being adopted as expected and the benefits realized. If not, determination of the cause and remediation actions needs to take place.
Introduction of technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, and machine learning will not be the driver of organizational success.
Introduction of new ways of working such as agile, lean, and DevOps will not be the catalyst for change that organizations are seeking.
The driver and the catalyst will be culture on which these things are built.
This is a culture of active engagement and a positive employee experience.
This is a culture of learning and development, and one that promotes a growth mindset.
It is a culture that builds and sustains a resilient workforce. It is a culture of care.