I recently represented Fujitsu at Dublin Chamber of Commerce’s Leaders Series webinar. These events are always thought-provoking and guest speaker Ade McCormack was no exception.
My point of view is that with disruption comes opportunity to reshape the future. Looking at the last 18 months, it would be useful to consider how to leverage the good practices that came from the sudden change in the way we work. As an office based, non-front-line worker my thoughts are based on a somewhat privileged perspective. I am greatly appreciative of the many front-line workers who kept so many people alive during this very difficult and stressful time.
Working for a technology company, it can be easy to forget that most of the work practices we use in the corporate world are direct descendants of the Industrial Revolution and the Taylorist approach which was popular in the early 1990s. Neither management practices nor the overall “format” of working and the workplace are all that very different from previous generations. As Ade said, it’s time for a short, sharp shock to the leadership synapses – the command-and-control model may be dead according to Ade, but it’s still what most organisations know and use. We, as business leaders, company founders and people managers need to forget everything we knew about the pre-Covid workplace – because it’s never coming back – and instead embrace people-centric transformation and practices.
Corporate buzzwords such as efficiencies, processes and strategic planning abound in our modern world. And they’ve served many businesses well, to a degree. But Ade argues that those values are no longer fit for purpose in the brave new world of post-Covid business. To succeed, we as leaders need to genuinely value, nurture and encourage human values such as:
- Work-Life Integration
Putting these principles front and centre as your “guiding North Star” will enable businesses to build “super resilience”, an attribute Ade believes will be the defining aspect of success in the future. One of the core tenets of this philosophy is to embrace risk. The very prospect may well be anathema to many business leaders as it flies in the face of almost everything we’ve learned thus far, but the more I thought about it, the more I agree with Ade – we all need to reassess our relationship with risk and see it as a welcome learning tool rather than something to be eliminated. And part of that journey may well be having to retrain ourselves, as business leaders, to rely on our people and allow them – and ourselves – to demonstrate those most human of values: trust, empowerment and accountability. I also wonder if there is a place for a Humanocracy approach, flatter organisations and less bureaucracy as espoused by Gary Hamel.
With offices adjusting to reopening, many organisations are looking for guidance around how they can get back to normal, so now is the time to rethink what normal is. For many employees, ‘normal’ simply wasn’t working. It’s up to us as leaders to create something new that works for our staff while still delivering on the organisational goals that we strive for.
While employees will surely enjoy some of the benefits, I think what they are actually telling us is that they want a change in culture. I think an open discussion about how we can become better, effective cultural leaders is hugely timely while empowering our people.
You may find this ironic coming from someone working for a technology company, but I believe that the success of the future of work is not necessarily about computers, applications and connectivity. I believe it is about leaders, organization structure and culture being enabled by technology. At Fujitsu, for quite some time now, we’ve been talking about making a fundamental shift in how we approach work, life, culture and everything relating to how we see ourselves as a business and as leaders.
I think it can be best expressed as:
“Culture + technology + SMART working = Work Life Shift. Technology and smart working can enable and enhance an adaptive & resilient organisation.”
After all, as Ade so rightly pointed out, everything we thought we knew is up for review.
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