Beyond Digital Transformation: Reinventing The Role Of The Leader As A Cocreator Of The Future
For most of the last decade, companies across all industries have embarked on their digital transformations and the identification of critical organizational capabilities that could advance their strategy and position their offerings and services ahead of the competition. From the migration to hybrid cloud environments to the data and AI enabled intelligent systems to the design of business as platforms, senior leaders have focused their efforts on the modernization of their technology architecture to win in a highly disruptive global marketplace.
However, the global reset caused by the pandemic of 2020, accelerated a second wave of the digital transformation, but this time it was about the workforce! The emergence of Future of Work and the collapse of the physical workplace sent shock waves across Human Resources departments and C-suites all over the world. The digital revolution turned into a digital tsunami that forced all of us to rely on our devices to stay connected to our work and our newly formed virtual workplace. Millions adopted new ways of working and learned about new collaboration tools and communication technologies to stay current in their work. We experienced the first quantum leap in our digital transformation, collectively.
While we continue to struggle with the emotional impact of our losses over the last 18 months or so, we are also reflecting on what decisions we will be making in the next 6 to 12 months. The silver lining, if we can say there is one…will be revealed in how we lead our people through the reinvention of the workplace and the work itself. Our workforce is already transformed! We have spent more time learning in 2020 than any other period in recent decades. Workers solved for problems ranging from access to data and tools to collaboration and connectivity issues without project plans nor change management programs sponsored by corporate governance teams. People figured it out what to do and leaders supported the transition through enablement and empathy. The workplace has changed forever and for the better.
Now we are trying to build plans for a return that may not occur as imagined; shaping a new reality that’s taking place organically, and yet, we are relying on old ideas of how an organization should operate. But this time is different. If Finance was critical in the economic crisis of 2008, Human Resources took the lead during the pandemic, and now it is Technology that will define the future success of our workplace by enabling the best possible employee experience in the hybrid world. It will be our CIOs who will lead the way to Best Places to Work in 2022! It will be the employee digital experience that will define winners and losers in their industries.
According to most of the renowned consulting and business research firms in the world the Future o f Work and the “return” to the workplace will require time in the office to support the company’s culture. While most people are stating they would like some kind of flexibility in their working lives, there is no secret formula for this reinvention. Time and space will not define high performance nor innovation. The new workplace must be co-created in the most inclusive way possible. This is not your Big 5 kind of strategy, and it will not be executed through a PMO, rather, the future will emerge from our teams’ ability to establish norms and principles of performance and work arrangements that will satisfy the group as well as the individual members of the team. Organizations will be redesigned as an outcome of these shifts in how we collaborate and get work done. We have been asking our leaders to change their mindsets for a long time, but this is the time to act and adopt new habits and explore new ways of thinking. It is a business imperative! Democratizing power structures and sharing leadership practices will create the conditions in which our people can re-organize successfully, on their own. This is the time we will have to trust our people to make the right decisions, fail fast, learn from experience and most importantly, course-correct with speed and agility.
Technology teams will be at the center of this exercise. We should be replacing plans with questions: Did we fully evolve virtual tools? Did we really explore all possibilities while working remotely? Did we experiment enough during this period of crisis? Is it possible that we just scratched the surface of the value we can create while working through digital platforms? These are questions that will be answered differently by different companies, depending on their appetite for risk and innovation! The business case for more experimentation is clear: Our customers want and need omnichannel frictionless experiences and the only way to offer this capability is to reimagine roles, reinvent work design and compose the most effective workforce mix, flexible work arrangements and most critical in this process will be to advance intelligent digital platforms where work is executed and delivered to our customers.
Beyond agile ways of working, the future is about unlocking the potential and skills of the workforce that has been limited and constrained by norms that no longer satisfy stakeholders in the organization. In the new world of work, all employees are leaders and teams will become the unit of value across all industries. We must empower our people to self-organize, to find new ways to collaborate in a hybrid environment, and fully adopt and discover new tools and new utilization for current tools that will allow for high performing teams to do their best work. The employee experience will define the customer experience for our companies. Human Center Designed is here to stay. Diversity and inclusion will fuel our development. And the workforce will define and shape the workplace and the work. The future is now! Lead with Curiosity, Courage, and Compassion.