Change management is important, but change readiness is essential. Awareness, agility, reaction, and mechanism are all essential elements of change planning, and every member of the organisation should be prepared, willing and able to comply.
Our own observations are supported by global research that organisations are no longer country-focused and are instead linking over much wider spaces. Where before organisational structures, planning and buying were limited to the country they operated in, now virtual teams are spread across the world. This brings many benefits in terms of buying power, a much wider talent pool and potential market reach. But it also brings challenges in terms of ensuring each team member – whether they’re in a London office 9 to 5 or working from home in a remote corner of Africa – feels engaged, valued and a key member of that team.
There is a real need for organisational development to focus on engagement, motivation and morale, rather than just structure. Organisations should embrace the relatively young area of positive psychology and focus on strength, health and wellbeing programmes. They should move away from performance appraisals and instead focus on identifying and leveraging the individual strengths of every team member, whether they’re a senior leader or frontline worker.
Focusing on strengths and positivity helps people to flourish and enables organisations to do more with less. When teams are spread out across the globe and remote working is the norm, people will perform well when they’re encouraged to achieve the things they’re good at and enjoy. Micromanagement and negative feedback foster resentment, and an organisation cannot develop or adapt to change if its team doesn’t feel stable and valued in their roles.
A further factor that affects the rapid pace of organisational change and development and reflects the need for focusing on strengths and wellbeing is the rate at which mergers and acquisitions are taking place. Larger organisations are gobbling up smaller ones for their expertise, while organisations of a similar size are merging to gain economies of scale and wider reach. Focusing on the strengths of each team member rather than enforcing a structure, and imposing it on the newly acquired or merged workforce, will allow organisations to get the best from their new teams.
These new teams are also expected to adapt to new ways of working, with a focus on digital technology for communicating, as well as the use of data for decision making. Increased management via the use of apps coincides with the spread of automation and the use of technology to replace routine tasks. This area will continue to develop apace and whole sectors and roles will eventually be replaced by automation or the use of robots. We cannot ignore this, and we must ensure that organisational development is flexible enough to adapt.
At the same time, a whole generation of highly-skilled and knowledgeable people are leaving the workforce in their millions and leaving a talent shortfall in their wake. Affluent baby boomers retiring in droves has created a shift in the demographic of the working population, and organisational development must reflect this change and focus on inter-generational teams who are supported to embrace developments in technology.
Daniel Kahneman’s Nobel Prize winning work on judgement and decision making from 2002 has never been more relevant. Our ‘fast’ thinking, traditionally used for quick decision such as whether to have tea or coffee, is increasingly deployed in a business environment when decisions must be taken quickly. Our ‘slow’ thinking, used for problem solving, is being given less opportunity to develop in this fast-paced world of virtual teams and digital technology.
This has spurred the growth in one to one coaching and the thinking environment. Change is permanent, it’s not something that happens once. It’s ongoing and we must ensure that teams at all levels are agile enough to deal with it.