The rate and impact of change in the business world is unprecedented (watch Gary Hamel, Reinventing the Technology of Human Accomplishments, 2011 on YouTube), and instills an urgency of change in our organizations, and in ourselves. However, it’s hard to change without knowing what to change towards. You need a useful reference point. A guiding point. Something that is somewhat stable – or at least gives a sense of stability.
Several leadership thinkers point towards a higher focus on capabilities, your HOW, rather than your production directly, your WHAT. So, why not let the guiding point for change be your organizational capabilities that you need for the future of work?
Research shows that we need to upgrade our skills faster and faster, as half-life of a learned skill is only 5 years. This means, that you need to stay in the loop at all times to see how a certain area of your expertise evolves over the next five years. Maybe that is easier with tangible skills within IT systems, robotics, trains or any other physical product, than it is with intangible skills such as empathy, warmth, and meaningfulness as well as the skill to listen and understand.
Either way, we need to look at our organizations and figure out how we as a whole can learn and adapt to the future of work.
Understand the capabilities you need
Take a look at these 10 capabilities characterizing responsive organizations, as documented in The Responsive Leader by Erik Korsvik Østergaard. How do we know if we are good at it? Or if we lack one or two – or maybe even 8 of them? Further down I’ll give you an easy and small assessment tool, but first, let’s look at the 10 capabilities.
Where do you begin?
It’s the classic dilemma, which capability should you develop or focus on first? If you want to do intense sprints, you may need smaller project teams. If you want relations instead of only skills, you need to listen, then decide. If you want better rather than more, you may need to step down from the Ivory Tower. All of the capabilities are connected – and needed in some form.
This means that there shouldn’t be a classic dilemma about which capability should be the first to implement. It should be more about how to begin with a small part of each and look at the affect they have on each other. Maybe it’ll be easier to work in intense sprints if you already have small project teams no larger than two pizzas?
Of course you may find 2-3 of the 10 capabilities easier to work with than others, depending on the context of your organization. And maybe you already think you are good at 1-2 of the capabilities.
Then it’s about figuring out the following:
- Which capabilities are most important to you at the moment?
- Which capabilities can you do something about right now?
- Which capabilities would add the highest business value for the whole organization?
- Which capabilities are easier to implement than others?
- Which capabilities will have a high impact on your organization now?
- Which capabilities should you prioritize first?
My suggestion to you is this:
- Download and print the assessment tool, and cut out the ten capabilities for responsive organizations.
- Gather a small group of people from different teams and departments of your organization.
- Assess each of the ten by asking the questions above.
Hopefully you’ll end up having a mapping (and prioritization) of the ten capabilities along with ideas on how and which you should begin with. Maybe you’ll experience the mapping to add distinctive character to your organization matching the organizational WHY and your values. Or maybe, you’ll have the opposite feeling of a gap between capabilities and WHO you are. Like you are missing something.
The important thing is, that this is the first step towards working with your capabilities, and ways of working, to become more responsive for the future of work.
Next step will be to make change interventions and run experiments to see which ideas will get you in the right direction of enhancing your organizational capabilities.
And remember. Everything you do will affect how you run, grow, and transform your business. When you change how you are organized it will affect your culture, leadership etc., and when you change the way you lead it will affect the others.