Is Your Organization’s Strategic Focus Aligned with the Demands of the Digital Age?
The word ‘Disruptive’ has come to signify a kind of transformative change. It uproots existing norms of competitive economies and forges a path of its own. Rewriting the ‘rule book’ while relegating complacent titans of industry to the annals of history. It’s the kind of trailblazing that is majestic in nature and game-changing in practice. However, organizations that are built on such innovations are also highly susceptible to becoming like the ones they replaced. As they accelerate growth and unbridle expansion come into focus, especially, after the ‘aura’ of being a ‘startup’ disappears. Consequently, it is imperative that the strategic focus of progressive organizations is in congruence with the demands of the Digital Age. This is crucial to remain relevant and competitive. Whilst also maintaining an effective buffer against disruptive influences/competitors. The illustrated model is a perspective of what could evolve.
This model highlights five strategic imperatives for organizations to stay relevant and competitive in the Digital Age, i.e., Humanistic, Functional, Architectural, Business and Technology. It is designed in the form of a self-reflection. A framework for a realistic self-appraisal of an organization’s strengths and weaknesses. Such an approach can further strengthen the positive traits. This enables timely corrective/preventive actions needed to stay relevant. Let’s review each of the five strategic imperatives with their constituent elements, as follows:
The Humanistic aspect focuses on all areas pertaining to the management of human talent. Intended to create a win-win situation for both the employee and the employer. Consequently, careers in a digital economy are significantly changing the ‘psychological contract’ as it shifts from being based on traditional values to being based on ‘validated trust’.
Short-sighted organizations often implement talent management practices that are designed for ‘risk accommodation’ against ‘talent flight’. Versus a ‘risk mitigation’ approach that caters to ‘talent engagement’. Gone are the days when budding professionals depended upon the paternalistic instincts of their employers to provide them with a viable career path. The todays capable professional is more informed, incisively skilled and comes with a rich portfolio of knowledge.
The Recognition and Rewards system has evolved to incorporate Employee Experience in addition to the traditional norms of Compensation and Benefits. It has become a hallmark of outstanding employers as reflected below:
In this context, we might ask ‘Is there substantial value in being an employee of our organization?’
The Functional aspect focuses on the effective integration and harmonization of activities/initiatives as manifested in their organizational structuring. It elevates the notion of nimbleness to a core competitive advantage and points to the significance of being able to pivot congruently with respect to the demands of the Digital Age. This is crucial in terms of safeguarding against disruptive forces (astute competitors, breakthrough technologies, transforming eco-systems, dynamic customer/client bases, binding laws/rules/regulations, uncertain political environment, multi-generational workforces, etc.). However, a warning not to be lured into excessive experimentation associated with ‘fad-surfing’ or becoming highly vulnerable to the pitfalls of accelerated growth and unbridled expansion without a supportive structure.
Organizations are a complex mix of various interactive elements that are both organic and inorganic in nature as shown below:
Most leaders struggle to find an optimum balance between the two key facets. The inevitable presence of various controllable/uncontrollable factors is very challenging. Such imbalances can create barriers for the long-term success of the organization. A key reason is that ‘organizational restructuring’ often fails. This can be due to the tinkering approach of the ‘organizational hierarchy’, rather than, significantly improving the ‘thought hierarchy’.
In this context, we should ask, ‘Are we configured in the best possible way to deliver desired results?’.
The Architectural aspect focuses on designing, implementing, maintaining, improving, and sustaining the physical work environment that is conducive to the health and wellbeing of the workforce. Proactively ensuring such initiatives are a significant part of the overall equation for corporate success. Managing stress levels, reducing fatigue factors and inculcating measures for an invigorating workplace is important.
Key questions to workplace design should to be considered to better understand the positives and negatives such that corrective actions can be deployed are:
1. What can be achieved in workplace design now that earlier initiatives could not accomplish?
2. How is an organization meeting the associated challenges?
3. How is ‘employee voice’ being incorporated in the respective context?
4. Are there areas where customer needs and employee desires clash? How are they being resolved?
5. What are the key direct and indirect metrics that reflect the impact of workplace design in your organization?
6. Do you benchmark in the respective context? If so, how has it helped you?
7. How does the ‘gig economy’ (freelancing) fit with such initiatives?
8. What role do you foresee Artificial Intelligence (AI) playing in the respective context for the future?
9. Have you used innovative workplace design as a recruitment tool too? If so, is it attracting the desired talent accordingly?
10. How do you intend to inculcate lessons learnt from such experiences in future endeavors?
Such an approach can also create the ‘thought space’ that compels progressive leaders to focus not only on the ‘palatable’ priority areas, but also, the ‘contentious’ ones. Commons ones are communication, engagement, use of office space, elevating productivity levels, boosting diversity and inclusion initiatives through design innovation, excelling in meeting customer/client needs/expectations by incorporating the ‘WOW’ factor, adopting environmentally-friendly designs/practices that lead to efficient utilization of available resources, using human-centric lighting/luminosity to enhance focus and comfort levels (https://www.ledsmagazine.com/articles/print/volume-14/issue-9/features/human-centric-lighting-in-the-workplace-it-s-not-just-about-color-temperature.html), etc.
In this context we must ask, ‘Have we created a welcoming and healthy place for work?’
The Business aspect focuses on the strategic imperatives and operational elements that work to maintain an organization’s relevance and competitiveness in the Digital Age. It cautions against falling into the abyss of an idealistic vision. And avoids embarking on doomed initiatives. This achieved by conducting timely and effective due diligence of organizational capabilities. Key factors are the ‘mobilizable’ resources, availability of talent and prevalence of favorable factors for business in the foreseeable future. The following ‘Business Excellence & Progressive Growth Sustainability Model’ illuminates a viable path in the respective direction:
This model provides a strong basis for taking calculated risks. We often see in many organizations, the leadership preference is to measure corporate success in terms of avoiding failures versus, learning from missteps and consolidating gains on a long-term basis.
Additionally, in rushing to embrace the alluring promise of AI-enabled technology, progressive organizations often fall into the trap of providing incomplete/immature service models. Such an approach should review the emboldened customers/clients, who are more than willing to expose the associated shortcomings/failures. These could be adapting to multi-dimensional/unforeseen service conditions, especially, through online forums.
For example, courier companies are generally highly proficient/competitive in ‘Product Delivery’ and many are actively working on ‘normalizing’ drone deliveries. However, they lag significantly in appreciably/consistently upholding any outstanding standards with respect to Product Return, Product Replacement, and Product Recall.
Furthermore, concerns for environmental and social imbalances have added an extra dimensions to organizations. To remain competitive they need to proactively engage in remedial measures before irreparable harm to increasingly fragile reputations and to remain an ‘engaged’ stakeholder . Therefore, organizations with an eye on thriving in the future are well-advised to heed the adage ‘someone is always watching. A proactive approach for their actions in a more accommodating and responsible manne,r is now a given.
Consequently, the two toughest decisions that leaders have to make in the Digital Age are:
- Saying ‘No’ in an Era of Prosperity
This pertains to going beyond the allure of short-term gains in favor of progressive measures that secure long-term sustainability
- Saying ‘Yes’ in an Era of Uncertainty
This pertains to taking calculated risks for initiating progressive measures against the conventional wisdom of playing it safe
In this context, the key question is ‘Are our strategies aligned with our capabilities to achieve desired results responsibly and sustainably?’
The Technology aspect focuses on the incorporation, utilization, supervision, viability, efficacy, and improvement of non-human talent in enhancing functional capabilities of an organization. Currently, the preferred approach is to find the means to complement the bulk of the human workforce. But the future seems to be gravitating towards minimal human presence/interface/interaction as AI-enabled entities achieve primacy in the workplace.
A common mistake made in the dash for embracing technological solutions is to equate technology with innovation. Innovation is a cardinal ‘humanistic’ concept that refers to the smart application of human ingenuity. Whereas, technology is a consequential ‘mechanistic’ tool that enables the efficient accomplishment of targeted tasks/assignments/responsibilities. Keeping the ‘human factor’ in prime position while charting the course of a prosperous future in the Digital Age ensures organizational harmony in congruence with the optimal technological solutions.
An illustration of the evolution of innovation through the key past, present and future technology drivers eras are highlighted below:
Today’s multigenerational workforce is looking at challenges that have a higher impact and more transformative than for earlier professionals. This drives narrowing occupational paths, re-skilling imperatives, multiple careers, early retirements, forced entrepreneurships.
As AI-enabled entities progressively master the conventional ‘humanistic’ workplace domains, it relentlessly pushes the threshold for ‘staying relevant’. This is also testing the robustness of core values that form the basis of a cohesive corporate culture as employees get more and more apprehensive about the validity/strength of the ‘psychological contracts’ with their employers.
Additionally, benefits from having a generationally-diverse workforce can be comprehensively realized. This can be achieved by effectively deploying an optimal balance between the ‘Crystallized Intelligence’ (prevalent in older members), and the ‘Fluid Intelligence’ (prevalent in younger members) – a golden opportunity to utilize the full capacity of available talent for overcoming formidable challenges in a hypercompetitive Digital world.
A key question to ask ourselves – ‘Is technology a substantial competitive advantage for us without compromising our core values’.
A key strategic review point for organizations to consider, is to ascertain whether there is an inherent ‘need to change’ or the ‘want to change’ mind set to stay relevant in the Digital world. The first reflects a reactive approach. This is a clear signal for course correction before being outplayed by more astute competitors. The second indicates a proactive approach that signifies an anticipated but requires drive.
The key deliverables must be to embrace timely innovative practices to ensure an organization’s competitive future with a robust ‘going concern’ status.
How was your last review? Are you alarmed, hopeful or confident? Your future awaits…