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Why it matters

The Sense and Nonsense of Purpose Consulting

Britta Moser

The current issue of the magazine "Neue Narrative" sums it up quite brilliantly: established consulting firms recently discovered a new promising business field – Purpose Consulting. Strategic minds who are seriously interested in supporting companies on their way towards greater sustainability, long-termism and innovations relevant to society and the planet anticipate that a new big business consulting wave, in which a good concept is deprived of its importance and impact, is imminent.

"500 new employees on the subject of sustainability or purpose." The same management consultancies, whose  paradigms of endless growth and positivist actions have contributed to the considerable exacerbation of many problems in the world for decades, are now acting as if they had always known it.

On the positive side, purpose is here to stay. When the consorts preach purpose to their clients, it is now impossible to imagine the corporate world without the concept. At the same time, it means for all of us, and especially for companies, to listen carefully when we talk about purpose and meaning – and to evaluate the advice with common sense and a portion of scepticism.

You can find the whole article in the current issue of "Neue Narrative" #02 - 2018: https://neuenarrative.de/

Photo by Harry Sandhu on Unsplash

Rigid Systems and Rigid Thinking - How Companies Put their Own Sustainability at Risk

Britta Moser

Despite serious innovation efforts and intense change processes many companies fail to develop their full potential in the future because of their own structures and the silo thinking within their divisions. The silo thinking of divisional managers as well as teams and departments, and the associated trench wars over budgets and recognition prevent the risk-taking step into a new work modus and the implementation of necessary innovations. Even worse, this behavior creates the illusion of being in control by merely cosmetic improvements that are labeled as decisive break-throughs. For example, a company searches to engrain digization into its framework, and therefore asks its most prominent project managers to execute a digitzation project. Two things generally happen, i.e. firstly, the task turns into a competition among the project leads and their teams to make a mark. Secondly, by defintion a project is limited in terms of time, thus the project ends after some months and creates the illusion that now digitization is integrated into the fabric of the company. I'm sure, you all know how this story ends. Nothing has been gained. To be frank, quite the opposite, the company has lost the opportunity to take a significant step into their future and is not better prepared for it than it was before. 

First of all - it's not about you

Although management often sees the need for business and cultural change, implementation fails because employees who have learned over decades that it is much better to focus on the goals of their own team first, rather than the company as a whole. This is understandable, because within the last decades employees and leads were conditioned that way in order to maintain status. But this is the core of all evil: As soon as teams and departments think strictly in silos and concentrate on their own advantage only, the willingness to innovate and make real progress in the team and company stands still. Sometimes it is willingly blocked. Ultimately, performance also suffers.

Of course, every team has its own goals and approaches within the company, its own culture and above all fear of losing power and falling into insignificance when management threatens change measures and innovation projects. Maintaining status is much easier and less stressful for everyone. Taking new paths, trying out new ideas and taking risks is exhausting – on short term. No matter how big the company is, the employees are suspicious of what the others are doing. After all, they could be successful and thus receive more recognition from the company management, and next year they could even claim more budget, which will then be cut back in their own projects.

Ultimately – adopt the principle "people first"

With the right inspiration, however, management can slowly soften established processes and ways of thinking. This often takes years, requires a lot of patience and a rethinking in the minds of all those involved. An established corporate culture does not change from one day to the next. The transparent communication of the challenges and problems, constant integration and exemplifying of the necessary changes and, above all, the recognition of projects that became succesful becomes of their cross-functional approach help here. Interdisciplinary teams produce much better results than colleagues with similar experience and areas of responsibility who have been working together for years. Different living conditions, traits, skills, interests and experiences meet and offer completely new approaches and creative ideas.

In the digital era, leaders cannot simply “manage” work. They have to engage their workforces and inspire people to participate. It’s not enough for leaders to know what they want to achieve when starting new initiatives; leaders have to listen to employees from the outset, asking them how they see proposed outcome. Leaders can inspire employees by removing individual insecurity or personal restrictions, helping them define their part in the mission and providing a perspective of personal rewards. The next part for leaders is to work with employees, determine the nature and volume of their work and get them to commit to it – and, above all, help them to do their job without restraints and remove the obstacles out of their way.

A plea for a new mindset and more cooperation

So this is a plea for a new mindset - of employees leaders. It is a mindset set on collaboration – across teams and departmental boundaries. Collaboration is the key to success for leadership in the digital and sustainbility age. But collaboration is simply not possible without shared purpose, individual and collective engagement, and commitment. Leaders and employees must be encouraged to develop the right attitude and put that into action.

True collaborative environments require situational, role-based leadership. Without the security of predefined processes, leaders will not know for sure what decisions or directions will be necessary along the way. The digital leader will be comfortable handing over the reins to other people and picking the right leader in each situation, as circumstances require. Instead of a power position based on authority, the team will have situational, authority-based, even self-organized leadership. The C-level executives may be, by role, the essential overall leaders, but team leaders and domain experts will also play critical leadership roles.

Companies must encourage their people to collaborate across borders and across disciplines, and not just let them run after individual short-term successes. Only in this way, companies can develop their capabilities and innovate their business in the long term. Only those companies that succeed in doing this will be able to really survive in the future and be successful. Only those companies that are able to challenge themselves will sustain in the end.

Photo by Josh Spires on Unsplash

Global Study Shows Gender Diversity Boosts the Bottom Line

Britta Moser

Diversity–particularly among genders–increases a business’s bottom line, according to a new study from DDI, The Conference Board, and EY. The study, dubbed the Global Leadership Forecast, looked at demographic data from over 2,400 organizations in 54 countries.

The upshot was that while women currently represent less than a third (29%) of all leadership roles–most of which are junior management positions–companies that have at least 30% gender diversity overall, and more than 20% at the senior level, outperform their less diverse counterparts in key leadership and business outcomes.

For example, companies with greater gender diversity reported they are twice as likely to have their leaders work together to create new solutions and opportunities, 1.5 times more likely to work across an organization’s silos and exhibit a growth culture, and 1.7 times more likely to have strong leadership.

...

Source: https://www.fastcompany.com/40533912/global-study-shows-gender-diversity-boosts-the-bottom-line

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

The five attributes of digital leadership – Your organisation has digital leaders, but they're not always in obvious places

Britta Moser

Too many confuse digital leadership with technical experience. This creates well-intentioned but insufficient action. Reverse mentorship programmes may increase executives' comfort with social communications but they do not foster new forms of leadership across all organisational levels. Chief digital officers seldom have the remit to reboot leadership beyond the corporate incubator.

Look deeper within your organisations and the picture changes. Across your company you have emerging leaders shaped by digital and social technologies. They navigate the communities, small teams, and external ecosystems that are the organisation's vital fabric, not just its shadow structures. Their experience fosters values and behaviours – an entire digital mindset – that distinguish them from incumbent leaders.

...

Source: Christine Overby, http://www.hrmagazine.co.uk/article-details/the-five-attributes-of-digital-leadership-1

Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

An Ethnographic Approach to Change Management

Britta Moser

The ability to lead organizational and cultural change has never been a more critical factor for success in business than it is today. In a world of dynamic change, complexity, and disrupted businesses and industries, we need to look closer at organizational performance to assure that a company and its employees are geared to take up future challenges and make its core future-proof.

Source: Mads Holme, https://www.epicpeople.org/turn-and-face-the-strange-an-ethnographic-approach-to-change-management/

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Sustainability by Design, or Design for Sustainability?

Britta Moser

“The discussion moved beyond the fact that digital transformation is essential to stay relevant in today’s business environment” says Julie when asked about her impressions of Davos and the role that digital transformation plays in a globalized world. “The focus is now on the impact, and the power of digital transformation in helping to shape a better world by devoting particular attention to the UN’s Agenda 2030 and the SDGs."


An excellent read on why to get companies to think about the new ways in which they engage in digital transformation projects, while adopting a mindset of Sustainability by Design.

Source: Nadim Choucair, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/sustainability-design-nadim-choucair/

 

 

Digital Leadership Drives Digital Transformation

Britta Moser

Digital Leadership isn’t just about technologies, it’s about culture and changing mindsets. The most well-thought out digital transformation strategy will fail if employees are not empowered, listened to and free to act on their own responsibility. In fundamental contrast to hierarchical leadership, servant leadership and hands-on management is able to break down barriers, crack open silos and improve collaboration and information sharing, reshaping processes and motivating teams. These all make for a positive change experience.

In any leadership scenario, digital or non-digital, it is essential that a leader believes in what they are doing and take a stand for it as this reflects on the people they are leading – digital transformation is no exception to this rule.

However, belief and purpose is only the beginning. As a digital leader you need to be able to engage and motivate your people. Digital tools make the path to digital transformation easier, but they can’t replace the purpose and attitude of a leader.

Effective leadership in a digital environment requires you to foster a culture of trust, collaboration and resilience and put the organization’s digital transformation strategy into action. To do this you must be prepared to lead by example and by serving people – addressing their practical questions, as well as resistance and fears, as employees learn to work alongside velocity, algorithms, and complexity. This goes for any project where you are managing people, not just digital transformation.

Photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash