Business advantage has moved away from capital to people, from raw automation and financial power to how best to attract, align and empower teams of talented individuals from diverse backgrounds linked by common purpose. Competition has shifted from scale to agility: the ability to create shared purpose, align teams, and enable them to react rapidly to opportunities and challenges. Modern technologies enable an acceleration of more fundamental transformation of work that requires intentional redesign of how people, processes and tools come together.
The Future Forum is dedicated to the proposition that companies who leverage this opportunity to fundamentally transform will win.
That thoughtful deliberations and discourse, sharing of insights, exposure to new technologies, and mutual dissatisfaction with the status quo will help us all lead a revolution to a better way to work.
It’s time for a leadership revolution
Knowledge work has evolved over the past century by progressively absorbing new technologies. Over time, telephones, skyscrapers, copiers, word processors, computers, spreadsheets, the internet and mobile were applied to work habits built in the dawn of the industrial revolution. They’ve been cobbled together based on frameworks built for predictable, linear businesses and tied to 9-to-5 schedules in physical offices, without a broader reexamination of the needs of workers and organizations.
The orthodoxy of the office -- the 9-5 schedule, the C-suite top floor in a central HQ, days full of meetings, and a homogenous set of behavioral norms -- has conditioned how work gets done without serious challenge for decades, even while academic study after study have shown the flaws.
Managers are buckling under the weight of outdated management techniques that don’t apply to complex, interdisciplinary work -- let alone building shared purpose in diverse workforces looking for meaning. We need to enable managers to become leaders: building on purpose, creating clarity, inspiring trust, and unlocking human potential.
The next generation of winners will take advantage of the moment and reimagine management.
Companies that can attract the best talent, align them with the organization's goals, and enable organizational agility to produce superior results will win. Technology allows teams to re-think the traditional physical limits of the office, and allow the people on our teams to fully utilize their intelligence and creativity in pursuit of the organization’s shared objectives.
We need to enable leaders
Managers have been torn between “scientific management” style leadership, measuring attendance and output, and empowerment-driven leadership focused on outcomes. The manager who measures team productivity through hours logged and level of exertion by teams is a recipe for failure. Success today requires leadership, not rote task management — this is made even more critical with distributed, diverse teams and a more complex, fast-changing business environment.
Leaders understand that diversity is essential, and that the challenges are real. That diverse teams create better products and services, and that attracting and retaining diverse talent requires building truly inclusive and equitable teams, and rethinking every aspect of how we build, nurture and reward people.
Leaders share three common capabilities; they create clarity, inspire trust, and unlock human potential through elevating and building on the unique strengths each person brings to the table. They focus on outcomes, trust their teams and take responsibility for performance. Good leaders attract talent.
People don't leave companies, they leave managers.
Leaders provide clarity of purpose, shared context and clear processes for collaboration among team members.
Top talent doesn't show up to punch a clock. People want to make a difference beyond shareholder value; they want to understand that their work has meaning in their customer’s lives. Leaders motivate talent and ensure teams can align by providing shared purpose, and they also have to back it up every day through their actions. They communicate with transparency, synthesize and share information, and provide common context that allows agile teams to gain momentum. They create environments where knowledge and context are fluidly shared among team members and across teams. Leaders provide collaboration processes and tools that default to open: democratic sharing of knowledge that enables cross-functional teams the information they need to act. Leaders enable distributed teams to balance asynchronous and synchronous work styles that enable flexibility for individuals, while focusing the team on key outcomes.
Flexible collaboration tools
Digital backbones that enable broadly available multimedia communication, synchronous and asynchronous work styles, available to everyone, everywhere.
Organization operating systems that integrate the vast variety of tools used by different disciplines, driving functional productivity while making information broadly available.
Flexible physical spaces
Flexible physical spaces that allow for roles or individual workers who need space, and flexibility for teams to come together for project kickoffs, episodic meet-ups and bonding.
Leaders maximize potential; they challenge and support teams with diverse perspectives, remove obstacles, enable learning and ensure accountability for results.
Leaders maximize the potential of their teams through coaching and development, by challenging them appropriately, and through removing obstacles to progress. They build diverse teams because they know dynamic markets require melding disciplines, backgrounds, and perspectives to increase creativity, solve complex problems, and compete on a global basis. They are focused on continuous improvement by building in learning loops to their work processes, supporting experimentation and failures, tackling hard challenges and having a bias to action. They are personally responsible for their teams' outcomes and create broader accountability for results through setting performance standards, celebrating achievements and rapidly addressing performance gaps.
Continuous talent development
Training, on-boarding, mentoring, and performance management systems for a distributed workforce that support frequent, tailored interactions.
Structured creativity and innovation
Opportunities for teams with diverse perspectives and shared context to create, experiment and learn from each other across working styles and locations.
Continuous feedback learning systems
Outcomes-driven measurements require systems for tracking progress against goals and running effective blameless retrospectives on processes.
Leadership is built on trust, and trust enables team resilience in adversity.
Trust is built by investing in people, their well being and career development at the individual level. Leaders act with integrity by sharing knowledge, providing real feedback, demonstrating vulnerability and ensuring the psychological safety of their teams. Leaders build team trust by crafting a team with a breadth of skills, capabilities and perspectives. Trust of a diverse workforce requires true inclusion, equity and belonging. Trust is built on transparency and accrues by open communication and rewards systems based on outcomes, not background or proximity to power.
Diversity and inclusion
Creating psychological safety on teams with work-life imbalances and diversity inequalities. Creating sponsorship for people from under-represented groups.
Belonging and connectedness
An engaged workforce must be supported by processes and tools that allow individuals to build networks, teams to build trust, communities of diverse groups to build support.
Real-time feedback mechanisms
Practices, processes and tools that make it easy for teams to provide each other with timely, appropriate and actionable feedback.
The time is now to reimagine management.