Let’s start with a flashback to the origins. Before the Industrial Revolution, most manufacturing work was done by small organizations of talented and mainly perfectly trained crafts people. They really “owned” their entire businesses, did whatever needed to thrive and depended on it to survive. After the Revolution, illustrated best by Henry Ford’s auto assembly line, work has changed a lot. People were expected to concentrate just on their narrow job and were involved in the entire business only very little. The literal cog in the machine. They brought their brawn to work, but their brains were not needed and sometimes not even welcomed. They were “efficient,” at least at that time, when the focus was on producing large quantities as cheap as possible for the growing market of consumers.
We have to admit that even if no longer on an assembly line, this is still the underlying mindset in the management of many organizations, even those that appear to be digital and “modern” from the outside:
During the past 20 years, we have been lucky to learn by doing in leading organizations, such as Angelini Pharma, Danone, Unilever and many more, how to organize work best. We have learned that people are much more satisfied with their work, achieve a higher productivity and quality, and thus companies are more successful when they treat employees like business partners rather than just cogs in the machine to be discarded when they are worn out.
WOW – that would seem to be pretty ideal!! However, it really comes down to management’s fundamental beliefs about people and the way to organize collective work.
Much has been written about this, but fundamentally New Work is built on 2 key beliefs – Respect for the Capability of All Employees and Common OKR.
Respect means we value all the talents of every person and seek to develop them to their full potential. Though different people may have different skills and responsibilities, everyone is valued as a true partner and each one will grow and contribute. Respect for the distinctive human capability to continuously anticipate and shape the next is the key. Respect and trust play an even greater role when it comes to hiring new talents.
The emerging workforce generations demand flexibility, independence and a sense of purpose in what they do. They take on responsibility. With a good idea, they want to offer meaningful added value. Not easy to accept for leaders since they give away responsibility, power and take risks. They even have to take one step further. They also have to support their long-standing associates to try new ways and find meaning in their work.
We of ActioGlobal certainly don’t mean to imply that everyone can do whatever they feel like. In order to unite the talents and skills of all employees to achieve the common purpose, our second belief must be lived.
A year ago we began working with ActioGlobal on the great challenge of changing the way we work. Today, after several months of intense work, I am very proud to see how this new cultural system has managed to bring together and give a logical shape to all the initiatives we were carrying out to gradually change our mindset from outputs to outcomes, using OKR, and other Agile methodologies within the ActioGlobal PEAK framework.”Juan Elías, Yapo
If there are Common OKR in our business, we’re all working for the same purpose, instead of everyone working in their own silos. Sometimes it is easier to understand if sports analogies are used. Think of any team in sports whose triumphs you have witnessed. They clearly had a common goal and persevered through lots of adversities and even fighting to gain that victory. They have only been able to make it by respecting, developing and using the skills of every single member of the organization.
Additionally, we of ActioGlobal have developed our Drumbeat model. Like a sports team, it is based on alliance and partnership, moving in a flexible rhythm instead of following rigid structures to meet the agreed OKR. Synchronized rituals are developed that provide transparency and alignment for the teams and their members. They get self-sufficient, can expect common radical candor and a shared discipline is developed. The Drumbeat of the OKR makes everyone feel, understand and follow the heartbeat of the organization.
Both principles in place – a lot of things will happen that characterize an Agile High Performance Organization. Here are just a few examples:
We could go on at length about both of these concepts and sometimes we do and make it all way too complicated. But let’s focus on the essence of Agility and High Performance in combination with the New Work model.
Why not let your people work in small organizations – teams – within the huge organization. No one wants the so-called “good old days” back but the idea of talented and highly skilled professionals working in small organizations, who feel like they really “own” their entire businesses, do whatever needed to thrive and create an impact. Mini-startups set out to gain the victories both for themselves and the company.
It’s about bringing out the best in people and unleashing them to make themselves and the customers happy. In the end, that’s how we get ahead i.e. leading our business, experiment and learn, grow, and enjoy what we all do every day. This is how our work and life take on a meaning.