The Leadership and Talent Conference hosted by Strategic HR Network challenged conventional theories as to how leadership and talent will evolve. The prestigious speakers that included 2 Professors of business schools, HRDs from leading UK businesses and a further assembled cast of business experts agreed that organisations are faced with an increasingly complex series of challenges which need to be solved more rapidly than ever. How organisations face and solve these will directly impact their chances of survival.
The common themes emerging from the speakers were:
1. The world is becoming increasingly complex. There are more touch points, more information available, more competition and more demanding clients. The old paradigms just will not work in the future. No longer will circumstances be similar to something that has happened in the past against which you can apply yesterday’s solution to. Rigid hierarchical structures do not allow for the speed of response required and those organisations that look to promote structure with defined roles, competencies and job descriptions are likely to be overtaken as more nimble players adapt more quickly.
2. Technology is changing at an exponential rate and therefore the technology generation gap is shortening. Where the current users are largely “technology immigrants” our children will be “technology natives” with this process set to continue an ever increasing rate. Systems will need to be adaptive and responsive to these changing organisational demands.
3. The speed of change continues to increase but our ability to absorb and learn from these changes is no longer able to keep up. We are and will continue to be faced with an ever changing landscape and those that acknowledge the changes happening around us will be better placed to survive in the new environment.
4. Data and understanding it are critical. Organisations are sitting on a wealth of data but using it to understand and drive insight is critical. Driving out the “facts” on which everyone agrees is fundamental before asking the right questions to understand and articulate the issue faced. Only then, with this clarity of the issue being faced, will it be possible to work through a solution. Collect, question, articulate, synthesise and all within a reducing timeframe.
5. The increasing importance of an agile structure. Organisations will need to adapt their structure and staff rapidly to the changing needs of the client. Teams will need to be assembled rapidly with differing skill sets to collaborate and solve the problem(s) faced. This fluidity and ability to harness relevant skills will differentiate those that succeed and those that fail.
6. Leaders and more importantly leadership will have to evolve to this new world. No longer will it be possible to have someone who is seen leading from the front, the typical figurehead of old. Key skills will be to Listen, Question and then Synthesise. Understanding the problem at hand and then bringing together the right people with the right skills will define the exceptional leader.
7. Informal networks will enhance and improve organisational performance. The strength and skills within an organisation are not always well known or understood yet they exist. The successful organisations will be those that harness this capability and let the bright ideas surface. The lack of a formal structure for this places increasing emphasis on coming up with innovative solutions that are right for the organisation. There is unlikely to a one size fits all solution.
In this increasingly complex, fast changing and evolving world, the fluid organisation will adapt fastest. It will be characterised by an agile structure, an integrating leadership model, first class HR analytics and it will leverage its informal networks both inside and out. These concepts challenge how we should evolve our management practices, where we should look for our next leaders and how we should train them.
Challenging indeed. The gauntlet has been thrown down to us all: Evolution or Extinction
“Twas ever thus” – Just a little faster this time.