Leading in an era of constant change

In my TED Talk released today, I discuss how we spend the majority of our waking hours working in organizations which are constantly having to adapt. I call this the era of  ‘Always-On’ transformation.  In sharp contrast to self-transformation, which is usually energizing and empowering, the transformation of organizations is often met with dread.  All too often people are still treated as a means to an end—or worse, as collateral damage.  This need not and should not be so.  It is bad for people working in organizations and it will not yield the kind of sustainable results that leaders seek. By Jim Hemerling, 13. Okt. 2016

In my TED talk I name five imperatives for transforming organizations in this era of ‘Always-On’; and they all have one thing in common: putting people first

  1. Inspire through purpose: connect the transformation to something with a deeper sense of meaning and the organization’s larger purpose
  2. Go all in: go beyond short-term cost-cutting to establishing a new business model and the organization required to support it
  3. Build capabilities: enable people with the skills and tools required to perform in their transformed roles
  4. Instill a learning culture: reinforce a growth mindset, encouraging curiosity and experimentation
  5. Lead inclusively: leaders need to be directive but also inclusive, engaging people early and deeply throughout the transformation journey

To act on these five imperatives, we need to believe that putting people first really matters when transforming organizations. Without this belief, I fear that these five imperatives will not be given the weight they deserve. Why am I so passionate about this? Let me explain.

We spend most of our waking hours working in organizations. These organizations have a profound impact on the quality our lives. They enable us to provide for our families, to contribute through the products and services we develop, to learn and grow and to realize our potential, to develop relationships and find sources of affiliation, and in the best organizations, they also enable us to find meaning in our work. We also organize to get things done more efficiently and more effectively together that we can individually. As we transform our organizations, therefore, we need to ensure that we are actually enabling the people working in them to be more productive. This won’t happen unless we really are committed to putting people first, starting with treating people as people with heads and hearts, motivated by extrinsic and intrinsic rewards.  Only then will our approach to transforming organizations enable people to thrive.

I have seen how transformation done incorrectly can destroy morale and motivation. But I have also seen that when it is done right, it can energize and empower. I invite you to listen to my talk, and as you do, to reflect not only on what it will take to transform how we transform organizations, but also on why it matters so much, why it matters that we stop treating people as a means to an end, or worse, as collateral damage, and start putting people first.

For more on transformation, please visit BCG’s Transformation page.

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