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The word ‘Disruptive’ has come to signify the kind of transformative change that uproots existing norms of competitive economies and forges a path of its own by rewriting the ‘rule book’ while relegating complacent titans of industry to the annals of history.  It’s the kind of trailblazing that is majestic in nature and game-changing in practice.  However, organisations that are built upon such innovations are also highly susceptible to becoming like the ones they replaced as accelerated growth and unbridled expansion come into focus, especially, after the ‘aura’ of being a ‘startup’ disappears.  Consequently, it is imperative that the strategic focus of progressive organisations is in congruence with the demands of the Digital Age to remain relevant and competitive while maintaining an effective buffer against disruptive influences/competitors.  The following model is being presented in the respective context:

The aforementioned model highlights the five strategic imperatives for organisations to stay relevant and competitive in the Digital Age, i.e., Humanistic, Functional, Architectural, Business and Technology.  It is designed in the form of a self-reflection that creates a framework for an honest self-appraisal of an organisation’s strengths and weaknesses to further strengthen the positive traits and to enable timely corrective/preventive actions for overcoming any shortcomings.  Let’s discuss each of the five strategic imperatives with their constituent elements, as follows:

Humanistic
The Humanistic aspect focuses on all areas pertaining to the management of human talent that creates a win-win situation for both the employee and the employer during the life-cycle of the employment relationship.  It calls for cognisance of the fact that employee voices are being increasingly muffled under the euphoria induced by the increasing encroachment of seemingly user-friendly technology in the workplace, especially, AI-enabled, that is serving as a ‘relationship buffer’ for the senior management, enamored with an obsessive focus on efficiency, to marginalize the humanistic concerns.  Consequently, the fugaciousness of careers in a digital economy is significantly changing the ‘psychological contract’ as it shifts from being blindly based on ‘solemn faith’ to being watchfully propped up on ‘validated trust’.

Short-sighted organisations often implement talent management practices that are designed for ‘risk accommodation’ against ‘talent flight’ instead of ‘risk mitigation’ that caters to ‘talent engagement’.  However, gone are the days when budding professionals depended upon the paternalistic instincts of their employers to provide them with a viable career path.  The capable professional of today is more informed, incisively skilled, and comes with a baggage of knowledge that enables leveraged negotiating targeted to achieve maximum gains within a mutually agreed frame of reference.  Consequently, Total Rewards has evolved to incorporate Employee Experience in addition to the traditional norms of Compensation and Benefits.  It has become a hallmark of outstanding employers as reflected below:

Therefore, the key question in the respective context becomes ‘Is there substantial value in being an employee of our organization’.

Functional
The Functional aspect focuses on all areas pertaining to the effective integration, harmonisation and channelisation of activities/initiatives that are manifested through prudent organisational structuring.  It elevates the notion of nimbleness to a core competitive advantage and points to the significance of being able to pivot congruently with respect to the demands of the Digital Age.  This is crucial in terms of safeguarding against disruptive forces (astute competitors, breakthrough technologies, transforming eco-systems, dynamic customer/client bases, binding laws/rules/regulations, uncertain political environment, multi-generational workforces, etc.).  However, care has to be taken in terms of not being lured into excessive experimentation associated with ‘fad-surfing’ or becoming highly vulnerable to the pitfalls of accelerated growth and unbridled expansion without a supportive organisational structure, especially, in case of new organisations, after the ‘aura’ of being a ‘startup’ disappears.

Organisations are a complex mix of various interactive elements that are both organic and inorganic in nature as shown below:

Most leaders struggle to find an optimum balance between the two key facets due to the inevitable presence of various controllable/uncontrollable factors and are generally resigned to leaning more towards one than the other as they try to stamp their influence on building an enduring legacy within the organisations.  Such an imbalance creates serious issues for the long-term success of the organisation, especially, considering that one of the key reasons that ‘organisational restructuring’ often fails in progressive organisations is due to the inconspicuous fact that it is primarily focused on tinkering with the ‘organisational hierarchy’, rather than, significantly improving the ‘thought hierarchy’.  Therefore, the key question in the respective context becomes ‘Are we configured in the best possible way to deliver desired results’.

Architectural
The Architectural aspect focuses on all areas pertaining to designing, implementing, maintaining, improving, and sustaining the physical work environment that is conducive to the health and well-being of the workforce.  Proactively assuring and ensuring such initiatives is a significant part of the overall equation for corporate success, especially, in terms of managing stress levels, reducing fatigue factors and inculcating measures for a lively and invigorating workplace.  Following questions pertaining to workplace design should to be considered for gaining a better understanding of relevant strengths and weaknesses to reinforce/institutionalize effective remedial measures:What are you trying to achieve with workplace design now that earlier initiatives could not accomplish?

How is your organisation meeting the associated challenges?

How is ‘employee voice’ being incorporated in the respective context?

Are there any areas where customer/client needs and employee desires clash?  If so, how have you resolved them?

What are some of the key direct and indirect metrics that reflect the impact of workplace design in your organisation?

Do you benchmark in the respective context?  If so, how has it helped you?

How does the ‘gig economy’ (freelancing) fit with such initiatives?

What role do you foresee Artificial Intelligence (AI) playing in the respective context for the future?

Have you used innovative workplace design as a recruitment tool too?  If so, is it attracting the desired talent accordingly?

How do you intend to inculcate lessons learnt from such experiences in future endeavors?

The aforementioned questions create the ‘thought space’ that can compel progressive leaders to not only focus on the ‘palatable’ prioritised areas, but also, the ‘contentious’ marginalised areas, e.g., overcoming communication/engagement challenges through the astute use of office space, elevating productivity levels by effectively catering to ergonomic considerations, boosting diversity and inclusion initiatives through design innovation, excelling in meeting customer/client needs/expectations by incorporating the ‘WOW’ factor, adopting environmentally-friendly designs/practices that lead to efficient utilisation of available resources, using human-centric lighting/luminosity to enhance focus and comfort levels, etc.  Therefore, the key question in the respective context becomes ‘Have we created a welcoming and healthy place for work?

Business
The Business aspect focuses on all areas pertaining to the strategic imperatives and operational elements that work in congruence to robustly maintain an organisation’s relevance and competitiveness in the Digital Age.  It cautions against falling into the abyss of an idealistic vision that projects the ‘mirage’ for embarking upon doomed initiatives by conducting timely and effective due diligence of organisational capabilities with respect to the ‘mobilisable’ resources, availability of ‘prodigious’ talent, and prevalence of ‘scrumptiously’ favorable factors for business in the foreseeable future.  The following ‘Business Excellence & Progressive Growth Sustainability Model’ illuminates a viable path in the respective direction:

The aforementioned model also provides a strong basis for taking calculated risks, rather than, capitulating to the addiction of ‘risk aversion’ that is the current norm for the leadership of many organisations, who prefer measuring corporate success in terms of avoiding failures, rather than, learning from missteps and consolidating gains on a long-term basis, due to the pressure to produce positive quarterly/short-term results to placate impatient/‘activist’ shareholders.  An associated aspect in the respective context is the recognition that great responsibility resides with the caretakers of critical information in corporate entities for assuring and ensuring its pristine quality to avoid categorisation of being tainted as a corrosive tool, a destructive weapon, an endless source of fodder for feeding the grapevine, a malicious catalyst, or as an enabler of destabilisation to organisational harmony.

Additionally, in rushing to embrace the alluring promise of AI-enabled technology, progressive organisations often fall into the trap of providing incomplete/immature service models before the discerning eyes of emboldened customers/clients, who are more than willing to expose the associated shortcomings/failures in terms of adapting to multi-dimensional/unforeseen service conditions, especially, through online forums.  For example, courier companies are generally highly proficient/competitive in ‘Product Delivery’ and many are actively working on ‘normalising’ drone deliveries, however, they lag significantly in appreciably/consistently upholding any outstanding standards with respect to Product Return, Product Replacement, and Product Recall.

Furthermore, concerns for environmental and social imbalances have added extra dimensions for competitive organisations to proactively engage in remedial measures before irreparable harm to increasingly fragile reputations, especially, from a few keystrokes of an internet-savvy disturbed/disgruntled/disillusioned party from any corner of the world.  The term ‘activist’ has shifted from its rudimentary contemplation as an act of defiance pertaining to societal upheaval to a more apt description of an ‘engaged’ stakeholder.  Therefore, organisations with an eye on thriving in the future  are well-advised to heed the adage ‘someone is always watching’ and proactively embrace the consequences of their actions in a more accommodating and responsible manner.

Consequently, the two toughest decisions that astute leaders have to make in the Digital Age are:

Saying ‘No’ in an Era of Prosperity

This pertains to going beyond the allure of short-term gains in favor of progressive measures that secure long-term sustainability

Saying ‘Yes’ in an Era of Uncertainty

This pertains to taking calculated risks for initiating progressive measures against the conventional wisdom of playing it safe

Therefore, the key question in the respective context becomes ‘Are our strategies aligned with our capabilities to achieve desired results responsibly and sustainably?

Technology
The Technology aspect focuses on all areas pertaining to the incorporation, utilization, supervision, viability, efficacy, and improvement of non-human talent in enhancing functional capabilities of an organisation.  Currently, the preferred approach is to find the means to complement the bulk of the human workforce; however, the future seems to be gravitating towards minimal human presence/interface/interaction as AI-enabled entities achieve primacy in the workplace.

A common mistake made in the dash for embracing technological solutions is to equate technology with innovation.  However, innovation is a cardinal ‘humanistic’ concept that refers to the astute application of human ingenuity, whereas, technology is a consequential ‘mechanistic’ tool that enables the efficient accomplishment of targeted tasks/assignments/responsibilities.  Keeping the ‘human factor’ in prime position while charting the course of a prosperous future in the Digital Age ensures organisational harmony in congruence with the optimal technological solutions.  Following is a brief overview of the evolution of innovation through the key past, present and future eras:

Today’s multi-generational workforce is looking at existential challenges that are more pronounced and transformative than for earlier professionals, e.g., narrowing occupational paths, re-skilling imperatives, multiple careers, early retirements, forced entrepreneurships, etc., especially, as AI-enabled entities progressively conquer the conventional ‘strictly humanistic’ domains within the workplace and relentlessly push the threshold for ‘staying relevant’ to the upper echelons of cerebral application.  This is also testing the robustness of core values that form the basis of a cohesive corporate culture as employees get more and more apprehensive about the validity/strength of the ‘psychological contracts’ with their employers.

Additionally, benefits from having a generationally-diverse workforce can be comprehensively realized by astutely creating, prudently deploying, and effectively assuring an optimal balance between the ‘Crystallised Intelligence’ (prevalent in older members), and the ‘Fluid Intelligence’ (prevalent in younger members).  Anyone marginalizing older workers and/or prepping them for early retirements under the guise of restructuring/streamlining/reforming initiatives forsakes a golden opportunity to utilize the full capacity of available talent for overcoming formidable challenges in a hypercompetitive Digital world.

Consequently, a sagacious measure will be to avoid sacrificing effectiveness at the altar of efficiency by succumbing to the lure of pervasive user-friendly technology at the cost of marginalising human ingenuity in devising innovative solutions to overcome present and future organisational challenges.  Furthermore, organizations that can provide the strongest ‘jovial anchors’ for their employees will be the ones to have a healthy pool of bustling talent in competitive economies of the future.  Therefore, the key question in the respective context becomes ‘Is technology a substantial competitive advantage for us without compromising our core values’.

Parting Thoughts
A key aspect of strategic reviews within progressive organisations should be the ascertainment of whether there is an inherent inclination for the ‘need to change’ or the ‘want to change’ approach to stay relevant in the Digital world.  The first one reflects a reactive approach and is a clear signal for course correction before being marginalised by more astute competitors.  The second one indicates a proactive approach that signifies a hearty embrace of timely innovative practices for assuring an organisation’s competitive future with a robust ‘going concern’ status.  How was your last review?  Are you alarmed, hopeful or confident?  Your future awaits…

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