Smooth operations are great, but it’s disruptions that make us better organisations

Congratulations, we did it. (Almost) all of Australia is now enjoying the freedoms of being COVID-safe, just in time for Christmas. It’s no small feat, and it hasn’t come without major sacrifices for many of us.

During the thick of it, we were in survival mode, running off adrenaline. Few of us had the opportunity to stop for a second to look around and notice what we were achieving. But many still haven’t.

One person who did though is Sabina Read, renowned psychologist and corporate health management coach, and this month’s Disruption Circle guest speaker.

In our latest and last event of the year, she provided us with some fascinating insights into her observations of human and organisational life during the year of COVID. She’s a strong believer in using what you’ve learnt (good or bad) to set yourself up for future success. And now that we’re mostly through the hardships of the pandemic it’s time to do just that.

How the pandemic better prepared us for future workplace disruptions

Over the last few months, we’ve heard dozens of stories and learnt of multiple ways that businesses have dealt with the pandemic – the different approaches and the different results. But now that we are eight months in and on the cusp of achieving a ‘new normal’, the focus needs to turn to post-pandemic plans (or at least, post-2020).

Has this year just been a strange anomaly, an unfortunate detour? Or can the processes and practices implemented out of necessity be retained to deliver long term benefits?

Sarah Stockwell (HR Director, ANZ at McPherson’s), guest speaker at our latest disruption circle event, gave interesting insights into how an ASX listed company approached their pandemic response. Unlike many other organisations, they continued to focus on the big picture (growth and delivery), and only changed their expectations on how they would get there.

What difference can attitude make to change management outcomes?

2020 has hit businesses hard – and it has hit the people in these businesses harder. With so many changes, the federal Government budget stimulus has assisted but there are still many challenges. Many organisations have found it hard to stay afloat and support their employees simultaneously.

HR professionals are responsible for balancing both sides of the coin – managing what’s best for the business, but also what’s best for its people. While staff have never needed support more than they do now, actually delivering this support hasn’t been easy. These months of disruption have challenged everyone in terms of the actions to take to maintain the organisation and the support for the employees.

This begs the question, can the approach we take to supporting staff make a difference to overall business performance and the organisation’s resilience?

It’s a question that took centre stage out our latest Disruption Circle event. Rebecca Supierz, HR Director for ANZ at Seek, discussed the approach they took in the face of major disruption and uncertainty – an approach that was significantly different from that of many other organisations. She made a great example of how a change of attitude and looking closely at what’s really important helped with a successful operational pivot.

Downsizing during a crisis: How to lift employees up when you have to let them go

At the end of 2019 Australian employment rates were as high as they had been in some time. The government was getting ready to announce its first budget surplus in over ten years. People had high hopes for the new decade.

Then COVID hit. Many industries were impacted immediately, while many more have found themselves increasingly affected as the months have gone on. Which leaves many of us facing a tough situation: Downsizing organisations and saying permanent goodbyes to employees.

In such an overwhelming and unprecedented situation, how do you go about carrying out a restructure? Logistically it can be hard to exit employees en masse. But it is also challenging from a human point of view – how can you lift these valued members of your team up at the same time you have to let them go? What will be the impact on the remaining employees?

Challenging the status quo: Increasing business value through leadership diversity

Organisational gender diversity, particular at the executive level of business, has been a topic of discussion globally for a long time. While there has been some movement in diversifying business in recent years, we are still seeing large disparities in representation.

So, why has it been so difficult to get more females into management and executive roles in businesses?

In our latest Disruption Circle event, we discussed the issues of leadership and diversity with guest speaker Michelle Guthrie. A lawyer and business executive who has held positions at News International, Foxtel, Google and the ABC, Michelle shared her experiences and suggestions for industry-wide improvements.

The outcome was that there are tangible advantages of leadership diversity, and that there is a unique opportunity for businesses and individuals right now to achieve true diversity and organisational change.

Prioritising people and shining a light on leaders: How to make the most out of disruption

Over the last 10 or so weeks, disruption has become the norm. But just as many of us are starting to get used to our new normal, it’s all changing again. While a lot of attention has been focused on how our current situation is affecting operations and economics, it’s also affecting something else – people.

This will become even more noticeable as we move into this next disruption. As many businesses get back on track and move their people back into more traditional work environments, people, disruption, and wellness will intersect.

It’s not surprising that this topic took centre stage at our latest Disruption Circle with guest speaker Daryl Mahon, former Vice President at Ford Motor Company.

But while this is a moment of fear for many – for personal safety and business performance – we received valuable insights into how it also presents an opportunity for outstanding people leaders to demonstrate their skills.

Without a Template: Leading through the COVID crisis

On the 15th March the Prime Minister announced the National Cabinet response to COVID-19. Suddenly we had no template and everything we thought we knew doesn’t apply, and quite abruptly we’re wading into some very murky and unchartered waters.

During times of uncertainty, everyone in an organisation takes their cues from the leadership team. Often, challenging times can reveal the true character of a business and its leaders – for better or worse.

So, what does good leadership look like in such an unprecedented crisis?

In our latest Disruption Circle video conference, we invited someone who knows just how to answer this question. Klaus Duetoft is Vice President People International at eBay Inc and has geographic responsibility for AP, major Asian countries along with some other international markets. In addition, he is a member of the eBay Inc Global People Leadership team. He, along with a group of prominent HR leaders discussed the key qualities and behaviours leaders should be channelling to guide their organisation through COVID-19 and the inevitable instability of the post-Corona future.

To Klaus, it seems that the old adage ‘actions speak louder than words’ is very much at the crux of a leader’s successful navigation through the disruption that comes with COVID-19. The most important fact remains that your team will remember the way you responded during this period, so make your behaviour deliberate and measured, and then learn how to future-proof. 

Speak up! How building a good organisational culture can help manage disruption

How you plan for change plays a big part in the effectiveness of your strategy and the outcome across the entire organisation. However, it’s not always easy to plan for change. Sometimes, change is spontaneous.

This is a very dominant issue right now, as many organisations grapple with the fallout of COVID-19. Disruption, you might say, has never been more prevalent. So, what is the course of action in these surprise situations?

The answer, it seems, isn’t in an action plan or strategy, but could be in the foundational culture your organisation is built on. In our last Disruption Circle event, prominent HR directors discussed the important role business culture plays in change management.

It seems that things we do in non-disrupted periods can really affect the way all change (even when spontaneous) is effectively managed. Simply encouraging employees to ‘speak up’ can help you better weather the storm of uncomfortable change.

Future of Work 2019: What the data tells us and how to apply it to your organisation

How do you run a better business that drives outcomes for the business and for your employees? How do you know what is working and what isn’t? How can you tell how your organisation compares to those in your industry? 

These questions led the GOIP to publish their annual Future of Work report every year. Future of Work allows you to glean insights into the processes of hundreds of businesses like yours from across the world to see what is impacting who, and why. 

Learning from your own actions and those of others provides great insight into how you can improve your overall outcomes. 

This year’s report comprises answers from 1000 talent managers across a range of industries and over 25 different countries.

Here we’ll unpack the three biggest insights we think will be affecting organisations like yours in the next 12+ months, and how you can make them work to your advantage.

Can we really manage the pace of change?

It’s a game-changing question. And traditional top-down leadership is no longer the answer.

It certainly seems that “change is the new black”, and certainly the new normal. The companies that will not only survive but thrive during this new era are those that can shift their thinking.

If you want to successfully adjust to this ‘new normal’, it’s time to switch your mindset from “change management” to“changing the way we manage”.


Four crucial tips for making the shift

1. Build trust now

Without foundational behaviour of a cohesive team, none of the rest is even truly possible. As Patrick Lencione insists, “Trust can only happen when team members are willing to be completely vulnerable with one another.

There is confidence among team members that their peers’ intentions are good and that there is no reason to be protective or careful around each other.

2. Create team agreements

Then stick to them. Team agreements go beyond fluffy value words framed on the walls of the office. They pinpoint specific ways team members agree to behave, and what the team agrees to do when any one of the members falls short in upholding the agreements.

This drives accountability away from “top-down” management and towards peer-to-peer responsibility. If there are one or two bad seeds who consistently hold the rest of the team back, having a peer or two call them out and possibly stop inviting them into various projects is likely to be a very powerful management tool.

3. Insist on and reward collaboration

No one person is as smart as the collective whole, and, after all, you hired smart people to get great work done. Get them together, give some direction, and get out of their way to get great work accomplished.

Rod Collins, author of Wiki Management: A Revolutionary New Model for a Rapidly Changing and Collaborative World, describes it in this way: “Top-down hierarchies are designed on the premise that an organization’s intelligence resides in a select number of star performers who leverage their expertise through the power to direct and control the work of others.

Self-organized peer-to-peer networks, on the other hand, are built upon the principle that an organization’s intelligence resides in the diversity of its members who leverage their collective knowledge through the power to connect and collaborate with each other.” In short, think network and lattice organization charts versus the linear top-down models of the past

4. Sharpen the organization’s focus on the customer

Supply-chain-driven organizations focus on producing 5 million widgets a day and shipping them around the globe within 24 hours. But if the widgets aren’t the right colour or don’t fit with customers’ existing widgets, who cares how many and how fast?

In our culture of “change is the new normal,” the customer’s power of choice is king (or queen) and ultimately supersedes the organization’s power to produce. The nimble organizations are those that build their people operations and systems to respond to and even stay ahead of fickle customer wants.

Change your approach, change your results

If traditional managers want their organizations to have the capacity to change as fast as the world around them, they will need to embrace the new reality that managing great change is only possible if they change how they manage.”–Rod Collins.

It’s rather ironic that through all the change they instigate, the management team (and their approaches) can be the hardest to change.

If your organisation is looking for a way to keep up with the pace of change through changing the way you manage, engaging with a professional can go a long way to getting you on the right track.

Choice Career Services specialises in innovative change management. We help businesses deal with many different types of organizational change through avenues that are successful and sustainable.

What is your organization doing to change the way it manages versus continuing to implement “change management” initiatives?

For further advice on making the change, click here to contact Choice Career Services.