I’ll admit to feeling warm and welcoming about Rita Gunther McGrath before she uttered a sentence of her CIPD 2014 Conference Keynote. I was glad to have a woman Keynoting. It feels like a rare experience. Along with that gladness always comes a small voice of hesitation:
Please let her be good. Please?
No Death by Powerpoint.
No self-effacing stuff.
No Tub-thumping – “Guilt-be-upon-you-HR- types -You-Are-Doomed-for-Your-Uselessness” rhetoric.
Just be good.
Show me how it’s done.
Show me how to be a decent, warm, informative expert – generous with your knowledge, inclusive and humorous.
Show me how to make a Profession sit up and think without chastising them like children.
For an hour, she talked with grace and humour, brought in examples, stories, made suggestions for the future. She was funny and subtle and thoughtful and gentle, yet still packed a punch. Broadly, the message was this: Our old strategies for taking business forward and winning competitive advantage– the strategic models we roll out at Away Days and in planning meetings – are not fit for purpose any more, but it’s OK – here is a New Strategy Playbook to look at. This playbook doesn’t hold matrixes or promise cash cows, particularly; it asks for flexibility, adaptability, emotional understanding, different modes of management and leadership. Yes, it’s a big ask in many ways, but the world is complex and evolving – so sure, solutions to work within that complexity are unlikely to be straightforward.
The components of this Playbook are words which need a little reading into:
Deft Resource Allocation
A New Leadership Mindset
Entrepreneurial Career Management
You can read more about Rita Gunther McGrath’s thinking here:
And look more deeply into some of The Death of Competitive Advantage stuff here:
There was nothing in the Keynote that I could or would overly disagree with. I get a little concerned when that happens sometimes – like a kitten getting it’s tummy tickled and losing awareness of everything around it… am I nodding and closing down my ability to be critically evaluative of what is being said because it rings true? Do I have the warm n fuzzies because I like the speaker? Would this sink in more if I was outraged and cross?
So to test it a little, I waited a while to see what stuck.
What stuck was this:
If you want to work and lead and flourish in this particular moment in time, especially (but not exclusively) if you are a huge business, you have to stay open and aware. That is Open in every sense. Open to new ideas. Open to deleting & scrapping stuff. Open to mistakes. Open to ditching old models of thinking and behaving. Open to being generous to your staff. Open to Learning. You can’t manage a Secret. You can only manage or work with that which is known. I liked this bid for transparancy very much
The Future of work requires leaders who can surrender ego and intellectual or experiential “knowing” in order to give someone or something a true opportunity. Do that.
Portfolio careers are here to stay – few if any people now will start a job when they are young and continue to work for the same company for 20, 30, 40 years. With a transient workforce comes the need to lead and manage with increasing flexibility. You might need to make Job Roles up as you go along ( to be fair, I suspect many of us have been doing this for a while… just don’t tell the Job Description etc)
In this environment, Leadership is about being able to build alliances – not just steering your team forward from the front yelling “c’mon team! New world!” or engage servant leadership as you enable the best possible environment for them to flourish. This is adaptive leadership – being alert and responsive to the environment around you – success relies on building relationships and understanding the context you are working in with exquisite attention – it is less about What You Know, more What information You Can Access, the Who You Know and how successfully you can use these two things to conjure up something magical……
Packing up your Porter
Along side this Future, I’ve been thinking about the here and now….. what it takes to Pack up your Porter or Bin your Boston Matrix. From an L&D/ Strategic Away Day facilitation point of view, I know there will be some among us who will resist. These models are stalwarts – we have the laminates and the handouts, the processes and we have designed the away days to allow this type of thinking (I have, in my time, done my fair share of PESTLE analysis. Mea Culpa. If it helps, they were jolly good Away Days and they allowed us to draw very pretty pictures on walls, with post it notes and produce lovely 5 year plans.)
I guess what I”m thinking is this: on the L&D / OD side of the Profession, we have a responsibility to future proof ourselves as much as anyone – we can’t look at business strategy and claim that’s not on us – we are training & developing the minds & management styles of the folk in our businesses through the content we share and tolerate. Let’s think about that. Because sit strikes me that’s kind of important. In the spirit of what Rita Gunther Mcgrath talks about – ditching old content and thinking is as necessary as bringing in the new stuff. Perhaps it’s time to look at what we are allowing and encouraging, thought wise, process wise, through what we design and deliver.
I think that is good stickiness.
I’m thankful that I got to hear an excellent, articulate, intelligent speaker who offered more than just theories, but offered solutions and evidence. I’m glad that speaker was a woman, because I like seeing positive female role models.
I’m glad some important stuff stuck, days after, without being yelled at or provoked (I don’t mind being provoked, especially, but it feels good to have a range of ways to absorb information – having Provocative Pills rammed down your throat all the time is as unpalatable as syrupy saccharine Consensus Tablets, I find).
So my challenge now to myself & my fellow L&D/ OD Practitioners is: what will we throw out and what will we adopt to support this future way of working and thinking?