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Leading change is a changing workplace


The significant change brought about by Covid-19 abruptly reminded us that there is great power when we work together and stay connected. Particularly, if it’s a connection to something shared — a mission, or purpose, it can allow people to focus on something bigger than the momentary challenge and uncertainty.


Preventing change to fail


The failure rate of organisation transformations continues to hover around 70 percent. By its nature, transformational change creates discontinuity because it impacts the entire organisation. On the other hand, incremental change — such as implementing new systems and processes— touches specific areas of the business. Transformational change starts with an honest acknowledgement of how hard the work will be, how much capacity and discipline the team actually has, and the personal commitments of sponsoring executives. And most importantly, communicating change effectively requires listening to employees twice as much as telling them about the change.


Transformational change must become personal for every employee if it’s going to stick and leaders who are willing to roll up their sleeves and do their part to advance the transformation have the competitive advantage of letting the organisation know how and why the change is personal to them.


A connection to mission or purpose is a key during times of change and transition. The often-told story of the NASA janitor who, when asked by JFK during his NASA visit, “What are you doing?” responded, “I am helping to put a man on the moon.” illustrates just how deep the organisation’s mission runs, and how this helps successfully achieve ambitious goals.


New research from leaders at Infosys indicates that across a variety of industries, lasting, long-term change is most effective when it occurs over a series of smaller changes. The research found that a persistent set of small, synchronised changes is the best approach to drive large and lasting change as small changes, when made continuously over a period of time, have a compounding effect that drives larger change and transformation. Large-scale transformation takes a long time, and value realisation even longer. However, breaking change down allows the organisation to deconstruct it into a number of smaller initiatives that each have a well-defined objective and outcome. These can be delivered by small teams comprised of hybrid talent with diverse cross-functional skills.


The future of changing work


To assess the future of work, McKinsey recently analysed more than 2000 work activities across 800 occupations to see which could be done without a loss of productivity from home and found that 20 to 25 percent of the workforces in advanced economies could work remotely without losing effectiveness. This is four to five times as many as were working from home before the pandemic. Organisations already have hybrid remote work plans in place, giving them the opportunity to reduce office space, which will impact the geography of work, as well as reduce business travel. It is estimated that 20 percent of business travel might be fully replaced with virtual meetings in the long term, as it’s proving to be a more time-effective and eco-friendly way of working.


Covid-19 has completely transformed the way works gets done and proved that productivity and effectiveness are not defined by the number of hours we physically spend in the workplace, but by the quality of work we produce and the quality of the life we live. This shift means that some traditional business practices will never go back to pre-pandemic times. Disruptive and unexpected experiences are often opportunities for growth and this mindset can serve leaders and teams well and with the right approach, the current crisis can turn into an opportunity to move forward, build resilience and positive social impact.


At Acumen, we pride ourselves in offering development that gives managers practical tools to help solve real-life challenges. We offer an extensive menu of courses, workshops and coaching programmes, ranging from communication skills through to executive leadership development. In most cases, we design the interventions specifically for each client, but we also offer a wide range of off-the-shelf programmes for those who prefer this approach. For more information about our programmes please contact Simon at simon@askacumen.com.