Leading in a Faster and More Turbulent World

December 8, 2022

by John O. Burdett

No doubt your organisation has faced significant challenges in the past. If you are not working to reinvent yourself, the market/competition will (painfully) do it for you.

The Rate of Change Is Getting Faster

The world is getting faster, more turbulent and, to a significant degree, far less predictable. If that were not challenging enough, today’s unprecedented level of disruption is about to become significantly more chaotic. Meta breakthroughs in technology mean that we are entering a new era; an age where sweeping and exponential change – along the lines of Moore’s Law – will dominate the business landscape for the foreseeable future.

Millions of workers around the world are about to be replaced by machine learning, robotics and artificial intelligence. People working in call-centres, supermarkets, banks and/or truck drivers are first in line. If it doesn’t involve a high level of skill, innovation, flexibility and/or value-adding interface with the customers – the majority of those who call manufacturing “home” are on a fast track to redundancy. Doctors, lawyers, financial advisors and a host of other professions that rely on “knowledge” are also about to go through a cultural upheaval.

The good news: 60% of the jobs that will be advertised ten years from now don’t currently exist. The not-so-good news: few of those who will be pushed aside in the new machine era will be remotely qualified to do those new jobs. If society is to avoid meltdown; a planned, rather than a headlong rush into new technologies; a new approach to unemployment; and an expansion of the sharing economy … become political imperatives. Today is reality … tomorrow is a choice.

We are quickly reaching the point where not only is tomorrow’s possibility difficult to understand … but we are about to cross a threshold where it will be beyond our capability to understand. If this all sounds depressing, spare a thought for a young millennial joining the workforce today.

Change and Organisational Culture

For the last 50 years, a plethora of books, workshops and conferences have presented the bizarre notion that you can “manage change.” You can get ahead of change (anticipate), you can ride the crest of change and you can, under some circumstances, be a catalyst for change – but you can’t manage change. Success leaves its own fingerprint (or not). After half a century of “change management” less than a third of employees are fully engaged.

Any form of change that moves beyond improving “what is” implies working on the organisation’s culture. Here we have to face the harsh reality: the so-called, “modern organisation” – perhaps the 20th century’s greatest innovation – is ill-equipped to deal with the scope, complexity and speed of change we now face. In a world where agility, ideas, collaboration and global reach dictate who wins and who fails, tomorrow’s organisation will, of necessity, be fast, flat, flexible, focused and structured as a network of networks.

As for leadership, the market for talent will put a premium on software savvy, the capacity to leverage big numbers, speed of learning, comfort with ambiguity, personal resilience and the capacity to build community. The dilemma: top talent is going to be more difficult to find than ever. Think hiring with tomorrow’s culture in mind … not hierarchy. Think leading the charge … not being in charge. Recognise that we will need super teams more than we need superstars.

Will Your Organisation Stand Proudly Amongst the Winners?

If you want to thrive as a leader, grow your business, or leave a legacy … you have to first recognise that tomorrow will not be a continuation of today. Not remotely. The facts: exponential shifts in technology will change the job landscape forever; continued disruption and uncertainty demand new thinking about organisation design; and a new generation entering the workplace redefine past assumptions about what it means to be a leader.

To even stay in the game you will almost certainly have to:

  1. Be unwavering in meeting your commitments to the capital markets.
  2. Make organisation culture the centrepiece of your approach to competitive advantage.
  3. Develop the capacity to create tomorrow, today.
  4. Fully engage those in the middle of the organisation.
  5. Make your organisation values come to life in everything you do.
  6. Consistently change (learn) faster than the competition.
  7. Find ways to unlock the innovative talent both inside and outside of the business.

No doubt your organisation has faced significant challenges in the past. If you are not working to reinvent yourself, the market/competition will (painfully) do it for you. It’s all-too-easy to push concerns about the future to one side. Unfortunately, if you drive the bus by constantly looking out the back window then a crash is guaranteed.

This article is a modified extract from “If It Can Be Digitalised, It Will Be Digitalised“, © Orxestra® Inc.

John O. Burdett is founder of Orxestra® Inc. He has extensive international experience as a senior executive. As a consultant he has worked in more than 40 countries for organisations that are household names. John has worked on organisation culture for some of the world's largest organisations. His ongoing partnership with TRANSEARCH International means that his thought leading intellectual property, in any one year, supports talent management in many hundreds of organisations around the world. Get in touch with John O. Burdett »

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