We have the most educated workforce in human history. Younger generations of workers desire an opportunity to use their intellect to create and innovate. Many from the younger generations have grown up in more inclusive and team oriented environments, hence top down decision making and “marching orders” are less warmly received today than in the past. Our workforces are looking for greater degrees of leadership transparency and engagement. We are in a global transformation from command and control to self-organizing networked organizations. 1
Coupled with a changing workforce are our organizations’ cultures. What are cultures? The 1992 classic definition of culture is from Edgar Schein 2 “a pattern of shared basic assumptions that the group learned as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration, that has worked well enough to be considered valid and therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think and feel in relations to those problems.”
We are experiencing three noteworthy and converging forces simultaneously:
- A significant generational change between the Boomers exiting and a highly-educated work force
- Cultures that recycle proven steps, methods and processes which have solved problems of the past
- Highly-dynamic marketplaces that are in constant flux with new products and services needed to maintain the competitive edge.
How does senior leadership implement new strategies and not have their culture eat it for breakfast? Our first tenet in Leading Strategic Change is “Involvement.” Younger members of today’s workforce wish to be engaged and involved. They want to be connected to:
- the DECISIONS that affect their customers
- the TEAMS with whom they work
- the SUPPLIERS they resource
- the IMPLICATIONS to their own work habits, preferences and lives.
Ultimately, these highly capable workers wish to contribute their knowledge, experiences and skills to new policies and procedures. They seek full investment in new ideas, concepts and strategies.
So when does leadership decide and announce versus deeply engage, gather, decide and announce? It depends. If a rapid competitive situation, supply chain or regulatory issue exists, then senior leadership many need to take the traditional top down approach. If the strategy has deep, long term implications, will create significant change and will result in culture change, we recommend taking a deeper approach of employee engagement. The Context Network has resources to help plan and facilitate employee engagement creating involvement that will make Leading Strategic Change more sustainable and successful.
1 The Economist, November 23, 2013, pg. 68
2 Schein, E. H. (1992). Organizational culture and leadership (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey- Bass