New hybrid workforce 2021 vol 3.
At your workplace can you be who you are without fear of being put down when expressing yourself? Do you feel that your work is appreciated and your ideas are heard openly? If yes, you are one of the lucky ones. Unfortunately, this not the case in every workplace and team.
Leadership Essentials in a New Normal
The pandemic has created a new normal for knowledge workers. My earlier blogs were about algorithms as colleagues and bosses, changes in physical workspace parameters, and exponentially growing virtual remote work. Three leadership essentials of the new hybrid workforce renewal in 2021 and beyond are shared situational awareness and purpose, a psychologically safe working environment, and a relationship-driven operating system.
For a new hybrid workforce in 2021, the key question to be answered is not about whether we are working face-to-face vs. remote or in physical vs. virtual settings, but about how to implant sustainable behaviours nourishing mutual trust and togetherness. As a leader, you need more understanding, desire for change and a growth mind-set to succeed. Strategies showing direction and plans clarifying job roles with goals are important. However, what happens every day at workplaces between colleagues is the key for success.
More Focus on Psychological Safety
“Psychological safety means an absence of interpersonal fear. When psychological safety is present, people are able to speak up with work-relevant content.” – Amy Edmondson, Harvard Business School
In the work life of today we are suffering from a humanity deficit. Even before the pandemic too many knowledge workers were exhausted and experienced high levels of mental strain often resulting from bad management and non-constructive relationships at work. Research shows also that compassion and ethical development have been missing from organizational development for years (Co-Humans, 11/2020). This has led to lack of courage, fear, silos, glass-ceilings, and passive non-constructive behaviours.
The growth of remote work has not made things easier. A foundation for a construct of psychological safety at the workplace is the organisational concept of human-beings (i.e., Theory X and Y). It means how individuals are seen and treated in an organisation by others. This foundation needs to be supported by full presence of leadership (even more important in virtual meetings), active listening, and most importantly, keeping track of equal share of voice amongst participants. The latter has been evidenced as the most important driver of psychological safety within teams by well renowned Google meta-research some years ago.
Impact on Leadership
As a leader, you are the main responsible for the level of psychological safety within your organisation and your team. Turn your assumptions into facts before acting. Investigate if all of your people can express themselves equally and act with respect towards each other, even in meetings when you are not present. Some basic questions for you to think about and ask from others to assess, to analyse and to know your current situation:
- Are people considered as short-term resources (costs) or long-term assets (value creators)?
- Are people seen as individuals with personal ambitions and needs?
- Are meetings more about brainstorming or blamestorming?
- What words do people use when they are taking about their colleagues?
- Who is/are the hero(es) of the organisation and why?
There is positive evidence that organisations which are focusing on and securing psychological safety ground rules, applicable even in hybrid settings, both physical and digital, are emerging as winners.
New hybrid workforce 2021 vol. 2
My virtual meeting marathon, the 8th one for today, just finished. Even though I try very hard to recall details from the first meeting, I do not remember them anymore. Was I fully present and engaged? Did I listen actively more than I talked? Did I feel appreciated, encouraged, and belonging? Does this sound familiar to you?
Groundhog Days of Pandemic
For knowledge workers, remote work during the pandemic has become like Groundhog Day. In the movie, Bill Murray wakes up for a new day with high hopes, but in the end the day is identical – day after day. The pandemic has revealed to us that there is a need for a change in the way we work, how we get organised, and how people are led without losing our primary needs as social animals. There is no right or wrong, no one size-fits all solutions. The only thing true is that workspace choices made today will have deep implications for performance, staff well-being and leadership success for years to come.
Remote Work Not Allowed
Before the pandemic in most workplaces, excluding some IT and creative sector forerunners, needs of employees and wants of management regarding remote work didn´t correlate. Remote work was mostly unacceptable due to its roots in Theory X of human-beings as lazy, incompetent to think for themselves, and untrustworthy when operating alone. In addition, almost 200 years after Taylorism, many organisations are still founded around inflexible control and command mechanisms. Especially, middle management fear of losing authority over subordinates, and evidenced lack of trust towards staff working without close supervision, have been the modus operandi – the way of operating without questioning it.
A crisis often enforces people to change their behavior, as happened with the pandemic. It changed everything almost overnight both in the minds and actions of many industries and workplaces, both at the individual and organisational levels. It triggered the shift in general attitude towards remote work forever.
Death by Zoom Meetings
Risto Siilasmaa, ex-chairman of the board of Nokia, mentioned in an interview in March 2020 that according to their internal survey asking about working location preferences at the group, 20% of respondents didn’t want to return to their offices ever again. How would these Nokia people answer to a similar survey today?
Various research conducted after that date about virtual work. Most findings are the same. For example, the Work Trend Index of July 2020 made by Microsoft states that video-meeting fatigue is real. Studies show that time needed for commuting to work has decreased, but the length of the working day has increased in remote work settings. In my native Finland such a figure is, on average, 48 minutes daily.
Even with more time at work, productivity especially in creativity intensive work has not drastically increased with the same proportions. In addition, during autumn 2020 when virtual meetings’ technical challenges had been finally resolved in most workplaces, many of us noticed that remote meetings are good in one-way communication status checks amongst small parties present on-line, or recorded for later viewing. However, as second-best option for two-person face-to-face meetings, there is a strong trend now towards old-time telephone voice-only calls for better mobility, personalisation and privacy, rather than high visual content MS Teams, Zoom, or similar tools.
Without any hesitation, it can be said that bigger venues focusing on innovation and creative virtual events have become shadows of physical encounters, both in terms of motivational flow and productivity. The challenge is not in engaging and gamifying virtual platforms, but it is more about humans as social animals, craving for connections, respect, reason to exist, and shared achievements. It has also been noticed that whatever the group size, innovations, inspiration, belongness, new ideas and transformation of tacit knowledge happen only in face-to-face encounters. In short, these types of events require co-operation, curiosity, courage, and creativity in a right context and from all fully present and equally heard. Such a climate will not happen by chance. It needs to be built brick by brick.
Impact on Leadership
It is estimated that remote knowledge workers’ work will consist of at least 40-50% of their working time in the future. When your people will meet you and colleagues only occasionally in physical hub locations face-to-face, and are mostly working remotely at home or in bespoke offices, your leadership focus will need to shift from management of time-related work to efficient person-centric support. This means that you need to be interested in your people not only through their work, but also at a personal level. Their performance today and tomorrow are influenced by their personal situation, capabilities, needs, dreams, and wants.
Your emotional intelligence, situational leadership, intercommunication skillset and clarity in direction/roles and goals will become high priority both when meeting face-to-face and virtually. You need to grow your mind-set and leadership toolbox to adapt to the context rather than the content of the work. Simultaneously, you need to build a mutually inclusive high-trust environment between you and every single knowledge worker you are creating opportunities for and remove any impediments.
Did you miss the previous part of New hybrid workforce series? Read about the future of physical offices from the part 1.
Unlike many of my childhood friends, I was never that interested in cars. I never knew that much about them nor even cared. At least not as much as my friend did. So, when the discussion turned into cars, I just zoned out and thought about something else. What I, however, was extremely passionate about was computers. I can still remember the excitement I had in the mid-nineties when I had saved up 7000 Finnish marks (about 1700 EUR) from my first summer job. My father assisted me with an additional 5000 and I was able to buy the components for a new PC with a Pentium 90 processor. A lot has changed since then, but not my excitement in new technologies.
Six life saving apps for new mobility
The paradigm shift to electric, connected, and automated vehicles is often compared to the shift from mobile phones to smartphones. This is not only true from the user’s perspective, with a superior user experience of the device itself, but from the enabling effect – just like smartphones enabled a multitude of new value in all thinkable fields.
From the computer to the smartphone to the new mobility, the technology that is now rising in mobility will unlock many positive things and those things will be larger than you and me. And they will be necessary. The scholars at Delft University1 have outlined six inspiring goals we are moving towards: zero emission, zero energy, zero congestion, zero accident, zero empty, and zero cost. Let’s explore them.
- Zero Emission – road transport account for around 20% of the CO2 emissions in Europe. This pollution has a big impact on our and our environment’s health. Electric cars have zero tailpipe emissions and by using renewable energy sources the total environmental impact of EVs (including materials) is approximately one quarter of petrol or diesel driven vehicles.
- Zero Energy – Moving requires energy but it makes all the difference where the energy is coming from. This process is referred as Well-to-Wheel, the total energy chain. The total energy required to move an electric vehicle is much smaller than with vehicles using traditional internal combustion engines. For example, it is already possible to build energy positive vehicles using current solar technology.
- Zero Congestion – We all hate to sit in the traffic jams, and we are already heavily relying on navigation services to avoid some them. With the rise of shared data and connected vehicles we can move towards more efficient traffic. We are already seeing many interesting business models around shared vehicles and on-demand ridesharing (such as MOIA, Share Now, BlaBlaCar and Kyyti).
- Zero Accident – We humans cause around 95% of all traffic accidents. We have already now modern cars driving on our streets that have the intelligence to help us to avoid accidents. Eventually we will be comfortable in letting the car to take us safely where we want to go.
- Zero Empty – The current situation is that most private and commercial vehicles go underutilized. For example, 50% of logistics-vehicles are driving without cargo. This means that there is a significant opportunity to make things more efficient.
- Zero Cost – We have seen many different technological disruptions where we as customers simply get more value with less cost than before. Today, for example, we can buy a music subscription for 10 euros a month and put 30 million songs in our pocket. Do you remember how it was 25 years ago with music? With mobility-as-a-service innovations and the advancement of technology will eventually lead to exceptional customer value, more effective operations and less costs for everybody.
Welcome New Mobility
These goals are making me extremely excited about new vehicles and mobility. The goals will be achieved quickly, and they will require great systemic changes in technology, novel business models, culture, human behaviour and policy making. Our work with customers such as Aimo Park, E.on and Virta are the proof that these pieces are now starting to align together. Our evolutionary Good Growth concept is an excellent starting point to start to tackle these issues. There is still alot of work to be done and this work should be done together. This is the future we at Gofore are working towards. Welcome New Mobility.
1 Rieck, F.G.; Machielse, C.; van Duin, J.H.R (2017). Automotive, the Future of Mobility.
How to create High-Performance Teams?
Where to start? There are three things every team member can start doing immediately to foster team building:
1. Frame the work as a learning problem, not an execution problem.
2. Acknowledge your own fallibility.
3. Model curiosity and ask lots of questions.
This is a great place to start. If you are interested in more detailed and longer approach, continue reading.
Two perspectives to building high-performing teams
Google researchers believe people can do more working together than alone. Here is their proposal of the characteristics of a high performing team.
According to Patrick Lencioni there are 5 hierarchical levels of dysfunction that might be blocking the way of the team being high-performing. (Patrick Lencioni, 5 Dysfunction of a Team )
The levels are objects that prevent the team from reaching their full potential. In other words, by winning all of these barriers, teams are able to scale their performance almost infinitely and in a sustainable way!
In my experience fixing the absence of trust is “the 20% of work which you get 80% of results”.
Absence Of Trust, Level 1
We trust who we know.
How well do you know your work colleagues? Their hobbies, ambitions or personal background? Forming closer connections with your team members, leads to improved team collaboration. You’ll learn what fires their ambition and keeps them motivated.
– Personal Maps, Improving team collaboration
Absence of trust is the first of five significant factors which prevents teams from reaching their full potential and the high-performance state. It is caused by people are unable to show their weakness and true self in front of others.
Absence of trust causes:
- Time, resources and energy are wasted because of people are building “protective shields”.
- There is a huge barrier to ask or even give help inside the team.
- People feel the need to be invulnerable.
- Team meetings (all) are ineffective.
- People are trying to hide mistakes.
What happens when trust is achieved?
- Innovations are enabled! People aren’t afraid to speak their thoughts and there is no need to be afraid of being mocked by anyone on team.
- Cooperation improves radically.
- Psychological safety is reached.
- Failures and mistakes are shared openly and they are used as opportunities to learn.
How to reach mutual trust?
To practice vulnerability and to improve team spirit can be easily done with the Personal Map method. Personal Map helps team members to share experiences while everyone gets to know each other better (goals, passion, worries and so on). Psychological safety is prerequisite for teams to be proactive. Without trust and safety team members cannot trust that working for team goals also helps them to reach their own goals. Without trust and safety team members will set their own interest before teams interests when making decisions.
Trust is knowing that when a team member does push you, they’re doing it because they care about the team – Lencioni.
Here is how to create a Personal Map (Absence of Trust)
A) Personal map for the whole team
Use this in a team building or retrospectives. Any mind map tool can be used, but I prefer using tools like Miro or Mural. Here is a link to anonymous Mural login: team map. Please contact me, if there are any problems with the Mural.
You need to have an account to use Miro. If you prefer Miro over Mural, here is a team map for you.
Follow these steps when using the team map:
- Create copies of an empty Personal Map for every team member.
- Split the team into 2 person groups (or any other suitable group).
- Randomly give 2 team member names to teams where they are not part of.
- Fill Personal Maps for persons whose name you got.
- Time cap 20min (10min/person)
- Use Post-Its to fill Personal Maps.
- Fill everything you know about the target person in your group.
- Important thing is that in this phase target person is not allowed to participate in filling Personal Map information.
- After Personal Maps have been filled
- Group by group present your Personal Map to target person and rest of the team.
- Target person can fill “gaps” in a way he/she wants.
- Target person can reveal as much or as little information as he/she likes.
- Go through every Personal Map
- This will take time about 5-10min/person.
- That’s it!
- Main point in Personal Map is that it is first created by other team members (that way teams find out how little they know about other team members)
- After that anyone can reveal as much as they like from themselves.
Note! Save your team’s Personal Maps to a common place where anyone can access them if needed.
B) One Person at a time
This is useful when a new member joins the team. The same links and instructions work with this option. The most important thing is that target person is not allowed to participate filling of their own Personal Map. Other team members must do it first. After the Personal Map has been presented to the new member, they can fill in the gaps.
There are also other tools that you can utilize to create psychological safety. Check them out in here.
“A team feels psychologically safe to its members when they share the belief that within the team they will not be exposed to interpersonal or social threats to their self or identity, their status or standing and to their career or employment, when engaging in learning behaviors such as asking for help, seeking feedback, admitting errors or lack of knowledge, trying something new or voicing work-related dissenting views.” – Amy Edmondson
The Personal Map is a very easy method to implement with any team. It is suitable for introverts and extroverts as you can reveal as much as you like from yourself. Do you know how you can grow the feeling of relatedness in your team in order to achieve trust and flow state within a team?
Technical Project Manager (Scrum Master, Agile Coach)
Some ten years ago I took part in training about agile software production methods. There were about two dozen information technology professionals present and again I was the only woman – a situation I’ve become very accustomed to, working in a male-dominated field. Along the years, I’ve called my experience the Smurfette feeling.
You remember the Smurfs? They are the small, blue, apparently male creatures, all dressed in a white hat and trousers. They live in Smurf village and they all seem to lack a personal identity and personality. And then there’s Smurfette. Smurfette has long blond hair and a white dress, and she’s the only female Smurf.
Our trainer gave us a group assignment that required innovation. We were divided into four groups, and each group was given a number. Then the trainer wrote a number on a piece of paper and put it aside, saying that this was the group that would win.
Our group, the one with the only woman (me, Smurfette) was by far the fastest and most efficient. And in the end, we found out that the trainer was right about the winning team, explaining that having been training people around the world it had become clear that if a male-dominated group has a team with at least one woman, that’s the team that will almost always win. The trainer had understood a key lesson: diversity feeds creativity. Being a woman was not the magic word. Similarly, in a female-dominated group, a team with a man in it is probably going to be the most efficient. The winning team may be diverse also ethnically or in terms of the age distribution. The team that represents the most different viewpoints and approaches regarding the problem will be the most innovative and efficient.
Later I have noticed that international studies have confirmed this phenomenon over and over again. Diversity feeds creativity and increases productivity and the number of innovations. Different people find different angles and new approaches to problems. And it’s not just about diversity helping to find new angles, it also forces you to be better prepared, explain your own point of view better and in all ways take your team members better into account. What’s more, the experience of equality that is the requirement of genuine diversity makes people enjoy their work better and also feel safer. It also makes people more committed.
Hearing out all viewpoints is important not only in order to increase productivity and innovation, but also for the sake of being just and equal. In terms of social fairness, it is not insignificant which challenges we begin to solve, whose problems are considered such that mental capacity and resources are invested to solve them and what is the direction we should be taking our world.
The society of the future will be digital. It is based on solutions provided by information technology. This is why we, experts in digitalisation, have a large role to play and also shoulder much of the responsibility of what kind of society and services will be built. And it’s not insignificant who the people are that are involved in this building work.
In order for diversity to work, we not only offer everyone the same opportunities, but also take into account any special needs people may have. The needs of a young single person in a wheelchair are probably different from those of a sole parent with three children. A person recently moved to Finland for work probably needs different kind of attention than a Finnish, semi-retired person with lots of experience. Each individual will also bring their own, unique strengths into the equation. A good employer will spot these strengths and provide the best conditions for their development. And this palette also changes during each person’s life cycle, sometimes quite abruptly.
Neither must we be blind to the fact how our old structures and operating culture may feed the success of certain people at the expense of other groups. We are often so accustomed to these structures that we need a proper shake-up to step into the shoes of another person to realise that things could also be done differently.
I would also challenge Smurf village totalitarianism in which the blue Smurf with a white hat is the norm and anyone deviating from it is only seen as a representative of their own special group, as a person that doesn’t fit in with the rest. In reality, almost every individual represents, seen from a specific viewpoint, at least one minority, and more often several. So the blue and white uniformity of the Smurf village may actually be a mirage, hiding many different colours, personalities and individual opinions. Recognising them and expressing your viewpoint clearly and respectfully of others will open the door to enriching interaction.
During the past two years, I had the luxury to be a part of a large-scale program that involved several development teams across the world. As an agile coach and scrum master of one of the teams, together with my colleagues, we built a development team that ended up being one of the best crews I’ve been working with so far. However, we didn’t get it right on the first – or even on the second try. There were some important lessons to be learned. In this posting, I’ve listed my three most important takeaways.
Encourage active and respectful face-to-face communication
Ideally, all the teams should be co-located. There is no better way than to simply walk to another person and to start asking those questions. This overcomes any other means of communication. However, in a global environment, this is not always possible. Thus, it’s crucial that, if there are multiple teams in different locations, you really need to go out there and meet those people. Or, alternatively, fly them over to your country and make them feel comfortable. This is a must and we learned it the hard way. If you don’t have the travel budget, pick it from your own pocket – I can assure you it will be one of your best investments for the project.
After you have made acquittances, use video conferencing tools as much as possible in everyday communication. It might feel awkward in the beginning, but again, it will improve how the teams communicate. If the other team does not have the equipment, it’s a great idea to buy them a proper webcam as a gift when you pay a visit.
Meeting people in person, having a laugh and working together, side-by-side makes all the difference. This will also enable people to establish common rules for working together more easily. Different cultures have different customs and e.g. ways of saying things. Like it or not, we also all have sub-conscious stereotypes of different countries and cultures. If the people you’re interacting with daily are mere virtual icons in your teleconferencing tool it easily becomes “us and them”. This is definitively not the setup to be in when you have to deal with more difficult issues.
So, in essence,
- Co-locate the teams, or fly them over to visit as soon as you can
- Get to know people, then use video conferencing tools and encourage relaxed communication
- Beware of “us and them”
Enable the team to evolve and remember to have a safety net
Preferably, the team’s composition should not change too often. Effective communication within the team, building an identity and your sense of humor will take some time, so be patient. Yet, setting the team composition in stone from day one might be problematic. The skillset the team needs at the very beginning of the project is usually different from the skills team members require over a longer period of time. In the beginning, you may need to have more specialists working with, say, concepting and service design. Later on, as the product evolves, the team might gravitate more towards operations or security-related topics.
An experienced team can identify these needs themselves, but it’s worth making this clear from the very beginning: changing the composition of the team is natural as the project evolves and everyone should keep their eye on whether the team has the best fit to deliver at a given time. Of course, the team is usually very capable of learning new things and sharing skills, as long as there is a decent time frame for this. Sudden changes will affect the psychological safety of the team, so avoid hasty decisions – involve the team, they know best what is required.
The chemistry within the team is something to look after. Even the brightest minds don’t work well together if the way of working simply does not match each other. Active discussion and even strong opinions are quite all right, as long as the team can work things out. However, very strong personalities can sometimes dictate discussion, even unintentionally. In this case, there’s a great danger of losing valuable insights and ideas. To overcome this, the team can take advantage of a plethora of tools available ranging from online anonymous feedback systems to tools used in retrospectives. Also, having an external coach to facilitate these discussions can prove to be valuable. The team should be coached towards non-violent communication and you should lead the example. As a last resort, don’t be afraid to make changes to the team. Having a fruitful working environment weighs more in the longer run, even in the case where the team might temporarily lose some technical talent.
Lastly, the team should take care of easy and fast onboarding processes. You will never know when one of your team members finds the love of her life or even a better job opportunity – which is on the other side of the world. For a highly efficient team, it’s a great safety net to make sure that whenever new team members are joining, they will get going as quickly as possible. It will improve the ability of a team to get back in the normal pace and reduces the anxiety of a new member of the team starting anew. Make sure everyone knows how to get started, where to obtain credentials and access rights, where to look for introductory tutorials and so on. And when the new team member joins the team, her insights and perceptions of the project might prove very valuable – especially with regards to the on-boarding process, but also on the project in general. The team might be blind to things and habits that have lost their value a long time ago.
Three key points regarding team evolution:
- Encourage people to step outside their comfort zones to learn new things – remember that changing the team composition should not be the first choice
- However, the skills needed in the project might change over time – involve the team to determine what is required at a given moment and then proceed
- Even the best teams will also face unexpected attrition, so be prepared
Be curious, challenge the status quo and empower the team
The same way as a newcomer to the team can see things differently, so the whole team can see the new project in a different light. There might be something very evident blocking the team on its way to success, which the team can immediately spot. So, challenging existing structures and the status quo should be encouraged.
When it comes to these blockers, there are many sayings, such as “it’s better to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission”. With this kind of thinking it is often tempting to start from a clean slate. “Things would be so much easier and more fun if we simply ditched this box here and recreated it ourselves”. Sound familiar? Honestly, if you don’t need it, get rid of it. Still, it’s good to think twice before blindly overhauling all the existing processes and tools already in place. They usually are there for a reason. Before making any big changes, the team needs to understand how the underlying system of work works.
The other point of view is that a fresh team does not yet carry the weight of the organization. Hopefully, the team is free of any strong opinions regarding other departments in the organization. As no bridges have yet burned, the team might be able to approach different parts of the organization in a more neutral way and thus learn more this way. This should be encouraged.
The point is to actively seek the actual users of the system, even if (and especially when) it has not been the custom, or when there is a proxy entity representing actual end-users. What are the users really trying to do – do they actually need this system? This is often overlooked, or users are misrepresented by some other entity. There might be existing tools or structures, parts of the system, that are then, once again, recreated. But the team can easily go on for a long time before really understanding what it is actually building and for whom – or does it even make sense? Once the team really understands the real needs, it should be empowered to make even bold decisions regarding what really should be done next.
In the end, it comes back to active communication. Perhaps it’s about pointing out the elephant in the room no-one else is willing to see. Then, having the right people expressing themselves in a polite but decisive manner – and at the same time being able to express and reason themselves clearly – will make a world of difference.
- A new team has “fresh eyes” – try to benefit from it
- There might be existing structures that, in the end, serve no real meaning
- Understanding the system, i.e. what users are trying to achieve, is the key thing
From my experiences, I can guarantee that building a highly-effective team from scratch is challenging and will require some trial and error. If you work with a global customer and with different cultures and time zones, things will not get any easier.
There are many things to keep in mind, but always make sure that you communicate your intentions, what the team is currently doing and where you are heading next in the clearest and concise way possible.
Do your best to find the most suitable composition for the team. Try to keep changes to a minimum, but always remember to think ahead and have a plan B ready, if and when you are forced to change the team.
Encourage the team actively to seek a better way. Usually, things are in place for a reason and they can always be done differently. The trick is to know whether the features the team is implementing are actually taking the product forward from the real customer’s point of view or are they merely feats of engineering. And finally, always remember to ask why.
Digitalization is helping organizations and individuals build and expand their networks which leads to meaningful cooperation. Increasingly these networks are sharing time, insights and information and co-creating new business models and services. Business rules are in such constant change that regulators are struggling to keep up. To be resilient and stay relevant in this networked world, organizations need to constantly innovate new meaningful ways to communicate, interact and form relations with different participants. This does not happen from inside the company.
Understanding the wider scope, systems, value streams and relationships and how they work is a key element in driving innovations in this networked world. Many organizations claim to be customer centric however if you ask their customers the answer might be quite different. Customer surveys or ‘Happy or Not’ buttons at checkouts might give a quick impression of the organisation’s concern but this can be a false impression. Truly customer centric organizations curiously explore their customers’ holistic experiences in their world and changing contexts. To understand these, design methods such as observation techniques and contextual participatory methods are required.
The same can be said for understanding employees within the organisation. Employees know best what happens at the intersections with the external network participants they work with. Companies should never outsource their eyes and ears. Innovations do not flourish in an environment that does not listen to both their internal and external network participants.
Making the shift from company centric to customer and network-centric
Value in co-creation needs to be mutually beneficial whether it is monetary, experiential, environmental or societal. Meaningful innovations require a radical mindset shift in organizations – from company centric to customer centric and all the way to network centric. To drive innovations that are meaningful to different participants, real network centric organizations build their innovations around experiences. They try to understand people’s activities, practices and experiences in their world and in a context that extends beyond the organisation’s products and services. That is only possible when understanding individual behaviour and that isn’t easy.
People might be end-users, citizens, consumers, customers, employees, clients, partners or contributors and you need to observe them and listen to their stories, find out what is important to them in their world and in changing contexts, and find out why.
Are you company-centric or network-centric?
Using Design Thinking to facilitate constant change
Organizations that fearlessly withstand uncertainty and trust non-linear and iterative innovation processes driven by people-centric data have an advantage. The Design Thinking approach drives valuable innovations that are new to a specific context and time, creating value for all collaborative participants in a meaningful way. Innovations ultimately always need to be aligned with actual network participants’ unsatisfied and important jobs, pains and gains if they are going to be successful. This means that if an organisation`s innovation intent is not people driven, but technology and business driven, those innovations need to be validated with evidence that people really care about the innovation intent.
The powerful mindsets of design thinking guide the whole organization to break down silos and build an open, transparent and trust-building atmosphere that supports collaboration and the sharing of information and knowledge. This helps to cultivate an innovation culture that embraces the experiences of employees and external network participants.
The world in which we are living, and the future may seem foggy, but when you go out and observe the world with an open mind and with empathy, everything becomes clearer. The future does not just arrive – it is co-created within networks.
Read the extended version of this blog from our publication: Recoding change (pages 106-111)
Do you believe in positive change? That our actions can change this world for the better? Read more in our pubilication, recoding change (NOTE: Booklet is written mostly in finnish): Recoding change
The latest X-Road Community Event was a huge success. With 150+ participants from 22 countries, it is evident that the interest and tangible actions for enabling digital societies are hot topics among the nations worldwide.
The event was organised by the Nordic Institute for Interoperability Solutions (NIIS) who are developing and managing an open source data exchange solution called X-Road. X-Road is the basis for data exchange in the public administration in Estonia and Finland, both of whom are founding members of the organisation. Lately, Iceland and the Faroe Islands have also joined as partners – and various countries and regions in Europe, Africa, the Americas and Asia have run trials and adapted X-Road for their use. See the X-Road world map for details:
Currently, Gofore is the sole developer of the X-Road core for NIIS through a public procurement.
X-Road version 6 is deployed in Finland and Estonia, and Iceland will follow suit shortly. The Faroe Islands and some other countries are preparing to migrate their platform from version 5 to 6.
At the event plans for the development of the next version of the software, X-Road 7 Unicorn, were introduced and presented in various workshops by experts from Gofore, the Finnish Population Register Centre (VRK) and the Estonian State Information System Authority (RIA). NIIS CTO Petteri Kivimäki stated: “X-Road is not developed for us [NIIS] but for you [nations and organisations]”, so it is evident that close collaboration between the development of the core and existing and planned local installations is highly valued. The MIT-licensed open source software enables maximum utilisation and all users are welcomed to contribute and create pull requests for additional required features.
Planning to utilise X-Road?
If your country or organisation has various data sources and siloed services, taking X-Road into use will enable a fluent, fully secured and easily manageable solution to exchange data between sources. Such fluent data exchange enables endless possibilities for derivative machine-to-machine applications and easy cross-border data exchange between countries. Of course the ultimate target are smooth human-centric services for citizens, which often require additional trusted digital identity management system to be build alongside information systems connected by X-Road.
Gofore has experience and deep expertise in all layers of X-Road and digital identity design, development and deployment and we are looking to support their utilisation at an international scale.
If you want to hear more, please contact the author or download the leaflet below – it will provide more detail on why, what and how X-Road would help to achieve a digital society in your context.
Interested in reliable, secure and easy to use integrations for digital services? X-road provides this and more. Download our X-road leaflet to learn more about how this could be utilised in your business: X-road leaflet
Data and information are or will be, inevitable prerequisites for success, no matter what your business is. Data is said to be the new fuel, new services, new tools, new professions (very sexy ones), etc. Data is also said to be risky, vulnerable, unsafe, out of control, etc. All these statements are true and at the same time very confusing. This post gives some guidelines on how to tackle the ever-growing data and information overload.
Problem or opportunity?
The ever-growing amount of information can be seen as a problem or as an opportunity. Both these options are, not good or bad, but dependent on the relevant approach to data and information. By selecting your approach, you might even select your future career. Cybersecurity professionals love to solve technical data privacy problems whilst business development people see endless opportunities for new services and platforms. So even viewing information as a problem might be a business opportunity.
Bring the data together
Data and technologies become more and more complicated and diverse all the time. And sad to say, too often data and solutions are very isolated and siloed. Silos are a very big problem. Successful organizations are transparent. This means you need to get rid of data silos, especially mentally, and bring data together in one platform. This applies not only to your own data but to all data which might belong to other departments, other companies or to publicly available data.
Technically this is not a problem, there are a huge number of tools and platforms which enable you to put data in one place and to combine and integrate it. Usually the problem lies in people’s thinking and in organizational cultures. There can also be some legal restrictions, but still it is often possible to have some elements of the data transparently available.
Don’t try this alone
It is impossible for a single person, and in most cases even for a single organization, to do everything alone. You need a team, people for certain roles. On the football pitch, you cannot be the goalkeeper, midfielder and forward at the same time. In realizing the opportunities lying within your data you need people for different roles, e.g. data engineer, data scientist, developer, business analyst, security expert, etc.
The roles in your team depend on the approach you take and what you are trying to achieve. Tackling information problems requires engineering, security, quality skills, etc. Grabbing information opportunities requires e.g. experimenting, prototyping, visualization, AI, design and sales roles. To be successful in the long run you need to assess both problem and opportunity approaches. Like Tom Davenport says, “Great data teams play both offence and defence”.
The way forward
The glue between data, the development team, the production team and the technological platform is the way of working. You might say these are the processes, but they represent a strict and siloed way of working. The nature of data related development whether it is dashboard building, advanced analytics, AI model development, etc. is such that when you start, you don’t know where, and with what results you will end up with. In addition, new requirements will very probably emerge during the work. Traditional project methods for development are not capable of handling these ever-changing situations fast enough.
The line between development and production is very vague in the field of data and analytics. The transition from development to deployment and to everyday use must be seamless and continuous. You must understand constantly changing needs and constantly increasing data. Agile and experimental ways of working are the key. You must be able to show results, iterate them and adjust your direction continuously with your clients in ever-shortening cycles.
Execution brings results, prepare for change
The problems very often lie in the execution. Not only ready-made solutions but also small and more ‘academic’ experiments should be taken into use and deployed into production. If you don’t try them in production with real data, you don’t know what they bring to you. Another aspect of execution is actions. No solution or information is useful if it is not used or no actions are based on it. Usually, it is most effective, also cost-wise, to build up and kick-start new solutions with help from a partner(s), even in this case you need to take care of the action-part. When new solutions are deployed and new ways of working have become business as usual, then you can rethink what resources and competencies you need to have yourself and how you continue with partnerships.
The field of data & AI, like many others, is in constant development and transition. And like all development, it is not only about tools and technologies. People, competencies, ways of working and organizational culture are key parts of success. New development drives constant change, and in order to succeed in a changing environment, you, or at least your thinking, must also change!
In the past, companies have addressed changes in business situations by adding more control. Control has been seen as the tool to gather and process more information about change and thus to gain a better understanding of the situation. This has led to a hierarchical organization with unnecessary organizational layers and structural resistance to change. But ‘change has changed’ and the dominant industrial thinking model based on a hierarchical organization is outdated. Organizations have become inefficient, incorrectly structured and complex to manage.
It is not that companies’ leadership and management have been lazy and stupid, but the business at large, and society have changed towards something new, which is called digital. The change is evolutionary, comes in waves and has gained momentum since 2000. At the same time, current legacy management is based on industrial thinking characterized by concepts like static operations, manufacturing, raw materials, products, markets, economies of scale, value chain, shareholder value, and asymmetrical information. These are things that are more concrete and based on business models ignorant to environmental and social issues. Anyhow the industrial era has produced plenty of wealth, growth, health and societal good.
Companies are getting more profitable, but at the same time, there are challenges to create growth by introducing new services and products. Digital technologies generate efficiency gains through automation and improved situational awareness by improving existing solutions. Companies can get stuck between industrial and digital. The more you apply digital technologies to existing products and production, the more efficient a company becomes, but that doesn’t necessarily create growth.
What does the digital era look like? We don’t know exactly and we are afraid to admit that our society is entering a totally different era. A similar magnitude of change was witnessed 200 years ago when the industrial era started. The future comes in small pieces, not all in one go. The small pieces that characterize the future are the digitalization of products to services, vast data and advanced analytics, customer centricity vs. product, economies of flow vs. scale, individual homogenous needs vs. markets, dynamics vs. statics, ecosystems vs. value chains, IoT devices vs dump devices and stakeholder value vs shareholder value. The information which caused the change is so vast and volatile that hierarchical organizations can be too slow to react. There is a need for new ways to organize collaboration.
The challenge with company growth is the balance between legacy and renewal, resilience and adaptation of new ways of working. The root cause seems to be industrial-organizational thinking, where a company is seen as one hierarchical organization. Contemporary thinking is nothing like emphasizing companies systemic, adaptive, self-organizing and intelligent characteristics. Companies are not just organizations that react to external events, they also change all the time because people want to do what they see is right.
Companies are good to react when their existence is threatened. The danger with digital transformation is the evolutionary nature. It doesn’t create immediate urgency, results just become harder to achieve. Also, the transformation process is seen as ‘One Model Fits all’, instead of fit for purpose and against customer demand where parts of the company are transformed individually.
So there is a struggle with the past, and the future looks distant and different. The situation often presents itself differently from that which you were expecting. The past says that there is no need for change, the future says total change. From a company point of view making sense is a customer demand related topic. A company has several futures depending on their customers’ true needs. Company resilience is the sum of the resilience of the customer serving parts. This is also the reason why there is no need for ‘One Model fits all’ transformations because there is no ‘One Model’. In the past, management expected and wanted to create a trust to ‘One Model’. Now the flow of trust is reversed. Management needs to trust that autonomous units know their customer needs and will act in the best interest of customer and company.
The challenge with company growth is the balance between legacy and renewal, resilience and dynamic new ways of working. Resiliency is an organizational capability that is needed when the times are good, bad and between. Resiliency is good for company stakeholders.