FOG: The Future of Growth…

Two years into the pandemic, everyone’s wondering again and still about the Future of Work. Talks and webinars and conferences are being organized to understand what organizations and people are going through. With Wave 3 (Omicron) peaking, it is pretty much agreed that the resilience of humans has ensured that we found ways to continue to operate, and economies are reflecting this resilience.

The Future of Work seems to be safe. ‘Hybrid’ is what the consensus is. But it is increasingly becoming apparent that the pandemic is in for a longer spell than we had hoped for, and the question we now have to start thinking about is – “What is the Future of Growth?”.

This question gains significance because the fresh workforce which was recruited during the last two years would have never experienced ‘pre-pandemic’ work in offices, and some of these people would also be coming up for their first role change into a bigger role, maybe supervising people remotely. But what does that mean?

We need solutions for the new problems being faced today. Many instances of “I don’t want to attend meetings” are being reported. We need to address the root of the problem (meetings were not effective nor defined with required agendas), not try to replicate what used to happen. The new joinees have never experienced in-person meetings, or workshops where they could see their colleagues face-to-face, or eye-to-eye, nor do the old KRAs/KPIs make complete sense when used for determining promotions.

There are new questions that the #futureofgrowth will need us to think about, from everyone’s point of view, the subordinates’ and the supervisors’. The realization is stronger now of the social fabric in any organization. What is the social fabric made of, what does it enable or inhibit, and how can it be replaced with wholesome and productive mechanisms.

Some questions that may have interesting answers now…

Questions From the Subordinates’ Point of View

  • How will my performance be assessed?
  • How will my promotion be decided?
  • What is the extra I can do beyond what is assigned to me, and which will win me brownie points?
  • How will I Learn by Observation?
  • From where will I Absorb Tacit Knowledge
  • Who are the Leaders? From the Social Media universe, Influencers are the leaders, do they become organizational “Gurus” as well?
  • Interpersonal motivation – how and from where do I get it?

Questions From the Supervisors’ Point of View

  • How will managers develop subordinates?
  • How to assess the competencies of subordinates?
  • How to identify the potential growth areas for subordinates?
  • Situational Leadership? What is that going to be driven by?
  • How will coaching and mentoring evolve?

Challenges For Everyone

  • Many of the familiar ways of working no longer help in the new Organization Dynamic
  • Mastering/Leveraging New mediums of self-expression – text, voice, video, language
  • How will we learn emotional intelligence?

Many questions like the ones above are beginning to gain importance, and we will have to find new answers. It is an exciting future for sure!

— O —

Our Customers are Different! The Edge of Knowledge

We often talk about how selling in the Learning & Knowledge industry is different from selling in other industries.

It is not only because our offerings are different, it actually begins with how our customers are different.

The purpose of the L&K industry is to enhance the ability of people to perform more and bigger tasks so that they can make their own industry grow!

We must realize that the customer in this industry (Learning & Knowledge) is usually different from customers of other industries, in several ways.

1.  The first and most significant difference is in the customer’s ability to spec what they want. Because the need being addressed by them has resulted from a lack of knowledge or skill in the first place, the customer themselves do not have the ability to solve the problem by specifying the solution.  Else they would have solved the problem anyway.

This leads to a paradoxical situation.  Where business and management gurus tell us to meet the customer’s requirements, in this case the requirements need to be developed by us, the professionals, to address the needs of our customers.  At best our customers can give us their needs, their preferences, their expectations, and their constraints.  This actually is the highest domain of selling – diagnostic, consultative selling.

2.  The second difference in customers of the learning & knowledge industry is that they also do not know whether the solution we are proposing is going to solve their problem or not.  This challenge emerges because of the unpredictability of human behavior, and the managers’ inability to predict accurately what the result of better trained staff will be, beyond the hope that they will perform better.

3.  The third difference is that customer delight is rarely achieved by the same level of delivery again.  The level of delivery – in terms of content, presentation, insights, creative and critical thoughts presented – needs to keep progressing for our customers to remain consistently delighted.  This is where our industry fails when quality improvement models advocating consistency are implemented, like ISO 9001.  The models are mistakenly interpreted by us to lead towards consistency of delivery, while actually to succeed, we need consistency of customer delight, which is rarely achieved by the same product delivered again.

 

4.  A fourth difference is that our services are ‘invisible’ to the untrained eye.  It can often be presumed that it is just communication that we build, and how hard is that for someone good with language.  In reality, language is only the medium of the art of instruction.  The art of instruction involves a keen appreciation of the context and motivation of the learners, and then to address their needs and wants with and experience that satisfies them, that brings ‘content’ to the ‘discontent’.  These two necessities require the Instructional Designer to not only be sensitive to the personalities and environment of the learners, but also to the concepts and practices of the domain they will benefit from.  This leads to the art of leading from learning, much beyond the mashing of words to ‘build’ learning material that reads right.

These Perspectives  highlight the need to consult and collaborate with customers, on the identification of the design inputs for the solution as well as on the benefits of the solution once it is implemented.  The professionals servicing the needs have to be experts, with knowledge to add to what the situation demands.

This is the primary reason why selling in the Learning & Knowledge industry is always consultative.  The business that is there to be had without consultancy is low value, competitive, effort-based and routine.  If we consider the Learning & Knowledge industry to involve Creativity, the business that is there to be had without ‘selling’ also will not require very ‘creative’ contribution from the suppliers, and will be far lower in value.

It is only fair to accept that every professional in the industry cannot be an expert at everything to begin with.  But that’s the key – to selling, and to delivering knowledge or skills.  So how do the professionals address this gap?  By making sure they are the fastest learners, they learn faster than the speed at which the situation changes.  They may not be experts to begin with, but with a reasonable and structured approach to learning, they can assimilate expertise faster than anyone else, and then simplify and deliver it to the customer scenario while there is still value to solving the ‘problem’ they want to address.  By the end of a project, the professionals certainly become the experts at the topic, and they take the least time to become such solutioning experts.

This makes it amply evident that the most fundamental skill to hone for professionals in the knowledge industry, is learning.  To learn how to learn is what we become the best at, and this gives us the edge of knowing more, the edge of knowledge.

— O —

Beyond the SWOT – the ESHF Framework

Enjoy, Suffer, Hope, Fear (ESHF)

Human beings are peculiar phenomena.  More than ability and logic, our decisions and actions are defined by our emotions and feelings.  Dan Areily has written about how our irrationality sets us apart.  Jonathan Haidt, and other psychologists preceded Dan in researching how this leads to creativity and to our happiness.

The ESHF Framework can help us become aware of the motivation and velocity we are moving with.  Projecting into the future Horizons (near/far/distant) we can take charge of our journey towards the goals that are important for us.  We always achieve what we want!

ESHF for:  _______________________________________________

E-njoy

Horizon

S-uffer

Horizon
NO
S

A

R

NOSAR do I enjoy working towards, thinking about, helping others for>

1/2/3 NO
S

A

R

NOSAR do I suffer (tolerate) working towards, thinking about, helping others for>

1/2/3

H-ope

Need

F-ear

Need
NO
S

A

R

NOSAR do I hope to have achieved, thought through>

NO
S

A

R

NOSAR do I fear will come in my way, or bring me pain>

* N: Needs; O: Objectives; S: Specifications; A: Activities; R: Results (Requirements)

— O —

Doing a SWOT?

Whenever I’ve done the SWOT, for whatever it might be, I realized the points I would put down got a little confused as I went ahead to complete the SWOT.  Perspective would change even as I thought through the points.  Opportunities and Threats would become confused about who or what I had to focus on.

I realized if we had a framework which guided our thinking with constant questions, it would do so much for the quality of the SWOT, its completeness, consistency of perspective, and relevance.  Here I share a framework for doing the SWOT for an Individual, as well as another for an Organization/Team.

Happy SWOTing!!

1.  SWOT for an Individual

SWOT for:  ________________________________________________

S-trength

Trend

W-eakness

Trend
C

A

S

K

B

<enter here what current Competencies, Attitudes, Skills, Knowledge, and Behaviors, are helping you to achieve what is needed>

+/-/=

<enter here whether trend is ‘+ve’,     ‘-ve’, or ‘flat’>

C

A

S

K

B

<enter here what current Competencies, Attitudes, Skills, Knowledge, and Behaviors, are preventing you from achieving what is needed>

 +/-/=

<enter here whether trend is ‘+ve’,     ‘-ve’, or ‘flat’>

O-pportunity

Need

T-hreat

Need
C

A

S

K

B

<enter here what current Competencies, Attitudes, Skills, Knowledge, and Behaviors, are you working on which will help you to achieve what you expect will be needed.  Look at trends in S and W, as well as any new C-A-S-K-A-Bs you realize that you are working on.>

<enter here for which need a point is an opp-ortunity> C

A

S

K

B

<Look at downward trends in S and W to identify which Competencies, Attitudes, Skills, Knowledge, and Behaviors, might prevent you from achieving what will be needed>

<enter here for which need a point is a threat>

2.  SWOT for an Organization/Team

SWOT for: ______________________________________

S-trength

Trend

W-eakness

Trend
  • Market/Customer – needs, behavior, trends
  • Competencies – includes reservoirs of Knowledge, Skill, Attitude
  • Processes – includes policies, methods, standards, best practices
  • Capacity – includes people, funds, resources, infrastructure
  • Vision – includes values, motives, and beliefs

<enter under each heading what current facts are helping the organization to achieve what is needed>

<enter here whether trend is ‘+ve’,     ‘-ve’, or ‘flat’>
  • Market/Customer – needs, behavior, trends
  • Competencies – includes reservoirs of Knowledge, Skill, Attitude
  • Processes – includes policies, methods, standards, best practices
  • Capacity – includes people, funds, resources, infrastructure
  • Vision – includes values, motives, and beliefs

<enter under each heading what  current facts are preventing the organization from achieving what is needed>

<enter here whether trend is ‘+ve’,     ‘-ve’, or ‘flat’>

O-pportunity

Need

T-hreat

Need
  • Market/Customer – needs, behavior, trends
  • Competencies – includes reservoirs of Knowledge, Skill, Attitude
  • Processes – includes policies, methods, standards, best practices
  • Capacity – includes people, funds, resources, infrastructure
  • Vision – includes values, motives, and beliefs

<enter under each heading what current initiatives are you working on which will help the organization to achieve what you expect will be needed.  Look at trends in Strengths above and Weaknesses, as well as any new Competencies, Processes, Capacity, etc.that you realize the organization is working on.>

<enter here for which need a point is an opp-ortunity>
  • Market/Customer – needs, behavior, trends
  • Competencies – includes reservoirs of Knowledge, Skill, Attitude
  • Processes – includes policies, methods, standards, best practices
  • Capacity – includes people, funds, resources, infrastructure
  • Vision – includes values, motives, and beliefs

<Look at downward trends in Strengths and Weaknesses to identify which of the above (bulleted) attributes might prevent the organization in the future from achieving what will be needed.>

<enter here for which need a point is a threat>

— o —

Competencies to Achievement

How often have we wondered – “Well, everyone who was on this project had the right competencies, the skills that were required.  Yet the project failed to meet its deadlines and ran over budget.  We seemed to have all the ingredients yet it didn’t fly!”

Let us not assume the immense potential that people have, will automatically lead to what they will achieve just by placing them in a situation.  Of course the goal that trainers have is to maximize the realization of potential, but how many times have we seen this succeed in our own experiences.  In fact, we trainers have to realize that the objectives we train people towards themselves are only enabling objectives.  We frame them as: “At the end of this training, the learners will be able to do xyz…”.  The phrase to notice is ‘will be able to’.  Being able to do something, and actually doing something are two very different behaviors.

 Possibility > Competence > Rea??lity > Achievement > Result/Outcome

To derive the benefit from our skill/competency we must know the factors that become the intermediaries between skill/competency and achievement.  This is reality.  Our reality becomes evident in our motives and choices.  What lie between skill/competency and achievement are our motives or wants, our choices of actions and plans, and our ability to implement.

Skill/Competency      >        Wants             >        Actions           >        Achievement

Skill/Competency (potential)

Lets see what Competency and Skill means.

a)  Competency/Competence:      an important skill that is needed to do a job (Cambridge)

b) Skill:      i) An ability to do an activity or job well, especially because you have practiced it (Cambridge)

ii) The ability to do something that comes from training, experience, or practice (Webster)

Fig. 1.  Many Competencies get together into a Skill necessary for a job-role.  Several Skills are necessary in a job-role, and several Roles get together in a Function, many of which get together to form a Business.

Each of us begins by intuitively knowing or believing the competencies we have.  We’ve also been told of our competencies ever since our childhood, through school and on the job by our parents, teachers, friends, supervisors and colleagues.  Our beliefs are reinforced by the feedback and responses of our environment, of people around us.  We must realize that the response of our environment is based on what they perceive as our skill, which is the result of the practice of a competency of ours.

Skills are a result of successful practice of our competencies, chosen by our ‘want’ to practice them, from the opportunities presented by our environment, and in the ways we want to practice.  Assuming responsibility for our ‘wants’ gives us choices to make.  We choose our wants, our objectives.

Wants (Objectives)

WANT = Wish to Acquire Necessitated by Thought

What we want is typically driven by our values and the opportunities we perceive to increase our fulfillment of our values, of what we value, of our value.

VALUE = Virtuous Aspects of Life Ubiquitously Established

We identify objectives we want to achieve.  This choice of objectives is driven by our values, our environment, as well as what we believe our competencies and skills are.  We choose objectives that are meaningful for us, as well as which will be possible for us to achieve with our competencies and skills.

We work out plans for us to act on the objectives.  The more important the objective for us, the more commitment we have to the plan.  To be the best, the plan needs to break down the objective into a work breakdown structure that most effortlessly fulfills our objectives in the least time.  The choices we make at this time are about what the individual and interrelated tasks will be, and at what level of detail we will visualize and describe the tasks.

Do action (implement)

With the plan towards our objectives, we start working at the tasks outlined in the plan.  As we get into the execution of our planned tasks, we make choices about detailing the steps for ourselves, which sometimes happens deliberately, though usually it might happen the way we have always done those tasks, organically defined and flowing into the next tasks, etc.

The most important aspects to focus on in this stage are to focus, to execute, and to persist in making the effort to execute, always verifying whether we’re moving closer to our objectives as we think we should.  Many a time, reflecting occasionally on our Want can rejuvenate the focus for us.

We’ve all been in situations where an action we had decided to do seems to be failing to meet the objectives.  We have a choice at that time, of whether to continue, to stop and choose a different/modified action.  It is therefore important to be able to project the effect(s) of the actions we do.

Achieve (closure)

Finally, to keep doing something until the objective is met, is what becomes achievement.  The closure of action, the point after which the action is no longer needed, is possibly the most important to arrive at.  If we don’t achieve closure, our energies will continue to need to be spent in sustaining/continuing the action we were doing.

As we find our way to achievement, it becomes important for us to know how to modify (if required) the action so that achievement is brought closer.

Fig 2.  Achievement results from focusing our competencies into skills, setting objectives, planning, and then executing the plan with commitment to ourselves.

Fig.3.  S: Skills,  C: Competencies,  W: Wants,  A: Action plans, T: Training

Example:

Let’s take this example (Fig. 3.) where we are considering the hiring of candidate X, for working at and accomplishing the WORK of developing a working MIS.

In many situations you as the recruiter will not know how the outcome can be achieved.  You may not know what competencies and skills are required to achieve the outcome in the best possible way, in the least time and cost possible.  You may also not know what possible methods could be employed to arrive at the outcome.  We may assume you know some of the attributes and desired standards of development of the outcome.

At the point you start assessing the candidate, you also do not know much about them.

How should you go about selecting the best candidate for the job?