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!

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Designing Goals

Well designed goals are a key strategic differentiator that great organizations, teams and individuals have from others.  How do we design goals that are better than others?

To begin with, we must understand the nature of Goals, and their interdependencies, so that we craft integral sets of goals that lead to success.  As is evident from experience, the only goals that people are likely to work towards purposefully, are the ones they understand, in the way they understand.

Goal Setting Semantics

Goals, Objectives, Targets, KRAs (Key Result Areas), KPAs (Key Performance Areas), are all used differently in different teams, and often much of the debate is simply about smantics.  It is useful to have a common, simple to understand (and remember) interpretation of them as we intend to use the terms.

One meaningful interpretation of the terms and the relationships between them is shown in the structure below:

Goals                                                   ←        (Come from the Vision, Mission of the Organizational Unit)

A.  KRAs                                   ←        (Areas of Interest for a Business, e.g. from the Balanced Score Card)

A.1  Objectives          ←        (Useful purpose, strategic)

A.1.1  Tactical sub-plan/endeavor (Useful action, tactics)                  Target 1                    (Worthwhile achievement)

A.1.2  ….                                                                                                                             Target 2                                    

 

Goal Matrix

The Goal Matrix is used to align and review goals across different roles in a function, and across all functions to ensure there is parity of goals assigned to roles at the same level, as well as to ensure that every target is worthwhile in working towards the strategic objectives, for every KRA, all of which work towards the Vision and Mission of the organization.

Goal Matrix

Components of the Organization, and their Goals

  1. Top Management – Strategic (Growth)
  2. Structural segments of the Organization – Allow several Degrees of Freedom (Flexibility and Specialization)
  3. Middle Management – Tactical (Improvement)
  4. Executive – Decisions and Actions leading to Quality (Creation of Value to meet Customer needs)

Goals need to be translated down from the top down, ensuring that while the core competencies of role-holders are leveraged, they are also challenged to grow the organization.  Business Development translates work possibilities/competencies to money, Delivery translates money to work/competencies.

Sideways too, goals need to be integrated and aligned across different functions and roles (see Goal Matrix below) within functions so that there is ‘equity’ and ‘parity’ between role-holders, and what they contribute to the bigger, organizational goal.

Articulation of Objectives

The way Objectives are articulated, each objective needs to have the following included in its articulation:

  1. Behavior, performance, direction of endeavor – e.g. Improve, minimize, maximize, reduce, increase, grow, etc.
  2. Condition – the condition(s) under which the endeavor is expected to be undertaken, by default it is in the current scope of the organization.  Also, each objective is to be understood in the context of every other objective in the set.
  3. Qualifier – this is a criterial measure that provides observable visibility of the degree of satisfaction of the objective and relates to the Target
  4. Target – this is the criterial target measure, which if achieved will mean that the objective has been met.

Choice of Objectives

A common confusion in choosing objectives arises from not being clear about whether the chosen objective is a cause or an effect.  The best objectives are ’causes’, and they lead to desired ‘effects’.  Setting the ‘effect’ as an objective hides the real ’causes’ that need to be worked at to meet the goals.

E.g. if the Goal is to “Double the market share” of a company, one objective could be “To increase the visibility of the Brand”, which is an ‘effect’ objective.  Another objective could be “To increase Sales by 300%”, which is a ’cause’ objective.  The effect objective is not wrong, but could prove to be limiting in its achievement, while the cause objective is more certain of achieving the goal, given the target of 300% has been set based on market and industry trends.

Check on Goals

  • Goals can be for ensuring we cause the targets to be met, or simply for the effect of meeting targets.
  • Responsibility is clearly taken and carried through
  • Improvement built into the objectives and targets, or must have Objectives crafted especially for improvement of performance aspects.
  • SMART check on Objectives and Tactical plans

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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?

Competency, Performance, Achievement, Growth

Over time we all realize that the most important competency we need is the competency to assess competence. Without it we have no hope of leveraging the unfathomable potential of humans towards any achievement, and we become limited in what we can achieve ourselves.

In the beginning of our contributing and being useful in life, we contribute with our own achievements, driven by our own competencies. As we achieve more in response to the perpetual need to achieve more, we reach the thresholds of our own limitations. It becomes imperative then to be able to help others achieve more with their competencies, to stay together on the growth path, growing in what we achieve together.

We shall soon explore how competencies lead to achievements, what are the intermediate stages and steps, and how we can direct them better.