A question people of all ages from all walks of life ask today is “Will I succeed in this new world of work?” I’ve been told by many human resource practitioners that success in any profession has three prerequisites: knowledge, perspective, and attitude. While I support this basic notion I also believe the ground rules to becoming successful and continuing riding the wave, is way more involved. It stands to reason that the individual must be competent in the particular skills the task at hand requires, but acquiring the relevant peripheral knowledge goes far beyond basic skills. It is important to not only know the concepts and principles of the project or process, one must also be committed to lifelong learning, be prepared to take spur-of-the-moment risks, and have enough insight to circumvent threats.
We all know that some skills can literally become obsolete overnight, and that keeping up-to-date is an ongoing challenge. While companies today are geared to identify and recruit highly talented employees, most do not know how to instill fundamental inventiveness or impel their staff to continually pioneer re-engineering strategies and rethink predictable approaches. The definitive workforce for emerging enterprises is expected to be multi-skilled, resourceful and practiced at adjusting to swift change. However, many people struggle to adapt to ongoing change. Our conscious mind interprets change as a significant loss of some sort, which makes us hold on to efforts already exerted. It’s the same when people hesitate to end a doomed relationship because it’s hard to accept the whole experience was an utter waste of time, even though in reality valuable lessons were learned. Consequently, change isn’t about having wasted time on past efforts but should rather be viewed as a leap forward in finding new fertile ground to assess the possibility of impending excellence.
Resistance to change has no place in 21st Century business. Constant change should be embraced, not feared. If it was not for his aversion to accept anything less than outstanding, engineer and visionary Elon Musk might not have founded Tesla Motors and SpaceX, amongst other organizations. Colleagues and associates fittingly refer to Musk as the “real change-management man”. The success of 21st Century business depends on innovative process management, defined as “a systematic approach to making an organization’s workflow more effective, more efficient and more capable of adapting to an ever-changing environment.” But what does that actually mean? And how does it help a business determine its goals? Incidentally, Business Process Management isn’t a new concept, although it needs to be re-introduced to today’s mode of business thinking if an amicable answer is to be forged for people worrying about whether they can succeed in this new world of work.
I wonder how many people today would recognize the name Konosuke Matsushita. This remarkable entrepreneur began working for himself in 1918. Despite having limited funds, no real formal education, and no connections his small firm flourished. Matsushita founded Panasonic and set the business on a journey to become one of the largest electronics companies in the world. It all started with the invention of a two-socket light fixture. Powerful lessons from Matsushita – as applicable today as was the case close on a century ago – reasoned that for management to be effective it should be perpetually creative and dynamic. He also stressed that one should never assume that something is impossible, and that bad times in business are crucial windows of opportunity to re-think objectives, recognize hidden imperfections, and capsize conventional thinking.
Challenge the Absurd
Like all true corporate giants, including Elon Musk, Konosuke Matsushita, Warren Buffet, Richard Branson, Alan Sugar and others, the conviction that ongoing improvement in any industry is essential for the success of any business or foundation. Do yourself a favor, search online for information on Gemba Kaizen, a Japanese business philosophy. The business moguls mentioned here know that when companies cease to adapt and grow they become stagnant and are at risk of their competition overtaking them. It is therefore imperative that management continually encourage their co-workers to churn out new ideas, challenge the absurd, and defy unreasonable objectives to change the world, and always be at the forefront of making continual improvements. The focus should be to pursue lean management, things like streamlining the way a particular process is executed by improving the workflow, cutting out unnecessary stages, eliminating waste in all systems and processes, encouraging open communication, promoting seamless adaptation to continual change, teamwork, and taking personal responsibility for the day-to-day procedures.
Educating people how to analyze a given setback, make decisions that lead to a much more organic and natural workflow improvement cycle and improved employee engagement, is critical in re-routing strategies. Similarly, business process management refers to the implementation of ways to make business processes run more smoothly. Henry Ford’s use of the assembly line to produce cars is a famous example of this. He developed and directed a means to mass produce motor vehicles quickly and cheaply, rather than having a group of people make each vehicle “by hand”. When Elon Musk worked on developing Tesla Motors Inc. he needed to improve the backend software – also known as enterprise resource planning software – he decided not to merely upgrade but instead had his CIO build a custom software project. The new system gave his company the speed and agility it needed to manage high volume production. In today’s business world, business process management [BPM] does the work of creating and directing processes that best suit a particular business and its goals, usually focusing on people or technology (or both) as assets which can be used to facilitate the best process for the job. It is however crucial that everyone in the mix knows exactly what to do and how to do their part in three ways: horizontal, vertical, and full service.
Quick IQ Quiz
Every entrepreneur or manager running a company that manufactures products will tell you the BPM process starts with defining existing processes, or alternatively designing a process from scratch. A flowchart that shows a step-by-step progression from beginning to end will keep the plan on track. To test the functionality of the progression each sequential stage must be subjected to a series of theoretical trials to see how it holds up against various economic or other relevant conditions that might impact the process. Because many business processes today are heavily tied up in technology BPM may be entirely developed to have a common IT language. However, once a process begins to work, it needs to be monitored to see if it needs to be optimized to accomplish set goals in the most efficient way possible. Even giants like Apple should on a regular basis rethink its innovation model and leadership. Consider that Apples’ last breakthrough innovation was the iPhone, released in 2007. Perhaps Apple needs another technology visionary to follow on what Steve Jobs started. That extraordinary individual may be Elon Musk, who has proven as yet to be the greatest visionary of our time. In the same period that Apple released the iPhone, Musk developed two generations of world-changing electric vehicles; perfected a new generation of battery technologies; and released first-generation autonomous driving capabilities. In his other company, SpaceX, Musk developed a spacecraft, launched two rockets to space that have made vertical landings back on Earth, and developed the Hyperloop, a high-speed transportation system in which pressurized capsules ride on an air cushion driven by linear induction motors and air compressors. Musk seems a perfect fit for Apple. Tesla could leverage Apple’s global distribution network and incorporate many new technologies.
But enough about glorifying creative prodigies when there are many individuals who have the intelligence and drive to make the world a better place. Sadly most of us move through life never realizing our full potential. Here’s a quick quiz to test if you have a high IQ: Are you anxious, constantly questioning the limitations you face preventing your progress? Are you an avid reader, starting the habit as a child? Are you left-handed? Did you take music lessons as a child? Do people enjoy your witty banter and peculiar sense of humor? This list of questions can go on, but even if none of the characteristics apply to you, it does not mean you have a low IQ. On the other hand, if you claim all or most of the traits apply to you, you just might be smarter than average. To properly address the popular question “Will I succeed in this new world of work?” the following: Acquiring 21st Century skills, also referred to as employability skills, professional skills, interdisciplinary skills, transferable skills, non-cognitive skills, and soft skills, is not as daunting as it sounds. The Internet offers a smorgasbord of articles, interviews, video instruction, and courses on any given topic.
The new knowledge that is beneficial to an emerging workforce involves adopting new work habits like working flexi-hours, adaptability, having an analytical solution-oriented mindset, ability to collaborate and communicate effectively, demonstrate digital fluency, show empathy, have an entrepreneurial mindset, being resilient and self-aware, and demonstrate awareness of cultural diversity. In the process of self-development, bear in mind that many human resource practitioners advocate knowledge, perspective, and attitude as prerequisites for business success in the 21st Century.
[Article posted on Biz Culture]