Global Uncertainty, Navigating the Unknown
In the past year, global uncertainty has reached a record high (The Telegraph, 2019). Around the world, communities are testing political and economic stability. From anti-European voters in the UK to the ‘gilets jaunes’ in Paris and street protesters in Hong Kong. This is leaving economists fearing the possible global mega-challenges we could face in reorganising political structures.
In the recent Leesman Review uncertainty is covered as the main theme. It covers a range of topics including agile working, leadership style, the increasing gap in employee skills, what we can learn from the perseverance of sportsmen, instincts that lead to misconceptions and the impact climate change is having on the business environment.
This global uncertainty is leading businesses into challenging and unknown situations that must be prepared for. Organisations can do so much to better themselves for the inevitable difficulties that lay ahead. This requires good leadership, instincts and perseverance.
“There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say, we know there are some things we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”
Donald Rumsfeld, US Secretary of State (2002)
Businesses are being changed in a plethora of ways, via new concepts, policies, pressure from the public, supply chin influences and many other subtle changes.
A growing concept in the business environment is agile working. However, mixed opinions are surrounding this way of working. Employees with assigned desks have reported to have higher average outcomes this could be due to a range of factors. Quite simply it could be knowing your position and what to expect in your direct surroundings gives you a superior experience in the office setting. Or it could be about anxiety, knowing your position and desk discards the burden of finding a desk every morning. Another issue could be annoyances – knowing what awaits you in your work environment such as noise or a broken chair, rather than now knowing what to expect.
It can be argued both ways, what it comes down to is the business itself and if it is the right fit. For certain organisations hot-desking and giving employees the freedom to move around and work in different spaces is efficient and promotes growth and productivity. However, for others, this is not the right decision. Employees might not respond well to it and it is not practical for that specific organisation.
To make any decisions in business from the way employees work and the overall structure of the office to the day-to-day decisions that need to be made information is required. But this decision should be a well-informed decision that is going to better of the business.
To make an informed decision it is essential to have all the necessary and available information. It is important to have both sides of the story to cover all angles and possibilities. When negative information is presented it does not always mean a negative situation.
For organisations, leadership is key – this is obvious. But what is good leadership or the right kind of leadership? According to David Marquet, “Leadership is communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they are inspired to see it in themselves.” (Re-writing the Rulebook, p.4)
David Marquet transformed the USS Santa Fe, 1998 with his innovative leadership style and approach to decision making. Marquet’s leadership management style is as relevant now in business as it was when he was captain.
It is important to distribute power to the people who are closest to sensing the environment. It’s the salesman who is having face-to-face meetings with clients, understanding their personality and get a sense of what makes them tick. They often send this information up the chain of command to a higher authority to make decision. However, more often than not managers don’t have the most information to make a decision.
A better approach is to push authority and decision-making out to the people who have the information and allow them to take ownership and have an impact. In a healthy ‘leader-leader’ organisation people are transparent as bosses trust them and won’t interfere. It should be understood that the employee isn’t sharing because they need help; they are letting their bosses who what is happening and keeping them up to date on what is going on. However, when a decision needs to be made it is only natural for bosses to want to jump in to help and solve problems. Employees should approach their bosses in a way that encourages an explanation of their thought process and why they would make that decision.
This ‘leader-leader’ model encourages thinking out loud and discussions to come to the best-informed decision. As well as promoting communication throughout the company. This will help in the changing business environment to adapt and overcome the unknown difficulties that lay ahead.
With the right infrastructure in place, businesses can overcome these new challenges. Perseverance and preparation are key for the uncertain business landscape. Although it is not possible to be prepared for everything – focus on what you can control. Prepare for all eventualities – failure, success and everything else in between.
This issue of the Leesman Review has given us lots of things to think about relating to the workplace environment and the changing business landscape. With the topic of uncertainty, this review offers a range of perspectives and how to deal with navigating the unknown. It emphasises the fact that we should do what is right for individual organisations to take advantage of the business environment.