Humanize to Become More Agile

Laura Goodrich Posted by Laura Goodrich.

Laura is cofounder of On Impact, an integrated content company that specializes in creating and producing videos, television, and multimedia content delivered over time to create sustained change and adoption of important leadership concepts.


Humanize to Become More Agile

The focus is shifting to humanization of work. To sustain in constantly changing work landscape organizations require the ability to:

  1. Operate at the edge of chaos, which is to maintain the balance between consciousness and randomness
  2. Rely more on human intellect and instinct rather than age-old fixed and cumbersome processes
  3. Flourish while living moment-by-moment and strategize the experimental process to make it an ongoing activity
  4. Ensure fluid movement of people, thoughts, ideas and values and promote cordial relationships at work
  5. Live with the eyes open, see the surroundings, sense change and develop simple and sustainable methods to promote effective implementation of change

How Humanization of Work Brings Agility?

Technology can’t predict future; machines don’t ensure movement of ideas; mechanization can’t balance consciousness and randomness. It is people who see the surroundings, foresee future, bring in ideas, experiment and make use of technology to thrive in the face of uncertainty and extremity.

We are living in a world that’s changing faster and poses more uncertainty than ever. This makes it important for businesses to operate moment-by-moment, take initiative, innovate and create and imagine doing what others only think. It requires a different model of work. It requires businesses to be more humanized, with bigger room for creativity, human emotions, synthesis, abstraction and spontaneity.

It’s Time to Make Business Human Again

Traditionally, businesses focused more on setting up business processes, setting a set work culture, increasing manufacturing and sales numbers and maximizing shareholder value. They paid less attention to shaping the careers of their employees and connecting with their consumers in a personal manner. But in today’s world, it’s difficult to sustain with this ideology. Human activity needs to be treated as value production.

Even Jack Welch, the chairman and CEO of General Electric between 1981 and 2001, who was known to conceive the idea of maximizing shareholder value, said that it was the dumbest idea.

On March 12, 2009, he gave an interview with Francesco Guerrera of the Financial Times and said, “On the face of it, shareholder value is the dumbest idea in the world. Shareholder value is a result, not a strategy… your main constituencies are your employees, your customers and your products. Managers and investors should not set share price increases as their overarching goal… Short-term profits should be allied with an increase in the long-term value of a company.”

There are organizations that focus a lot on their people. Johnson & Johnson, the New Jersey based consumer health company is known to put a bright smile on the faces of their employees. Google is another company known for keeping its employees happy. The secret is nothing but fluidity in processes and choices with employees regarding whom to work for and which department to work in depending upon their skills and interest. These companies believe that if you –  Focus on people (internal and external customers) and rest will follow.

The idea is that the modern corporations cannot have tightly scripted jobs, serve anything and everything to customers and ignore their contribution towards betterment of the communities. Maximizing wealth is important but it cannot come first. It follows when businesses operate to fulfill their responsibilities towards people – and do everything to make create a workplace where employee are motivated to give their best and feel that they are adding value on a day to day basis.

How to Humanize Your Business

A humanized business has three main components – 1) nurturing people, 2) offering value to consumers, and 3) serving community. Let’s look at these in detail:

1. Nurture Employees (Bring Humanity at Work)

Reframing the views of employees plays a crucial role in setting your business on the path of continuous competitive advantage. This not only requires attracting, retaining and motivating innovators but also making existing employees feel an integral part of the business.

It’s difficult for employees working at the front level to feel that they are doing more than achieving numbers or sales targets. To make sure that they feel valued, you need to treat them like assets and create more space for individual initiatives for imagination and creativity. Help them find more growth opportunities. Help them get back on track when they lose it. You don’t need to behave like a mother but as someone who cares. Once warmth, fluidity and creativity become a part of your organizational culture, you and your workforce will be in a position to deal with complexity and market turbulence.

Steve Jobs famously said, “These people are very smart. They’re not pawns. They are very smart. And if given the opportunity to change and improve, they will. They will improve the processes if there is a mechanism for it.”

This means you need to create that mechanism within your organization that motivates people to create the future. How do you make it possible? You do it by:

  • Limiting the use of age-old PMS (Performance Management System) that measures their competence basis their sales targets. (Instead, go for frequent 360 degree performance feedback)
  • Measuring their capacity and ability to create value for customers
  • Promoting and supporting behavior that result in creativity and experimentation

2. Offer Value to Customer Because She is the Boss

David Ogilvy widely hailed as “The Father of Advertising” said, “The consumer is not a moron, she is your wife.” This means if you think from a customer’s perspective and fulfill her demand, you can sustain in a competitive world.

Emotional connection with your customers and walking an extra mile for them makes your business stand apart even in the times of economic turbulence.

Zappos is one such company that has proved time and again the importance of building relationships with customers. Their motto is to deliver ‘WOW’ through service. Such an attitude, keeps your organization human. When you constantly work towards meeting customer expectations, you become more agile in your approach.

How do you cultivate this mindset among your employees? You do it by:

  • Treating them as you would treat your external customers
  • Encouraging them to come up with new ideas pertaining to ‘customer service’
  • Encourage them to offer enhanced experience to customers each time they deal with them

Investing time in comprehending customer needs and expectations is a good exercise for a company. When you are passionate about serving your customers and giving them the best possible experience, your workforce follows the suit. And when you serve your internal customers (employees) well, it shows in their behavior when they deal with external customers.

Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group once said, “Your employees treat your customers in the same way you treat your employees.”

3. Serve Your Community

Before optimizing shareholders’ wealth, a humanized business has an additional purpose. It is responsible for giving back to the community, from which it draws its resources. A true value that sets you on the path of continuous competitive advantage is embracing humanity in every form. You must encourage civic improvements, clean and green environment and better health for even those who aren’t directly related to your business.

Giving back to community is essential. It is not always about writing checks nor donating money. It is the extent to which you and your people are involved doing things for the betterment of the community.

You can give back to community in an effective manner by,

  • Motivating people to come up with innovative ideas for serving community
  • Using your power to bring change in society
  • Inspiring people to contribute in smallest possible way

Businesses are continually being pushed into the territory that forces them to rely on human instincts, abstraction, ideas, gut feelings, thoughts and skills. Therefore, a part of your job is also designing job descriptions and specifications that make more use of human intellect and emotions and do not focus on strict standardization only. This is how you create more room for fluidity, imagination, creativity and innovation. This is how you set your business on a path to acquire agility.

How you plan to humanize your business?

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