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Should organisational change be seen as a personal matter? - For the CEOs of themselves

Updated: Mar 16, 2022

Home-office! One of the top topics when we discuss new (or not so new) ways of working. Have you found yourself on your home-office day confronted between your personal and business demands? What are the differences of the Home-You and the Office-You? Are they two different personas?

As a 22 years old ambitious woman, just out of engineering school, facing a totally male environment back in the 90’s, and working in the automotive industry, the answer to the last question was simple to me: of course!!! It was, by then, clear I could not be the charming, cute, nice, feminine ME, at my job. If I wanted to be taken seriously and succeed, I needed to be the tough, smart, professional and efficient ME. Voilà! I became 2 in 1. Even my friendships were carefully maintained at safe distance. And it worked... until, it did not.

I have been changing continuously and more drastically every decade or so. I changed industry, then area. Coming out of the factory floor, I started working in fancy headquarter offices. Then I collaborated with different tribes, NGOs, and with entrepreneurs. Finally, I became one of them. To make my changes even more unequivocal, my entrepreneurial journey is about sustainable business. I am now caught in the realm where to deliver sustainable business one need to be a sustainable person. The separation of the different roles I play became fuzzy. Of course, it is useful not to let your personal drama affect your work, as well as to define your main goals in different roles is essential. But my mind is changed. I invite us to acknowledge that, at the end of the day, we are one and trying to convince ourselves otherwise brings inauthenticity and unhappiness. For organisations it brings ineffectiveness.

Many of the organisational changes we are facing seem to be pretty much in alignment with destroying that “old-model” concept. Part-time job, co-working, home office, paternity-leave, gender-equality, online training or virtual work are just some of the most common ones. Towards the future, we are talking about purpose driven organisations, increase of vacation and family time, wider co-existence of different generations working together, open-source innovation, open-collaboration… the list goes on and on. All make it challenging to think of oneself as two separated entities. They are a call for models which can only be supported by personal integrity and ask for an integrated existence. In the search for a model to change the organisation of your business, in a way you, the people in it and the business itself can adapt and evolve to a more integrated, systemic and sustainable way of being, you maybe find these steps I apply useful:

· Mission Alignment: yes, you heard about mission millennia ago. Your company already have one, blah, blah. Try me! It is much deeper than you think, and you and your teams should do it personally too. Material for another article, but you can start by reading or re-reading the 7 Habits of the Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. One of the best on the topic and already a classical.

· Envision your future: living in the present is a blessing, ignoring the future is not owning it. Look into which are the changes coming, and their possibilities for you and your business beyond today. Create scenarios, be flexible with them, extrapolate ideas specially the ones others think are crazy ones. Then define your vision. In the sustainable business area The Natural Step approach is my compass. Now ask yourself: is this business vision aligned with who I want to be in the world?

· Make your choices: you will need to follow your beliefs and gut feelings here. And learn to say no. Obviously look deep into data, predictions, trends, but… at the end. It will be your belief (and your team’s) the decision maker. This will lead your actions. Personal and professional actions should be interdependent.

· Learn about different ideas: not everything used by start-ups or coming from the Silicon Valley apply to your company. Before you commit to this or that novelty, research about the advantages or disadvantages of it. Be sure its benefits are the ones you need for your case. The last you want to do is to follow some “fashion” trend just to lose the effectiveness of your business model and still fail in making your people happy. Then ask yourself: do you personally can practice those ideas?

· Quantify the benefits: financial or not, your organisational change (and your personal one) needs to bring benefits, otherwise it is irresponsible and purposeless. As an example, many procurement organisations have learned from their quickly affected results to look deep into benefits before adapting. Procurement areas have been commonly a leader in organisational change as they need to adapt to the market movements. They have integrated different areas, as technical and commercial roles and they have created different structures to deal with partners of different nature, like small farmers, communities or NGOs.

· Pilot first, go step by step: no need to change night to day everything. Define a clear scope, prioritise, implement within a controlled group or in limited scale at first. For personal change this is also more effective. It is like instead of going from zero sport activity to 7 days a week running 10K and giving up after 2 weeks in pain, doing it in steps so that you can savour your victories along the way and feel good about it.

· Communication, training, discussion: you need to be prepared for resistance, to deal with unpleasant feedback either from partners, friends (in the personal case) or from employees, customers and shareholders. You need to open yours ears and where necessary provide training on how to make it work.

· With no tools, no benefits: if you are willing to allow your workers to work from home, but you do not provide ways for them to connect into your network quickly and efficiently it will not work. Sounds obvious? It is. And it is also underestimated.

· Involve others: your employees will be affected so this is personal to them too. As it is to your family and friends. They will need to evaluate what that means to them. And they can contribute and build it together with you.

For professionals working with sustainable business, the challenges go beyond. For example, I find myself learning to cook vegetarian, not having a car, reducing by 60% my wardrobe, revisiting my investments and struggling with my excessive number of flights. I bet you can make a parallel to the struggles of sustainable business transformation. My professional journey is about empowering businesses (and people) to transform themselves, to create their future fit sustainable business case. My work is based upon collaboration. Collaboration requires trust. How can I do it, if not transforming as well my own being and lifestyle? I hope you find the steps I propose somehow inspiring and useful and I invite you to share your own experiences.

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