We have all heard these words said by leaders, and now we even see them commonly espoused as corporate values.
'We prize our people’
‘Our people are key’
‘Our people are our greatest asset'
It's important to make people feel that they’re right at the heart of my thinking. However, words come easy – the much harder task is living up to that ideal, whilst also dealing with today’s most complex business challenges.
The business environment today is sometimes described as VUCA; it’s a military acronym used to describe situations as Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. In response to difficult times, firms are adapting at a faster pace and are forced to adopt more changes just to survive, let alone grow and thrive. A feature of some of these changes may be a trade-off between short term profitability and long term value, or expediency and reputation.
Unfortunately, it’s simply not possible to get it right every time, which is why I believe in the mantra of ‘fail fast and learn faster’. The risks of doing nothing at all, or getting stalled by analysis paralysis, may be worse than moving quickly and learning as you go through small, iterative steps.
But what about the people in all this, I hear you ask?
My own experience tells me that often people can become an afterthought in the decision making process. The impact on the teams or individuals affected by change is often dismissed as an operational detail or deployment issue to be handled later. I’ll admit it - I have been guilty of this in the past, but I’m learning (fast) from those failures.
Recently a friend described how it felt to her to be at the bottom of the list when operational changes are implemented without due consideration of the people impact. In her words it feels like ‘death by sandpaper’ where small, yet significant changes come to feel like a painful, never-ending process.
In forgetting the people factor during the decision making process, we may be contributing to their dissatisfaction, impacting on their morale or even inadvertently increasing staff turnover. It stands to reason that the business decisions you make are likely to be implemented more successfully by a loyal and motivated staff who feel that they matter.
So the next time you are heading towards a significant change in your organisation, please remember - you have a choice. You can put people at the centre of your decision making process, design them into the process at the start and consult with them in a genuinely two way manner. In other words, you can choose to live your corporate people value.
Or you can ignore your people values in the interests of expediency and efficiency. If that’s your choice, then don’t forget the sandpaper. You’re going to need a lot of it.