There is the well-worn clique that, ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast every day’ but the reality is, it is spot-on.
Organisational culture matters. It is within your culture – the way ‘we do things around here’, that your organisational DNA is located. Companies that are able to respond to an exponentially changing context, companies that are ‘futurefit’, understand that their DNA is constantly evolving. They are constantly asking what to keep; what to discard; and what needs to be created in a complex, volatile and changing world. They understand that current relevance counts for little when things can change so quickly and without warning. Staying fit is hard work and it demands a consistency that cannot be taken for granted.
Question markThe ultimate custodians of what it takes to be futurefit is of course the executive leadership team. However, the ‘futurefit programme’ is usually entrusted to the HR Director who may or may not have the ear of the executive team. Even if they do have the attention of the executives, their HR focus is usually into the organisation below the executive level and somehow the executives remain immune to whatever good may result from such initiatives.
The essential question that the CEO needs to be asking their HR Director is simply, ‘what is the plan to ensure that my team are futurefit?’
It sounds so obvious, so simple yet I more often than not I encounter executive teams that are not engaged in the tasks that will ensure they are futurefit. I am not talking about a traffic jam of training and development programmes but rather of specific exercises designed for the executive team to develop agility, strategic thinking and unlearning; a team that learns how to be comfortable with ambiguity and is curious. Exercises that target both mindsets and behaviours; exercises that will take some of that precious time and ones that will not always be welcomed or appreciated in the moment for the discomfort and disruption they might well cause.
It is easy to assess how you and your team are doing in this regard, one doesn’t need complicated metrics and statistics to reveal or motivate such exercises. By identifying what questions you could be asking to determine futurefitness would be a good place to start:
As an executive team,

  • When last did we do something that created discomfort within our team?
  • How much time do we spend within our meetings on reflection, standing back and asking questions concerning what may or may not have happened?
  • What would our answer be individually and collectively to what we have learnt, unlearnt and perhaps had to relearn over the past six months?
  • When last did we entertain an outside perspective that ‘rattled our cage’ concerning how we see (our industry) and go about our business?
  • To what extend do we engage in diversity (cultural, gender, age) on our team and where we are lacking a certain ‘voice’ and what have we done to ensure that we hear that voice?
  • What level of feedback do we give each other? Not the type that is written in reports but when we can look across the table and say what needs to be said and be better for such robust conversations?
  • What would the team answer if asked, ‘what is our culture?’ – and how would we pursue the conversation behind the conversation to the answers given?
  • When last did we really discuss our values and hold ourselves accountable to how we are living them out every day?

There are many other questions that could be asked but this list might be a good place to start. Being futurefit is an intentional, active pursuit and if it isn’t happening with the executive, the chances are it isn’t happening anywhere.
There are times when HR does try to initiate such a programme outside of the senior level and in response, the question most often heard in such settings is a simple but revealing one: ‘Has my Boss heard (done) this?’.
In most cases the answer is sadly, “no”!

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