How CFO’s and Finance Professionals ride the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Posted on 01/11/18 at 01:45 PM

With challenges such as Bitcoin, Blockchain machine learning, super computing power, and interconnected devices it would be very easy for our intellectual, analytical minds to focus on the technological challenges in our near future. However, the challenges from the ‘People dimension’ in the Fourth industrial Revolution will be just as far reaching. A few challenges related to the new World of Work:

• A 100-year life as predicted by Linda Gatton and Andrew Scott;

• The half-life of a skill at 4.5 years (even at 1.5years for some industries);

• Five generations of employees working together as people live longer; and

• The lack of cognitive diversity to inspire innovation and creativity in business model disruption.

These challenges are occurring simultaneously at a time where organisations are still grappling with simple engagement strategies tiered to a general populous, not five generations each craving something different to be motivated, engaged and inspired to deliver at their best.

At the heart of what businesses need during this disruptive period for traditional business models is creativity, innovation, thinking differently and challenging the status quo. Without losing sight of statistics such as:

• 70% of change projects fail (McKinsey);

• 67% of strategic initiatives fail (Harvard Business Review 2017); and

• 75% of CEO’s believe their business models are being disrupted (KPMG 2017).

Research is showing us it is time to move away from the authoritative style of leadership and to embrace an age of inspiring followers. Professor Vlatka Hlupic supports a focus on Purpose and People in her extensive research captured in the book ‘The Management Shift®’. From this focus on people and purpose all the other P’s - profit, pride in service, productivity, passion and performance will follow. Organisations need to shift from being apathetic, stagnant and orderly to creating new business models delivering unbounded ideas through collaborative organisations; run by inspired leaders who lead horizontally and break down traditional, vertical silos to embrace the greater good of the collective organisation.

The Deloitte Human Capital trends Report 2018 is themed ‘The Social Enterprise’ - an organisation focussed on turnover, profit and responding to the needs of the environment and all stakeholders equally. A move away from an internal enterprise focus and silo-oriented operating model, to an external ecosystem and symphony of networked teams solving problems collectively and cross functionally for the customer or other stakeholders.

‘The Athena Doctrine’ a book by John Gerzema and Michael D’Antonio published research across 60,000 global respondents, asking them to classify traits as masculine, feminine and neutral. The respondents were asked to correlate the traits to happiness, morality and leadership. A shift is occurring to the traditionally viewed feminine traits such as intuitive, collaborative, flexible away from the traditionally viewed masculine traits of proudness, analytical ability and aggression to be happy, moral and a good leader.

The World Economic Forum predicts the top ten skills needed in 2020 as complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, people management, co-ordinating with other people, emotional intelligence, judgement and decision making, service orientation, negotiation and cognitive flexibility. Creativity moved to number three from number ten in 2015, emotional intelligence and cognitive flexibility, or a flexible, growth mindset are new contenders to the top ten list.

Gerd Leonhard, a European futurist specialising in the debate between technology and humanity states business as usual used to be ‘good enough’, in future ‘good enough’ is dead. According to him it is the most transformative time in human history where everything will be experience based and anything that can not be automated or digitised; for instance, creativity, imagination and intuition, becomes extremely valuable.

How do we as finance professionals and CFO’s cope with this volatile time when our daily challenges are already so vast and employee engagement is at an all time low at 13% globally, according to Gallup? These are a few suggestions to follow. We should:

• Get in the driver seat vs. being driven by change;

• Obtain a greater understanding of ourselves;

• Provide our teams with a greater purpose;

• Create a team dynamic fostering trust and psychological safety;

• Partner with other departments and C-suite directors to create a collaborative symphony;

• Invest in adopting change;

• Become the change agents and role models for the behaviours we need; and

• Take small, incremental steps daily vs. perfectly orchestrated change initiatives.

We consciously decide to get in the driver seat to drive change and not be driven by it. We don’t want change to be done to us, we want to shape the future collaboratively through creativity and innovation. It starts with ourselves; a deeper understanding of what drives and motivates us and how we respond to change ourselves before we attempt to inspire others to change. As Deborah Rowlands captures so well in her book ‘Still Moving’ – when leaders are still inside themselves before attempting to drive change, they are far more successful at inspiring and driving change. I always compare this to a drop of water suspended in air before it hits the water and creates ripples of change.

We provide our teams with a purpose greater than just objectives, targets and deadlines. This sense of purpose aligns to Professor Hlupic’s research mentioned above and gives a team a sense of belonging, a goal greater than themselves and connects and motivates individuals to achieve collectively. We consciously work to create team dynamics fostered in trust and psychological safety. According to Google’s ‘Project Aristotle’ research, psychological safety is the number one reason for high performing sales teams. Psychological safety is created where the team environment is safe for interpersonal risk taking - to say what you really think, without the risk of being ridiculed. We focus on a strengths-based approach in our teams, avoiding the blaming game when things go wrong.

The number one global issue from ‘The Deloitte Human Capital trends Report 2018’ is the symphonic C-suite; where the strategy is the music, the conductor is the CEO, the instruments are the business or functional areas and the first chairs are the business area/functional leaders. Moving away from leaders leading silos in their business areas or units to teams leading cross functional teams to solve issues for the customer or employees in a collaborative, cross functional manner. A perfect example is the CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) working with the CPO (Chief People Officer) to create a seamless experience that encompasses both the external customer and employer (talent or people) brand.

Too little is invested in helping individuals within organisations adopt change. It is much easier to manage an impending change with employees than a resistance to change following an implementation. We should inspire people to change through aligning leadership at all levels and communicating in a way that reaches all employees in a manner that suits their style of learning. Never forgetting that repeat, repeat and repeat at every possible opportunity should be our mantra when inspiring change.

Very often our teams don’t believe what we say, they believe the behaviours we display and our own attitude to impending change. We know our verbal communication is not necessarily the message that is received by our teams through non-verbal communication and body language. Being an agent for change, demonstrating the new behaviours necessary to adopt change and letting our actions speak louder than words, are key elements necessary for the future.

In summary, to ride the fourth industrial revolution we should focus on the Triple P’s of Planet, Purpose and People equally and extend these to include passion, partnership and a focus on purpose; taking small incremental steps to our overall goal every day.

© Talita Ferreira

“Image: The Fourth Industrial Revolution. Pixabay”

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