Access to social media is so easy for customers and employees at all levels of an organization that senior leadership needs to focus ever more on clarity of ideals and communication. Without getting everyone on board, social media channels have the power to spread negative messages and negativity quickly, regardless of whether the information is true.
Because everyone has a point of view and a way to express it, communication needs to move way down through the organization and must be much more transparent. Leadership needs to be prepared to say: “This is what’s going to happen. This is what we think’s going to be said. These are the points that we feel are the most relevant.”
Not so long ago, we were relatively confident that things we didn’t want to get out before a certain time wouldn’t get out. We don't have that luxury any more. You need to assume that everyone is going to know about everything. If you don't want something known, don't type it, don’t Google it, don’t Tweet it, don’t Instagram it.
The good side of this shift is that it is moving organizations toward improving employee and leadership engagement by keeping them informed and knowledgable of company goals, values and operations. Certainly, you can’t hide. If a leadership team is dysfunctional, you’re just a click away from 10,000 of your closest personal friends knowing that and why.
As teams are becoming more and more dispersed across the country and the globe, strategic planning and collaboration can be very challenging. Teams can't be brought together physically for the amount of time it takes to get their jobs done. Even in companies with high-level needs for engineering, engineers with shared responsibilities often do not work in the same location.
This makes organizational clarity related to strategy, or direction – making sure that that team is on board and stays on board, and on point – both incredibly important and extremely difficult.
In addition to the challenges to team dynamics, though, globalization also creates a shift in how you select and develop leaders. It requires the ability to work across culture and languages as well as distance and time. The impact of a poor leader can be far more dramatic on a team that is dispersed.
Every generation has traits that define its role and expectations in the workforce. The so-called "Greatest Generation," for instance, was known for its really hard workers, in a very traditional and hierarchical sense.
The talent of today expects to have a voice in the creation of strategy and tactics. This is not a negative, by any means. Rather it is incumbent on leadership to find a way to tap into that energy and zeal. At a minimum, leaders must make sure that as we develop and communicate strategy we make widespread involvement — giving voice to employees at all levels — an important component of the process.
Of course, this makes establishing organizational clarity, and communicating it, more challenging – and more critical. It also requires us to shift our thinking on staff development and leadership training. It is a different way of thinking and working than many of today's leaders were brought up with.
Products that were innovative, or even revolutionary, as little as two years ago are now obsolete. In some fields that seismic shift can occur in as little as 18 months or a year. It is no surprise to anyone in business that the pace of change is faster than it was before and is speeding up.
It is getting ever more critical to sail fast – to have a strategy that reflects the timing of the world. This is creating fundamental changes in business management and product development processes. Companies are looking for ways to be both operationally nimble and flexible in staying ahead of increasingly stiff competition. In this environment, leaders need to figure out how to manage their time to create a balance between those two needs.
This is something you see almost regularly today. Companies create a new, disruptive product, get it to market and are bought early on by a larger company. This partly is a reflection of the speed with which business operates, but it also is driven intentionally by entrepreneurs who start business with the overt, stated intention of selling out the owners' interests quickly. It is not a case of developing the best product they can and then waiting to see what happens.
Entrepreneurs often know that while they have the skills to develop a product and get it to market, they don't necessarily have the temperament, skills or desire to build a scalable, growing entity. So, they go into the business creation process looking for a way to bring in a partner – the next owner – to bring the needed resources and skills to bear on quickly bringing the product to wide release in the market. Then, they can move on to the next project, where their creative and innovative natures can do their best work.