Ashwini Bakshi says it’s time for change – and changemakers.
We can change the world and make it a better place. It is in your hands to make a difference. As the world slowly emerges from a historic pandemic, the words of Nelson Mandela echo around virtual conference rooms across the globe.
After 12 months being locked in survival mode, businesses and governments now face the question of what comes next and how they can drive change for the benefit of their customers, their people, and the community at large.
Change itself is not unfamiliar. The pandemic has triggered an exponential surge in digital transformation – it has accelerated by seven years in just 12 months, according to McKinsey – promising a more profitable, and potentially more sustainable future for business.
However, it is now important to move beyond reactive measures, take a step back, and consider how to shape the ways in which work will be accomplished moving forward.
The majority of progress over the last year was achieved through projects and, as such, the success of this next stage – the Project Economy – will rely on the management, composition and efficiency of corporate project teams.
As we emerge into this new era of work, everyone from a student to a C-Suite executive can consider themselves empowered to be a changemaker.
Silos are falling away, and the traditional boundaries of finance, HR, and legal, among others, are giving way for agile, cross-skilled teams to operate within as well as across functional areas. These teams take a laser-focus on just a few key deliverables, and work to an output cadence of just a few weeks.
Those that take ownership of this transition– the changemakers – can both conceive and drive meaningful change.
Stepping up to be a changemaker
The changemaker combines human skills, business acumen, and adaptability to effectively shape the future of both themselves and their organisation. This dual impact, at a personal and collective level, means that changemakers can enable the short-term benefit of hitting objectives while also building a team of leaders that will foster a successful long-term future for their organisation.
The responsibility to be a changemaker might have once been restricted to those in leadership or project management roles. That is no longer the case. As we emerge into this new era of work, everyone from a student to a C-Suite executive can consider themselves empowered to be a changemaker.
Even the smallest of changes consistently compounded over time, can be impactful.
By promoting the ethos that anyone can learn the skills be a changemaker, organisations can empower their people to make their mark and feel comfortable in doing so. The freedom to innovate also brings resilience and adaptability, qualities that have been heavily relied upon throughout a challenging 12 months.
Equip people with ‘power skills’ to succeed
A vital part of developing changemakers is ensuring that team members have the environment and resources required to upskill themselves. The individual must take the initiative to instigate this process but, ultimately, they do need the right tools, and the right infrastructure, whether behavioural, digital or both, for the job.
One important part of fostering a successful upskilling environment is assessing and valuing the right skills. The skillset previously referred to as ‘soft skills’ – collaborative leadership, emotional intelligence, critical thinking, and empathy – should now be considered as ‘power skills’.
As routine tasks are increasingly automated, a higher premium will be placed on those with the ability to lead teams and think critically as well as creatively. One effective way to encourage this is by facilitating knowledge-sharing in business community groups, where stakeholders can share insights on management, collaboration, and complex problem solving.
Turn ideas to reality and deliver value
By building a network of changemakers within an organisation, leaders can best prepare themselves to thrive in the Project Economy and turn their ideas into reality.
From rolling out 5G technology to cutting carbon emissions, every organisation has a vision upon which the next decade will be defined. By composing teams of individuals, at all levels, that take responsibility to drive change, the days of delayed timelines and unfulfilled objectives must surely be numbered.
Ultimately, the bottom line of any project is the value of its outcome, in terms of not only the goods produced but also the impact upon the individual, the society and the environment. In order to maximise impact, it is important that organisations evaluate the structure, profile, and management of their project teams before tackling their objectives.
By taking the time to equip employees with the right resources and environment to develop into adaptable and resilient changemakers, businesses can set themselves up to make their mark and build a better tomorrow.
But it all begins with a mindset.
About the author
Ashwini Bakshi is Managing Director, Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa of the Project Management Institute