Work Blend

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There is a lot of discussion about work-life “balance” yet this is the wrong focus. It implies two things in different “pans” on either side of a ‘judgment machine’ that tests if we do too much of one, too little of another. Especially when we own the business; the dividing line is at best blurred, but often nonexistent. Hence, “work blend
Portrait_worklife

A healthy work blend benefits you individually, but also the organization as a whole. It requires strategic design. The business must develop a plan that not only focuses on satisfying the customer yet remains sustainable in the long term.

The Business Model

Smart business design recognises the importance of great work blends. The most successful have profound clarity about the business model, both as it is today and as it will become. That clarity ensures that work remains aligned to the strate- gic design and direction of the firm. Projects gain clear leadership, and their timing is understood. They take account of the needs of everyone involved, at work, at home, and socially in a blend that motivates and inspires.

Developing a robust business model should take into account, at least, these factors:

  1. A clear statement of the core value of the firm.
  2. An understanding of where value sits and for
  3. Who and what is needed to create that value

That ensures that you focus on the things you are passionate about delivering well. You will also make sure that you do that for customers who recognise and value the work.

As your skills are properly brought to bear the output takes less time and is more profitable, freeing you to improve your work blend.

Strategic Pace

We all know that to run a marathon you have to set off with the effort and work of the whole race in mind. Pacing yourself in the early part of the run means you can finish well, hopefully with a new personal best time. 

Developing the right strategic pace in business can help organizations improve their productivity, unlock sustainable profits and avoid costly mis- takes. Many organizations confuse operational speed for strategic pace. Operational speed refers only to trying to get everything as quickly as possible. Strategic pace relates to analyzing processes to see how to improve the value offered customers, and timing work, so it delivers confidently on time. Every sustainably successful company I’ve studied paces itself based on the clarity it has.

Successful businesses using strategic pace will target their efforts on three key areas:

  1. Deep listening;
  2. Open learning; and
  3. Effective re-skilling.

Having all the people involved in the firm work- ing together and aligned for success is essential. The organization’s leaders should focus on har- nessing an environment where everyone feels as though he or she can rely on each other so that there is no need for blame or competition within the team. Strategic pace needs to be guided as a whole towards the goals of listening, learning and re-skilling.

Case Study

When we first became involved with our client, the team were frantic, and often working late into the evenings and at weekends. The work they did wasn’t making much of a difference, and their best clients were leaving. Using the Business Clarity Model they recognised a need to focus more on their ideal customer type.

That corrected some costly mistakes in the past that had taken them into markets they did not understand and in which they could not deliver the quality that was needed. By refocusing, they were able to unlock sustainable profits and reduce the workload per client. With a better work blend, they made more money, had more time and felt far less stressed.

By slowing down, companies can help improve both the employee and customer experience. Stakeholders will have opportunities to look back upon their recent actions and evaluate how they were received. This works to enhance the learning that can take place and give everyone the chance to improve before the next phase. Staff will also be better able to understand how their work fits in with the rest of the corporate goals and evaluate how their actions are lining up with the goals for the customer.

Without a primary priority of speed, actions that can hinder work blend, such as feeling a need to be corresponding and collaborating after hours or while on vacation, can be drastically reduced and even eliminated. The company will be aligned with their long-term goals, unlocking sustainable profits and avoiding costly mistakes.

Collaboration

When the people involved in the work of an organization, be they suppliers, employees, or customers properly collaborate, it can dramat- ically shift the power and effectiveness of that work. When problems or challenges arise within a group that works well together, they are better equipped to develop their solutions rather than expecting the coordinating business to provide all the answers. That means a mindset shift from being a customer to be being a partner in achiev- ing the best result from the work.

By being proactive, less time is wasted on the part of the company because they are not operating on a command and control structure and don’t need an “official” answer. The leaders of the busi- ness find that when their work is less interrupted by other tasks, provided they have properly em- powered the whole team and facilitated the right collaborative environment. Work blends success- fully across the entire value chain.

Creating an environment that encourages collaboration requires specific actions on the part of the leadership. The team must know that they are trusted to formulate their solutions and to brain- storm ways to work together. This means that part of the recruitment process, for suppliers, employees and customers has to assess the capability to collaborate and should foster a good fit for the team.

So how does a company create that environment? It is about thinking about other things that how the work is done, about environments, about creating opportunity. For example, the Royal Bank of Scotland built an indoor atrium in the new bank’s headquarters. Space encouraged employ- ees to stop, socialise, and bond with one another. Height frees people to lift themselves, by taking the weight of the building away, and it provides natural light to see. The open space to meet provides time to be together, even as you are just passing through on your way to your desk. Although smaller businesses might not have the resources for such a large project, developing a mindset that considers how people can better interact with you in environments that work is a wonderful way to build camaraderie.

Modelling collaborative behaviour is also critical.

The Standard Chartered Bank has developed a strong reputation for collaboration within the senior management. Although the bank has some different locations, the executives understand each other’s roles and goals to such a degree that they can fill in for each other regularly on nearly any task. When employees see the collaboration at the top level, they then engaged in similar practices. Collaboration is pervasive, it seeps into the way people think, act, work and live.

As collaboration helps to improve the productiv- ity of employees, they meet tougher goals more smoothly. It is a critical part of the work blend.

Setting the right boundaries

In the world of social media and smart devices, it is tempting for people to keep working even when they are not officially ‘on the clock.’ Accord- ing to one survey quoted by CNBC, as many as 91 percent of Americans admit to doing work-related tasks during their personal time. In the UK figures have been reported at about the same level.

Whether it is answer email or reviewing documents for the big meeting, these types of tasks detract from the ability of the employee to relax when not ‘officially’ working. This adds stress, limits time to unwind, and divides attention from loved ones.

When you or your team do not disconnect from their devices, there will also invariably be a dilemma of difficulties with prioritising. When everyone is expected to be connected and available to address concerns or client questions at all times, even long after dinner, everything seems urgent, it is not. Similar to the problems that arise from an emphasis on operational speed rather than strategic pace, without identified priorities and an understanding how each area contribute to the greater goals of the company, everyone gets less valuable work accomplished.

Several major brands have been recognised for their initiatives encouraging their employees to disconnect from their devices. This includes technology companies such as Google and major international brands such as Volkswagen. It works, we should all take note. By encouraging their em- ployees to ignore their emails for at least part of the time these companies are working to ensure everyone also gives their attention to their per- sonal responsibilities and relationships.

That’s work blend in practice.

Competing Commitments

Our lives are not lived in silos, but with depend- encies across all aspects of life, through our cus- tomers and suppliers in business and our families and friends socially. Work blend means allowing all our commitments to harmoniously co-exist.

That needs flexibility and adaptability.

The percentage of people who are caregivers for someone else continues to grow. The family is changing in other ways too. The number of children living in single-parent homes continues to rise and the number of two-parent families where both parents work is high and growing. That poses challenges for businesses that seek to ensure that the people involved can deliver they work needed and still cope with other commitments such as family illnesses or school obligations.

Flexible collaborative schedules help.

Technology can give us all tools better to manage our time and responsibilities. Taking opportunities to blend work into other plans, for example, taking one remote meeting during a holiday might allow you to give undivided attentive presence to your family throughout the holiday and avoid uncertainty stress. One meeting can do that; ten will not. Work blend requires perspective as well as adaptability.

With the various cloud technologies available, it has become possible for people to work on documents with other people, participate in workflows, access their work computers, and even hold live conferences with clients or coworkers. The technology allows us to choose alternative options without having to compromise quality.

Choosing adaptive flexibility respects our com- munities too. It shows that we understand others need for flexibility and that we both value others time, and quality of life. When there is a strong collaborative ethos, it’s not necessary for every- one to be constantly in touch either because the shared goals and values drive appropriate choice reliably, even on issues that usually demand con- sultative decision-making

Helping everyone develop better work blend improves all aspects of life as well as making strong business sense.

About the Author

William Buist After a 22 year career in Insurance, William became a director of a consultancy company.
 
William personally focuses on online community development, social networking and collaborative development within and between businesses.   Amongst his many clients, he has facilitated the growth of the Ecademy Life Members Community – a premium global group of Entrepreneurs and Business Owners of which he is now the Club President. He can provide advice and comment on a wide range of issues including the Societal Web, social and business networking, stakeholder engagement via online communities, team development, high performance teams, on-line communities, delivering change, project management and change management.


About

William Buist is MD of Abelard Management Services, which specialises in developments in the Societal Web.

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