We’ve recently been exploring the future of work and some of the ingredients required to bring about a more human way of organising.

In part 1 of this series, we explored how many of us are working in a state of survival and examined the effects of working in this way over long periods of time. We also explored how developing our ability to self-regulate, supports us to move away from unconsciously reacting to the chemicals of stress. Only then, are we able to truly align ourselves with a new vision.

As people become more self-aware, they close the gap between the way things appear to them, their perception, and the way things really are. This self-awareness lays the foundations for self-leadership.

In part 2, we focused on the role that leaders play in creating the conditions for people to thrive.

When leaders inspire through clarity of purpose, they unlock the innate desire for creativity and autonomy in others. A shift towards a human approach encourages independent thinking, deepens trust and supports people to develop their level of competence. Leaders are required to let go and give control.

Now we’re at a point in the journey where we encounter an important question: what’s all this for?

Human organising results in psychological safety

Self-awareness and human leadership pave the way towards a new, more emergent way of working. This shift in approach cultivates psychological safety; a term coined by psychologist Amy Edmondson as, “a shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking.” In human organisations, people are encouraged and feel safe to speak up with ideas, questions and concerns. Mistakes are seen as opportunities to learn. Conflict and chaos are recognised as signals to connect and create from. As people continuously learn and adapt an enthusiasm for self-leadership emerges.

The emergence of self-leadership

In self-led environments, it’s natural for team members to become more accountable to each other. Information is shared freely and in a way that people can understand. Individuals and teams welcome freedom whilst recognising their personal responsibility to perform. Ultimately there’s more trust, meaning people feel safe to bring their whole selves to work. When people are supported to move out of a state of survival and encouraged to collaborate and make decisions, teams naturally become more self-managed.

Now competence is developed in each individual and trust is generated in the culture. People aren’t having to constantly check what others are doing because there’s confidence that people are fulfilling their roles and responsibilities. Individuals are inspired to self-correct, or they seek support from their team members when a task proves challenging.

This level of trust and unity takes intention, patience, and time to build. From here, people and teams start to shape their own culture and ways of organising. Everyone leads at different times and in different ways. Work becomes more aligned with the concept of emergence that we shared in part 1 of this series; we move closer to becoming the flock of birds or the shoal of fish.

Overcoming fear of change

To some of you, this idea might stir up fears of anarchy. You might be thinking it sounds great in principle but it’s not practical. I encountered the same fear. I was sceptical when first introduced to this concept. I’ve come to learn, however, that it’s entirely possible. It requires a shift in mindset and a staged approach. Becoming a human organisation asks leaders to trust. To sense and respond to complexity, instead of trying to predict and control every outcome.

To be clear, self-management still requires processes and a shared understanding of how things get done. Processes around decision-making, job roles, information sharing, performance management, and conflict resolution all require rethinking and reform. The methods and tools we use with teams challenge them to simplify and humanise these functions.

Human organisations adopt an experimental approach

When teams have the appetite to explore self-management, we encourage them to experiment with new ways of working. To notice positive and negative patterns, amplify what’s working and minimise what isn’t. Maybe not surprisingly, this is not too dissimilar to the process of evolution. It’s a model for change that mirrors the progress of life on Earth. Nature rarely works in straight lines. Everything grows, responds and adapts. It’s a winding and complex process. The evolution of work is no different.

The why for self-management

The advantages of organising ourselves in this way are numerous:

  1. Organisations become better equipped to respond to the complexities and unpredictable nature of our world, by tapping into the full creativity and intelligence of their teams.
  2. Teams move at speed and with more unity by sensing and responding to what’s required of them.
  3. People are liberated to work in ways that are more aligned with their innate motivation to be self-determined. They connect with one another and contribute in meaningful ways.
  4. Collaboration and wellbeing are improved, and work feels more human.
  5. Leaders are free to focus on a different level. Their new role is to ensure ever-growing capability and a culture that gets better and more resilient every day. They can also engage with the bigger creative questions of how to express the organisation’s purpose.

Shifting our perception of time

One of the biggest barriers to the evolution of work is creating the space and time to explore change.

Most leaders and their teams simply don’t believe they have time to slow down and reflect. Expectations are we need to deliver more for less… and the pressure builds. We’re seeing the consequences of operating for too long in an unsustainable way. We’ve adopted an unsustainable pace, to make up for what has become a dysfunctional model for working.

Long days.

Few breaks.

Constant demands for our attention.

This leads many teams to narrow their focus and work in a constant state of survival.

There’s no space to think. Much less to experiment with a new approach, be creative or embrace change.

The future of work is counterintuitive.

It requires us to slow down… to create space for a new, more human, way of organising.

Throughout this blog series, we’ve explored the future of work and why it’s important. If you’re interested in slowing down to explore more human ways of organising, please get in touch.

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