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Permanent Change is The Only Constant in Complex Environments

Companies are often faced with very high levels of complexity and its resulting impact on uncertainty of clients’ projects scope and the competencies required to implement such projects. This complexity is made even more difficult by a technological environment obeying one rule: permanent change. As a result, several managerial practices are becoming essential and central to strengthening organizational performance.

Several tactics and strategies can be deployed in response to the ever-increasing complexity of changes. It all depends on the room for manoeuvre each manager has, the extent of the sponsoring enjoyed, and the intensity of the inertia tied to a need to maintain the status quo. According to operational priorities, the following key areas can be identified.

  1. Assessing individual’s, department’s and organisation’s ability to change.

  2. Strengthening adherence to core values reflecting the organization’s desired (or projected) identity.

  3. Reducing structural, political, behavioural and functional inertia.

  4. Developing quality of working life in a changing environment.

  5. Deploying and promoting individual postures and aptitudes capable of co-constructing the strategies required by permanent change.

  6. Aligning competencies with organizational development needs.

It is important to bear in mind that managing these competencies requires first-line managers as well as middle-managers. Indeed, especially in complex environments, the way competencies will evolve, or are prompted to evolve, is very much unpredictable and heavily influenced by changes in technology or customer needs. Here, for example, the implementation of learning networks with a focus on evolving competencies is strongly recommended. This will allow the progressive emergence of new trends, as well as regular feedback on required competences, to manage both sourcing needs and resources career development.

This said, though, we must acknowledge that conventional Strategic Workforce Planning does provide quite a comprehensive picture. Nonetheless, SWP is unfortunately ill-suited to complex environments. Competence development itinerary models and associated workforce can not be used in a practical manner. The alternate exercise must provide employees with more visibility as well as more regular polls to ensure their feedback is taken into consideration. Such an approach will be built upon:

  • The Implementation of a self-assessed mapping of the areas of expertise required by the department, prioritising the construction of skills clusters.

  • Ensure skills clusters are build on a ‘division projects’ orientation and not a ‘posts / jobs’ orientation.

  • This approach can be fuelled by focus groups and moderated by stakeholders neutral to political and personal considerations.

  • Mapping is then prioritized in dedicated workshops with top management.

By Farid Yandouz


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