13 shared characteristics of future-forward organizations
Does that sound like an oxymoron? It shouldn’t, says Claire Burge, CEO of This is Productivity, a company on a mission to fix broken business communication and drained productivity.
Burge took the stage at Collabosphere in Austin to talk about the overlapping characteristics that keep surfacing in her interactions with forward-thinking clients and companies.
They have various and flexible communication platforms.
“There’s no longer just one method of communication inside companies,” she said. This proliferation of platforms creates a lot of stress due to the resulting fragmentation, but business leaders are wasting time if their solution is to try to put the genies back in the bottles. “Fragmentation is here to stay,” Burge said.
“The key question is: can I work from anywhere, at any point in time, and can I do it in a way I want to do?” she said. If you are empowering employees to answer in the affirmative, you are moving in the right direction.
They have central collaboration points.
iMeet Central customers are in luck here!
“What we’re finding is that companies with central collaboration points—when people aren’t having to work inside communication channels but are able to work inside collaborative workspaces—are companies that are seeing real benefits in terms of being able to retain employees.”
Employees are really paying attention, while HR departments, Burge says, are noticing very different questions from interview candidates, such as “How will I be working?” and “What will my workday actually look like?”
Relying entirely on email for business communication is a recipe for disaster. Few are better equipped to speak to this than Burge, who gave up email for an entire year (she explains her process a bit in the Q&A at the end of the video below, or you can read her excellent article for 99U).
“An inbox is not a healthy environment,” she said.
They aren’t afraid of making rules.
We’ve seen this in our own research into successful implementations of collaboration software; even if it seems unnecessary or overbearing, it’s really, really helpful to put your processes down on paper. Burge advised her audience to take a step back and really think about the basic questions of how they communicate as a business, and whether this answer is ever actually being communicated to new hires.
“When… rules are in place, it actually helps to stabilize and most importantly foster culture,” she said.
They aren’t afraid of changing rules.
Your processes shouldn’t stay set in stone forever; resist the temptation of “business as usual.” Detail how you meet, how you tackle tasks, how you document your work—then find time down the road to re-evaluate and, if necessary, overhaul.
It’s hard work, but it has a happy ending.
“All of a sudden, you have a culture that’s glued together, embedded and able to grow,” Burge says.
They’re on board with onboarding.
“The companies that are really redefining the future are taking onboarding so seriously that they actually see it as something that lasts for no less than six months,” she said.
They’re not scrapping the org chart.
You may have heard some buzz (some of it overblown) about businesses shredding their old org charts and renouncing conventional job titles and the hierarchies that come attached. Burge cautioned us to not get ahead of ourselves.
“I think we’ve forgotten the art of thinking. The key purpose of a CEO is to think,” she said. Several times, she returned to the idea that a true collaborative transformation can only occur in situations with top-down buy-in.
They don’t squash rebels.
“If you’ve got nothing to rebel against, where will the innovation come from?”
Email, on the other hand, is not open. Email culture can be rather toxic. Put an end to the passive-aggressive carbon copy!
They prioritize new and improved administrative roles.
The administrative assistant of today or tomorrow has a tremendous amount of responsibility, says Burge. No longer a pure “support” role, these highly sought-after assistants are really the collaboration champions for your organization.
“Moving an organization out of a very closed environment into an open environment and setting rules in place by which you as a company play means you are going to move toward a place of collaboration,” Burge said. “And if you move toward a place of collaboration, that means you’re going to be working better than you were before, which means you should be growing faster, which means you should be outperforming goals.”
She noted that companies should particularly be ready for transformation at several stages of rapid growth: 30 employees, 100, 300 and 1000.
“Absolutely everything has to change at those integral points,” she said. “And that is where the role of the administrator is going to come back full force. Somebody has to take control of this, and this role doesn’t quite exist yet in companies.”
They don’t just solve problems; they anticipate needs.
“Most often, clients don’t know what they need. Because you are working with them… you can actually anticipate those needs as an external outsider to their company.” Burge’s company is noticing a “very clear shift” away from mere problem solving to “need anticipation” of clients.
They add value.
“If you are helping your client to be more collaborative, if you are working in a more collaborative way, you are going to be able to add value in different ways in the organization, and to your client, that you weren’t thinking about before.”
Couldn’t have said it any better ourselves.
For more on these shared characteristics, or to watch the compelling Q&A session and listen to Burge discuss how mountain biking prepared her for business collaboration, check out the video below.