We’re often reminded about the importance of balance – work/life balance, a balanced diet, a balanced exercise routine. And while not all of us want to round out the day in downward dog, being in balance is a human necessity. Too much of anything is simply not good for us.
While organisations are waking up to the importance of balance in terms of culture by giving employees greater flexibility, very few are yet to apply this thinking to their planning, processes and systems.
When businesses face challenges, there are always justified reasons – be it visa restrictions impacting hiring, or the weather keeping shoppers at home. Usually, however, these are forces exacerbating an underlying imbalance.
Consider the Banking Royal Commission; the ongoing scrutiny has been ‘blamed’ for eroding customer trust and shareholder revolt. The actual problem arose through cultural imbalance and leadership that favoured internal success over customer benefit.
Identifying the cause of imbalance
Earlier this month, BHP’s Chief People Officer, Athalie Williams, spoke about Australia’s enormous skills deficit as businesses seek to transform. While it is true that all companies must expand the pool of workers equipped for the jobs of the future,it is all too common for organisational roadblocks to be blamed on skills, which risks missing the bigger picture.
In some cases, poor operational systems might be at the root of ineffective workforce utilisation. Instead of addressing this, organisations embark on hiring sprees. Quite simply, the imbalance toward skills in today’s workforce debate might be overshadowing an underlying issue.
In other instances, companies invest all their resources into shiny solutions not aligned to their external market, causing the balance between solution and customer to tip too far in one direction.
Another big balancing factor is time frames. It is human nature to focus on immediate problems (think low interest rates and political cycles); our fight or flight instincts take over, assessing for risk and trying to mitigate it whatever way possible. But this diverts focus away from the future and potential growth opportunities. Conversely, some companies are almost entirely future focused, but don’t know how they’ll pay their invoices next week.
How to measure balance
The problem with organisational balance is that it is difficult to measure and track. Individual judgement calls made by leadership carry biases, and with so many factors impacting organisational health, it is unrealistic to expect decision makers to keep all of these in constant check; there are just too many balls to juggle.
At Gooroo, we work with teams and organisations using an unbiased data-driven tool to identify the biggest growth opportunities they should be focusing on. The initial snapshot of organisational balance shows the level of alignment across twelve key forces – including future versus present, and internal focus versus external focus. As part of the diagnostic, Gooroo also assesses the level of thinking diversity in teams, along with the organisation’s capacity to deal with different degrees of turbulence. This data ultimately creates a greater understanding of priorities and improved trust between people, leading to stronger performance. When a person is able to appreciate how another thinks and how they approach choice, change and uncertainty, they are better able to work together.
For companies wanting to maintain balance but are lacking the technology or resources to measure it accurately, the next best alternative is to collect and analyse as much data as possible, both internal and external, to develop a strong sense of where friction might exist. It is also vital to keep an open dialogue with employees and be receptive to ongoing feedback about culture, customers, systems and skills. In today’s fast-paced workplaces, traditional staff reviews are too infrequent and retrospective to be effective.
While organisations must always focus on their balance sheets, much of what drives a company’s future is the balance of its culture and people – and in turn its balance sheet. If we can quantify what is in or out of kilter today, we can make better choices for tomorrow.
Michael Walmsley is VP Commercial at Gooroo.