Out with the old, in with the new

The corporate world is too slow. The enduring rule for survival of the fittest is to adapt or die. Now, as today’s technology and corporate landscape are spiralling at a faster rate than ever, the urgency for businesses to evolve and prepare for the future of work is at an all-time high.

We are seeing the collapse of businesses across all industries. In January, The Telegraph reported that the number of UK businesses filing for bankruptcy hit a four-year high in 2017, with one in every 213 companies falling into liquidation. And that was before the likes of Maplin, Toys R Us, Gaucho, Poundworld and now House of Fraser – once-stable, flagship brands that all went bust over the last couple of months.

Of course, each business had their own individual set of reasons for their collapse. But they all share one underlying cause of failure: they failed to adapt with the fast pace of commerce and the ever-changing backdrop of the future business.

“You can’t build an adaptable organisation without adaptable people – and individuals change only when they have to, or when they want to,” business thinker and Strategos founder Gary Hamel once said.

And here lies the crux of the matter. Businesses are not actively seeking ways to evolve before it’s too late.

It is becoming increasingly obvious that the innovative companies – those that have agility at the core – are now positioning themselves for a larger market share.  The FTSE ultimately will look completely different in 10 years time.

How do you reach that agility? The answer is through the power of Interim teams: pre-gelled, top 5%, A-grade teams of Interims. These are essentially executive freelancers who work independently and can be deployed on demand. This ethos in a nutshell is also known as Sullivan & Stanley, my company.

It is brilliant to be in my third year with S&S. I can still remember the executives raising their eyebrows when I proposed the idea of Interim teams. It was hard at first as the hybrid model doesn’t fit in the recruitment bucket or management consulting bucket.

But now we have 12 clients who are seeing the benefits of Interim teams to accelerate a capability and to help them pivot from their old business to the future business.

Also the permanent staff, throughout our clients, are embracing our experts as we are bringing that much needed learning mentality and knowledge transfer into the organisation.

Now predictions are being made that gig workers may comprise up to 50% of the US economy by 2020.

Build, disperse and move on

Even the traditional, blueprint industries have had their boats rocked by fresh, innovative companies that offer a flipside solution to the standardised way that these industries have functioned for years.

TransferWise has made waves in the international payments industry, WeWork is challenging the traditional office space by promoting flexible and collaborative coworking – and those who say “I’ll Monzo you the money” are becoming the norm in the world of banking, as the mobile-only Monzo Bank continues to grow.

All these breakthrough brands were inspired by one underlying goal: to challenge the norm and rewrite the rulebook.

As discussed in the most recent S&S blog, ‘The Future of work will look a lot like Hollywood’, even the Hollywood film production industry had to put a new system in place in order to confront the persistent string of changes that the sector was seeing.

As opposed to employing production staff, Hollywood studio producers now assemble teams of the top 5% of talent to serve for the duration of that movie project. They are united to create box office “blockbusters” before dispersing and moving onto the next project.

Agile teams of personnel and sub-contractors are hired for all roles including the director, leading actors and even the accountants, whilst using talent agencies to matchmake the talent for the production team.

The advantages? Firstly, the cast and crew can be hired at a fraction of the cost than the traditional big studios. Secondly, the network organisation is presented with much more freedom; directors simply direct what they want to direct and actors act in parts that they want to act in.

But this current model was not always used by movie directors. The vast majority of Hollywood movies used to be created by the old-school studio system: huge corporations with massive payrolls and imposing bureaucracy, which exerted control over the production of as many as 350 movies per year.

Back then, the studio system had centralised management and resources for every role – from lighting and camera operators to directors to actors – before the system declined in the 1960s.

What resulted was a seismic shift of thinking within Hollywood. Instead of hiring one-shop permanent employees on an individual basis, film producers started to realise the benefits of deploying a variety of independent companies – ones that are created for the on-demand requirement for each new production.

Future of business: the road to a blockbuster

Just like the Big Picture studios shrunk in size, is this what is in store for management consultancy and the FTSE corporate world? It’s already being put to good use in a range of industries.

For example, the oil and gas sector is an industry that is already very much in the gig economy and one that represents a successful test case of the Hollywood model. As oil prices continue to fluctuate and employers adjust to the unpredictable environment, oil companies need to look for options to remain flexible. One of these options is allowing companies to tap into contract oil and gas consultants for one task at a time, and transforming engineering projects to project-based activities.

The Hollywood model, although perhaps an unconventional parallel to draw, provides the best possible frame of reference for the future of work.

It demonstrates why companies need to make the paramount shift from deploying individuals to deploying temporary teams for business benefit.

Businesses of all sizes can tap into teams and subsequently deploy the purest form of agility into their operations, without the time-consuming drag that often comes with the traditional resourcing process for permanent staff.

The result is a more advanced company that is left in the capable hands of project-based, interspersed and self-maintaining staff, who can get on with it themselves without the guidance of the team.

The company will succeed if it can move at a pace to keep up with the pivoting, fast-paced world, as well as the customer needs that each and every industry is faced with.

There is no reason for professionals and companies to stick with what’s got them to where they are today.

The Hollywood model acknowledges the revamp in an industry that is now focused on solving complex problems rather than managing standard tasks with a tick-box attitude. In order to achieve this, organisations need to switch to a more creative and fluid mindset by essentially building a portfolio of projects – and projects that teams can tackle head-on and excel in delivering the required outcome.

So, instead of managing talent, managers need to focus on managing results and outcomes. The game has changed from ownership of talent to access to talent, all under a framework of the gig economy.

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