Today’s business environment is full of uncertainty that is operating with ongoing and fast paced change. This new age of disruption is one aided by the increased connectivity of globalisation, social media, technology and increased trade, writes Dr Mathew Donald academic – Management, Leadership and Organisational Change at Charles Sturt University.
The new forms of change are characterised with less predictability, less transparency and often occur without complete information. Government policy is also no longer developed through lengthy policy discussions, reviews and negotiation, so contributes to the volatility of this new age. The new age is likely to remain for years to come, so will require business leaders to adopt new decision-making models and processes.
Brexit is but one of many modern disruptions, where no clear reliable direction has emerged for business or voters, despite the involvement of three prime ministers. Business generally prefers stability and predictability, yet there are no clear details on a Brexit strategy, or if the no deal option is still in play.
Whilst business decision-making normally is based on assessments of options through critical thinking, logic and risk, Brexit appears to lack certainty that many decision-making models require. Decision making with the current state of Brexit may more akin to gambling than anything resembling normal business reasoning, critical thinking and logic.
A surprise Brexit outcome will likely require prompt responses involving innovation, creativity and speed, failure to adapt quickly may result in increased risk or lost opportunities. Brexit outcomes of any kind will likely arise quickly, announced through the internet and social media without filtering or independent analysis.
The stories that will generate from a Brexit outcome may be incomplete, may include elements of fake news, so the reactions of business may be in error initially or be confusing. Despite any confusion, business management are likely to be required to answer stakeholder questions immediately on Brexit directly and indirectly over social media. Stakeholders will likely expect information on business directions with staff numbers, trade, customers and investment among many others.
Delays in management responses may appear indecisive, yet early reactions may be poor due to risk and lack of information, new leadership skills and processes may be required.
Existing business processes may be simply too slow and bureaucratic to react in Brexit type uncertainty, yet stakeholders will expect speedy information processing and responses of management. Frequent changes in business direction without sufficient information may lead to staff stress, confusion or complete loss of trust in their leadership. The reliance of policy and procedures to guide staff may be too slow and inappropriate for this new age of uncertainty and change. Managers may be more advised to use less prescriptive written rules in this new age, as new scenarios and transaction types may emerge quickly, including those of Brexit reactions when it finally emerges.
Business decision-making models based on ethical frameworks may be more appropriate in uncertainty and fast change, as society rules and customs are usually known without having to be written for specific scenarios.
Staff can be trained on ethics, yet they will know society values intrinsically, so this ethical framework can enhance good efficient decision making without the need for the slower formal policies and procedures to be written.
Stakeholders may still perceive management as weak or indecisive even if they create and calculate multiple Brexit options. Management may still be perceived as ineffective or incompetent if the final outcome is not on their list of options, there is high potential for stakeholder disengagement irrespective of any preparation.
It is advisable that management prepare their staff and customers for the broader environment, so informing them that change is ongoing, fast and uncertain. Stakeholders that are prepared for the broader environment of change like Brexit, may simply understand and be more flexible due to their deeper understanding, especially when surprises present.
Those business leaders that can adapt by providing new opportunities for all stakeholders to engage in the business decisions may be significantly advantaged. Business advantage will likely arise in this new age where managers are able to remove the old shackles to embrace close stakeholder input by seeking their genuine opinions, options, creativity and innovation.
Leading and Managing Change in the Age of Disruption and Artificial Intelligence by Dr Mathew Donald is out now, published by Emerald Publishing, priced £65. For more information go to www.drmat.online