Ad Hoc Internal Business – The New Norm
Many young people enter the workplace in the hope to find structure, role clarity and a career path that will map the next five years of their professional lives. Increasingly, this is proving to be difficult for organisations to deliver.
Why? It’s because of the changes that are happening in the way we work. Consider this: 20 years ago in Malaysia there were no social networks and no web facilities at work.
Today, if you work in the web programming, online marketing or mobile phone industries, chances are your job did not exist back then. So who knows what will be in store at the workplace in 20 years?
Future of work
Emerging practices that are sure to shape the future of work can already be seen, and these include:
Transparency – No one will take your word for it. However, tracking and business analytics tools are able to create and verify a whole host of data. Your productivity can easily be tied to the bottom line in a very visible way.
Flat organisations – Work from anywhere. Location will not matter in teams set up to deliver on a specific purpose or outcome.
Composition of team will be based on a combination of tested capability and fresh perspectives. Just as critical is the structure and processes to lead the team to persevere towards new and breakthrough solutions. Often times, the more diversity the team has, the better the chances of success.
Expertise is everywhere – With 60,000 graduates entering the Malaysian workplace annually, degrees are the new diploma. Graduates are expected to be resourceful as knowledge is everywhere and ever-changing. Competition for Malaysian top jobs will come from Asean and other countries; it will be more difficult to protect jobs for Malaysians. Crowdsourcing will be an attractive alternative channel to get work projects done across boundaries.
On demand delivery – There will be no such thing as a lifetime career, as organisations will be looking for competencies on demand. The word ‘career’ will be as outdated as a typewriter. Talents will come together to work on a project, much like a movie production set. At the end, all will go their separate ways.
Recruiters will be forming ad hoc “tribes” to get projects done. Today, at least 100 million Americans work in virtual teams at least one day per month. Malaysia will not be too far behind.
Internal business projects, plugging the gap
Given this future landscape, how will organisations innovate or respond to opportunities in their marketplace? This is where internal business projects play a critical role.
Historically, it makes sense to hire a third party expert to tackle business challenges, as these experts possess experience and knowledge not accessible to everyone.
Today, this not the case. Unless there is a particular sensitivity around a project type, there is no reason why it cannot be set up and delivered by an internal team.
Expertise is overrated
The last 10 years have seen great success of in-house project teams looking into strategy, operational, processes and people efficiency projects. I see a shift in this trend where teams are now being made up of members who come from very diverse backgrounds.
In more recent times, I have also worked with project teams who do not have the necessary expertise or experience at the start of the project, but are required to work with coaches, experts and sponsors who look in on them periodically to advise and guide them towards successful implementation.
Some of the best breakthrough and innovations have come from perseverance, curiosity and a can-do attitude. So, expertise is a contributory factor and certainly not the be-all and end-all for project successes.
Choosing the right project matters. The type, complexity and scope has to be well thought out so that everyone is clear from the start. Some examples are:
- performance improvement, best practice implementation
- new initiatives rollout
- cycle time reduction
- cost reduction
- revenue enhancement
- process elimination
- error reduction
Once selected, it is important to clearly describe the finish line, either in terms of timeframe or outcome. With this, the management will be able to estimate how many team members are required to get the job done.
Clarity of the journey
Project management methodology and tools serve as a guide and there are many available out there such as Lean Six Sigma, Design Thinking, etc.
These tools help the project team go through a step-by-step approach. The team defines the scope, looks at data and evidence, brainstorms a solution which will be useful to the intended audience and implements the solution until the desired outcomes are achieved.
However, when projects start, team members will generally feel overwhelmed and anxious but with proper communication, role clarity and guidance on a structured approach, they eventually find their way.
In some cases, they find that their perseverance pays off big time and it serves as a boost to their confidence; they are able to achieve the seemingly impossible.
Key to having successful in-house projects is the buy-in of top management and the sponsors of the project. Competitiveness can be introduced by launching four to five projects at a time. Proper coaching to ensure momentum is maintained and monitoring of milestones will help ensure that all projects are making their way at the right speed.
In addition to running internal projects with employees, internships can also be offered to undergraduates to work within such projects. This will enable interns to have first-hand exposure to project management capabilities, and broaden their content and contextual knowledge about the organisation and industry that it serves.
Better late than never
There is little time to be wasted to start gearing up towards setting up, managing and realising the full value of internal business projects. Most roles that are repetitive are already being automated.
It’s the ad hoc tasks that need attention and creativity on how it’s designed and delivered. Internal business projects – staffed with a diverse team will be the answer in effectively preparing for tomorrow’s challenges.
Rupa Sivanoli currently heads Leaderonomics Campus. Aside from transforming the nation one undergraduate at a time, she also believes in adding value to a business by fixing the people issues. To engage with her, write to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more Be A Leader articles, click here.