If there is one truth to be said about the work landscape, it’s that it is constantly changing. Organizations are continuously updating their processes and the way they work to keep up with the times, otherwise, they risk falling behind on efficiency and productivity. Agility is key. At least, that’s what this week’s podcast guest believes.
We had the pleasure of chatting with Greg Kihlström, best-selling author, entrepreneur, and Agile consultant to top companies on customer experience, employee experience, and digital transformation initiatives. Greg is Lean Six Sigma Black Belt certified, is an Agile Certified Coach (ICP-ACC), and holds a certification in Business Agility (ICP-BAF). In other words, he’s an Agile guru.
Greg is no stranger to the changing work landscape. Early in his career, Greg worked at a digital start-up in the late ’90s and was among the many who were laid off when the dot-com bubble burst. This event became his chance to strike out on his own and start a marketing agency that combined two of his passions: creativity and technology. His agency was an early adopter of social media in its marketing efforts and was a witness to the huge shift in the industry going digital. It was through working with clients that Greg became interested in processes and the ways systems and people come together to collaborate. In 2017, Greg sold his marketing agency and embarked on a new adventure to pursue his new passion in consultancy in the Agile world. Here are some insights from his experience and his view on the future workforce.
Why Agile works in an ever-changing environment
As agencies grow and diversify their operations, complications in collaboration between departments tend to arise. Sure, they have subject matter experts, but they struggle connecting the dots and don’t always see eye to eye. This is where Greg’s services come to play. As he puts it, Greg plays “translator” between different realms such as technology and marketing, or human resources and tech, understanding their frustrations and bringing them together to solve common issues through the right processes.
Agile is key in this process because it breaks down big picture issues into small and manageable chunks. Sprints' durations and frequency might change from one project to another, but the process is pretty much the same: break things down into meaningful segments, tackle each segment, test it, and move on. Taking on a monolithic, complex issue all at once might present a challenge. A common mistake many digital transformation initiatives make is spending years trying to solve a problem only to realize that the problem or the industry has changed by the time they reach the finish line.
Building trust with quick wins
At a time where change is rapid and adaptability is key, it’s important to establish trust with clients to move fast and catch up. If a client is unsure of their consultants’ judgment, decisions will lag and so will results. That’s why open and transparent communication from the proposal phase to closing is key. Be clear on what the client wants and be truthful about what you can deliver.
The best way to build trust with a client is to get some quick wins. Providing value very quickly is Greg’s MO as a consultant. Undertaking a project and effort with fast results will gauge the client’s satisfaction with the approach and will allow for room to modify the work and make everyone happy. In some cases, it becomes clear that an organization is not a good fit for the consultant or vice versa. For this reason, it’s crucial to accept this reality early before getting too deep into the project.
The future workforce
Reflecting on his experience in an ever-changing world, Greg predicts that the future workforce will become more autonomous. With every economic downturn, more people will want independence in their work-life. We’ve seen it during the 2009 recession, with people turning to self-employment, which resulted in the creation of services such as Uber and Instacart to fulfil this need. Now with the economic challenges after COVID, it is evident that knowledge workers such as software engineers, designers, and marketing specialists are quitting their corporate jobs to start their own businesses.
While this shift might seem rewarding, not only for individuals but for local economies, it’s important to consider the challenges that come with it. Greg points out the struggle with obtaining benefits such as health and life insurance as a freelancer that are otherwise offered at a corporate job. Another challenge is in automation, when many jobs, even technical and knowledge professions, will become obsolete with the rapid advancement in technology. Of course, with portions of jobs going away, new positions are created in other areas that will hopefully be more lucrative and rewarding for the individual. The problem arises in the lack of funding and time to train the workforce on new skills to accommodate these new positions.
Greg, however, is optimistic about the future. He is a firm believer in the human component in everything achieved and delivered. He reckons that the solution for such changes would be to figure out which processes need to be replaced with automation, and which are better accomplished by people.
Our conversation with Greg was insightful, inspiring, and eye-opening. Hear more in-depth about the Agile world and the future of the work landscape in our latest episode of “In Systems We Trust”. It’s one you don’t want to miss.