Businesses Can Balance AI, Robotics & Humanity!

Getting Agreement
Agreement

AI, Robotics and Humanity is a critical topic of discussion today! Several dangerous trends are occurring in business today. For example, in the last fifty years’ enterprise companies have started to disappear at an alarming rate. The average lifespan of a company on the S&P 500 has gone from more than 50 years to less than 16 years and dropping every year.

Automation in the form of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics are threatening to take a massive number of jobs. Organizations such as theguardian.com, NBC News, CNN and others have predicted that we will see 5 million + jobs being replaced by automation by 2020-2021.  That’s is only 4 years away.

Even more critical is that AI is now opening the door to machine replacement in areas such as writing, insurance, law and medicine that have until now been considered untouchable by automation.  Now this it true but there are some serious caveats to this type of replacement which may slow this area down but it will not stop it.

One of the key differences today is since companies were previously built on a natural resources economy (Physical Supply & Demand), we now work in a talent economy (TE) that mandates adaptability, authenticity and transparency. Unfortunately, business leaders began treating people as a resource that was manipulated, transferable or disposable based on the dictates of the leaders, shareholders or board of directors. Gallup has shown us the fallacy of this logic since 2001 when the first survey brought to life the idea of a disengaged workforce.

Our environments and leadership styles continue become even more VUCCA based, (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Chaotic and Ambiguous).  We see a lack of or confusion in decisions, planning and overall strategy in many companies.

Many leaders, militant stockholders or boards, influenced by the Machiavellian mindset from the “48 Laws of Power” so dominant in the 90’s, have become so short term focused that they have lost sight of sustainability or common good for society. Selfishness and greed have become acceptable.

In some companies, stakeholders (Leaders, employees, shareholders, board of directors, customers and supplier’s) have moved from a collaborative relationship to a combative or adversarial relationship which destroys relationship capital over time.

With all that is happening today are we doomed?

Now, first I will say, expanding automation can be deadly for business, if handled as selfishly & sterile as we have run our companies in the past 3 decades.

On the other hand, it can be a solid business builder that can allow your company to grow, expand, evolve and become a powerful influence in your industry.

Personally, I believe that revolutionary and innovate leadership combined with engaged and supported followership we can be a formula that can optimize profits and profitability while enhancing the humanity of companies.  This can only be accomplished by focusing on the employee experience (EX), executives can transform the workplace by intentionally, proactively leading the way by example.

A Fast Company article in April 2017 the author noted the words of Mark Zuckerberg: “He asserted that in the future, all businesses will increasingly need to tap into values and mission, that both consumers and employees with demand it.

 “Remember what got you here, generally won’t get you a front row seat in the future. The Artificial Intelligence(AI) and robot train is on a roll and how it treats humankind will depend on humankind.”

Suzanne DiBianca, Salesforce.com, said recently “I love to work at the intersection of capitalism, technology and social justice.” Her boss, CEO Marc Benioff, refers to the Salesforce.com culture as “OHANA” based on the Hawaiian word for “family”.  Both are ideas that must be part of any strategy for expanding in the next 20 years.

What really defines a company is not it’s marketing plan, nor the words of the CEO, it’s not what anyone from HR states but quite simply a company is defined by how it behaves. How does it treat the customers, employees, suppliers and other stakeholders in the eco-system?

As a leader or owner of a business, how can you set the stage for expanding automation and building employee engagement at the same time. Study after study indicates that the keys to engagement, which drives performance, profitability and sustainability include understanding the soft skills, values, mission, and passion for making a difference.

Here are some ideas of where to go next. Now keep in mind, at the core of making this work is your company culture and how well you have communicated and empowered your people.

Remember, leadership is useless if there is no followership! Your attitude, passion, energy and transparency can make a huge difference in success!

  1. Start by Committing to Learn How AI and Technology Will Impact Your Industry and How Quickly It Might Happen. This means getting out of your comfort zone and pushing others to work with you to understand what the costs and impacts will be when it arrives. Don’t fall into the trap of hiding or trying to imply that it will not have a major impact on your industry.

        NOTE: YOU MUST BELIEVE IN THE COMPANIES FUTURE!  There is NO alternative.

Trust me it will, just look at the dialog in the intro to this article.  Much of this is in the works as your read this.  Is all of it ready for prime-time                 delivery yet, no, but it is on the way

Talk with industry innovators, read industry journals and thought leaders in terms of how it will impact supply chain, people management, product         and service delivery. If you can’t find any thought leaders for your industry become one, talk to IT groups and futurists about what they think may         happen and develop a theory on your own.

Build a Vision, Mission and Strategy for Your Company that Includes All Stakeholders. You can’t leave anyone out of your building process unless you want to see an epic failure. Take and inventory so you know that no group has been left out.

Don’t fall into the trap of considering these as part of a checklist which can be marked off when completed and filed in a drawer.  Typically, these types of documents become generic, watered down, useless documents.  Don’t waste the time or money if this is the approach.

Pride is powered by involvement, optimism, honesty and openness in the organization so there is no place for secret projects, expectations or skunk work projects.  If people feel their work is valued and that they are doing something to make a difference in people’s lives they will become your best brand ambassadors.

NOTE: YOU MUST BELIEVE IN THE COMPANIES VISION & MISSION!  There are NO alternatives.

To be engaged, employees must consider their roles as more than a job, with 8-5 hours, fixed rules and a paycheck. They will see it as a calling if they feel totally aligned with the company values, mission and social action. Empower and train people to join in your vision and mission within the company and the industry. Live it at all levels, it must be part of the company DNA.

  1. Build a Technology Strategy and Plan for Expansion of Automation. Having a strategy and plan for implementing and migrating technology is one of two steps vital for a successful transition. Without it, the level of adoption will never meet expectations. Understand the new technologies and what they will do for production, quality, and human attitudes when planning.  Focus on the technology and processes in this section.

Never develop a strategy or plan this intrusive in a vacuum because the results are usually disastrous.  New technologies will replace people, change how they do their jobs or force them to do something they don’t want to do and while the attitude that “It’s just business” may be a greedy short term answer it does not hold well for the future.

Building strategy
Building Strategy
  • What are the technologies and how will they impact other technologies?
  • What technologies need to be retired with the introduction?
  • What does the SWOT evaluation look like for this process?
  • What are all the costs of implementation, hardware, software, communications, process changes, interfaces, security, outside influences, support needs, failure rates etc.?
  • If SaaS solutions how secure and how solid is their business process?

The more workers you can get involved in this process the better, but you must be prepared to handle conflict and confrontation because it will occur.  Hiding does not make the problem go away, it only makes it worse.   There needs to be transparency so that anywhere technology is touching a human process is examined for the impact of time, money and talent.

NOTE: YOU MUST BELIEVE IN THE TECHNOLOGY!  There is no shortcut.

Ensure you have a way to measure the success of each stage of the implementation and that everyone agrees to the scale or milestones before you start.  This will make the difference between success and failure.

  1. Build a Human Strategy and Plan for Expansion of Automation. Having a strategy and plan for working with the human elements is the second of two steps vital for a successful transition. Without it, the level of adoption will never meet expectations. Understand what can be accomplished with the people who are directly affected by the new technologies and what they will do for production, quality, and human attitudes when planning.  Focus on the human factors and processes in this section.

Adam Grant talks about a decided advantage that givers have over takers both internally within your company as well as being a giving company in his book “Give and Take”.  Employee and company behavior is much more visible today.  Givers can gain idiosyncrasy credits according to psychologist Edwin Hollander which builds trust and relationship capital which can be applied when things are in a tough spot. Applying this concept can have a big impact on your Human Strategy & Plan and the resulting culture.

Never develop a strategy or plan this intrusive in a vacuum because the results WILL BE disastrous.  As we pointed out above, new technologies will replace people, change how they do their jobs or force them to do something they don’t want to do and while the attitude that “It’s just business” may be a greedy short term answer it does not hold well for the future.

Moving together
Multiple people working together
  • Know which people are being directly affected before implementation?
  • Where can their skills be transferred for the good of the employee and the company?
  • Where is retraining necessary and how can it be accomplished?
  • Are there new departments that need to be populated based on the new technology?
  • If there are outdated skills and people are unwilling to change, how can you provide alternatives for this group?
  • In the case of older workers. who do not want to change can you come up with a career transfer buyout plan which helps them find employment in their desired areas at other companies?

The questions above are just a starting point.  Brainstorm with people, trust their input but also understand there will be some territorial or self-preservation taking place.  This will be an emotion process so you need to be prepared for it. It will take a toll on you, employees, customers and others in the eco-system but the ultimate good that can come from it may be priceless in terms of sustainability and growth.

NOTE: YOU MUST BELIEVE IN YOUR PEOPLE’s ALIGNMENT to VISION & MISSION!  There are NO alternatives.

Unfortunately, if you must deal with short-term mentalities in shareholders, Board of Directors or other external governance the pressure to by-pass this step will be incredible. Keep in mind many of these groups still view people as assets which are disposable. They will challenge your values and humanity so be aware.

Ensure you have a way to measure the success of each stage of the implementation and that everyone agrees to the scale or milestones before you start.  This will make the difference between success and failure.

  1. Execute your strategy in stages that are manageable and tolerable for all people. If timing must be abbreviated or is critical based on survivability, competition or regulatory pressures you will find this step may be a bit more painful than anticipated. This does not mean you abandon the plan but you need to listen more, inspire more and educate more so the plan can be adapted.

NOTE: YOU MUST BELIEVE IN A SUCCESSFUL TRANSITION!  There are NO alternatives.

Celebrate each stage success with everyone, not just the people involved in this stage. This builds community and as we mentioned that feeling of “OHANA”.   By the same token be open to examining failures and solutions with everyone as quickly as possible. Never hide a mistake.

Where you have people, who need to adapt to a new career path, be sure to allow for the fact that some will not make the shift.  Find ways you can assist every group.

  1. Remember, the changes you are doing today will need to be addressed again in the future. Technology is not going to standstill just because your company won’t adopt it. There will always be a competitor who will see adoption as a method to gain market share, even if it must sacrifice people.

NOTE: YOU MUST BELIEVE IN YOUR TEAMS ADAPTABILITY & FLEXIBILITY!  This is critical.

Therefore, don’t let this become another comfort zone, always have an attitude of keeping your process, people, products or services dynamic. Encourage a culture that thrives on innovation, growth and doing what’s right for employees, the planet and the common good.

If you are being driven to make some technology decisions, this process will work for you. If you would like assistance with any of these steps please contact me today. Would love to work with you and your people to change the culture so there can be a successful transition.  Check out my website at Transformative Leadership Group or call me at 630-454-4821.