The Sunday Mail
Hunt for Greatness
On April 19, 1994, I reported for work at Barclays Bank.
There were some papers for me to sign, the orientation and first brief.
I was then sent to the Robert Mugabe Branch, where I was going to get my first taste of real banking. It was all excitement, with so much to look forward to after the series of interviews and tests that I had gone through.
At the time, banking in Zimbabwe was done at branch level. The ultimate capturing and processing of work, code-named “Waste”, was done at branch level. The computer systems were not as powerful as the current ones and the terminals were a limited branch-based network. The channel was the branch and the branch manager was king.
The staff complement for the branch was more than 50 people. Computers were only used by tellers and managers at the back, who would authorise some transactions. Most of the work was done manually.
Electronic mail was unheard of. Mail was collected from the post office daily and stamped, then circulated to the different departments. You had two trays on your table if you were an organised supervisor or manager. One was for work coming in and the other work going out. Social media had not been born yet and the internet was only whispered about among technology geeks. The rest of us handled the manual vouchers and documents. Collaborative technologies were alien.
Laptops were rare. Floppy disks and stiffy discs were the medium of choice.
In a few years, the bank started implementing a new banking system that was code-named BRAINS.
It was said to be revolutionary, and was going to link up all the branches via satellite, and things were going to be different.
Apart from the technology change, the bank was going to be right-sized. Work was going to be reorganised through a business re-engineering process. Some jobs were going to be lost and branches were going to look very different.
Everything seemed to be happening in fast-forward mode and change was really taking place. One part of you would yearn for a stable world where you could determine the pace of change, but the winds of change were blowing fast.
The world of work was changing and it was necessary to recalibrate mindsets and behaviour. You could no longer continue to aspire for a position and a job that no longer existed.
That was then.
The world of work continues to change and evolve. New technologies keep coming; new ways of thinking about work and working keep coming.
Change happens and keeps happening. Change is a double-edged sword. If you wait for change before changing and adjusting, change is painful. The key to the future is a sustained learning thrust. In times of change, learners are always the most secure. Those who are content with ideas and models of the past find themselves beautifully equipped for a world now gone past, never to return.
Those who fail to change will always have stories of regret to tell other idle victims. Change is best when it is welcomed as a long-stay guest. Change will never stop happening so long as people are passionate about improvement, innovation and growth.
Change is natural. It is the human response to it that is sometimes unnatural.
We live in a world of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA). This does not mean we should give up, despair and live a life of escapism. Agility is the way to manage volatility. Build flexibility, learn and adjust. The rapidly changing environment means that there are windows of opportunity that keep opening, which can be captured. One has to look at reality as it is, not as you wish it was.
You manage uncertainty through information. Develop insights, integrate new learning and ideas, and look into your data as currency. The quality of insights that you have determines the quality of your confidence and decisions.
You manage complexity through restructuring, alignment and simplifying. Focus on what matters, and stop doing insane things because they were being done in the past.
Through ongoing experimentation, you can manage ambiguity. Keep testing your ideas; seeing what works and what does not work. Welcome failure as part of learning. Learn from both successes and failures. However, maintain the learning gear.
Work is about results and not about the ticking clock. A number of faithful clock watchers will keep gazing at the clock as it ticks, looking forward to bolting out at knock-off time. Work has since changed from being a clock-watching affair to being value that you deliver. Ticking off items that do not mean anything from a “to-do” list is not real work, it is rote working. No amount of clocking can atone for failure to deliver results and to just present your body at the office.
For many years, work was a place you went to. Your pride, ego and status were tied to your office size and its trappings. Regrettably, things have since changed. Work is no longer just a place you go to, but something you do. For many, working remotely is no longer a shock. Technology is changing the game and the meaning of time and space in the world of work.
Nothing today fails organisations like learned arrogance. In the past, school could be finished. Learning is now a lifelong occupation. The challenge of progress is that we have to race to keep abreast with it. Those who do not learn daily are saboteurs of progress. Outdated knowledge is misleading and gives people false and dangerous comfort. Keep the learning gradient steep.
When the learning gradient starts to reduce, trouble is nigh. When learning becomes a casual pastime, you are likely to also start delivering pastime results. Organisations that operate like casual clubs are courting corporate funeral directors to their doorstep.
Committed to your greatness
Milton Kamwendo is a leading international transformational and motivational speaker, author and a virtual, hybrid and in-person workshop facilitator. He is a cutting-edge strategy, team-building and organisation development facilitator and consultant. He can be reached at: [email protected] and his website is: www.miltonkamwendo.com