We explore what a radically human organization looks like and how a different approach to organization transformation can help you create a new way of working, thinking, doing and being at every level of your organization. And why this is the future of work.
What does a radically human organization look like?
In a radically human organization everyone is united behind a bold purpose –people feel empowered and supported, leaders are inspiring and authentic and human potential explodes with possibility. These organizations are as strong, creative and energetic as their people.
The qualities that make us uniquely human, such as a sense of purpose, a freedom to act, and a willingness to connect - are the very things all organizations need to thrive. When we make radical choices to build an environment that allows human potential to flourish, we create an organization not just capable of delivering on financial goals but delivering on the triple bottom line – people, profit and planet.
What do radically human organizations do differently?
Radically human organizations act boldly and with courage. These organizations experiment with new ways of working, rethink the organizational model and shift mindsets at every level of the business.
How individuals act
Individuals in a radically human organization are self-aware and prepared to challenge their own assumptions. This helps them adapt to constant change, to learn, evolve and grow.
Above all, they are energized by the organization’s purpose and are self-motivated to make a difference for their customers, colleagues and company, as well as society. They’re the workforce of the future.
How teams work
Radically human teams are grounded in trust, with shared purpose and values. They are committed to honest conversations and helping every team-member achieve their potential.
How leaders lead
Empathetic leaders can inspire movements that bring people together to make the most of their individual and collective potential. They support people to stretch out of their comfort zones and focus efforts on purpose beyond process and profit.
How they are structured
Radically human organizations have dramatically different organization structures – flatter and inter-connected. They have the capability to scan quickly for disruption, adapt and let go of ways of working that no longer serve their goals. Radically human organizations also anchor actions in purpose so they can focus on the things that matter most. Their cultural DNA draws on fundamental human values, beliefs and symbols—creating networked communities with a deep sense of belonging and focus on an ambitious future.
How they work with others
These organizations also tap into a broader ecosystem of aligned partners: customers, vendors, regulators, governments, NGOs and even competitors can be part of this networked community.
The bottom-line benefits of being radically human
Our research shows that organizations that have successfully transformed to become more radically human have seen extraordinary results.
They have grown faster than their peers (compound annual EBITDA growth rates of 20% to 600%)
- Their innovations create significant new revenue streams
- Productivity savings have been in the hundreds of millions of dollars
- Employee engagement scores often top 90% and above
Become a people-centered organization
To implement organizational transformation, you need a movement propelled and sustained by people across the business, with everyone united by a strong vision or purpose. This begins with a fundamental shift in mindset, challenging traditional thinking and unconscious beliefs.
The radically human organization gives people the right structures, systems and resources then gets out of the way. Unleashing the collective ingenuity and intelligence of people gives them the power to experiment with creative ideas, not only to make genuine change happen but to be the change.
In our research, we found 76% of employees who feel intrinsically motivated exceed performance expectations—that’s the power of human motivation.
Lessons from hyper-successful organization transformation
The Korn Ferry Institute recently conducted a study of transformational organizations and identified a set of over-performers—hyper-successful transformative companies bucking industry trends by doing things differently. How are these companies transforming?
Be big and bold
The most successful organizations are driven by their purpose, and focus on the triple bottom line of people, planet and prosperity. They connect everything to this purpose and then make bold decisions and big investments.
The most successful transformers try radically different organizational structures to align with their purpose. They challenge traditional business methods. They aren’t afraid to cannibalize revenue streams, sell off parts of the business to fund investment, explore partnerships with the competition, or change focus completely
Obsess about your customers
The most radically human companies are customer obsessed. They focus on uncovering customers’ unmet needs and then create products and solutions that continuously delight them. This goes beyond focusing on customers’ behavior; you need to understand how they think and feel. You cannot do this without one very human trait—empathy
Put people first
Leaders in these outperforming companies are as talent-obsessed as they are customer-obsessed. They have empathetic and inclusive, encouraging people with a diversity of voices and experiences to contribute.They also empower their people to deliver their best work, providing the vision and direction and ensuring that their teams have the resources they need to do their best work.
3 ways to transform in a radically human way
Every organization’s transformation will be different. To ignite the brilliance and creativity of your people, to create an organization that delivers extraordinary results, you need to go on a journey of imagining, architecting and transforming.
1. Imagine: clarify and inspire
Start exploring how your purpose can create innovation, deliver new revenue streams, and unlock different ways of working. Syngenta’s leadership team kicked off their transformation with a “purpose quest.” They started this quest over a few days and went through creative exercises to reimagine the role of the organization’s purpose and the principles that would guide their transformation journey. This also helped them develop strategies to engage their people and partners to discover and create the organization’s future together.
Use external perspectives to challenge your assumptions and beliefs. Invite input from customers and partners about the challenges they experience, as well as what they value and see is possible for your organization. They can help you discover not only your blind spots but also your hidden strengths.
And think about how you can find, connect with, and mobilize the real influencers in your organization. They are the people who will lead and choreograph future ways of working and inspire a movement.
2. Architect: create and experiment
In the architect phase, we (re)invent, we experiment, and we identify the things that work best.
Start by setting up a Catalyst Team. They will be drawn from across the business at multiple levels and are there to make your transformation journey truly people-led and develop the capability to continuously adapt in the future.
Then invite people to hack the management system, test, and create new ways of working. Community-based and highly visible experiments can help you challenge red tape and hierarchy from within. But you’ll need your leaders to think and act differently to make this happen.
In this stage you will also make some of those big bold moves that became clear in the imagine phase. You may realize you need to divest legacy businesses if they are not in line with what you are now trying to achieve. Or you may need to free up capital and people to focus investments on purpose-led growth. Our organizational transformation study found that investing in significant mergers and restructuring typically pays off when the people part is attended to.
3. Transform: choreograph and enable
Having learned what works, your organization begins to recreate itself. People recognize that they can do things they were never able to do before. The momentum escalates because they believe change can happen and they can create new ways of working for themselves.
When this happens, it’s time to rewire for growth: bringing new capabilities, structures, processes, governance, and reward models into play. Bureaucracy doesn’t disappear from the system naturally. Many organizations go through a radical review of internal policies, processes, and procedures, replacing them with things that make sense for the kind of organization you are becoming. This is an opportunity to support the genuinely purpose-led, sustainable, and inclusive organization you are trying to create.
Your catalyst team will be vital during this stage. They keep everyone focused on the guiding principles by which the organization is going to evolve. They coordinate initiatives to make sure your ideas can scale across the whole business and support teams and individuals. They are your eyes and ears across the organization and even beyond, getting a real sense of how your transformation is received and where the focus needs to be.
Transforming organizations takes time - but you can't afford to wait
We believe a radically human approach creates the right conditions for organizations to step up and transform the way they work—not only for their people and their customers but for the prosperity of many. This is only possible when people work together.
Organization transformation isn’t a theoretical exercise or a rigid process. It’s a skill you strengthen over time through consistent activity. You need to test ideas, learn from those experiments, and then make radical changes continuously. You can’t afford to wait for the right moment, change needs to happen at the same time as business as usual.
When innovation becomes instinctive, you will be able to inspire extraordinary contributions and make a lasting impact on people and the planet.
It’s time to ask: If not you now, then who when?