What Is Radically Human Transformation, and How Can You Get Started?

In this first session of a six-part series, a team of experts from Korn Ferry discussed how organizations are dramatically rethinking how work gets done, in a radically human way.

COVID-19, digital disruption, sustainability and social movements individually, any of these disruptive forces would be enough to require organizations to rethink how they do business. Add them together, and there’s been a massive push for organizations to undergo a reset just to survive—much less to thrive.

Some organizations are leading the way and revolutionizing the way of doing business to stay ahead of disruption and serve their customers in more meaningful ways, significantly outperforming their competitors along the way.

They all have one thing in common: they’re putting people at the heart of everything they do. In this session, the first of a six-part series, a team of experts from Korn Ferry discussed how organizations are dramatically rethinking how work gets done—and how they’re doing it in a way that’s radically human. Laura Manson-Smith, Korn Ferry’s Global Leader, Organization Strategy Consulting, moderated the session. Joining her were Jaime Maxwell-Grant, co-lead of our Radically Human Transformation practice; Sarah Jensen Clayton, co-lead of our Culture and Change practice; and Jean-Marc Laouchez, President of the Korn Ferry Institute and expert on the future of work.[JMG2]

What does it mean for organizations to be “radically human”?

The panel began the discussion by defining each element of “radically human.”

A radical organization challenges its core beliefs and assumptions, freeing itself to find new ways to move forward. Radical growth requires acting in bold and courageous ways that allow people to risk failure so they can grow and learn together.

The human element comes through searching for greater meaning and purpose in our work. People want to shape their own future and find ways to be creative, acting with care and compassion in community with others.

Bringing the two together, organizations that are radically human are releasing the full power of their people to create meaningful work, obsess about their customers, innovate to achieve great things together, and create prosperity for all.

The idea of “radically human” came from three Korn Ferry studies, along with extensive research of many of these pioneering organizations. We went deep into our own data, spoke to many of our thought leaders and interviewed more than 300 CEOs and members of boards of directors from public and private companies in North America and Europe to understand what the CEOs of 2025 will need to be successful. We also studied more than 1,000 publicly traded, transformational companies with higher-than-expected growth in recent years, narrowing our selection to the 245 companies with an inflection point of profitable growth between 106% and 909%. Then we looked at the country level, evaluating more than 200 countries on how well they responded to the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic based on their awareness, willingness and ability to reduce risks.

We evaluated all three of these groups to isolate which transformational factors led to positive performance. Then we crystallized our findings into three key principles underpinning the move toward radically human transformation:

1. People want meaningful direction for their lives and their work.

  • Bold purpose and goals.
  • Disruptive, inclusive leaders.

2. People need to attain new capabilities to fulfill their purpose.

  • Customer-obsessed and partnerships.
  • Radical innovation.

3. People need an agile mindset to be able to develop and maintain those new capabilities.

  • Ownership and license to act.
  • Agile, continuous transformation.

Our panelists reviewed that research and then explained how organizations can implement these principles to start their own radically human transformation.

How can organizations become radically human?

You want your organization to deliver results that are as unique and extraordinary as your people. It will take a journey with three iterative and dynamic phases: Imagine, Architect and Transform. It can be helpful to think of it as a quest that will involve experimentation and discovery, as you create your new ways of working on the journey, and build a new kind of organization, together with your people.

Imagine. The organization must put in the hard work of considering how it can reinvent itself. This requires leaders to challenge their deeply held beliefs and rethink longstanding paradigms in order to expand their mindset. As they identify their new goals, learn and grow, they must also reimagine and redesign their work. And whilst we recommend starting at the top, it must quickly move to involve everyone in the organization.

Architect. Once organizations have set their sights on a new vision, it’s time to accelerate change and experiment. They start by developing their transformation muscle, building adaptability into their DNA to enable continual transformation. They also “hack their management system,” experimenting with new ways to accomplish tasks and rethinking processes to streamline the business and eliminate bureaucratic roadblocks. Additionally, they develop their leaders—both in their mindsets and their capabilities—so they’re able to inspire people and others in their ecosystem around bold and purposeful movements. Finally, they make big and bold moves early: the no-brainer, no-regrets types of changes that put people at the center of who they are as an organization and accelerate the organization on its journey.

Transform. Here, leaders scale the new ways of working that they tested in the architect phase and weave them into the organization’s fabric. Companies that transform the fastest do so by working in two dimensions at once, making behavioral and structural changes concurrently. The behavioral dimension includes building the mindsets and skillsets deep in the organization, that are key to delivering on its purpose. The structural dimension rewires systems and processes, including organizational design, talent strategy, talent acquisition and performance and rewards, to support people in new ways and radically stripping out bureaucracy.

The first steps on the radically human journey

No matter what role you occupy within your organization, you can take steps to become a radically human leader. Anyone can be a trailblazer on this front by acting in more radically human ways or starting these tough conversations. Challenge yourself and those around you to answer a few questions:

  1. Are we being bold enough in our ambition and innovation and humble enough to learn from our failures?
  2. Do our people truly understand what our customers want, and are they relentlessly pursuing those goals?
  3. What would need to change to fully unleash the power of our people?  What would being radically human mean for us?
  4. What beliefs are we going to need to overcome to change the way we do business?
  5. If not me, now, then who, when?

To learn more about how becoming a radically human organization has delivered success for leading organizations and how to start your own transformational journey, watch the replay of our discovery session, and be sure to sign up for the rest of our discovery series. And, if you’re ready to take the next step toward transformation, please get in touch.