Work-life balance RIP!

roundtable-discussions-jboye17 How do you truly strike the right balance between your work and your life? A constant challenge for most it seems, with many workplaces making employees physically sick. Might we be approaching it from the wrong angle?

We’ve covered this topic extensively during the past decade in our peer groups as well as at our conferences offering a deeper understanding of the topic, identifying problems, connecting it to the changing way of work and offering solutions.

Most recently Maren Christin Hübl from SAP in Germany led a popular roundtable at the J. Boye Aarhus 17 conference on the topic. I followed up with her in a recent phone conversation and wanted to share some of my notes on the topic as well as the insights from the conference conversation and the further thinking from Maren.

What does work-life balance really mean and why is it important?

On a personal level, the topic has changed meaning during the past 20 years of working. While in the beginning of my career and pre-family, routines were different and the entire notion of work had a different meaning. The divide between work and life still existed, but it clearly looked different.

A real eye-opener to me was in 2013, when our member Boris Kraft, co-founder of Basel-based software vendor Magnolia shared his personal take on the topic at a peer group meeting in London. His slides were appropriately titled Work life balance? Key learnings from Boris talk, was his point on how you cannot change the fact, that there are 24 hours in a day, but you can shape how you spend the hours and consider which activities renew your energy. He also had a useful message on taking breaks, sleeping and enjoying vacations. Some of his reflections were based on a New York Times opinion piece called Relax! You’ll be more productive.

A popular feature article in Harvard Business Review the following year, titled Manage Your Work, Manage Your Life also helped shape much of my thinking on the topic. It reframed the question and said not to think of it as much as a balance, but rather as two individual facets of life which both need careful managing.

Fast forward to today and the age of always on, fear of missing out, social networks, smartphone notifications and new voice-activated assistants. It clearly takes a different kind of thinking to strike the right balance and that’s why Maren controversially said ‘Work-life balance Rest in Peace’.

Barriers and things that help

A key part of the discussion at the conference roundtable led by Maren was on barriers hindering a better work-life balance as well as on an open sharing of hacks which could help.

According to Maren, the more social interactions and social networks you have, the more complex it gets. Expectations can be implicit towards your role and how you engage and the challenge is to make the expectations explicit. How might you better design the right context for you and those in your near circles?

Similar to the point made by Boris Kraft, the discussion also touched on how to spend your energy. What’s the sufficient amount of energy to solve a task and what gives you energy?

Other keywords included behavioral change, new roles and thinking differently. The point was made, that as a modern leader, you need to step back a let the people find out what’s the most important and how to solve it. By re-thinking leadership as something that is done not only by one person, leaders get to enjoy the work life even more. They can share some of the responsibilities – which sometimes feel more like a burden when expectations are growing in our complex, dynamic world. This is also what the Management 3.0-movement shows us, and servant leaders like David Marquet prove

Learn more about work-life balance and the future of work

The term employee experience is increasingly coming up in our peer group meetings. Netflix is famous for their work on their guide to company culture and other companies, including old, complex and global organisations are redesigning their workplaces. Might this not only be driven by efficiency goals, but also by a sense for the need to stay relevant and invest in the well-being of their employees?

We’ll certainly continue learning and the conversation and I invite you to be a part of it!

A podcast on the power and potential of peer learning

teamw-humantechA few days ago, I listened to a podcast in which my business partner of a decade and the founder of our business, Janus Boye was interviewed by behavioral scientist and psychology Ph.D., Susan Weinschenk, CEO at The Team W; a Wisconsin based advisory firm helping organisations with insights on brain and behavioral science.

The focus of the conversation was on the “J. Boye approach to peer learning and networking”; a model, which in our eyes is simple and yet has lots to offer. The questions and reactions in the podcast, however, reminded me that it is still a fairly alien phenomenon in many countries and cultures; even those we often compare ourselves with.

Janus explained that the basic key ingredients include a safe and confidential, yet relaxed environment, a high level of trust among the participants, a willingness to share not just successes, but also pain points and accepting that there is no guaranteed “perfect solution or answer” at the end; that it is a journey of discovery without any right or wrong answers or given solutions necessarily provided. Susan and her colleague repeatedly mentioned that – despite having partaken in many networks and professional meet-ups, they had not come across this “recipe” elsewhere.

Much has been written about Denmark and the Danish welfare and workplace models, our extremely low levels of corruption and our high levels of trust among citizens and between citizens and bodies of authority; employers, the state etc. I do think those societal circumstances have a part to play in why we have arrived at our approach; I don’t think it’s a coincidence that J. Boye originates in Denmark. On the other hand, we have not invented anything new; we have simply evolved and applied a framework and a template to an approach to learning that we see as nothing more than common sense.

Despite the simplicity of the concept, it cannot be scaled quickly. Building a group and a network on trust, deep knowledge of the others within, their changing needs etc. takes time. And many conversations – ideally face to face. But the outcome – when you see it working – is deeply satisfying. It is certainly why I still feel privileged to have my job – and love it even after a decade.

Give Susan and Janus’ conversation a listen – and join one of our peer groups to experience our approach to peer learning first hand!

Cybersecurity: A top priority for the board in 2018

jake-dimareIn the US, cybersecurity has become a top priority for the board of directors. 2017 was one more in a string of years with increasingly alarming evidence that the organizations we trust with personal data have dropped the ball when it comes to cybersecurity. News of high-profile data breaches at Equifax, Uber, Yahoo, and the US SEC topped the headlines in what seemed like a year when no organization was safe from hacking, and any hope of privacy for consumers around the world has become a foolish naiveté.

Meanwhile, in just 4 months, this coming May, the highly anticipated EU General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) take effect. With fines as high as 4% of global revenue and extra-territorial enforcement, US organizations with customers in the EU are anxiously working on compliance plans that impact people, process, and technology, to avoid a violation.

The hard costs for a breach today are high and about to get much getting higher. It should come as no surprise that understanding cybersecurity is a top priority for boards in 2018. Whether your organization is currently making investments in digital transformation or not, there has never been a better time to think carefully about your strategy around cybersecurity and implement change as required.

Here are a few of the most common initiatives we at Luminos Labs are assisting our eCommerce clients with.

1) Accelerate the replacement of outdated technology

One of the most frequent and glaring issues I have encountered while assessing digital commerce tech ecosystems for mid-market and enterprise clients is cybersecurity risk created by excessive technical debt.

Whether your organization is handling eCommerce with a mesh of homegrown applications or an old vendor platform, the cost and complexity of maintaining these systems can often be overwhelming.

In 2017, the average cost of a data breach in North America was $1.3 million for enterprises and $117,000 for small and medium-sized businesses, according to a report from Kaspersky Lab. Meanwhile, the average annualized cost of cybersecurity has reached $11.7 million according to a report developed by Accenture. Now that cybersecurity is on the tip of every board member’s tongue, it’s an easy win to include the reduction of these costs and risks in a business case for new technology.

Organizations making investments in digital commerce are exceptionally well positioned to make meaningful, positive change in their cybersecurity profile. When considering changes to the technology underpinning the customer experience on the path-to-purchase, include cybersecurity requirements. These decision gates should be part of the process of selecting technology and ensure it’s a high priority capability for your digital commerce solution partner.

2) GDPR compliance is more secure

The cost of violating the GDPR are clearly driving much attention. Interestingly, a violation incurred as a result of technology that is outside of compliance is still the responsibility of the business leveraging the technology, whether it is on premise or, as noted above, a cloud-based platform.

A strategy that includes compliance with GDPR provisions such as privacy by design puts the organization in a better position for success in the short and long term.
It’s important to point out that all of the costs we’ve identified here are to the businesses, but personal data breaches also cost the most important people in any market: Our customers.

Besides all the legal considerations, protecting customers’ data is obviously just the right thing to do. It’s nothing less than what we expect for ourselves and our friends and families. There is much to do, but it’s incredibly valuable effort.

3) Ensure cybersecurity leaders understand the business

IT/Security must be in service of higher-order business goals and objectives, not an obstacle to them. Unfortunately, many organizations have fallen into the trap of allowing IT leaders within the organization to become reactive roadblocks to progress as opposed to proactive enablers of success. Although this damaging negativism can seriously impact the development of operations and products, it is reasonably easy to turn around. Above all else, it should not be acceptable for IT to stymie an initiative based solely on security concerns rooted in the current way of operating.

On the other hand, it’s critically important for IT/Security to be part of every conversation about the adoption of new technology. Under the GDPR, companies are accountable for a personal data breach, even when it’s information stolen from a cloud-based vendor platform.

Ideally, IT/security executives work best when they are included in the conversation in much the same manner as a CFO: Early and often.

They should attend board meetings when security is on the agenda and be given the opportunity to present a strategy to support the organization’s priorities. Conversations rooted in the possible should be encouraged. Conversations that sound like: “We can’t accomplish A because of B security risks,” should be replaced with: “It will take X to accomplish Y with appropriate attention to the relevant cybersecurity risks.”

If cybersecurity is part of the discussion of all new products and services it will naturally follow that the relevant personnel are included in the conversation when there’s enough time to plan accordingly.

4) Engender a culture of cybersecurity

Keeping vital data assets safe demands much more than merely installing antivirus software and hardening networks. Social engineering cost businesses $1.6 billion between 2013 and 2016 and phishing attacks cost the average large company $3.6 million a year. Create and nurture a culture of security to reduce these costs and risks.

To do so, continually communicate the importance of security. Educate teams on the evolving nature of the threat and hold contests to normalize and incentivize best practices. Empower frontline ownership of security while putting the top-down guardrails in place to keep colleagues safe.

A culture of cybersecurity will not be surprised or confused about routine security assessments and necessary updates. Teams should participate in upfront planning for incidents and have identified and defined roles during a crisis. Conduct exercises to simulate the causes and conditions of a breach and practice the response.