TRANSFORM FOR TOMORROW #2 – MEANING
The crisis has brought forth the concept of the ‘common good’ and the desire to contribute to it, as Maurice Thévenet explains. Could one of the positive impacts of this crisis be to help us rediscover meaning? The meaning of why we work, the meaning of the service we provide, the meaning of the products we manufacture.
It is from this rediscovered sense that lasting transformations can take place. Indeed, a transformation without vision, without meaning, has no chance of success because it will not gain the buy-in of the employees, who will experience it rather than being active participants. I have seen transformations without meaning too often, done to please shareholders (« let’s show that we are doing something ») or to follow the trend of the time. They are destined to fail.
This imperative of meaning has three major implications for the success of a transformation:
Redefining Vision and Mission:
A transformation must start from the vision and serve it. It is the « why » that Simon Sinek talks about, valid for employees, collaborators, and customers.
The mission can no longer be a mere façade because it will be perceived as inauthentic. It must align with the DNA, values, and actions.
For example, at Vacances Bleues, we worked on this concept to give meaning to our actions, resulting in « places and connections »; connections that give meaning to employees and customers and deeply align with the social and solidarity economy (ESS) DNA of Vacances Bleues.
Communication and Sharing:
Top-down, incomplete communication is no longer sufficient. The transformation must be explained in advance by answering two simple but essential questions: why do we need to change? Where are we going?
For example, the digital transformation of a service or retail company often involves closing branches or stores.
« We need to close branches to preserve our profitability » can be an initial explanation because it ultimately preserves the company and jobs. However, this transformation, even if painful, will be easier to understand if a purpose is given and communicated. For instance, « Our mission is to provide the best customer service. » What does the customer want today? It’s continuous service, immediacy, and the ability to communicate at any moment, at the best price. This is impossible without transformation.
Meaning makes empowerment easier. If I know why I work, why I participate in the collective that is the company, I will more willingly take on my responsibilities.
Telecommuting has seen a lasting surge. However, if management methods do not change, and if no meaning is given, the situation will become untenable. Telecommuting promotes autonomy. It is impossible to control remotely in the same way, unless you become intrusive in people’s personal lives. Therefore, objective-based management based on trust must be developed. This will only work if employees find meaning and understand why they are doing it.