by Vasiliki Vitaki, Member of the Financial Affairs Research Team

Where should be the locus of leaders when managing various development initiatives?


Business leaders, who are witnessing profound upheaval in their organizations, as a result of the COVID-19 crisis may find it difficult to comprehend what is going on until the dust settles. This situation demands changes in the way we live, communicate, share knowledge, work, and even on how we manage our relationships. The biggest challenge is that organizations need to overcome the usual ways of doing business and even of building strategies, going beyond the usual digital approaches. The pandemic highlights the importance of more dynamic talent and work models. 

Organization’s Purpose

Even when change is essential, there’s a toll in navigating it

Organizations are experimenting with a wide variety of strategies to improve how they manage business performance. A significant challenge for business leaders is knowing when to stay the course and when to change direction. There is conflicting advice [3]. Change may be inevitable, but it can be difficult for business leaders to identify the nature, scale, and timing of their digital transformation, while they are moving away from a traditional approach, in which critical roles and talent are interchangeable and based on hierarchy [6].  

As the organizations of the future take shape, Human Resources (HR) executives will be the driving force for many business strategy initiatives like: mapping talent to value; making the workforce more adaptable; prioritizing strategic workforce planning, performance management, and reskilling; creating an HR platform, and generating an HR tech ecosystem [10]. 

Efficient reskilling and upskilling will expect employees to begin on a blended-learning journey that combines traditional learning (coaching, digital programs, job services) with unconventional techniques (improved peer coaching, education networks, the mass personalization of transformation, “pushing” methods) [5].

For example, Microsoft turned from a “know it all” to a “learn it all” culture, including open training days, informal social learning opportunities, learning data for internal career paths, and innovative platforms and products for its associate network [11].

         «Innovation itself is not a business strategy but the tool to accomplish  a business transformation in either dimension, action, or direction»     

Understand Why, When, and How to Change 

There are two characteristic questions that HR and business leaders should ask to strengthen an organization’s scalability [7],[4]:

  • Can we create more efficient decision-making by pushing choices to the edges of the organization, generating emotional security that empowers employees?
  • How do we accelerate the shift to a more diverse, human-centric culture and deeply motivated talent base?
  • Which business areas would most benefit from a transformation to innovative methods of operating and organizing? 

Finally, HR can also combine purpose-driven metrics into compensation and administration decisions. Companies across diverse business industries have utilized these metrics lately. For instance, Seventh Generation, a producer of cleaning and personal care goods, recently developed into its incentive system sustainability targets for the organization’s employees, in service of its goal of being a zero-waste company by 2025 [2 & 12].                                                    

Lessons for Leaders

A wide range of well-defined business resolutions is often confused under the broad perception of “development and transformation management.”  HR executives and business leaders also must be mindful that innovation is not in itself a strategy [1]. 

On the contrary, innovation is the mechanism for managing a change in either dimension, activity, or the less familiar and more drastic requirement of heading in an unconventional direction [9]. The dynamic nature of modern business keeps business leaders steadily investigating how to adapt their strategy to sustain their competitiveness. 

Eventually, although the pandemic has created profound and immediate changes on how societies operate and on how people cooperate and work, has also provided an opportunity for HR to accelerate its transformation from a service to a strategic function[8] , with the aim of generating a more effective organization that is ready to meet the post-COVID-crisis future.                                                                 


[1]. Arena, M. (2018). «Social Capital: The Next Frontier for HR», HR Exchange Network, New York.

[2]. Black, J.S. & Gregersen, H.B. (2016). “The Right Way to Manage Expats», On Managing Across Cultures, Harvard Business Review Press, Boston, 139-153.

[3]. Institute for Corporate Productivity (2018). “The Three A’s of Organizational Agility: Reinvention Through Disruption”. Διαθέσιμο εδώ.

[4]. Keller, S. & Meaney, M. (2017). «Attracting and Retaining the Right Talent», McKinsey & Company, New York.

[5]. Cross, R. , Rebele, R. & Grant, A. (2016). “Collaborative Overload”, Harvard Business Review 94, no.1: 74-79. 

[6]. Cross, R. and Thomas, R.J (2008). “Driving Results Through Social Networks: How Top Organizations Leverage Networks for Performance and Growth”, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

 [7]. Cross, R., A. Edmondson, A. & Murphy, W. (2020) “A Noble Purpose Alone Won’t Transform Your Company», MIT Sloan Management Review 61, no. 2: 37-43; Cross, R., Taylor, S. & Zehner, D. (2018) «Collaboration Without Burnout», Harvard Business Review 96, no. 4: 134-137; and Ballinger, G., Cross, R. & Holtom, B. (2016) «The Right Friends in the Right Places: Understanding Network Structure as a Predictor of Voluntary Turnover», Journal of Applied Psychology 101, no. 4: 535-548.

[8]. Cross, R. Baker, W. & Parker, Α. (2003). “What Creates Energy in Organizations?”, MIT Sloan Management Review 44, no. 4: 51-57.

[9]. Cross, R., Gardner, H. & Crocker, A. (2019). “Networks for Agility: Collaborative Practices Critical to Agile Transformation”, Connected Commons. Διαθέσιμο εδώ.

[10]. Shaffer, M.A., Reiche,B.S., Dimitrova M. et al. (2016). “Work- and Family-Role Adjustment of Different Types of Global Professionals: Scale Development and Validation», Journal of International Business Studies 47, no. 2: 113-139.

[11]. Volini, E., Roy, I. & Schwartz, J. et al. (2019). “Organizational Performance: It’s a Team Sport” Deloitte. Διαθέσιμο εδώ

[12]. McKinsey & Company (2018). «Winning with your talent-management strategy». Διαθέσιμο εδώ.