Get Your Organization VUCA-Ready in 2022

An old acronym is back: Volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. Why companies need to buckle up.

Veni, Vidi…VUCA: Time to Embrace the New Reality

In the New Year, the Economic Glass is Half Full

As 2022 kicks into full swing, many sectors of the economy have been reflecting on a remarkably strong performance through the second year of pandemic mayhem. While we continue to actively learn to navigate the constant shifting sands of the pandemic, albeit easier for some sectors than others, the global economy has – thus far – proven resilient and not ground to a halt.

But our Workforce Glass? Very Much Half Empty

And yet, 2021 brought progressive waves of challenges that will still require significant attention in the years to come. Consumers and communities demand that businesses take a more active role in broader societal issues. Employees and investors express the same.

Employees worldwide are actively reprioritizing their lives, questioning the role and purpose of their work. They’re also questioning the role of the office in their lives, creating significant tension in hierarchical cultures where daily office presence has historically been expected and leaders continue to cling on to established norms. The newly christened category of “front-line, essential workers” are asking similarly existential questions about their work: when is the risk of service too high? Is our service valued by society? And thus, the so-called Great Resignation is impacting nearly all generations and “collars” of the workforce.

Welcome to VUCA

Leaders are facing the reality that nothing will return to normal and that there isn’t even a “new normal” one might reliably anticipate. Years ago, military leaders coined the acronym VUCA: volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. In a post-pandemic business world, it’s time for the rest of us to embrace VUCA as our new reality.

VUCA means that many of our most popular models of management have literally lost their relevance. 5-year strategic plans, 3-year ROI models, Gantt chart project management, hierarchical management structures, siloed work, narrow expertise and fixed annual cycles of performance management were all already being seriously questioned in 2019.

“VUCA means that many of our most popular models of management have literally lost their relevance.”

In 2021, we found in our annual global research that the firms that truly thrived in the confusion of 2020, those that met or exceeded their objectives, had higher change fitness because they had abandoned those waning operating models, structures, rituals, mindsets and tools wholesale.

What to Do in 2022

As we look backward on what we’ve learned over the last two years and then picture ahead to the coming year, what might make your organization more fit for change? Better yet, what ideas might propel you ahead of your current and future competitors?

Three Ideas to Help Your Organization Thrive in The VUCA Reality

1. Actively Balance the Urgent with the Strategic

All sizes of organizations worldwide had to move quickly to set up projects, programs and initiatives to address the pandemic-driven issues in their business and not just once, but on multiple occasions as the different variants struck. Simultaneously, many firms recognized that a lot of their actions were addressing long-known and long-ignored issues. Wise leaders consciously used the momentum of the moment to slingshot their organization to a more resilient future, desperately looking to accelerate fundamental transformations of their operating model, customer relationships, technology enablement and culture.

Entering 2021, we observed that our most progressive clients began changing their strategy development processes. Even as they adopted agile and design thinking to maintain a sharp market focus, they also began working future-back into their strategy so as not to get caught so badly flat-footed again. In 2022, there are inevitably a host of urgent needs. Make sure that you’re also making space (and dedicating resources!) for the strategic.

2. Seek to Forge a Unified Customer and Employee Experience

All successful organizations today have embraced the philosophy of customer experience. Some organizations have also come to embrace the idea that employee experience is something that can be actively designed and managed.

A missing connection you might address in the coming year is how to make those two experiences one. What kind of transformational effort might be required for those internal and external experience designs to be crafted, managed and measured together?

3. Build a Leadership Coalition for Transformation

The ineffectiveness of organizational structures and the challenge of silos remains a constant challenge to transformation – our 2021 global research yet again highlighted this barrier. Addressing this does not begin with some re-engineering blueprint but rather with the recognition that key functions and areas need to work together differently for a different and/or new outcome. Put another way, the “new advantage” is collaboration.

We might think about the EX/CX opportunity described above to build and amplify them for mutual success. Achieving that kind of business outcome means that a unified EX-CX initiative cannot sit simply with HR nor simply with Marketing. In fact, it is more than likely to also need the buy-in from the CIO let alone operational leaders.

The bottom line is that sustainable transformation fitness and effectiveness is only sustainable with a leadership team that operates beyond individual representation and is prepared to be accountable to one holistic agenda. Organizational resilience in a VUCA environment requires alignment on that agenda now – if you haven’t already.


It’s time to focus on the humans

At the end of the day, thriving in a VUCA world is not primarily about technology. Although technology will be required to support these changes. It is primarily the humans who need to change: to align their strategic thinking across horizons; to bring divergent kinds of expertise together to create new experiences, products and services; and to create new kinds of coalitions, starting at the top. Only then can those humans truly transform the business so they – and all of your stakeholders – can thrive in 2022 and beyond.

Interested in learning more?

If you want to learn more about how you might increase your organization’s change fitness and build long-term resilience, then contact our Organization & Culture practice today.


3 Steps to Human-Centred Leadership in a Hybrid Working World

A co-created philosophy, agility and aligned leadership can smooth the way for hybrid work models.

Everywhere you look organizations are trying to figure out how to future-proof themselves. Organizations are grappling with how their flexible, hybrid working model might look and how to cope with the diversity of employee preferences created by the pandemic.

The role of leadership has never been more important to the health of employees and the success of the organization as business leaders across the globe manage through this uncertainty. What was considered effective leadership pre-pandemic (coaching, feedback, empathy, trust) is now a basic leadership requirement. And as the war for talent intensifies, the quality and empathy of leadership will be an important differentiator for current and prospective employees.

“As the war for talent intensifies, the quality and empathy of leadership will be an important differentiator for current and prospective employees.”

Therein lies the problem. The general quality of leadership is not where it needs to be. In 2020, MIT global research with c5000 Executives found that less than 10% of employees strongly believed that their organizations had leaders with the right skills to thrive in the digital economy. But the pandemic turned every leader’s world fully digital overnight.

At Prophet, we have developed a Human-Centred Transformation Model™ that guides holistic cultural change and identifies organizations as macrocosms of an individual with DNA (strategy, values, purpose, Mind (talent, skills, capabilities), Body (structures, processes, tools) and Soul (mindsets, behaviors, rituals). Through the lens of the model and our client work, we have identified three steps that will help you raise the floor of your leadership capability and take a human-centered leadership approach in a hybrid and digital world.

Step 1: Co-create a leadership philosophy (DNA)

Leadership is a term that everyone understands or thinks they do. We all have our own view of what a strong leader looks like and who we want to emulate. However, individual perspectives don’t breed quality or consistency. It’s critical for your leadership (and your employees) to co-create and align on the version of leadership that’s right for your strategy, your people and your culture, particularly in your new hybrid context.

In addition, the remit of leadership has changed. With societal trends coming to the forefront of daily organizational life, leaders can’t lead without acknowledging and supporting their people during uncertain times. Leading with values and purpose is a prerequisite now; leaders cannot focus solely on strategic or operational topics to get them through.

Allied to that point, leadership roles should include a tangible set of leadership responsibilities and objectives. For example, leaders need to be leading, not just doing tasks or making decisions. They must be empowering, nurturing and guiding their teams. It takes time, effort and skill to adopt a human-centered approach to leadership and to do it well. Ensuring your leaders adopt the mindset that human-centered leadership is critical to the organization’s performance, will provide a strong platform to develop your leadership capabilities.

Step 2: Build agility into your leadership development framework to align with your culture and strategic priorities (MIND)

Traditionally, many organizations use prescriptive models of what good leadership looks like, developed directly from theory. However, they were never especially applicable in your organizational context and – rigid by design – they are now out of touch with what’s required in an ever-changing, hybrid world.

The shift to hybrid working provides a reset opportunity and there are some improvements that will help you make your leadership development investment more impactful going forward:

  • Revisit your leadership development approach regularly – now that we are in a hybrid world, tailor your approach to your new context and your strategic priorities. Measure progress and adopt an agile approach that keeps it simple and focuses on only a few priority areas at a time
  • Over-index on purpose, values and the human, empathetic elements of leadership – your employees need more meaningful communication and an increase in the level of emotional and personal support in a hybrid environment
  • Prioritize collaboration and compromise as central tenets of your leadership framework – the days of heroic individual leaders are long gone. Leadership needs to come together and zero in on what’s best for the organization and the people, rather than protecting their specific domain
  • Bring new capabilities to life on the job – set expectations and challenges, create a safe environment to experiment with new leadership ways outside of the development space

A refocus away from the traditional approaches will increase your chances of moving the needle on leadership significantly. In parallel, it’s important to make leadership development accessible to more than just an elite, senior group – take a youth development policy in order to build leadership as a strategic advantage over time.

Step 3: Create an aligned leadership ecosystem (BODY & SOUL)

One of the biggest complaints Harvard Business Review hears about executive education is that the skills and capabilities developed don’t get applied on the job. A note of warning: your leadership ecosystem will make or break your effort. This is the area that most organizations don’t realize they need to address. The most important step you can take to support consistent and effective leadership in action is to analyze how your culture and operating model are impacting your leadership practices and behaviors. Then you can align the critical levers to incentivize, rather than deter, the desired approach.

Additionally, all the development activities in the world won’t create the leadership you want ‘on the job’ unless your organizational ecosystem supports and rewards the desired leadership approach. The latest global research from Prophet’s Organization and Culture practice identified the fundamentals and accelerators for cultural change (e.g., ambition, roadmap, role modeling, decision making, incentives and rewards, mechanisms to experiment) and it’s important to address these to create the environment and the enablers that will embed the new leadership behaviors.

Releasing leaders from a development environment back into their day jobs without adaptive mechanisms and expecting them to change their behavior when all the rituals, processes and incentives encourage them to lead in the same way they always have done is a mistake. This instantly erodes all the value and effort of your investment in leadership development activity. Sadly, this is still all too common in organizations today.


To summarize, tailoring your approach and aligning across these three dimensions will help you strengthen leadership and equip your organization to navigate through the unchartered waters ahead. The hybrid workplace is different and it demands leadership that is genuine, empathetic and cognizant of the world we live in; we call it human-centered leadership.

If you need help adapting leadership behaviors to excel in the new hybrid working world then reach out today.


Inclusion in the Workplace: Why it Matters and Ways to Improve

To prevail amidst new technologies, company leadership needs human judgment, empathy and inclusivity.

Growing up as an Asian American in a predominately white, Catholic community, I became used to being the “other” at an early age. I was the one that didn’t fit in, the one picked last for a gym activity, the one not invited to birthday parties.

In sixth grade, I remember being particularly excited because I was invited to a birthday party. However, this wasn’t just any birthday party, it was the party of a girl who was considered popular. “Did I finally make it? Had I finally been accepted?” When I arrived, to my dismay, the birthday activities in the garden required the birthday girl and her designated team captains to hand-select members for their teams. The goal of the birthday activity was to finish one or more tasks at different stations and each of the teams got to compete against each other. When I was finally the last one to be “picked”, I didn’t feel very picked at all. I wanted to run, hide and disappear. I didn’t want to go back to school. When my parents forced me to go back that Monday, my performance was negatively impacted because I was distracted by thoughts of self-doubt, humiliation and embarrassment. All I so desperately wanted was to fit in.

What might have been more inclusive, in this situation, was if the team members were thoughtfully pre-selected in advance of the party, with varying levels of athletic aptitude and experience. To create an equitable environment, intention is paramount. To me, it would have made a world of difference.

Fast forward almost 30 years, I’ve now worked in various leadership roles at over seven organizations, and I still see this happening. You see, the problem with not including others isn’t an intention issue, the problem is more of an invisible one. We all have had different experiences and learned habits that are both conscious and unconscious. There’s often the challenge of not acknowledging the issues and/or being unsure how to effectively surface the realities. It can be very difficult to know where to start and what to do.

“To create an equitable environment, intention is paramount.”

I believe a leader is defined by how he or she chooses to use responsibility, not by his or her title. Part of that responsibility is a business leader’s obligation to embed “inclusion” into the systems, processes, rituals and symbols of an organization. Inclusion increases employee engagement, belonging and helps create an environment where people can show up as their authentic selves.

When people have the psychological safety to fully express who they are, they do better work, they come up with better ideas, they work better together and cross-functionally. This ultimately drives improved business performance. For organizations to prevail in the future, company leadership will need human judgment, empathy and inclusivity to achieve their full potential amidst new technologies, increased demands and competition, constant changes in customer needs and the expectations to do this all faster and better.

At Prophet, we leverage our Human-Centered Transformation Model™ to do just this.

Four tips on how to embed inclusion at your firm and with your clients:

1. DNA represents the Purpose, Values, Brand, Strategy and EVP that should direct the organization. Each one of should work to support inclusion. Many organizations have started to weave diversity into their purpose statements, for instance. You might spend a lot of time and money on diversity, but if you don’t have the “inclusion” part right, that diversity goes out the door, literally.

2. MIND is about having the right skills, talent and capabilities to drive the change. To do this internally, ask yourself: Do we have the right set of diverse skills, gender and talent in our pursuit team? Do we have a good balance of shared experiences and perspectives on our account? We should be investing the same amount of time matching talent and skills with including people from various backgrounds, experiences and cultures. If you look at your organization’s talent strategy and notice in the data that there might be certain groups of people leaving the organization at a faster rate than others, you should ask yourself and your clients: Do they have the right tools and opportunities in place to be successful here? Have they been invited to have a voice and decision-making authority in visible ways?

3. BODY is the processes, systems and tools in place. As a seasoned management consultant, we get the opportunity and privilege to solve complex business problems including re-designing systems that don’t incorporate inclusion at the heart of it. For example, Prophet has created a change champion program as part of our strategy to revamp the culture of a tech client. As advisors to the organization’s top leadership, we ensured that our team was mindful and intentional about including representation not only from each global business unit but also from the organization’s employee geography, race, tenure and gender. We also set about improving performance management and career development processes ensuring that it is more than “what you do” but “how you do it” while also linking it back to the organizations’ DNA.

4. SOUL is the mindsets, beliefs, rituals and symbols that ignite motivation and belief. Inclusion efforts must show up in a company’s daily routines and rituals. Some steps are simple, such as using preferred gender pronouns in LinkedIn and Zoom handles and during introductions at internal and client meetings. Others take more thought and require questions like: How representative is the group pitching new business, for example, or meeting with vendors?


Changes in language and behavior go a long way to normalize inclusivity. However, there isn’t a single definitive roadmap. Each company must find its way to inclusivity.

Prophet’s annual global research on culture transformation has shown that unless it’s powered by many different voices–with cross-collaboration among geographies, functions and diverse employees–it won’t be successful.

This isn’t just a relatively new discipline. It’s intersectional, complicated and ever-changing. Missteps are inevitable and cultural change is inherently complex. Inclusivity is an essential tool for any company that hopes to grow and succeed in the future.

Attracting and retaining today’s top talent requires organizations to be laser-focused on fostering an inclusive culture. Our Organization & Culture experts can help, get in touch.


Leaders & Language: How the Right Words Can Catalyze Change

Language connects. But with companies going digital, organizational communication has many new challenges.

Great leadership and great communication go hand in hand. Just look at the greats—from Martin Luther King Jr. to Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela to Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Leaders who respect language as a force for change have transformed cultures, systems and policies. 

But how exactly do impactful leaders approach language to initiate such meaningful change? And how can leaders communicate to guide their organizations to success?  

Right now, we find ourselves in a reality that’s both ripe for change and steeped in the minutiae of the moment — where every word can be recorded, shared, scrutinized and misconstrued. For that reason, thoughtful and intentional communication from leaders is more important than ever before.  

To Guide Meaningful Change, Leaders Must Communicate with Purpose  

Organizations are changing at a deeper, structural level in response to the storm of urgent external forces like systemic inequality, climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, the mental health crisis and the shift to hybrid working – with many having to respond to a number of these factors all at once. The result? A huge emphasis on organizational culture and change at a rapid pace.   

But we can’t talk about organizational culture transformation without talking about language. Language is one of the most powerful tools for inspiring focused action and influencing culture.   

The Anatomy of Effective Language  

The role of language is to connect—and intentionality is essential to connect effectively. When Aristotle spoke about language in his theory of language and meaning, he defined three ways to effectively connect with another individual or team: to open their mind through reason (logos), to open their heart with emotion and vulnerability (pathos) and to find common ground through a shared truth or values (ethos). Through these elements of language, leaders can connect, persuade and build trust more effectively.    

Language is a system that defines and pervades all other organizational systems and it’s both fueled and forged by your culture. It only makes sense then, that when your organization evolves, language must evolve along with it.   

Approaching Language During Transformation   

With companies going digital, organizational communication has a host of new challenges. How do you pick up the vibe on a Zoom call? How do you make one-on-one calls feel as natural and spontaneous as passing a colleague in the hall? It’s hard work, which is why so many leaders are eager to bring people back to the workplace. While it’s tempting to cling to the systems that have kept our workplace cultures humming for decades, we have been jettisoned into a hybrid, hyper-speed era—one that demands more dynamic, adaptable cultures. Language acts as both the cultural catalyst and the glue holding an organizational culture together.   

At Prophet, we think of the organization as a macrocosm of an individual. Like an individual, an organization has DNA, a Mind, Body and Soul — and when we are looking to effect transformation, it has to be human-centered across all these elements. Why? Because businesses don’t change. Humans change and then they change the business.  

Let’s look more closely at these four areas and the role that language plays:   

  • DNA: How an organization definestheir shared vision, values, purpose and ambition  
  • Mind: Enabling the workforce to adopt new skills and drive change   
  • Body: Language helps teams understand the systems needed to direct their transformation   
  • Soul: Motivating employees and other stakeholders to contribute to the change  

By thinking about language through the lens of Prophet’s Human-Centered Transformation Model™, leaders can more effectively communicate throughout the transformation process.   

DNA | Defining the Change   

Language literally builds an organization’s DNA. That’s why crafting the DNA involves a careful thought-through, strategic, iterative process that captures data-driven insights and diverse perspectives from across the organization. The idea is to define and then express the new ethos in an authentic way.   

Recently, we worked with Thrivent, a major U.S. financial services organization, to transform its business and brand. Thrivent wanted to innovate its offerings and expand its reach to new markets while maintaining its loyal membership base and values.  

Defining the ambition with a team of data scientists, strategists and writers allowed for the team to take a more critical lens to the language used in the DNA of the organization. From this work, we defined a shared purpose that reflected Thrivent’s heritage and enabled everyone to align with the modern organization it was ready to become: Thrive with Purpose.  

We like to think of leaders as the carriers of this DNA, modeling shared values and purpose in both their words and actions, so we worked with Thrivent’s senior leaders and managers to create a launch video that introduced the new ambition and shared purpose to the whole organization. From there, we helped them roll out the new strategy, consulting on their communications and providing exact language — including a new brand voice and messaging — so managers and senior leaders could confidently share the new ambition and brand with their teams. Together, our work received the 2020 Transform award for tone of voice.  

Body | Directing the Change   

Embodying and directing any change requires a clear roadmap and reliable systems that give the DNA a place to materialize. We use language to set and measure clear goals and achieve them together (i.e., KPIs). Word choice in KPI development is critical because they must be clear, tangible, and directional.  

To develop these KPIs leaders should ensure they should:   

  1. Ladder up to one of two key business drivers  
  2. Be linked to the ambition and meaningful milestone on a roadmap  
  3. Be aligned at a business or functional level before translating into team or individual goals   
  4. Be shared and transparent  

Talent and performance development is a great example of this. A while back, we worked with a newly formed but significant global bio-pharmaceutical player with an ambition to create a more decisive, agile and performance-driven culture. To achieve this, the organization wanted to take a fresh approach to recognizing employee performance — including how it rewarded individuals and teams that truly made a difference.  

So, we set out to first clarify what “good” performance looked like. Then, we translated that new definition into a purpose-driven method of goal setting and performance conversations. We helped its team choose language more thoughtfully, which enabled managers to respond to this shifting performance criteria by having the right conversations.   

Mind | Enabling the Change   

To enable change, leaders must appeal to people through reason (logos) to help them adapt to the new set of values (ethos). If employees are clear on their roles and know exactly how to upskill to align with the ambition, you can establish capabilities built on trust and progress.   

For Thrivent, activating the new DNA proved challenging for their financial professionals because they run their own businesses around their personal philosophies. So, we found common ground, showing the connection between their values and the new brand purpose, promise and principles.   

Then we gave their professionals the tools — scripts, talking points, and educational resources that gave them the language to bring the brand DNA to life in their daily work. We also recorded interviews with them where they shared their financial philosophy through the language of the new brand promise. This helped them co-create accessible, on-brand language to share with clients.   

Soul | Motivating the Change   

The most enduring and dangerous myth about leadership is that you must have all the answers — and if you don’t have them, pretend you do. A leader who can admit when they don’t have all the answers gains trust. And when combined with that trust, a leader who makes space for employees to be seen, heard and understood helps to take people on a change journey.   

For a culture to flourish through a transformation, it’s vital for leaders across an organization to reinforce shared values, celebrate wins and share learnings as often as possible. In the Human-Centered Transformation Model™, we call this Soul. By motivating small wins throughout the organization transformation journey, employees feel recognized for their efforts and connected to something bigger than themselves.   

In addition to a regular and genuine celebration of small successes and learning moments, the single most powerful way a leader can motivate change is by showing vulnerability.  

When the pandemic hit, Prophet was among many organizations that closed the offices. We prepared to close for two weeks and were instructed to work from home. Those two weeks stretched to nearly two years. During this time, our CEO Michael Dunn, along with the Exco team, created a Global Pulse call, a bi-weekly check-in that connects all the firm for 45 minutes to meditate, share stories, talk about recent events and be “together”. While the Global Pulse calls were a direct response to the missing connections we had in the office, they have created a ritual that has given us all a sense of unity as well as opportunities to make space for the difficult experiences we were and are all facing.  

Michael Dunn starts every Global Pulse call with a guided meditation—a simple and gracious use of language that, over time, introduced new behaviors and cultural norms to the firm. To experience a guided meditation on that scale with fellow colleagues spoke directly to hearts and minds, and for many, became a ritual we relied on.  

“The single most powerful way a leader can motivate change is by showing vulnerability.”

What is also subtly powerful about this ritual is the name: Global Pulse. Alone these words are impactful, but together even more so. The invitation to “check the pulse” of our global culture serves as a warm reminder that our culture is a living, evolving aspect of our co-existence — and it influences all we do. 

We spoke with Michael about his reflections on the Global Pulse and use of language over the past 18 months. He noted, “For the first few months, and even up until now, I feel so much pressure to get the tone and experience just right. But I started to see that using the mindfulness exercise to open the forum, which I do along with everyone else who participates, helped create space for me to feel more present, more connected, more curious and more vulnerable, which then rippled across the globe for everyone who was participating. It helped to elevate the experience for everyone as we invited teams to offer gratitude, spotlight work or have hard conversations about the world around us and Prophet’s way forward.”  

The Global Pulse gave the firm both the space and the language to connect and speak on behalf of our needs. Some pulse calls are filled with photo sharing and stories about working from home. Others are set aside for difficult conversations or empathizing with those who are grieving. We had agendas, but oftentimes we led with our hearts. Because sometimes intentional language doesn’t always require polish. It can simply be about admitting what you don’t know, what you dare to believe and what you need.   


Once we recognize that effective transformation is human-centered, then we must also consider how language — the most human thing we do — can best support that transformation. The obvious, most exciting moments for intentional language sit within the Soul element of our model. The motivational speeches and fresh storytelling we share to inspire. But language touches every corner of an organization, which presents endless opportunities to choose the right words for the right purpose. Leaders who see its holistic impact and consider the four elements of DNA, Mind, Body and Soul will turn language into a true force for change. What words will you choose today? 

Would you like to better understand how language can be a true force for change in your organization? Our expert team can help, get in touch today. 


Is Asia Ready for the Future of Work?

Top-line results and corporate culture haven’t yet been the main driver of transformation in Asia. That’s changing.

57 min

Introducing a Human-Centered Model for Change

Pulling on insights from their latest global research study, “Fit for Change: Driving Growth & Transformation for the Future of Work,” the speakers propose a way forward for leaders of transformation to accommodate change while getting your organization fit for the future of work in Asia.

Thank you for your interest in our webinar. You can also download the presentation deck here. If you’d like to learn more about increasing your organization’s change fitness to support long-term growth and resilience then get in touch with us today.


From Well-being to Well-doing: 5 Steps to Fuel the Resilience of Your Workforce

By encouraging teams to be human and empathetic, companies can reduce turnover and increase productivity.

Employees now expect far more from their employers than just a paycheck. Today’s reality is that peeking behind the velvet curtain of an organization is as easy as logging on to Glassdoor, so those looking to attract and retain the best talent are having to think really carefully about their approach to employee well-being. A shiny manifesto on the company website certainly isn’t going to cut it any longer. 

In our recent report, Fit for Change: Driving Growth and Transformation in the Future of Work, our Organization and Culture practice unpacked the primary forces shaping cultural change and the message was clear: employee well-being and mental health are the top drivers and, in addition to this, 71% of the companies we surveyed stated that well-being will increase in importance over the next three years.  

“Employee well-being right now is a given and I don’t think that will stop on the day we vaccinate everyone.”

– Quick Service Restaurant Executive (UK)

This isn’t new. In 1943, Maslow noted that before people can be their best, they need to have their physiological and safety needs met. The pandemic put a spotlight not only on physical safety but mental safety too. The virus created a universal health risk, creating new standards such as social distancing and face coverings, while also exposing the less frequently discussed challenges of isolation and depression. This impact has been especially felt by minorities and women – groups that have already been challenged by traditional ways of working and broader socio-economic issues.

Organizations had to pivot to meet safety needs swiftly – most taking on, at minimum, the physical safety concerns of their people. The recent announcement from the Biden administration to enforce the OSHA policy of protecting employees from ‘grave danger’ has raised the safety standard and also calls into question the role of government and business on individuals’ care.  

What is clear, however, is that employees – and the world – are paying attention to companies that fail to care for their people. For example, Amazon has a history of creating challenging environments for its employees, however, the pandemic made that oversight even more severe. A damning exposé from the New York Times featured several major missteps, including failing to disclose the number of cases occurring at warehouses, causing many individuals to be unaware of just how at risk they were. One New York warehouse had at least 700 confirmed cases of COVID-19 between March 2020 and March 2021. When it came to Amazon’s duty of care to its employees, not even the minimum needs were being met.   

However, the risks of not protecting your people extend beyond the obvious moral responsibility. New research by SilverCloud Health found that 46% of its survey respondents chose to quit or considered quitting a job due to mental health needs, a stat that will only serve to accelerate the ’Great Resignation’ if companies don’t create holistic wellness game plans.  

Being a leading employer committed to your employees’ wellbeing has significant benefits:   

  • Reduced turnover: According to Mercer’s 2017 National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plan, employers who create cultures of health see 11% lower turnover than employers who did little to prioritize employee well-being.  
  • Improving performance: Employees with high well-being are almost twice as likely to be engaged and enjoy their work.

So, what can you do to make sure you’re building a resilient organization, leading with the wellbeing of your people?   

  • Listen between the lines: These are unparalleled times and the impact of new ways of working are surfacing new issues. By now, organizations have hopefully addressed the physical safety needs of their people, but leaders should be paying attention to the broader set of well-being needs. According to the same research by SilverCloud, when U.S. employees say they are okay, 84% don’t always mean it and 37% mean it less than half the time. Employees can be reluctant to share if they fear retaliation or don’t believe anything will come from being honest. Leaders need to be trained to listen without consequences to build a culture of trust, especially within HR where employees can be skeptical of their motivations. Also, organizations need to create more safe spaces and forums for employees to share their challenges in and out of work and build in additional mechanisms to recognize where employees need help, even if they’re not directly saying it.
    “You have to balance introversion and extroversion in a remote environment. Find ways to reach out to people to make sure they are okay without asking too much of them. Open up happy hours and let people join if they want or don’t want to. And if managers know people struggle with mental health, reach out to them.” – a GVP of Strategy & Operations
  • Be human first, then a leader: To create an environment where people feel safe to express what they need and take advantage of resources, employees should see those behaviors modeled from the top. Leaders should be transparent and vulnerable – sharing the resources they use and how they are feeling. At the same time, be empathetic, recognizing that some will have very different challenges than others within their organizations. There are some organizations that are going above and beyond by not just creating more supportive leaders, but also creating roles for leaders to focus on organizational wellness. Deloitte, for example, just appointed its first Chief Wellness Officer.
    “It’s about empathizing with associates and what they’re dealing with. Empathizing with the fact that different people may be having different experiences and recognizing how real that is.” – Medical Products Executive 
  • Build a stronger organizational “Body” to build healthier human bodies: The Body, or an organization’s systems, is core to providing the support needed by employees, especially in terms of benefits and programs. Meaningful change must happen at multiple levels across your organization. At the corporate level, there should be ongoing innovations to address broader well-being. According to a recent report, The Future of Benefits, by, 57% of senior leaders said that care benefits are being considered a higher priority by organizations to better support their employees in both work and life. Also, 63% of respondents said they plan to increase their company’s already existing childcare benefits. Employer-sponsored benefits can also be supplemented by new solutions from companies like Peloton and Noom.
  • Work in a way that works best for you: Benefits from the top are critical, but true change will happen locally within teams. Our research report has found that a key fundamental to change requires businesses to push decision rights downward and this is true when creating a culture of well-being. Teams should be given the flexibility to build well-being solutions into their day-to-day, implementing ‘meeting-free blocks’, full team days off and whatever else is needed.
    “Employees need to feel empowered and responsible for managing their work and the flex time. We are getting people to understand that they’re going to have more flexibility, focus on getting the work done and allowing teams to feel like teams.” – EVP of Stewardship, Global CPG Brand
  • If you change nothing, nothing will change: Your employees’ well-being is constantly evolving and so too should your efforts to meet them. Consider external factors like time of year or the state of your hybrid work. What employees need in summer will vary from winter, so respond and support accordingly. And don’t be afraid to try and pilot new programs to demonstrate your continued investment in your people. Prophet’s Change Fitness model, shows the most resilient organizations embrace experimentation – rather than simply creating new programs to overcome challenges. So, organizations should focus on evolving in partnership to continue getting the best from their people. 


The war for talent has never been hotter and employees should be prioritizing the health and well-being of themselves and their families. Human-centered organizations put people at the center of their business – creating a system of ‘well-doing’, not just well-being. And in doing so, they create a culture where people can focus on higher-order issues to stay resilient when needed most.  

If you’d like to build a more resilient organization that prioritizes employee well-being, our Organization & Culture experts can help, get in touch today. 


4 Critical Steps for Organizational Transformation Success

To keep moving forward, stop time-wasting and micromanaging. Focus instead on new capabilities.

The definition of insanity is repeating the same thing multiple times and expecting a different result. And we’ve all read multiple research reports stating that up to 70% of transformation initiatives fail. But if so many of these change efforts don’t succeed, why are so many companies repeatedly using methods that produce such poor results?  

The traditional approach to major organizational change (e.g., driving a culture shift to increase customer-centricity or an enterprise digital transformation) was to create a broad strategy and a robust business case. This effort could take four to six months in a large organization. Once finally approved and budgeted, companies used lengthy approaches to define the details and a roadmap that would eat yet another six months. By this time, customer needs inevitably continued to evolve and more agile competitors were already winning in the market.  

Can you see what is wrong with this picture? How insane is it to make such a significant investment of time, effort and resources, only to be outpaced and fail to achieve your business’s goals? How might we better deliver true transformation and real business results in this era of constant disruption?  

1. Say Goodbye to Wasting Time and Hello to Unlocking Value

Prophet’s 2021 global research study “Fit for Change: Driving Growth and Transformation in the New Future of Work” demonstrates that setting a powerful and actionable future-looking ambition accelerates an organization’s success. It is also one of the biggest levers in Prophet’s Change Fitness Model, a modern model for transformational change management. This offers a framework to assess the varying levels of capabilities for individuals, teams, leaders and the organization as a whole. Most importantly, it is fundamental for organizations to set a clear, flexible roadmap. Conversely, backward-looking analysis is neither an accelerator nor a fundamental. Setting an ambition and roadmap can be done as quickly as four to six weeks.  

2. Get Off the Training Treadmill and Ride the Capability Escalator

​The average spend on workplace training per employee worldwide increased more than 20% from 2008 to 2019. The old way of upskilling talent was to invest a lot of money on training before starting the new work. Yet, that money is better spent wrapping your team with experienced professionals who can model the right mindsets, behaviors and transfer skills, creating opportunities to fuel upskilling through the foundation of trust. Importantly, this foundation of trust fosters the psychological safety needed for employees to experiment and adopt new ways of working – a skillset our global research study suggests is critical to successful change efforts. Trust in your experienced professionals, trust in your talent and trust in them, now

3. Master the Present and Create the Future  

Stop focusing on the current state. When you do that, you lose sight of the future. Instead, hold a destination session – what do you want people to say about your company 5-10 years from now? Too many transformations either solve today’s problems and therefore are a game of catch-up or, conversely, they only focus on problems 10 years out. A narrow focus only on the challenges of today suggests you’re not serious about transformative change. And a focus only on farther horizons might suggest the work is academic. Either misstep risks diminishing belief amongst colleagues that transformation is real or even possible. You must craft a compelling future-back strategy even as you address immediate challenges.  

4. Stop Helicopter Parenting – the Teams Will Be All Right

The old approach to creating new ways of working to foster a transformation was to either sequester a disruptive team of new hires, consultants and current high potential employees away from the main organization or wait and reorganize teams to support the roadmap you spent months building. 

“Self-organized teams decide how to meet deadlines, which results in faster delivery, increased agility, and higher employee satisfaction.”

The modern approach is to short circuit your current operating model and organizational challenges by utilizing agile methods in cross-functional pods and squads model – starting the work now with the resources you have now. These are self-organizing teams where members get to decide among themselves who does what and the team is empowered to remove their own barriers. Self-organized teams decide how to meet deadlines, which results in faster delivery, increased agility, and higher employee satisfaction. 


If you’re hungry for transformation in action, we believe that the most important shift for success is the mindset. We must encourage our teams to feel comfortable with a Minimal Viable Product (MVP), even when everything isn’t framed to perfection. It’s better to be committed to moving forward than be stuck in the old world of arduous, linear plans – especially when time is no longer on our side. It’s time to make experimentation our friend and commit to a new, agile path in service of your transformation destination. 

If you’re looking to fast-track and short circuit your transformation, reach out to our Organization and Culture experts today and hear how we are helping clients just like you.  


Transforming Healthcare: The Forces That Redefine Work and Culture

It requires centering brands on a strategic purpose to create shared value and engaging brand experiences.

The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated that all types of healthcare organizations—pharmaceuticals and biotechs, health insurers and hospital systems, device and equipment manufacturers—could change successfully, at scale and with great speed. Despite the formidable challenges, many organizations were effective in taking deliberate steps to upend historical ways of working and cultural norms.

This research dives into the industry’s change readiness and synthesizes perspectives on culture transformation from 70+ senior leaders across healthcare sectors.

Read this report to gain deeper insights on:

  • The external forces that are expected to create enduring changes in organizational cultures
  • Tips for how healthcare and life sciences organizations can prepare for future evolution by instilling adaptability and resilience in their people and teams
  • A recommended path forward that enables leaders to drive successful and lasting transformation

The analysis and recommendations captured in this dynamic report will help executives advance the lessons forward by building stronger cultures and teams while accelerating their transformation journeys.

Download the report below.

Download Transforming Healthcare: The Forces That Redefine Work and Culture

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Thank you for your interest in Prophet’s research!


The Future of Work is Here

Cultural transformations come from understanding that organizations, like people, have a mind, body and soul.

59 min

Get Your Organization Fit for the Future of Work

Pulling on insights from their latest global research study, “Fit for Change: Driving Growth & Transformation for the Future of Work,” the speakers set out a way forward for leaders of transformation by sharing the primary areas to invest now to build the critical capacity to accommodate change while getting your organization fit for the future of work.

Thank you for your interest in our webinar. If you’d like to learn more about increasing your organization’s change fitness to support long-term growth and resilience then get in touch with us today.


A Model for Transformational Change Management in a Post-Pandemic World

Transformation calls for a level of organizational fitness that’s radically different. How ready are you?

The past year has shown the critical capacity organizations need to build for change. The COVID-19 crisis saw many organizations forced to adapt business models, embrace new ways of working and instill a more digital culture mindset. As we see the light at the end of the tunnel, the focus for organizations should be on developing a resilient approach to transformational change management that outlasts the pandemic and supports ongoing transformation. This means that companies need an enhanced approach to change management to ensure they have the agility to reinvent themselves more frequently in this disruptive age.

The Shortcomings of Outdated Change Management Models

It’s been 25 years since the advent of change management and organizations are facing the reality that change is more than a single event to be overcome. It’s now apparent that the incessant onslaught and acceleration of technological advancement requires a new perspective if organizations are to thrive in this environment. Even today, change models (e.g., Kotter, ADKAR) mostly posit some return to stasis and require their deployment in never-ending waves of programmatic change. There must be a better way.

A Modern Model for Transformational Change Management and Organizational Fitness

What is to be done? How might we build the organizational resilience required to not just “manage change” but rather to collectively engage with a positive mindset? And it’s not just technological shifts we need to prepare for, as we know that the forces of remote work, climate change, environmental sustainability, stakeholder capitalism and social justice movements will be impacting us for years. But there will inevitably be others. How might we navigate the many unpredictable forces the modern enterprise will need to face?

At Prophet, we’ve chosen to view the enterprise as a macrocosm of the individual. We believe it is important to take a human-centered approach to transformation because no matter how digital an organization becomes it is important to recognize that it is still ultimately a human endeavor.

“How might we build the organizational resilience required to not just “manage change” but rather to collectively engage with a positive mindset?”

As we have reflected on the inadequacies of outdated models and methods for change management, we have begun to recognize that there is a new discipline emerging in our field of work: transformational change management. Transformational change management begins where change management leaves off. It recognizes as fundamental the fact that there is no single milestone to be achieved: there are many. The process of transformative change, therefore, is viewed as an ongoing journey, often with a higher altitude, strategic destination. As a result, the ability to absorb change has become a core cultural attribute for organizational growth.

Over the last five years, our transformation practices have begun to crystallize into specific behaviors, methods, tools, skills and models. And those, in turn, have yielded the insight that our human metaphor for the organization extends to address the issue of embracing continuous change as a way of life. Prophet’s Change Fitness Model is a way of describing five connected and ascending levels of capability for individuals, teams, leaders and organizations to thrive throughout ongoing transformation.

Level 1 is where we view the world with a fixed mindset and change is viewed as an obstacle to be overcome.

Level 2 is where things begin to be framed slightly more positively and change is a milestone to be achieved and celebrated. However, our worldview still tends to favor a return to a steady state afterward.

It is only at Level 3 that we begin to enter the world of transformational change and the traditional tools necessarily begin to fray. Change is now a journey, often one spanning several years, with many cross-functional, cross-organizational and enterprise milestones to be achieved and value to be measured. Level 3 is where our mindset, individually and collectively, must truly shift to one of growth and abundance. Change is exciting because it leads transformation into something better: a better business model, operating model, and often culture.

Level 3 is where Prophet often meets our most significant engagements. Client organizations recognize the need for changes to their DNA and as a result, all the organizational components of Body, Mind and Soul must evolve as well.  Our desire with these clients is to leave them better than we found them – at Level 4. And therefore, we seek to design and manage the program such that the pace of change tilts, bringing as many of the colleagues into a state of flow as possible. This means moving just enough pieces at once so that everyone is working at the height of their competence, but not to push efforts so fast that people feel burned out.

Ultimately, we believe organizations that learn to thrive on change and embrace a growth mindset eventually find their way to Level 5 – a state of play where transformation is a sport. It’s an opportunity to find yet more ways to excel, individually and collectively.

Now that we are seeing the world through the lens of the Change Fitness Model, we are more able to quickly diagnose needs with our prospective clients. A handful of probing questions – easily inferable from the chart below – quickly reveal where the organization stands today and suggest the kinds of work that could be helpful to build change muscle and resilience for the transformations to come.


As you look at your organization today, consider the descriptions in each row. Which seems to most accurately describe you as a leader? Which best characterizes how your team stands currently? What about your organization as a whole?

As you look forward to the rest of 2021 and beyond, a few minutes of consideration will likely reveal some important opportunities where your organization should develop increased change fitness. What actions might serve you best?

If you want to learn more about how you might increase your organization’s change fitness and build long-term resilience, then contact our Organization & Culture practice today.


A Guide to Driving Organizational Change for the Future of Work

Evolving from traditional to transformational change management isn’t easy. Yet it is the surest path to growth.

Want to get your organization fit for the future working landscape?

The past year has shown the critical capacity organizations need to build for change. The COVID-19 crisis accelerated many organizations’ re-examination of their ways of working and cultural norms. It also introduced a profound new set of forces of organizational change, putting many organizations’ culture and resilience to the test.

To thrive today, companies need to evolve from traditional to transformational change management across all levels of the organization in order to support long-term growth and build resilience.

The latest research from our Organization & Culture practice looks beyond the self-evident insights of 2020 to propose a way forward for leaders driving transformation and how to make an organization fit for change.

This report provides deeper insights on:

  • The critical new forces of cultural change shifting the landscape and shaping transformation for years to come
  • A new change model that tracks an organization’s ability to transform across multiple measures
  • The three primary areas where leaders should invest to help their organizations become fit for the future working landscape
  • How to identify your organization’s fitness level and the kind of work needed to strengthen it for transformation
  • The connection between an organization’s change fitness level, its ability to take on transformation and positive financial outcomes

Download the report below.

Download Transforming Healthcare: The Forces That Redefine Work and Culture

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Thank you for your interest in Prophet’s research!


Want to Make Your Strategy Stick? Make it a Behavior

Lofty directives don’t help. Specific behaviors do, making it easier for employees to follow through.

Leaders need to consider a broader set of actions, not only to make their strategies more effective but to help better engage employees too.

As a leader, you are defining a new set of priorities and getting ready to roll them out to your organization. The strategy is rooted in research, thoughtfully shaped and ready to take off. Or, you’re responding to the quick shifts of the current environment – finding ways to keep your employees safe while delivering value in new ways for customers. But what do you really need to make these strategies stick?

In his book, Simplicity, Bill Jensen outlines what his extensive research revealed about the questions employees ask when given an assignment. Of course, questions like “What exactly do you want me to do?” “What does it have to do with my job?” “How will I be measured?” and “What’s in it for me?” are standard. However, the most important question employees have may surprise you: “What tools and resources are available to me?”

In this period of rapid change – well-defined behaviors can be that employee engagement tool for your organization. While investments that require greater development take time to implement, clearly defined behaviors can inspire and guide transformation both within and beyond the pandemic. This doesn’t mean over-prescribing behaviors for every initiative, but rather linking a core set of guiding behaviors to priorities and making them actionable in daily contexts.

What makes for clearly defined employee behaviors? Behaviors should align to a business strategy or purpose, specific to individuals and teams and their roles. These behaviors should allow for flexibility and judgment while being measurable. Leadership behaviors can define ways to enable teams to live out company values. For example, they can specifically encourage adding a diversity of employee voices in key projects. Behaviors for frontline employees may include actions around service – opening the door for customers entering, or safety, wiping surfaces down after each interaction.

Think about your latest strategy and its objectives – how are you making it real for your organization and employees? What tools and resources are you equipping your teams to leverage? Specifically, what employee behaviors are you encouraging that reinforce said objectives?

“Behaviors should align to a business strategy or purpose, specific to individuals and teams and their roles.”

Prophet recently worked with a telecommunications provider committed to deepening relationships with customers. But in challenging settings like call centers where individuals have to solve issues quickly, “deepening relationships” would be far too broad of a directive. In partnership with the provider, Prophet helped define three core behaviors that employees could exhibit in any conversation. These behaviors weren’t mandatory scripts, rather a playbook to help make the strategy more concrete for the learner and measurable for the organization. We then applied these behaviors across various high-priority touchpoints to make them even stickier for the learner. Learners were highly engaged with the strategy, found the playbook very useful and are already putting it to use in their day-to-day.

And while organizations often think about defining behaviors for customer-facing employees, a clear set of behaviors can be critical for how employees work together. For example, in response to changing expectations of work from home during the pandemic, leadership at IBM defined a pledge on how to best support each other. The pledge doesn’t stop at generalizations – but rather gets incredibly specific. In a LinkedIn post, CEO Arvind Krishna elaborates on each pledge – taking “I pledge to be family sensitive” to the next level by defining “if [you] have to put a call on hold to handle a household issue, it is 100% OK.” Organizations around the globe are reinforcing the importance of creating better workplaces, but IBM has taken it to the next level by defining what better actually means.

Of course, behaviors require an ecosystem to stick – as we elaborate in our article Brand Behaviors Critical for Leaders, Managers and Employees. Organizations need to clarify the ambition for the behaviors, define the behaviors well, and then codify and connect them to the broader cultural ecosystem.

Once you have a clear set of behaviors, you need to, once again, consider what tools you’re offering to employees. As you roll out your behaviors program, consider a range of tools that can drive adoption and create strategies that stick.

  • Lower investment tools like internal resource hubs with scripts and guides, or huddle guides for coaches to encourage new behaviors.
  • Greater investments and tools including both live and asynchronous learning programs and realigned performance expectations
  • Full system changes and support such as built-in digital tools and AI tracking, which can enable more effective, real-time measurement and tracking


Strategies don’t just happen. And just as they require time to develop and refine, the same thoughtfulness should be put into making them real. Ask yourself “How should my team behave differently to deliver on this strategy?” and then answer the ever-important question “What tools will I make available?” Such employee engagement strategies and tactics are essential for every workplace – the organizations that invest in defining the right employee behaviors and supporting tools will be the ones who attract, engage and retain the best talent in the long term.

Do you need help defining which behavior changes could unlock business performance and increase your employee engagement? Reach out to our Organization & Culture practice today to hear how we are solving this challenge for clients just like you.

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