Financial Services

Will the new normal see the advent of novel leadership and hybrid organisations?

July 06, 2020


July 06, 2020

Geraldine Maouchi

Group chief digital officer

An expert in both business and digital transformation, Geraldine has worked in various industries including high tech, telecommunications, hospitality, luxury, healthcare, retail and e-business across Europe, the US, the Middle-East and Brazil. Since 2019, she serves as group chief digital officer for a French pharmaceutical group.

Over recent decades the fast-paced change driven by technology and globalisation has shaped our digital past and present and will most certainly continue to disrupt our future.

Confronting these dynamics rapidly and accurately is a matter of survival for many companies. As a result, firms have started reducing their strategic planning to shorter, three-year plans—often sacrificing visibility in the process. In response to the covid-19 crisis, long-term strategic planning is now being reduced to even shorter time spans.

A holistic management approach based on participation is crucial to overcome future crises

In order to operate successfully in the “new normal”, organisations must encourage and support a holistic management approach based on one common vision shared at all levels. To ensure its successful implementation, a steering management team must communicate transparently and stay continuously connected with company stakeholders. These include members of the industry, civil society, government and, most importantly, its own employees. 

Financial models based on EBITDA (where earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation are used as an indicator of the overall profitability of a business) or “one-size-fits-all” economic policies are neither accurate nor sufficient enough to drive such a holistic approach. Companies that have successfully implemented a full digital transformation have already integrated more qualitative indicators into their performance management. In sectors such as online retail or consumer goods, companies have set up new customer experience KPIs (key performance indicators) such as NPS (net promoter score) or employee experience KPIs such as the number of digital experts in the company or the number of collaborators upskilled to digital. 

Holistic management also involves developing agility in internal collaboration systems and promoting individual and collective “intrapreneurship”. Moreover, companies that have implemented corporate social responsibility and that follow ethical business practices are a step ahead. 

This is why achieving a holistic approach requires both a shift in mentality and the transformation of a company’s economic model. It also requires a view of organisations as permanently evolving ecosystems. In this subtle transition, both digital and traditional organisations should favour a "hybrid" model combining the use of conventional skills and roles with newer ones. In concrete terms, this means transitioning to an agile form of organisation with business models that are enriched and diversified, value chains that integrate digital and/or traditional physical businesses and where management has developed an entrepreneurial mindset while preserving its human dimension.

A hybrid organisation require new functional lines

A hybrid company can swiftly manoeuver and adapt to any changes in its social, ecological and technological environments. The merging of technological modernity with a company’s core values allows for a fully transparent management approach. Information circulates freely, allowing the “consumer-employee-citizen” to have a meaningful impact within the framework of a sustainable and participative model.

Such an organisation can either internalise its resources or have an ecosystem of third-party partners. In both cases, the end result is based on concrete internal coherence which allows for one unified customer or user experience. The aim is for customers, partners and employees alike to interact with a coherent and homogeneous brand, regardless of the channel.

Transversally integrating digital and corporate responsibility to create new functional lines is one way of achieving internal coherence. As a result new leading roles are emerging, such as the chief customer experience officer dedicated to the consumer experience and the chief people officer focused on the employee experience. While these new positions have been created at a number of traditional companies, they often lack the scope and level of responsibility required for a C-suite role.

Other new roles—more commonly found at digital native firms—include the chief partners officer ensuring a smooth partner experience; the chief product/service officer responsible for products and services co-created with each of the audiences (consumers, partners, employees); and the chief data officer securing data governance. Finally, the chief technology officer and the chief information officer each hold a strategic role in the fields of innovation and R&D (research and development).

Hybrid organisations are well-resourced to face ever-changing environments, integrate new technologies and to evolve in line with their customers’ and partners’ needs. Internally, employees across the organisation are independent learners with an entrepreneurial mindset who can easily adapt to any change in their respective roles. 

The CEO of a hybrid company is a visionary, transformative and creative business developer
A hybrid company should combine visionary management with an open approach to innovation; maintain a connection with its internal and external environments following the "anytime/anywhere/any mean" mindset; possess a strong international base to anticipate (r)evolutions; and, last but not least, be flexible enough to quickly recover from setbacks. In addition, aspects such as ecology, sustainable development, corporate social responsibility and trust among partners and employees are no longer just conceptual values: they have become strategic performance levers.
The chief executive officer position therefore requires a visionary—entrepreneurial, authentic, empathic, consistent but agile in their thinking and a creatively-minded role model. The CEO of a hybrid company must be a master of technological tools whilst also possessing strong emotional intelligence in order to keep a 360-degree view of the world and integrate both human and societal issues into the company’s business model.
Furthermore, holistic management requires a clear and effective form of governance. Decision-making processes must be streamlined and simplified at both the top and bottom of the organisation. This internal transparency is challenging to achieve when there are multiple layers of hierarchy. Inspired by the “flat organisation model”, traditional companies which have started their digital transformation have also begun to simplify their structures.
Flexibility and high levels of adaptability are key contributors to the success of a hybrid organisation. CEOs must lead by example to encourage a new way of working which is more agile, more mobile and more connected. 
The leaders of tomorrow will be part of a collaborative model that is sustainable, responsible, integrated and, most importantly, profitable. They will always be one-step ahead as they tackle external challenges through the use of internal levers of adaptation and creativity. These future CEOs will embody and claim their triple responsibility as an employee, a citizen and an individual within each of their professional, civilian and personal environments. 
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited (EIU) or any other member of The Economist Group. The Economist Group (including the EIU) cannot accept any responsibility or liability for reliance by any person on this article or any of the information, opinions or conclusions set out in the article.

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