A Hybrid Model: The Optimal Choice Going Forward
By Potshangbam July

A Hybrid Model: The Optimal Choice Going Forward

Since the pandemic, “hybrid” has emerged as a standard for not just a mode of work and business operations but also the way we manage projects and lead teams. In essence, hybrid allows us to blend different styles or methodologies for better outcomes — remote with an in-office experience, technology and human expertise, Scrum and Kanban for Scrumban or Disciplined Agile which brings agile tools and techniques together to help a team choose their own way of working.

The hybrid approach promises many new possibilities, such as greater flexibility, increased productivity, higher effectiveness, and lower project costs. However, adapting to a hybrid environment comes with new challenges — miscommunication, poor coordination, digital skills gaps, social isolation and poor work-life balance.

What must leaders do adapt to the new style of working and managing teams? How do team leaders catch signs of burnout? What new skills will project managers need in the future of work? The Project Management South Asia Conference (PMSAC22) from 9–10 December in Mumbai, India will answer many of these questions.

The conference theme “Hybrid and Beyond: A Paradigm Shift” will focus on various perspectives:

• The role of technology in enabling a unified workforce, better collaboration, and effectively tracking project progress.

• The focus on an emphatic leadership style to forge a connection and build trust with team members across locations.

• The new skills that project managers will need to remain adaptable and respond quickly to changing responsibilities, strategies, and trends.

• The need to develop emotional intelligence and a people-centric mindset to counter the burgeoning mental health crisis in the world

Manage South Asia reached out to the conference speakers to interpret “hybrid and beyond” from their perspectives.

Adaptability: The Key to Moving Forward

The most powerful lesson that COVID-19 taught me was adaptability. It reinforced my belief that ‘adaptability is my new superpower.’ I had practiced this principle of war in the army. It easily helped us adapt to the unprecedented conditions that turned around our lifestyles. We experimented in our own ways and shifted gears to pivot out of the situation. I learned that it is not the biggest or the strongest who survives tough times, but the one who adapts to change quickly.

History shows that after every downturn, there is an upswing. Adaptability did not only help us to weather the storm but also surf the tidal waves during the storm. That enabled us to take a leap forward and be ready for the new and transformed post-COVID world.The emerging hybrid world is full of challenges. While some struggle to survive, others, the winners, pivot on their heels and shift gears to create new springboards to success.

Let’s rise and demystify the anatomy of resilience and skyrocket to success. Let’s be future-ready.

Brig Sushil Bhasin (Ret.) served the Indian Army for 34 years. He is a “Military Inspired Leadership and Time Consciousness”coach and a TEDx and keynote speaker. He has authored six books, including “Design Your Life and Million Dollar Second.”

He will share insights on the topic “Shifting Gears: Are you Future Ready?” at the PMSAC22.

Finding New Purpose

As the children of farmers, we were conditioned to believe that farming is not good or lucrative as a profession. We got educated, earned degrees, and worked for multinational banks like Citibank, DBS and HSBC for nearly a decade, but felt something was amiss amid the glass facades and high-rise concrete buildings. There was a sense of vacuum within us — the absence of a calling.

The corporate race had grip on us and took us away from our farms, yet the pull of the scent of the soil was strong. It was like a constant whisper in our ears to return to our village.

We chose to return home to become farmers and took on farming activities as our ancestors did. We established our organic farm in a village called Bhodani in Maharashtra, where Gir cows graze freely on green pastures, and seeds are still sown according to ancient practices. Steeped in traditional methods, we ensure that food is fermented, stone-ground, churned in earthen pots, rolled in ghee by hands, sun-baked or dried for seasons, and preserved just like old times.

A silent revolution has crept into our approach, where the growers and guardians of food meet families looking to find a way back to food lost in the past, and preserve native, natural and nutritious food for the future. Our farming methods are regenerative in nature to improve soil life, soil nutrition and soil quality to produce chemical-free food.

In 2014, Satyajit Hange started Two Brothers Organic Farm (TBOF) along with his brother Ajinkya Hange. TBOF uses sustainable farming methods to grow different crops and is now selling products in 680 cities across the world.

Hange will share his personal journey on the topic “From Banking to Farming – A Tale of Two Brothers” at the event.

Design Thinking and Agility in a New, Hybrid World

Design thinking is critical for high alignment, agility, and innovation in a hybrid world. The future asserts a “tightly aligned and loosely coupled” hybrid working style; however, the present, forced hybrid world appears to be just the opposite.

Welcome to the future of work, where all work is human. Teams will be aligned on a single, big idea and will be self-harmonizing to build innovative solutions while adapting to new information every day. The “glue” in the teams is not necessarily the project manager or the team leader or the most extroverted person, but an innovation facilitator or a stimulator who binds the team over a purpose.

As a design thinking facilitator, my job is to act as an innovative force, bringing together a diverse set of people and exposing them to people’s realities and their needs and wants, and help identify the problems worth solving. We stimulate conversations to generate ideas and unleash the collective intelligence of the team. Design thinking helps the team go on a cyclic journey of need sensing, ideation, and experimentation. The good news is — today, this can be effectively done online.

Integrating design thinking into old ways of working requires a radical shift to new mindsets, and beyond just switching to newer tools. At the most fundamental level, teams need to develop a culture of curiosity, empathy, and experimentation.

Vidhya Abhijith is a purpose-led entrepreneur who is advancing a vision to promote design thinking for everyone. She is a PMI Future 50 honoree.

Abhijith will speak on the topic “Design Thinking for High Alignment, Agility and Innovation in a Hybrid World” at the PMSAC22.

Use of Technology for Time-Bound Justice

Chief Justice of India, Justice N. V. Ramana, speaking at an event, quoted former Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Warren Burger, “The notion that ordinary people want black-robed judges, well-dressed lawyers in fine courtrooms as settings to resolve their disputes is incorrect. People with problems, like people with pains, want relief and they want it as quickly and inexpensively as possible.”

Most Indians do not get the relief they are seeking and usually the process becomes a punishment. According to the National Judicial Data Grid, about 30% of the cases are decided within a year and about 40% after three years. If we do not act decisively and quickly, this distortion will keep increasing.

The high pendency of cases has often been ascribed to an inadequate number of judges. Our analysis of data from the Supreme Court website from 2006 to 2017 showed that the country only needs to add about 20% more judges, contrary to other projections.

One way to address the issue is by using technology such as:

1. e-Filing of petitions, affidavits and payment of fees: Standard operating procedures have been prepared and equipment available in almost all courts.

2. Algorithm-based computerized listing, roster, case allocation and adjournments: Only a 5% override should be given to judges.

3. Hybrid virtual hearings.

The hybrid mode will make access to justice easier for lawyers and litigants. It will also reduce the cost for litigants and give a fair opportunity to young lawyers from small towns.

Shailesh Gandhi is a first-generation entrepreneur and a distinguished alumnus awardee of the Indian Institutes of Technology, Bombay. He was part of the national Right to Information (RTI) movement which was involved in drafting Right to Information Act, 2005. He continues to be an advocate of RTI, besides pursuing issues such as ttime-bound justice and improving governance systems.

Gandhi will speak on the topic “Digitizing and Improved Justice Delivery and Governance Systems” at the PMSAC22.

PMI South Asia Champions shed light on the conference theme to understand the role of leadership, technology, and emotional intelligence in building an effective hybrid culture.

The Changing Role of Leadership in Empowering a Hybrid Ecosystem

Workspaces need to be flexible and responsive to meet the needs of people and organizations. But the challenge is to ensure the safety and well-being of people without compromising on business continuity and operational efficiency. This raises questions: How are hybrid working strategies evolving and how do they affect employee engagement?

Leadership today encounters many challenges concerning work-life balance, social and political turbulence, mental well-being, and business continuity. The hybrid work culture has added more to the complexity, as leaders are now expected to adopt a more humane approach. Research shows that 77% of companies have already opted to go hybrid and 56% of companies allow employees to choose when and how often they wish to come to the office.

The effective management of the emerging hybrid workforce calls for a leadership style that will facilitate the transition well and keep employees engaged and productive. The concept of a hybrid workplace is not new, but the pandemic has hastened its adoption. And now with the hybrid work mode becoming the mainstay of business operations, leaders must adapt their management style to it.

The Role of the Leader

Leaders are not born with extraordinary skills, but develop them over time with experience and practice. Leadership styles evolve according to the prevailing work environment. Leaders have an important role to play to make employees develop bonds with the team. Leaders need to be empathetic toward employees’ mental health during these difficult times. Besides, they must identify gaps related to employee well-being, learning opportunities, self-development, and employee burnout.

Organizational Setup

The hybrid work system will be the norm for many organizations, especially those in the IT and education sectors. Companies must look into various aspects to improve hybrid setups such as communication, coordination, connection, creativity, and culture. These concerns must be addressed as per the organization structure.

Companies should organize training programs to understand the concept of a hybrid working model and call employees only on “meetingheavy” days or adopt an asynchronous work style of offering office hours. It will accommodate employees who work in different time zones. The arrangement will not only manage workplace traffic but also provide flexibility.

They need to trust employees by allowing them greater autonomy and accountability. They should discourage micromanagement and decentralize accountability to create a culture of trust.

Communication can be complicated in a remote and hybrid system. Companies must encourage workshops on social interactions and conversation that will help in understanding the culture, norms, and expectations among colleagues.

Advantages of a Hybrid Ecosystem

In a hybrid work model, employees have more flexibility to work when and where they are most productive. They can also choose to work with teammates on-site or work from a remote location. Finding a balance is easier in a flexible hybrid work arrangement. When employees have more control of their work schedules, they can manage their time to take care of personal matters also.

A key advantage is that companies can hire global talent with specialized skills. This gives organizations a competitive edge and helps them gain access to new markets.

Hybrid working means fewer people in the workplace a t one time, so companies can also reduce office space and lo wer costs.

Success of the Hybrid Model

The success of the hybrid ecosystem lies in building trust, openness to change, inclusion, agility, strong teamwork, culture, and visibility. Leaders must be well-equipped with relevant skills to lead teams. Hybrid work can be daunting to some. But the good news is that our experience from the last couple of years has shown that we are good at learning quickly to deal with new situations and deriving the most from it.

Hemant Mishra has been associated with the aviation industry and has 24 years’ experience in maintenance and indigenous development of aviation components.

Why Technology Can’t Replace the Human Touch

In this disruptive and unpredictable world, technology has been the front-runner in driving organizational transformation to improve business performance. However, the role of human emotions in influencing the success or failure of organizational goals cannot be discounted. Research shows that this finding is consistent across industries and geographies, thus emphasizing the central role that humans play in organizational growth.

Even prior to the pandemic, most businesses were undertaking business transformation to achieve growth, optimize cost, improve processes and adopt digital technologies. However, the pandemic that hit businesses in one way or another has compelled them to accelerate the pace of transformation.

Finding the Right Balance

For transformation projects to be successful, organizations need the right blend of technology, process, and people. If there is a mismatch, the transformation is bound to fail. With any major transformation initiative, change management is critical to the success of the project. But keeping people on board is often one of the biggest challenges. Why? Because either the transformation’s objectives or directives from the top are not clear, people are not aligned to the proposed changes or there is fear about job security due to automation or outsourcing.

Technology will always be a change enabler—no matter how mature we become digitally in terms of implementing artificial intelligence, robotic process automation, machine learning, the internet of things, virtual reality or chatbots. Humans who design and develop them do so with the objective to get work done more efficiently. However, technology cannot replace the human experience and it is not right to downplay the importance of the human touch. Take, for example, chatbots. Customers still prefer to speak to a human agent in customer care to get their queries answered.

Moreover, organizations must show respect toward employees, create fairness in the workplace, and develop trust. Employees start losing interest in their company and moving out when they fail to connect with the company’s vision, mission, and strategy alignment.

Building a People-Centric Approach

Organizations must become people-centric workplaces to attract and retain talent. Instead of just providing career path frameworks, they must give employees a sense of purpose and ownership. Organizations need to consider their employees as their customers and understand that people are the driving force behind their business success.

Instead of just focusing on outsourcing support functions or digitizing processes, companies must leverage human capabilities and sharpen their skills to help accelerate their growth. Employees must understand that each organization needs to remain relevant and competitive in this disruptive world. To help companies stay ahead in the market, employees must be receptive to innovation and look out for cost reduction opportunities to increase profit margins. It will be a win-win situation for both the organization and its employees.

Post-pandemic attrition and employee burnout are reported to be high, which has led to the “Great Resignation” trend. As a result, the competition for talent is getting fierce. To resolve these issues, there is an immediate need to establish trust between the organization and its employees.

Rohit Kathuria has more than two decades of diverse experience in India, Canada, the Middle East, and the United Kingdom across FMCG, e-commerce, mining and metals, defense and airlines sectors.

Relevance of Emotional Intelligence in Building a Hybrid Culture

Emotional intelligence (EI) is most often defined as the ability to perceive, use, understand, manage, and handle emotions. People with high emotional intelligence can recognize their own emotions and those of others, use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, discern between different feelings and label them appropriately, and adjust emotions to adapt to the environment. Some researchers suggest that emotional intelligence can be learned and strengthened, while others claim that it is an inborn characteristic. Danial Goleman, an EI guru, has defined it as an array of skills and characteristics that drive leadership performance.

Studies have shown that people with high EI have greater mental health, job performance, and leadership skills, although no causal relationships have been established yet. EI is typically associated with empathy because it involves an individual connecting their personal experiences with those of others. With its growing popularity in recent decades, experts have devised methods of developing EI to become more effective leaders.

A model introduced by Goleman focuses on EI as a wide array of competencies and skills that drive leadership performance. It outlines five main EI constructs:

• Self-awareness: Recognizing and understanding your emotions — what you are feeling and why, and appreciating how they affect those around you.

• Self-regulation: Controlling or redirecting one’s disruptive emotions and impulses, and adapting to changing circumstances.

• Social skills: Managing relationships so as to get along with others and become a “people” person, trustworthy team player, confident communicator, and a good listener.

• Empathy: Possessing key interpersonal skills—the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and see a situation from their perspective, and having an awareness of others’ feelings.

• Motivation: Being aware of what motivates others, the drive to improve and achieve, setting high standards, and working consistently toward your goals.

Competencies are not innate talents but learned capabilities that must be developed to achieve outstanding performance.

Challenges of Hybrid Work

With the world recovering from the effects of the pandemic, offices are opening up again, making the hybrid work model more prevalent.

According to a survey done by the Whitaker Institute, a staggering 94% of respondents said they would like to continue to work remotely once the crisis ends and 52% said they worked more hours since beginning remote work.

The imperatives for a successful hybrid model are trust and accountability, both of which fall in the domain of EI.

How EI Helps in Negotiating the Hybrid Model

Travis Bradberry, author of “Emotional Intelligence 2.0,” states that a lack of emotional intelligence among leadership can cause significant damage to an organization.

Here are a few ways to get started with EI:

Develop more empathy by getting to know the team better.

Reflect on how the week went, how situations affected you and how you affected others.

Work on your own blind spots.

Diagnose your team constitution (refer to the Thomas-Kilmann Instrument).

Be a transparent and unambiguous communicator.

Encourage a culture of openness and feedback.

Practice servant leadership, be proactive and be a problem-solver.

Develop awareness of intrapersonal traits.

Create an inclusive and engaging environment that makes people feel safe to express themselves.

Ensure more innovative, creative, and diverse thinking for strengthening teams and organizational outcomes.

Steps to Build Emotional Intelligence

EI can be developed and honed over time. Here are some steps that help individuals, teams, and organizations build EI:

Use one-on-one meetings and downtime to develop empathy and learn about employees on a personal level.

Give equal focus to human capabilities, as much as you would to develop technical capabilities.

Develop learning paths and space to engage and grow enduring, innate human capabilities, including curiosity, imagination, creativity, empathy, and resilience. Embed them into the flow of work.

Encourage self-awareness through self-reflection.

Reward empathy through self-awareness (how our actions impact others).

Develop an environment that supports people to engage with others.

Apply technology capabilities to mine data for insights and sentiment that can help leaders and the organization demonstrate EI.

Substitute “cold and dry policies” with practical and implementable EI programs.

Make employee well-being and mental health a part of the organization’s key responsible areas.

With an overall experience of 21 years in telecom services, Vineet Kumar Chandra is a lead Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification instructor at Nokia and has trained more than 750 emplo yees in the company.