3 Key Takeaways from Catalant’s Reimagining Work Summit

Pat Petitti

Just a few weeks ago, Catalant hosted the second Reimagining Work Summit. Since the Summit, we’ve published an executive report, a blog post, and an infographic summarizing the highlights of the event, and the results of a pre-event survey used to gain insight into what business leaders think about the current state of agility within their organizations.

I wanted to take a moment to recap a few of my personal takeaways from the event. There were some powerful insights offered, and I would be remiss not to share my thoughts.

Here are my three main takeaways:

1. Companies Are Under Huge Pressure to Move Quickly

As multiple speakers noted throughout the conference, the change and disruption are happening faster than ever. Business leaders need to find ways to get their products, services, and new ideas to market — and they are under serious pressure to do it quickly or they risk no longer being relevant by the time they get there.

“Time is not your friend,” said Bryan Fontaine, Executive VP, Global Operations and Corporate Development Engineering at Bose. “Speed is everything,” noted Wayfair’s Head of Talent Kate Gulliver. Uber’s General Manager Megan Joyce spoke about how essential it has been for Uber to get their foothold around the world faster, pivot it an instant, and disrupt their own business model. With the market requiring businesses to do things they’ve never had to do before, companies need to be nimble.

It’s clear that business leaders recognize the critical importance of speed and the need to continually prioritize excellent and rapid execution against important strategic initiatives. The most successful business leaders work in a constant state of iteration, assessing what’s working, what’s not, and adjusting quickly. As Professor Clayton Christensen has written, those who are constantly focused on the “job do be done” for their customers, even when this means disrupting their own businesses, will find the most success

2. Business Leaders Are Struggling to Adopt Organization-Wide Agility

Although business leaders recognize the need to adopt agility within their organizations — and do it quickly — many are also struggling to figure out how. According to our pre-event survey, business leaders recognize that their organizations do not perform well across multiple key divers of agility. Breaking down key initiatives into project-based work, gaining visibility into the skills of employees, tracking work and knowledge management, and collaborating cross-functionally are some of the most challenging tasks at hand when implementing an agile operating model within a company.

The audience at the Summit asked some fantastic, thought-provoking questions about these exact concerns. Some of the speakers addressed these questions head on. Bryan Fontaine offered great insight into how to develop strategic initiatives around wider business goals. Breaking critical initiatives into targeted projects is a key methodology Bryan’s team uses to executive on their most critical objectives.

The challenge of organizing work requires companies to think differently about job functions. The right unit of measure for work planning is no longer a monolithic job description — instead, it’s the specific skills required to complete discrete, project-based work. Business leaders need to learn how to break initiatives down into granular tasks that can be completed by resources across different talent pools, whether they sit inside or outside of an organization. Adopting a new mindset and new tools to address this challenge will enable businesses to adapt to rapidly evolving demands and stay relevant in an increasingly competitive future.

3. Agility Requires Access to Highly Specialized Skills and Expertise

Access to the right people with the right skills and expertise is paramount to success. Speakers at the Summit continuously reiterated the need to rethink the role of talent, whether it’s by tapping into the existing internal skills available or by turning to external expertise in the form of independent consultants or firms.

“We’re going to have to stop thinking about talent through the lens of talent acquisition,” noted Joe Fuller, Professor of Management Practice at Harvard Business School. Fabio Kapitanovas, VP of People and Management at Anheuser-Busch InBev observed that many of the skills his team needs already exist internally, and that the major challenge is tracking and surfacing the right people across siloed functions and departments. Forward-looking companies are using technology to better understand their internal employees and seamlessly tap into external talent when necessary.

When Caroline Missen, Business Advisor to Downstream Director at Shell, talked about the company’s digital transformation journey, she noted that highly skilled people from all over the organization have been involved in key workstreams. Once Shell leveraged advanced technology to gain advanced visibility into internal skills and capabilities, the organization was able to unlock talented people across disparate geographies with the specific digital skills they were looking for.

The insights offered at the Reimagining Work Summit were as inspiring as they were educational; these are just a few my top takeaways. All in all, the event was proof that while the challenges of an increasingly volatile market are vast and the pressure to innovate is unlikely to cease, business leaders at the world’s leading enterprises are increasingly committed to finding agile solutions to compete and win in the future. I look forward to the next one!

If you want to join us for a future Reimagining Work Summit or similar event, please let us know.