Our high-tech, rapidly changing post-globalisation economy demands the complete rethinking of current leadership and business models, according to Pieter Steyn, principal and founder of Cranefield College.
‘A massive mind shift is required to develop “collaboratist” leaders and cross-functional virtual network partnerships so organisations of all sizes can flourish in the Fourth Industrial Revolution,’ he says. ‘The challenge of Industry 4.0 is primarily not a technological one but related to leadership, as most leaders seem to be stuck in an outdated Industry 3.0 or even 2.0 mindset.’
Cranefield College’s project and programme-management courses prepare students for this new leadership paradigm – which Steyn already forecast two decades ago when he published research that outlined Industry 4.0 and the need for organisations to replace their rigid, bureaucratic silo structures with fully cross-functional, flexible value chains.
As a distance-learning, private higher-education institution, Cranefield has long established itself internationally as a leader in the field of project, programme, portfolio and value-chain management. The academic programmes offer qualifications ranging from advanced and postgrad diplomas to master’s degrees and PhDs.
All are accredited by the South African Council on Higher Education and have ISO 9001 certification as well as H+ recognition, putting Cranefield’s qualifications on par with any German university. In addition, there is a wide range of short courses for senior professionals that can also be customised for corporate in-house training.
All classes are streamed live online from the main tuition centre in Midrand, Gauteng, which allows local and international students to interact with lecturers in real-time, regardless of their geographic location. ‘In all our programmes we focus on developing project and programme management acumen, which is the catalyst for Industry 4.0 business success,’ according to Steyn. ‘It delivers the methodology to lead, manage and govern the cross-functional processes of new organisational forms and the associated virtual networks of partners.’ He explains that future-fit organisations will need to collaborate with partners in virtual networks, focusing on their core business while their partners perform non-core tasks.
‘We call this “collaboratism” – a collaborative form of capitalism in which you “stick to your knitting”, and for everything outside your core competencies, you collaborate with partners,’ says Steyn. ‘It’s a win-win situation because it leads to improved organisational performance and competitiveness for you as well as your partners. ‘The wonderful thing about working in virtual networks of partners is that it stimulates growth of small and medium-sized enterprises and creates jobs.’
The four aspects most affected by Industry 4.0 are customer expectations, product and service enhancement, collaborative innovation, and organisational forms. While Industry 3.0 was run by participative ‘servant’ leaders, the future needs ‘super transformational’ collaboratist leaders who see beyond isolated facts to make decisions for the common good. They intuitively have to cope with knowing why things are happening; how to proceed dealing with them; what needs to be done; as well as who should do it and when, to mitigate risk and achieve performance.
Steyn explains that a strong value system and ethical behaviour are crucial to this. Collaboratist leaders are therefore the guardians of their company’s value system, acting as role models who motivate employees and encourage a positive mindset of co-operation, accountability and team-based success.
‘Private organisations as well as state-owned companies and municipalities that don’t have a collaboratist leader on board will be vulnerable to corruption and mismanagement. In short, they will be fatally flawed,’ he says, adding that collaboratist leaders ‘strongly focus on what researchers call the eight dimensions of a psychological climate, which are trust, support, innovation, cohesion, autonomy, recognition, fairness and pressure.
For performance excellence, these leaders must create cohesion within their organisations and display integrity, ethical behaviour, honesty and truthfulness. They will need to be open, share their ideas willingly and support others in order to advance the innovation ecosystems of the new economy’.
While they don’t need to be technology experts, they must possess a good understanding of what key enabling technologies (such as IoT, robotics and AI) can do for both production and service industries. Also, collaborative leaders should role model autonomy and not be too controlling, to encourage others in their virtual networks to make their own decisions and take responsibility.
‘The other dimensions such as fairness, recognition and pressure were highly prevalent in the servant-leadership era and remain relevant to collaboratist leadership, albeit less profoundly,’ says Steyn. ‘These characteristics constitute the ultimate talents that modern-day organisations can utilise to become highly competitive and achieve superior performance. Moreover, innovative governance and creative organisational structures and mindsets led by collaboratist leaders must be combined with virtual networks of partner organisations to also ensure collaboration and synergy.’
Cranefield College teaches its postgrad students, who on average are 38 years old, how to develop the mindset and behaviour of such a collaboratist leader while simultaneously addressing strategic transformation and change.
As students put it, the great thing about Cranefield is that they can apply what they learn today on the job tomorrow.