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The Shortlist
Our best ideas, quick and curated | january 21, 2022
This week, the perils of work burnout and how best to address it. Plus, mobility sees a rebound, and Tech for Execs on how leaders can get up to speed on “continuous integration and continuous delivery,” or CI/CD.
an illustration of 3 candles
Running on fumes. We’re entering year three of the global pandemic, as readers most assuredly are aware. We’ve brought you articles about ways people and organizations can be more resilient and adaptable. We’ve written about the crucial need for wellness and mental health. But even though we’d all love to move on from pandemic affairs, it’s important to address one factor taking its toll on workers and organizations around the globe: burnout. Whether you’re still working from home or went back to in-person work right away, burnout may have been a constant companion for you or others in your organization.
It’s chronic. The WHO defines occupational burnout as a syndrome, resulting from chronic workplace stress, that’s characterized by exhaustion or lack of energy, negative or cynical feelings associated with work, and reduced effectiveness in a role. As the world continues to grapple with the COVID-19 crisis, the emotional and psychological response to extended periods of pandemic-related uncertainty could significantly affect social and economic recovery efforts.
Learned healthfulness. The good news is that psychological resilience can be learned, and research shows that people who report higher levels of resilience are physically healthier, more productive, and happier. McKinsey recently spoke with Amit Sood, MD, a leading expert on psychological resilience, about how people can tap into that mindset, strategies for maintaining well-being, and what companies can do to support their workers. He believes that employers have to view mental and behavioral health holistically, emphasizing prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation. Instead of focusing on productivity, he says, focus on purpose, cultivate compassion, and give employees the agency to make decisions. “It’s important to keep in mind what makes employees tick,” he said. “What really keeps them going is a sense of control and a sense of purpose. And if you give them both, it can help combat the cognitive overload that we may all be feeling.”
Wish fulfillment. On the individual level, he suggests having realistic expectations of others too. “We have a practice called ‘kind attention,’ where you assume that everybody is struggling in some form or another,” he says. Replacing judgment with empathy, even before you get to know someone—“a silent good wish,” as he calls it—can kick off new relationships with a stronger connection.
Good gossip. Jennifer Moss, the author of The Burnout Epidemic: The Rise of Chronic Stress and How We Can Fix It and member of the Global Happiness Council, told McKinsey recently that organizations need to look beyond traditional wellness perks to solve burnout. One way is to create “positive gossip,” which fosters a type of social contagion that creates positive narratives; think about complimenting a colleague on a recent presentation, for example. That positive feedback creates “this contagion effect—this network effect—of high productivity, high sense of self-efficacy, and value. Every boat is lifted when we behave that way.”
Care for caregivers. Traditional wellness perks may also fall short for a large high-burnout group: working parents. As a recent survey of employed parents in the US indicates, the compound pressure of working while parenting has not only left many people feeling apathetic and fatigued but also created a sense of failure to live up to their own expectations as employee, parent, spouse, friend, or caregiver. Parents disproportionately left jobs over the past several months, according to our research on the Great Attrition.
Call and response. Women in particular are facing higher long-term burnout and stress levels, as demonstrated by this honest conversation with three McKinsey senior partners—two mothers and one father, who took time off to be with his young daughter. One note of optimism, they said, was that we now have a fact base of real and measured experiences that companies can’t hide from and that the most responsive don’t want to hide from. Organizations that wish to retain these workers need to move quickly; in this recent article, we look at focused responses, which include crafting jobs that offer radical flexibility, providing more creative childcare support, and leaving the door open for parents who have left jobs but may want to return.
The thin grid line
Extreme weather events are taking a toll on electric grids. Modeling climate change resilience can provide valuable insights when and where they’re needed most. In the case of extreme wind, the direct effects include the impact of high winds on power lines, while the indirect effects include the disruption of nongrid assets such as power plants. Vulnerability curves express the probability of asset failure as a function of the intensity of the weather event. As the latter increases, so too does the probability of failure.
Chart showing the cumlative probablity of faiure based on wind speed on electric grids
Check out our chart of the day here.
photo of Sarah Bond, corporate vice president for game creator experience and ecosystem at Xbox
‘To play is fundamentally human’
It’s been a long road for Microsoft’s gaming business since the launch of the first Xbox console in 2001. Rather than selling its gaming business, as some Wall Street analysts had urged, Microsoft doubled down and shifted from a console-centric approach toward a “ubiquitous global gaming ecosystem.” Its recently announced plan to purchase Activision Blizzard, the game maker behind Call of Duty and Candy Crush, is part of this strategy to compete in the traditional online gaming world as well as in virtual and augmented reality. McKinsey recently chatted with Sarah Bond, corporate vice president for game creator experience and ecosystem at Xbox, about how what happens in gaming translates to other industries.
Mobility rebounds, but where is it headed? | Mobility has reached precrisis levels again in many regions of the world. But the mobility preferences of consumers, including which modes of transport they choose, will look different in 2022 and beyond, mostly because of workplace shifts.
Space: The final R&D funding frontier | We examined data for R&D spending to identify important financing trends, including how commercial-sector contributions to space-sector R&D have scaled and how they compare with government contributions.
India’s logistics sector needs to focus on technological change | The failure of most logistics functions to use best practices, and the lack of coordination and collaboration between the warehousing and transport functions, are two top pain points. Digital tools can change that.
glass blocks
Are your application releases and updates continuous?
Our experts serve up a periodic look at the technology concepts leaders need to understand to help their organizations grow and thrive in the digital age.
What it is. Continuous integration and continuous delivery mean the practice of developing software applications in a fast, agile, and highly automated fashion. Today’s increasingly complex software applications require various developers to write different parts of an application. Continuous integration automates bringing those parts together and regularly merging and testing them to ensure that everything still works as expected. In continuous delivery, the application is built automatically and then put into a staging environment (an area set up just like the one the app will inhabit when live, though it actually isn’t live at this stage). Then, with just the click of a button, someone can send an application or update into the world. CD sometimes also stands for “continuous deployment,” which means that the application or update pushes out automatically rather than requiring someone to “hit the switch.”
Why it’s essential. Back in the day (less than 20 years ago in these times of accelerated digital change), software applications were created using a waterfall approach—every step in the process took place only after the previous step was completed. As a result, it could take many months or years to develop and deploy (or release) an application. That snail’s pace doesn’t fly in today’s world, where applications power so many consumer and business activities, and developers must continually refresh the software to expand or upgrade its capabilities. Of course, you can’t sacrifice quality for speed—the automated testing in CI/CD ensures quality, and at a much faster pace than manual checks require (you can include some manual checks in the process if you like). CI/CD is a critical part of DevSecOps, the whole set of tools, practices, and philosophies involved in creating great applications quickly and securely, as well as MLOps, which takes the tenets of DevOps and applies them to the creation of AI applications powered by machine learning; these apps are now used by a majority of businesses.
What the benefits are. It doesn’t take much explanation to see why you’d want your applications to be developed quickly, work correctly, and reach customers or internal users promptly. However, besides making users happy and staying ahead of the competition, these techniques also make your developers more productive and will help you attract the cream of the crop because they want to be more productive and spend less time doing tedious work.
The fine print. Putting CI/CD in place isn’t just a matter of hooking up to the cloud and saying “Go!” to your developers. It requires cultural change and knowledge of agile practices to ensure that you’re not only hiring new talent with CI/CD experience but also upskilling your current developers.
— Edited by Barbara Tierney
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