Dave Desforges began piloting "Work From Home" solutions over 3 years ago. His role required identifying additional candidate requirements and necessary remote work practices for both employees and managers at Sun Microsystems. His current work encompasses blending appropriate technology, organizational practices, and workplace environments to support mobile and distributed teams.
Jim McGee is currently a Director at Huron Consulting Group. He has spent much of the last 30 years working to understand, design, and apply information and technology innovations in organizations. Before Huron, Jim taught at the Kellogg School and was one of the founding partners of DiamondCluster International. With Larry Prusak, he was the co-author of Managing Information Strategically (Wiley, 1993). Jim has both an MBA and a doctorate in Information Technology, Organization, and Strategy from the Harvard Business School.
Regina Miller has more than 18 years of experience in Organization Development, Human Resources, Leadership Development and International Operations. Regina recently launched a global consultancy called The Seventh Suite which assists growing companies bolster their competitive edge via aligned strategy and progressive people practices. Her last corporate job was as the VP HR/OD for Oskar (Vodafone) which has been dubbed one of the fastest growing mobile operators in Eastern Europe. More info here.
Giovanni Rodriguez - Through a combination of luck and persistence, Giovanni has worked in the company of some of the most interesting and colorful leaders in several worlds: the law, theater, and technology. Today, he is a principal at Eastwick Communications, a Silicon Valley PR agency, where he advises both emerging companies and market leaders on executive leadership, public speaking, marketing strategy and media relations. He has worked for, consulted and advised numerous businesses and organizations including HP, Stanford University, Fujitsu Computer Systems, Cadence Design Systems, VMware, the American Arbitration Association, and the Unified Court System of New York. He is a graduate of Princeton University (Religion and Anthropology), and he has done graduate course work at the Columbia School of Journalism and N.Y.U.
Jim Ware is a cofounder of the Work Design Collaborative and the Future of Work program. He has over 30 years experience in research, executive education, consulting, and management, including five years on the faculty of the Harvard Business School. He was the lead author of The Search for Digital Excellence, (McGraw-Hill, 1998), and holds Ph.D., M.A., and B.Sc. degrees from Cornell University and an MBA (With Distinction) from the Harvard Business School.
The Institute for the Future recently released a report called Toward a New Literacy of Cooperation in Business (pdf download). Authors are Andrea Saveri, Howard Rheingold, Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, and Kathi Vian. Pulling from work on cooperation from a wide variety of disciplinary fields, including economics, sociology, biology and mathmatics, the authors seek to provide some guidance on the value of cooperation and how organizations can shift from a competitive model to cooperative strategies for business. They write:
Connective and pervasive technologies are enabling new forms of human and machine interactions and relationships; they will present business institutions with a host of new possibilities for organizing people, processes, relationships and knowledge. These forces will accelerate a shift in business strategy from solving concrete business problems to managing complex business dilemmas, which in turn will require a broader set of strategic tools and concepts than are provided by competitive models. (1)[my emphasis]
This idea of moving from a focus on "solving" to "managing" is rather interesting, because I think it moves us away from the forced oversimplification that a focus on "solving" a problem can bring.
MTV is transforming its media landscape to remain relevant as posted in Influx Insights. The network, noticing the decline in teenage TV viewing, is expanding into content for mobile telephony and online gaming. Smart Move! Forewarned: "Other media brands with strong ties to the youth demographic would be smart to follow MTV's lead into other environments that are pertinent to teens." Advice: Change before you have to!
Well, according to Federal Computer Weekly, it's "employees who:
* Need little supervision and don't mind working alone.
* Have good organizational skills and self-discipline.
* Can be available, if necessary, to communicate with co-workers and customers via e-mail or phone.
* Have a place to work that is free of interruptions and offers a safe environment for government property.
* Live within commuting distance because they will probably continue to perform some of their work at the office.
* Are required to write or perform computer-related tasks."
I think they're right about every one except living within commuting distance. There's only 2 reasons why that would be necessary:
1. The right collaboration tools don't exist to permit effective remote meetings, or
2. Management still isn't comfortable with the fact that they would have to manage differently if they can't see you regularly.
And when you get right down to it, both of these reasons are false too. Unless you are part of a workgroup where everyone is located in the same place (and how many of those still exist today?), then chances are remote meetings and management are already happening. Maybe not perfectly, but well enough to allow people some degree of choice in their work location.
In response to the AP Entitlement Generation article that came out last Sunday, a member of this so-called generation wrote the following open letter:
Dear current Management-Generation of Cubicle Land, please understand that:
1. My generation was misinformedby elders and fortuneabout the value of our college degrees. $120,000 of your/our money now buys, career-wise, just a hair more than your free high-school diploma used to. As many of my peers now lament, A law degree is the new B.A. Were the best-educated generation in American history, yet the job requirements havent changed.
* The OECD 2005 Employment Outlook report has been released. Quoted: "Rising imports, outflows of foreign direct investment (sometimes tied directly to the relocation of production) and inflows of immigrants all contribute to rising job insecurity in OECD countries. The rapid integration into the world trading system of China and India, with their huge pools of low-wage labour, and the recent enlargement of the European Union have fuelled fears of job losses and wage cuts."
* Yankee Group study shows that nearly 50 million US workers are mobile. That is nearly 40% of all US workers.
* Free agents satisfied? 87% say "yes," according to this Kelly Group survey. (This is not an independent survey, so be aware Kelly likes these results, being a staffing company).
It's a little funny: this area (near Marseilles) voted strongly against the EU constitution at the end of May. And now they are getting thousands of new jobs and an influx of people from across the world. I heard a mayor of one of the small villages nearby on the news last night. He was happy about the economic benefits, but wondering how their little village would absorb so many new people (many of whom will be from Russia, Japan and other nations).
Future Tense is about the trends and pressures that are forcing employers to change the way they think about the workplace. We'll be discussing management practices and collaborative tools, innovation and motivation, architecture, distributed work, mobility and gradual retirement. We will track how traditional hierarchies are breaking down and what is rising to replace them. Our goal is to look into the near future and provide useful information, case studies and interviews with leading thinkers. By identifying and discussing the multitude of trends that are reshaping work as we know it, we hope to provide a valuable resource to the people who are leading the way forward.
We have a great group of authors here, and I encourage you to read each of their inaugural posts, as they each define from what point of view they will be approaching this conversation:
It's likely, if you are reading this, you are already living the future of work in one way or another. I hope you continue to read, and contribute your thoughts and questions as well. This is an enormous topic to tackle, but with your help, we can create some high quality collective intelligence about current trends and how organizations around the world are changing to embrace new ways of working.
Our own Regina Miller was in the thick of it. I am not going to rehash the various posts (go read the links above, as they are all substantive explanations), but I wanted to draw your attention to a distinction that struck me as interesting and useful: that between commitment and engagement.
Our perspective at the Work Design Collaborative and Future of Work (my home base) is that the future isn't a given, that we (all of us together) are creating it every day with the choices that we make, both individually and collectively. So a big part of our focus is on identifying and reporting on those leading-edge examples to help everyone else make more informed choices.
Now, by way of introduction, Charlie Grantham and I (that's the "we" and "our" that I keep referring to) came together about four years ago to build a small think tank (so small that Charlie calls it a thought pool) designed to help organizations achieve the holy grail of integrating and coordinating three critical functions (and assets) that typically don't get along with each other very well (if at all). You can check out our bios on the Future of Work website, at www.thefutureofwork.net/principals.html.
Those functions are, not surprisingly, Human Resources, Information Technology, and Corporate Real Estate/Facilities Management. We believed then, and are convinced now, that effective strategic integration of those three areas can reduce the cost of operations and workforce support by 30% or more while creating work environments that attract and retain the best and brightest talent.
That may sound like Nirvana, and hype, but its true. Today we know organizations that have achieved cost savings in excess of 40%.
But the future of work is about a whole lot more than cost cutting. The real, and long-lasting, benefits of embracing new work patterns, adopting alternative workplace strategies, and leveraging new workforce values and expectations have a lot more to do with attracting, retaining, and leveraging creative talent.
We know that's going to be THE theme of the decade as the global economy becomes more and more focused on creativity, innovation, and knowledge work - and as knowledge workers become more and more "in charge" of their own careers.
There's a big workforce shortage staring us in the face as the Boomers retire and shift to part-time independent careers, as our educational system continues to ignore the needs of the Information Age, and as the economy heats up. Oh, and by the way, those talented knowledge workers have a whole new set of expectations and values that don't include being loyal corporate citizens any more.
I'll be writing a lot more about those issues, challenges, and opportunities over the coming weeks and months. And Charlie will chime in occasionally as well. We're convinced there is a revolution underway, and we want to help our clients and readers not only prepare for it, but lead it.
So stay tuned for a series of thought pieces and provocative points of view on what the future of work might look like - and what I at least hope it will look like (which is not always the same thing).
While at the Collaborative Technologies Conference this past week in NYC I heard Gordon Quinn, VP of Strategic Technology and BD for Nortel Networks mention the notion of identity. He said "identity is an underlying enabler of 'presence.'" (The session was called Presence: The Battle for the Desktop) He went on to say that we all have a variety of identities - whether it is a work identity, an end user identity, a gaming identity, a blogging identity, etc...and therefore there would need to be "different types of rules for identities" (and therefore presence.)
His comments reflect a technology bent, but I think the same is true for the future of work from an HR perspective. Equally, I could have been sitting in an HR seminar called Presence: The Battle for Hearts and Minds.
Herminia Ibarra's book Working Identity discusses identity in transition, identity in practice and ways to reinvent your career. Throughout, she advises us to experiment and practice as we start changing our working identity. Here is her most recent article. Quinn's remarks about multiple identities seem to be more fitting; we just have multiple identities even when we are not in a career transition. It's just people's nature these days.
We are now living in the midst of a new world of work that has been predicted and promised from Daniel Bells The Coming of Post-Industrial Society and Alvin Tofflers Future Shock onward. Some of it is as the experts predicted, but most remains a surprise.
With the scope and range of what is surprising about this world of work around us, we have all become equally expert or, to be more honest, all equally ignorant. We are all making it up as we go. No matter how desirable it might be to be able to just do my job it isnt likely to happen. As fear-inducing as that can be, I prefer to treat it as an opportunity for learning and discovery.
Instead of learning to perform a script, we need to hone our skills at improvisation. If you watch those who are good at it, most improvisation is pretty ordinary; sometimes it bombs. But every once in a while, something brilliant and magical occurs that no script could ever produce.
The aspect of future work that most intrigues me is the emerging dominance of knowledge work. Elsewhere I have characterized it as a new kind of craft work. It is also craft work that is supported with industrial strength power tools. Finding that synthesis between the lessons of craft work and the applications of power tools is one of my starting points in trying to make sense of this new world.
The second aspect of my efforts to make sense of this world is a choice to focus on the level of the individual knowledge worker. As much as I have enjoyed and benefited from reading writers such as Bell and Toffler, I frequently end up disappointed. The movers and shakers who are in a position to act on the global advice of these pundits are a small, albeit powerful, group. But what of life in the trenches? Or wherever it is that we might expect to find our fellow knowledge workers. What can we be doing at the grassroots level to operate more effectively in this developing world? Do we have to wait for new organizations and institutions to emerge before we can act on new opportunities? What kind of power or degrees of freedom can I create for myself regardless of where I happen to work?
A final aspect that flows from combining the view of knowledge work as craft with a focus on the individual knowledge worker is the changes that brings to how we think about learning. There is no curriculum yet that prepares us to operate in this new world. And there arent any masters of the new craft we can sign on with as apprentices. How can we go about writing our curriculum on the fly and adapting the notion of apprenticeship to a world where what experts might exist may be no farther along in their curriculum than we are in ours?
I began seriously thinking about the future of work when I got involved with the organization called, aptly enough, The Future of Work. They were getting ready to produce their first conference - or Congress as they like to call it - and hired my agency to help them. That was more than two years ago.
At roughly the same time, I had discovered blogging, and rapidly become immersed in it and other emerging communications tools, such as RSS feeds, wikis, podcasts, tagging, social networking, and so on. I firmly believed at the time -- and still do -- that these tools are incredibly valuable for corporate communications and marketing.
At the same time, however, these tools are also transformative as they work to break down the old hierarchical command/control structures of organizations, giving rise to more collaborative/cooperative network-based structures. Now, it is too strong to state that these structures are breaking down because of these tools. In fact, old hierarchies have been being undermined for quite a long time due to a confluence of forces, including technology, science, population demographics, globalization, education, society, culture, and so on.
It is these forces and how organizations are reacting to them that we will be examining here. I will be looking at them primarily through a framework of organizational communications, which is my expertise. I firmly believe that as we move to more distributed workforces, communications will be at the heart of whether or not we are successful. Other authors here will take different frames, including HR, technology, education, community development, and so on.
According to Office of the Future: 2020 there are 6 skills professionals will need to prepare for success in a future of increasing ability to work from anywhere:
- Analysis: Analyzing information and exercising good judgment
- Collaboration: Establishing rapport and facilitating team building
- Technical aptitude: Selecting the best technical tools and using them effectively
- Intuition: Identifying and adapting to the needs and work styles of others
- Ongoing education: Engaging in continual learning
- Negotiation: Participating in business discussions that produce positive results
While I find this to be interesting, I don't know that I'd call these skills, but categories of skills. To me, we need to much more concrete about the specific skills people need to have (or develop), in order to be as objective as possible when determining how much flexibility employees should or should not be allowed in choosing their work environment. We've done some reasearch on this topic in Sun's iWork program which I'll write about in a future post.
This device and the technology should be considered by HR during the facilities design phase (for open space environments) when the "policy" questions are being asked: Who gets an office and why? Where will performance conversations be conducted? Where will sensitive strategy sessions be conducted?
What is even more interesting to me than the technology is the picture that Rajat points us to. What do you think the average age is and what are the implications of that for the future of technology, design and work? (We might also notice the gender and race of the group too.) Maybe Rajat can get us started with his initial thoughts?
Each week, I'll be posting links to the most interesting articles and posts I find on our topic. I'll also tag a wide variety of articles related to the future of work via del.icio.us. You can subscribe to our del.icio.us feed futureofwork to keep up with the topic (there a couple of dozen in there already).
* I found a couple of articles on municipal WI-FI referencing Philadelphia, which is moving forward, and Orlando, which is shutting down.
* Agility: The Next Talent Management Imperative by Tony DiRomualdo of Next Generation Consulting. "There are many organizational and cultural reasons why companies constrain talent. Performance obsessed managers are often reluctant to give up the people resources they feel are needed to achieve ever more challengingly goals and performance objectives. This short sighted behavior is reinforced by management and incentive systems that reward business results but not development of people."