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.
Here's the next seven (big caveat: I know these are broad generalizations, and subject to plenty of qualifiers. But that's okay, since I'm not trying to predict an actual future, but rather stimulate conversation and thinking about what the world would be like if these conditions actually become reality):
8. Work will be more collaborative, less individualistic
People will shift their work activities to their core competencies for approximately 80% of their time. Everything else will be handed off to someone with complementary competencies. Individuals themselves will become less vertically integrated and grow loosely coupled collaborative networks to meet their needs outside their core competencies. No more "jack of all trades." The remaining time will be devoted to learning new skills and competencies.
9. Corporations will morph into confederations with shared liability
Modern corporations are an artificial legal structure created within the past one hundred years to minimize the risk associated with control of large asset bases. As Peter Drucker so aptly notes, they have out lived their usefulness. The assumptions that have underlain their need are not longer valid.
Primary among those assumptions is that large organizations were required to capitalize the investments required in the ownership of the means of production, such as factories. With a shift to more knowledge work this isnt necessary for a much larger portion of the working population. Confederations of business clusters will instead move to the forefront. They will be held together by strategy, rather than by ownership of assets.
1. Connectivity will be truly ubiquitous. People will be able to work virtually anyplace, at any time. Firms will support this flexibility, while employees will increasingly supply their own connected systems, blurring the line between work life and personal life.
2. Interfaces will be more natural. The user interface will become more natural, contextually intelligent and adaptive just better.
3. Technology at home will be integrated and include all forms of entertainment. Technologys reach will extend to clothing and housewares, and personal finance will tie to the shopping experience. Consumer technology (and content) will pour into the workplace.
4. Learning will be driven by the individual. Increasing job movement will lead to greater self-initiated learning through on-demand, continually available forms of education, both formal and informal. The highly dynamic workplace will drive the need for lifelong learning.
5. Access to information will be smarter. Improved tools for discovering and using information will make possible a collective intelligence, and managers will benefit by making better-informed decisions more easily.
I didn't find anything particularly new or groundbreaking in these summaries, so I thought I'd get in touch with Microsoft to find out what was going on behind these predictions. What I found was very interesting indeed.
I spoke to Daniel Rasmus, director of Information Work Vision at Microsoft and leader of the Board of the Future project and two of the students who participated in the conference, Cherie Camille Wilson of the US and Varun Sunderraman of India (who now works in London) (their bios can be found here).
"The PC platform is going to outlive the Windows platform. In other words, because the PC platform is essentially open, it can run other operating systems, and it's open to people modifying it. So it will have a longer life span than Microsoft Windows, which is maintained, operated, and completely controlled by a single corporation. I don't think Microsoft is going to maintain its ascendancy forever. In fact, I would be surprised it it's anywhere near as dominant 10 years from now as it is now."
The whole thing is worth your time if you care at all about the future of technology.
According to a new UK study (Working in the Twenty-First Century), as reported by the Guardian, the lowly office desk is endangered by workforce mobility. As a requiem for desks everywhere, I thought I'd share this poem (found via a Google search on "ode to my desk") with all of you:
In an attempt to return this blog to a more serious tone (just kidding Elizabeth), I want to offer up some thoughts on the future of work. I promised a couple of weeks ago to share some of the ideas that Charlie Grantham and I have been nurturing for some time.
So, what follows is a sampling of some trends that we believe are becoming more real every day (these are the first 7 of a total of 23 "Theses" that we've framed about the changing nature of work. We're trying to find a corporate door somewhere to nail them to).
1. Social bonds between worker and firm will decrease
Historically workers have been subservient to corporations because companies owned the means of production, such as factories. Individuals livelihoods depended on companies and they formed close connections with employers, often for life. These dependencies will decrease because large organizations are not needed to create value in a knowledge-driven economy.
Fewer working flex time? That is the question addressed by this USA Today article. "The number of full-time wage and salary workers age 16 and older on flexible schedules dropped from 29 million in May 2001 to 27.4 million in 2004, according to a July report from the U.S. Department of Labor." Two reasons why: Some companies are dropping formal flexible-working programs and workers are skittish about asking for flexibility.
One way to get a handle on the future of work is to get to know some of those who are already there.
In the recent news about layoffs at HP, several sources noted that Alan Kay is among those getting a pink slip. It struck me that Alan is a perfect embodiment of William Gibson's observation that "the future is already here, it's just unevenly distributed." He is the prototypical example of someone who has been living in, and creating, our future for the past 30 years. Taking some time to examine and reflect on his thinking is time well spent.
Alan was one of the scientist/engineers at Xerox PARC. Much of the technology we use and take for granted today traces its lineage to work Alan and his colleagues did in the 1970s at PARC. Alan is an engineer not an academic; more interested in building things than in writing papers for journals. If you ever get an opportunity to hear Alan talk, take it. In the meantime, there are some worthwhile starting points on the web I can recommend:
My last entry talked about the difficulty in trying to come up with a "one size fits all" productivity measure. I also promised to address how we measure "productivity" at Sun to know whether the company's getting more bang for its buck by enabling people to work from multiple locations. And isn't that really the point? It seems as if all the talk about measuring productivity improvements that result from a distrubuted work program is really just a surrogate for wanting to figure out whether the program is successful or not. So here's how we know:
1. We conduct surveys on the affected group(s) both before implementing a workplace change and 6 months after the change. We ask the survey respondents what tasks they typically perform and how long it takes them to do those tasks. The self-reported improvements are startling for both those that use drop-in or satellite offices and those that work from home:
- Drop-in/satellite office users report an average 26% productivity gain. In this case, the "productivity gain" is how much less time it now takes to accomplish the same task than prior to the workplace change. The number one reason for the ability to do the same task in less time: less distractions than in the primary office. Also, the people report increasing their work time by contributing 62% of the saved commute time back to Sun. So... the people are more productive with their time and they give more time to the company.
- Work from home users report an average 54% productivity gain compared to working in the office. Admittedly, this may be a bit skewed by the fact that a good chunk of the work involved writing reports or documentation, and this type of work is more quickly done when able to concentrate. The number one reason for the ability to do the same task in less time: less distractions than in the primary office. Oh, and the work from homers "gave back" 58% of their saved commute time (while a lesser percentage than the satellite office users, it's actually more time as the home worker commute time was typically far greater to start with).
In this last installment I'd like to approach another inherent aspect of womens leadership that I found to be quite effective while planning BlogHer, or for that matter, any major business or community endeavorhumility.
I can personally attest that not all women are humble. Im pretty clear that Im quite alpha when I want to be. But you dont gather the trust of a community, nor of a gaggle of top bloggers and top sponsors who have heard every pitch in the book, without some humility--or shall we say, authenticity. And in my humble opinion, women do a much better job of falling on their sword. Men, think about it: how many times have you given in to your wives or women friends after theyve said, Youre right, Sweetie; Ill defer to you.
In her essay in More Space: Nine Antidotes to Complacency in Business my co-author Evelyn Rodriguez writes about a shift in value memes, or set of beliefs that comprise a decision-making framework. We are moving, she says, from a green, or consensus-based dynamic, that often views hierarchies as oppressive and establishes linked communities to a yellow value-meme:
The yellow value meme integrates systems and explores open systems and networked meshes. It reintroduces vertical hierarchies and ranking, grasps big picture, and tends to be expressive Rather than create a duality of any sort, it tends to accept people and valueswhile not necessarily agreeing with their varying world views. It is the basis for Integral commons.
When I read about the yellow value meme I thought of the underlying ethic behind BlogHera laboratory of sorts where I personally have been allowed to experiment with a feminine brand of leadership.
This research asks the question: "Do managers of flexible workers manage in a different way than traditionally and then therefore have a different competence profile?"
You can see a condensed list of the findings on Ken Thompson's weblog on collaboration and successful bioteaming.
Basically, the bottom line of the study which is not surprising is that managing remotely doesn't require a different set of skills than managing a team of people on-site. My thoughts on this are if you are inherently a good manager here you more than likely will be a good manager there. All that is required is that one be a good manager and good managers know how to be flexible and adjust to their environments (even though this wasn't named as a competence or skill.)
While I agree with the findings, I think this study didn't fully define the gigantic bucket of Leadership compentencies so it is hard to say what was lumped into that category. One of the things that is of crucial importance in managing a remote workforce (and an on-site team as well) is the manager's job of providing "context." There was little talk about "mindset" and helping teams feel connected to the bigger picture, the brand and the culture.
The other thing that helps make managers good managers is making sure they have tools, systems and processes to support them including on-line collaboration tools and software (although not mentioned too much in this article as a method or means of communication) and good information systems.
The other important element when managing remotely is to ratchet up one's powers of listening and reading clues. (You have to do this at the office too but sometimes things are so subtle that when you are not directly seeing someone the subtleties can be missed.)
When managing a team remotely (which I just did having people in Prague, Nicaragua, Boston, Toronto and New York) I had to pay attention to different kinds of clues during phone meetings - silence, tone, energy level towards the project/work and each other.
What are some of your strategies and ideas for managing remotely? What works for you and your teams? Or doesn't?
I lie about my "presence" almost all of the time. I am on Skype, which I use mainly for IM as I can't get the voice component to work (long story). As users know, you can choose a variety of presence indicators: Online, Away, Not Available, Do Not Disturb, Invisible, etc. Most of the time I am away or not available. Sometimes it is just because I forget to change my status, others because I don't feel like dealing with anything via IM. I can still be contacted, of course, but I feel less pressured to answer if I have a not available status indicated.
What happens, however, when presence becomes ubiquitous? When it is built into every application? (Microsoft has this as a stated goal according to Mary Jo Foley, who is not thrilled with the idea.) This is when things start to get problematic. As one of the commenters to her article stated:
Submit to "universal presence", whether touted by Microsoft or any vested interest in the IT industry, and you submit to universal incarceration.
So when does universal presence become universal incarceration? When users have no control over it. When presence disappears into the black box of technology, it becomes surveillance. It becomes a tool of power and control.
One way around this is to enabled the watched to watch the watchers. If I, as a Microsoft Office user for example, am "present" to my boss at all times (not to mention the bean counters at Microsoft), I want my boss to be present to me. And the folks at Microsoft. I want to be able to choose to watch them TO THE SAME DEGREE they watch me.
Whether you call it presence or surveillance, companies will be deciding whether, when and how to implement it in the coming years. I think it is important we think about what it really could mean to live and work in that type of society.
I thought this was cool: "beauty activates a part of the brain associated with reward."
So if we are parents or teachers or curriculum designers trying to help young people really find or develop their talents or prepare themselves for their future life's work, we we really should be doing is help them find things that they find beautiful. And when they find it, we can help by giving them space and time and help (if necessary) to think and study more deeply.
There's a report on the subject here (pdf download). I haven't read it yet, but will try to find the time so I can report back to you on it. Any experts on beauty out there? I'd love to pick your brain about ramifications on the future of work.
On a lighter note, well maybe not...I wonder why he stopped with the 40s? This is a good one. Could it be simply a variation on an interesting career meme? (I've been dying to use that in a sentence, meme I mean. Hope I used it correctly?)
So I promised in my last entry to give my 2 cents on how to measure productivity of knowledge workers. Wouldn't it be great if we had some magic metric that we could apply to see if it actually improves when people are allowed to leave the cubicle farm and work from anywhere? I'll tell you the bottom line right now: I don't have the answer. But I have learned a few things, and I can tell you about that.
1. Gil Gordon wrote a great summary 8 years ago called The Last Word on Productivity and Telecommuting and I think it's just as relevant today. If you don't have time to read the whole thing, be sure to at least read Section 3 on using Effectiveness instead of Productivity.
2. We've tried to find an answer at Sun, too - both to convince ourselves that the investment was worth it and to be able to show our customers what it could do for them (especially as we offer a consulting practice designed to help other companies learn from Sun's scar tissue in establishing its internal iWork program and to more quickly establish their own alternative workplace program with the help of our knowledge, processes, and tools). The tough part is: for knowledge workers, there is no standard measure that can be applied to everyone, so you end up wanting to measure something that's relevant to certain job functions. Sounds great in theory - let's measure all the software engineers the same way or all the sales people in a same but different way. In reality, though, there is no agreement on whether those metrics are even valid. A couple good examples of functions and metrics that we have looked at:
My subtitle sounds a bit strange, but it was my realization a year ago, when I attended a personal development retreat, and was brought back in touch with my feminine nature. Before that I figured that men and women were the same, but that men actively decided to be obnoxious listeners.
At the end of the seminar, when I was asked what I'd learned, I didn't know that what I had said in earnestness would inspire laughter from the group.
I said: "I learned that women really are different than men!" There really are inherent natures in each gender that facilitate entirely different management skills.
As I mentioned in my last installment, I havent always had the best time working for a woman or being a boss. Though I dont think that failure to lead is a female inadequacy. Not at all. I think that my experiences were the result of bad leadershipboth mine and my colleagues.
I once wrote about an outstanding female boss I had. She was outstanding, not because she was a woman, but because she was less concerned with her SVP title than she was with determining her teams strengths and building an organization that capitalized on them.
HOWEVERisnt there always a however?I believe that, being a woman, she was much more attuned to the underlying dynamics of our team, which had morale issues from having seen a number of bosses and business models come and go. She interviewed each of us informally to get a sense of our personalities, the things we were most proud of accomplishing, and she fought for us when other demands unrelated to our core goals threatened to divide our attention. She didnt assume that she knew the answers before investigating. Her goal was not to kick ass and take names, but to help the company thrive by helping us be our best selves.
There's a great story in today's San Francisco Chronicle about telework, shared workspaces, and the power of technology to provide business continuity "insurance" ("Work is Where You Hang Your Coat"). The story, by Carolyn Said, features Sun's iWork program and uses Sun's support of a distributed work pilot at the City of San Francisco's Board of Supervisors being led by our friend Gloria Young. - jim ware [Tag: distributedwork]
My phone rang early on Saturday morning. Calls like these, from people who assumed I had no personal life, used to come from my mother, but that was before I started working on the BlogHer Conference.
You up? it was Elisa Camahort, one of the BlogHer co-founders. She and Lisa Stone took me up on my offer to help out where I could back in March. Who woulda thunk wed practically end up appendages of each other?
Yep, Im up, I said, lying.
I need you to look at something before I send it out, she said. It was a note to a key figure we needed to engage for a session we were developing. After three months a Pavlovian response was starting to kick in. I had unlearned my usual Saturday-brush-off response, yup, looks fineand sat at my computer to read the note shed written.
Since March, wed moved full-force into developing a conference for women bloggers. The finish line (at least for now) is July 31the day after the event. What started as a pet project scheduled in the periphery of my time has stirred in me a renewed interest not only in blogging and the power of online communities, but in the power of feminine leadership. Why, despite my varied past working with women leaders, was this experience so transforming, and others so disappointing?
I'd like to extend a warm welcome to Future Tense's first guest author, Jory Des Jardins. Jory is the author of Pause, where she chronicles her life as an independent in a series of posts entitled, "Living Without a Net," an often hilarious look at the trials and tribulations of working for oneself. Jory is also one of the organizers of the upcoming BlogHer Conference, which will take place in Santa Clara, Calif. on July 30, and will focus on the role of women in the blogosphere. Shes written for USA Today Magazine, The New York Times, and most recently for Fast Company.
This week Jory is going to share her thoughts with us on women and leadership, drawing on her own experiences, as well as research and other leaders' (both male and female) opinions. I am looking forward to the conversation!
Elizabeth Albrycht pointed me to this AOL/Salary.com report about the amount of time workers "waste" at work and the "cost" to the company. The part I found most interesting was the top reasons people gave for this time not spent working while at work.
Top Excuses for Time-Wasting
33.2% Don't have enough work to do
23.4% Underpaid for amount of work I do
14.7% Co-workers distract me
12.0% Not enough evening or weekend time
So, one third say they do personal things during work time because they don't have enough to do. Is that the worker's fault, management's, or both? If the company isn't assigning goals and measuring you on accomplishing those goals, then maybe everyone needs to rethinkwhat they are actually being paid to do. In my opinion, the company is paying you to do certain tasks, not to occupy a chair. However, if management is not providing these tasks and/or goals, is the employee then expected to just "look busy?" Of course, the employees could also show some initiative and tell their manager they have some free time to tackle something else. More important (to me at least), as the report mentions, where do you draw the line between wasting time and learning from what you find/read, especially from a knowledge worker perspective? If some people can accomplish their tasks in less time, why is it a problem that they broaden their horizons by learning about other things while on "company time?" Especially if the company is likely to benefit at some future point.
All this does make me wonder how this translates into productivity measurement. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says output per hour for business has increased by about 4% each year for the last 3 years. So people are more productive, yet they supposedly waste more time at work than their employers think. Makes me curious how productivity is being measured. Next time I'll give my 2 cents on that topic: just how do you measure productivity of knowledge workers?
There is a moment in the movie "Ray" that highlights the challenge and potential of managing knowledge work and knowledge workers well. Ray Charles is in the studio auditioning for Ahmet Ertegun, his producer-to-be at Atlantic Records. Ray has been demonstrating his craft in his ability to mimic the styles of other singers and Ahmet challenges him to use his own voice. The result is Ray's first hit single "Mess Around."
This pivot point encapsulates key lessons about knowledge work, why it is hard to do, why it is hard to manage, why much of our management thinking is misleading, and what we might do instead.
My cousin Katie is turning 30 in a couple of weeks, so I felt entitled, as the all-knowing older cousin, to offer a bit of advice on a milestone I passed several years ago. Then I started to think about where I was at 29 and where she is today, and the parallels starting jumping out at me. We had both fast-tracked our careers through our twenties and arrived at roughly the same place at 29:
* A great title
* Completely and utterly exhausted
* A great salary
* Bodies that were really unhappy with us
* Passionate about the theory of what we were doing
* Bored and irritated at the details
* A nice apartment
* Single (still). With cat(s).
Being logical women, we did a cost-benefit analysis of the previous 9 years and, while the benefits were high, the costs were high too -- and growing. Both of us made similar decisions: We walked. Katie is starting her studies for her master's degree full time in the fall. I slept for about six months, fell into consulting, and realized I loved being an independent.
So what does this have to do with the future of work? Well, from an anecdotal perspective, I took a look around at many of the people I know in their 30s and realized that they have made the same decision: to leave a (relatively) high powered, high paying position to pursue something else. Those who haven't done so send me emails all the time along the lines of "You are so brave, I wish I could do that." (Number one reason they don't? Health care.)
Thirtysomethings tend to be invisible these days. You see a lot of debate about boomers vs. NetGen/entry level folks, but not a lot about those now reaching mid-career. And I think that companies should be paying attention: many of these people want to leave.
After being on vacation for the July 4th week, I'm still catching up on my inbox. In between deleting spam and responding to folks, I read this Network World article about why every business should have a formal telework program, rather than an informal one, and must say I am in violent agreement. Of course, I may be a bit biased on this topic, as we have a formal program at Sun that does all these same things.
One thing briefly mentioned in the article as a business opportunity of a formal program, that I think deserves much more attention: the ability for companies to reduce the amount of office space they lease. How do you do that? Collect data on the work habits of the folks that occupy the space. If it's a normal office environment (meaning that the building has a good mix of several different job functions represented), I'd bet the people already aren't there 25-33% of the time. So if the individual spaces are empty at least 25% of the time, why not get rid of 20% of the floor space and furniture? And what do you do with the savings? Well, you fund the formal program, so it can, among other things:
- Implement the technology enablers for the remote workers, including an office reservation tool for when people are in the office
- Redo the remaining floor space to create more informal group spaces
- Develop remote management training for both managers and employees
- Make sure HR systems are measuring what people do, not where they do it
In essence, the real estate savings are the primary basis for the program ROI. Some of the savings fund the program office and the technology - the rest go right to the company bottom line. And this doesn't even take into account the productivity gains that will come from allowing and equiping people to work the way they want to work anyway.
SmartMobs pointed me to CIO's article about what Mars is doing with Social Network Analysis (SNA). I am learning more and more about this and just starting to understand the practice and the benefits for organizations. There seem to be several applications for this technology in many aspects of org design, capability building and talent management.
I see direct implications for HR professionals in the Talent Review process. The information and data provided by SNA is important input to help determine who holds the knowledge - and who are deemed as the "important go to people." (It's funny that at Mars it seemed that there was interest in lessening the time interruptions so that these key people could keep working on on their projects.) Yes, that is important for the business and at the same time it is equally as important to put these "go to people" in a special category - that of "coach - meaning one who works with others to extend their skills and capabilities." This becomes part of their role in the org. (It should be revered as a very important and strategic role and therefore treated as such with appropriate comp, etc. - something like what GE did in the past with their battalion of six sigma black belts.)
It seems like these analyses can help us pinpoint who the coaches should be and therefore during the Talent Review Process they can be identified as "Critical Talent." The organization needs to assist the "coaches" in learning how to transfer knowledge and by developing "talent salons" - places where those who are quick learners can go to receive the needed knowledge and skills. (I believe this can be a combo of online tools, processes and meetings.) I still have a bias for some F2F for the all time critical component of transfering knowledge which is the debriefing discussion. Many times companies move so fast that the "so what" and "now what" of the learning is left off and people just move on to the next assignment, project, etc. without adequately capturing and/or ingraining the learning. The coaches would ensure that this occurs.
* While the U.S. still led the world in skill certifications, India showed an increase of more than 300% in just two years.
* Eastern Europe, specifically the Russian Federation, has a significant and growing body of IT competence, while Western Europe and Southeast Asia are also on the rise.
* Canada is a powerful player in certifications, especially in customer support.
* The Southern U.S. led the nation in certifications, reflecting population shifts and the growth of insourcing business processes to lower-cost areas of the country.
* India led in Java programming, while the U.S. led in security-based certifications.
* While Microsoft products dominate skills tests for applications, both Linux and Unix administration outpaced Microsoft Windows Server certifications worldwide.
Study co-author Mark Healy, an independent consultant specializing in organizational assessment, hiring, and leadership, is quoted in the press release:
In their efforts to join the global workforce, these people are shaping the very nature of work, changing the society and the world in which we live. It's important to realize that 'globalization' is not merely a corporate strategy or an economic policy: It's fundamentally a human phenomenon, a new chapter in the evolving story of the planet and its people.
Synovate recently released their Young Asians study, done in conjuction with MSN, MTV and Yahoo! The study covers the age group of 8 to 24 in 8 Asian markets, and reports on spending habits, media consumption, favourite brands, dreams and aspirations.
Some interesting results:
The Internet and digital technology are fundamental to Young Asian lives, fuelling their desire to stay connected and central to their interaction with peers. 62% have their own mobile phone, 45% have their own desktop computer and half of 12 to 24 years olds name the Internet as the most helpful medium for product and service information over TV (32%) and newspapers (10%).
Here's a take on India's results. They are very confident about the future:
Only 7% of GenX Indians are worried about finding employment and a mere 5% get anxious about financial stability,
GenX appears to be defined differently than in the US; it is the "post reform" generation.
It's No Longer the Information Age, Now it's the Conceptual Age
Here's another take on Renaissance People: there was an intriguing article in Sunday's Boston Globe about the need for conceptual thinkers in the "new" economy. Penelope Trunk writes about the fact that the most secure jobs in our global economy are those that require deep knowledge of customers, technology, etc. Information and data aren't enough anymore, as Dan Pink's new book, A Whole New Mind, makes very clear. For a recent review of A Whole New Mind, click here. -- jim ware
Back in May, I wrote about how organizations can shortchange themselves by pigeonholing employees into tightly defined job categories:
So, maybe it would be fruitful for companies to rethink how they define jobs or assign job titles. Perhaps, rather than saying "you work in technical support" or "you are a marketing person" they should uncover the frame through which their employee or potential employee views the world and place him or her in the loosely-defined work boundary that best fits them. Of course, that requires rethinking how we partition out work.
This past week, I have run across three different sources that brought these types of boundary battles back to mind. The first is the concept of "productive friction" as explained by John Hagel III and John Seely Brown in their book The Only Sustainable Edge. The second was the use of "collaborative sessions" in product design, as described by Sasha Verhage on the blog Boxes and Arrows (found via CPH127). The third was Tom Peters' directive to include designers and women, for example, in decision making in his Change This! Re-imagine Manifesto.
All of these sources speak to the need of getting out of the rut of throwing the same old people at problems and expecting to get something other than the same old solutions. Heterogenous groups may be more difficult to manage, but the results could be more creative and effective.
Gautum Ghosh links us to the results of a corporate blogging survey by Backbone Media. This is a good overview of the kinds of experiences +/- "blogging" companies are having. (I am sure this would be a good piece of data/evidence for those companies in the decision phase.)
My friend Debra Moritz of Jones Lang LaSalle just alerted me to an interesting and provocative study suggesting that those much-heralded open office plans may actually decrease worker productivity.
The study, reported yesterday in FM Express, an Australian website, was conducted by researchers George Mylonas and Jane Carstairs of Macquarie University, and presented at the Australian Industrial and Organisational Psychology conference last week.
[accessing FMExpress requires a subscription; however, there is a 21-day free trial available - and it's easy to sign up]
Here's a brief excerpt from the study:
"A new report has completely debunked the purported link between open plan offices and improved productivity, and says scientific research actually shows the exact opposite is the case."
Arnold Kling at Econolog offers a few hypotheses on why 20 somethings aren't being used to their full intelligence level (see posts here and here to follow along) His last one struck me:
It takes a lot of effort to challenge employees. It's less risky and less time-consuming to give them scut work.
It got me wondering: If we believe in the hypothesis that managers are overworked, is this responsible for them simply just not having the time to nurture and challenge their employees? (be they 25 or 55) Is this not the equivalent of eating your seed cord (unhappy employees leave)?
At least in my experience as a manager in the professional services industry (PR agency), I spent the vast amount of my time managing client relationships vs. my team. Billable hours were the focus, and, given we were always understaffed (this was the late 90s boom years in Silicon Valley), I have to admit my junior staff didn't get the amount of attention from me they probably needed. It was sink or swim, learn by osmosis. Some thrived, others left. And in the end, I left too, completely frustrated and burned out.
The Q&A that particularly intrigues me is as follows:
"WM: Whats the most surprising thing about modern Chinese capitalism?
Arkless: Theyre embracing it, and its changing quickly. There are still some old characteristics. They wonder why we work on such short horizons when their economy has been running for 5,000 years. The cities have become dynamic and fast-moving. Theyve got the long-term view and the desire to get things running in the short term very quickly. They still call it a socialist economy, but its behaving like an open one."
This is precisely the issue that Manpower and others in this position need to be careful about when entering significantly different marketplaces based on different economic models and mindsets.
Having lived and worked (as the head of HR) in a post-communist country (Czech Republic) the average age of our workforce was approximately 26. That meant the workforce had lived half of their lives under communism. (They were in their early teens during the Velvet Revolution.) Their parents lived their lives under communism and the significant clamp down by the Soviets after 1968.)
All I can say is that an executive team who has only lived under freedom and democracy their whole lives will see the world and what's possible very differently. It was difficult to have empathy for a workforce whose DNA consisted of living (even half their lives under communism.) As execs coming from North American we lived a different life and would never be able to understand what that was like to live in a country where freedom was not an option.
One thing I wish we had done as an executive team is actually experienced a simulation of life under communism. We also should have been required to collectively study the history of the country we were living in. The debrief of all of that could have helped us understand the implications of the national culture as we created our corporate culture. Knowing the background of the nation and history of leadership in the country would have given us insight as to why there was no official word for "leadership" and the closest word loosely translated meant "supervision." It would have given insight to the behavior of a nation based on their mindsets not ours ala empathy.
Doing things like this could have helped us be better executives and helped us understand our workforce as we were asking them to change their thinking, their understanding of the world, the world in which they operated and worked. I am not sure what "cultural training" is like these days but hope that it includes more rigorous content than eye contact, body language and asking how to pass the salt without insulting the host. (It also should be more experientially based, occur on-sight and happen about 3-4 months into the assignment. In this way there is already some sense of the biases and issues and makes the "training" more relevant.")
As Mr. Arkless reminds us..."They are embracing it and it's changing quickly." It's important to honor and respect elements of the past so that moving into the future "quickly" is part of the natural progression.
I am convinced that podcasts (which, as author Randall Stross points out, do not originate on iPods, nor are they technically "broadcasts:) are the next wave of opportunity for businesses - and individuals - to connect with customers, the general public, and others who you want to influence.
The GILD Blog linked to me the other day on my BNET Blog and I think what they are doing is quite a good idea and yet another interesting application for the future of blogs within a business - as a follow-up to training. It is a blog for participants who attend the GILD program (Global Institute of Leadership Development) which is part of Linkage - a very big conferencing and publishing company. (I actually have no intelligence on the program's effectiveness, etc. - I just think the follow-up approach makes alot of sense.)
The premise of the blog is looking at the program learning from a variety of angles; it gives those who attended a place to come back to, to discuss their learnings, to process how they applying learnings and skills back at work, and to maybe express their struggles and frustrations with the dilemmas associated with being leaders in today's organizations.
(I actually recommended this same idea to a client after we designed a very large leadership development initiative. The client was extremely concerned about the follow-through application piece after the "training." If you don't use it, you lose it?? We recommended "learning pods" where employees could meet in-person and on-line to discuss what they had implemented and how it all worked in practice , or didn't, etc. (And of course these days you could podcast follow-up messages, lecturettes, stories to amplify points, key learnings, etc.) We also recommended implementing a blog to let the managers continue to collaborate on the program learning in their daily life post training. Unfortunately because of other organizational stuff the recommendations are in limbo...but the client thought these were pretty neat and cool approaches to test out.)
A side note: The GILD Blog also points us to two other blogs - one that references companies that are doing "corporate blogging" and the other that references CEOs who blog. I believe this could definitely be helpful for job candidates when making a decision where to work - do I want to work for the company and/or a CEO that strives for transparency via blogging?? It seems like it is a progressive management practice that can no longer be ignored.
Ive been trying understand, and help build, the future of work most of my adult life. Always trying to improve working conditions, to enhance organizational effectiveness, and to increase individual satisfaction. I do a lot of speculating about what could be, which for me is sometimes hard to separate from what will be (that is, its often hard for me to distinguish between what is most likely to happen, and what I hope will happen even though thats a pretty fundamental principle for any futurist).
Anyway, even though Yogi Berra once said that predictions are really difficult, especially when theyre about the future, I am going to stick my neck out and describe what I believe is actually going to happen over the next three to five years.
First, its clear to me that the very nature of work itself is changing, due in large part to technology, but also due to the increased importance of creativity and innovation in creating economic value, and to shifting population demographics (thats a topic I promise to come back to).
In addition, recent events and experiences (like the dot-bust economy) have profoundly transformed the social contract between individuals and organizations.
So I see a number of interdependent drivers taking us into a future in which:
Basically, this article boils down to being able to manage of the dilemma of short vs. long term growth. This really is not a new business challenge. These are the typical dilemmas senior management teams are dealing with every day. (If you have quarterly reviews with your shareholders like we did at Oskar/Vodafone, you quickly learn that short term results are as important as the long term results. I don't think that will ever change...)
This dilemma seems as old as the hills to me and there is no either or solution. It is a both and scenario for executive teams. You have to be able to do both even though they may seem inherently contradictory. You have to also able to show and prove to boards that you encompass an overall "systems perspective" in how you are approaching your short and long term results. Boards want to see the connected picture and it is the senior's team job to help them see it. (At every quarterly board meeting at Oskar, each member of the executive team reported results and long range views for their areas which provided an overall longer term company view.)
Half Sigma commented on my last post to say that remote work is not a good idea, as client meetings should always be face-to-face and:
Work is not about doing the work, its about marketing the work. After all, we are moving to a marketing economy. People simply dont pay attention to a voice over the telephone as much as they do to a person in front of them. If no one you work for is paying attention to you, dont expect to get promoted. Dont expect to accomplish anything that requires you to get other people to help you.
I don't believe working remotely, doing a good job, and making sure others know you're good are mutually exclusive. Even if you're in sales or direct customer support, you don't have client meetings all day, every day. And unless all those clients happen to be located right next to the office, wouldn't your time between meetings be more productively spent reading email over a cup of coffee at a WIFI hotspot than driving back and forth to the office? You can spend the face-time where and when required, but it doesn't mean you can't work remotely as well.
As for marketing time in the office when you ARE there - good luck finding others, because they're likely not there either. People working remotely (at least part of the time) is the norm today in most workplaces. Your boss may not even be located where you are (mine is 3000 miles away). Yes, it's much easier to work with others once you've met in person. Yes, you need to market yourself and your work. Yes, people need to be aware of what you do and the value you bring. The difference today is: we all need to learn to do it differently than in the past. It's not going to be a hallway conversation that gets spread by other hallway conversations. Maybe, instead, it needs to be an email to the entire team explaining this great new thing you developed, so they all know what you've been doing for the last few weeks. Being part of geographically separated teams is not going away any time soon. I figure it's in my interest to understand how to make that work best for me, and hopefully provide useful advice to everyone else along the way.
In a couple of weeks, TransVision 2005, the 7th annual transhumanism conference will take place in Caracas, Venezuela. I am acquainted with the conference chair for the program, Jose Cordeiro, through some work I did with the Millennium Project a few years ago. I thought it would be interesting to catch up with him and have a conversation about transhumanism and what it might mean for the future of work. Along the way, he introduced me to the chair of the Venezuela committee, Santiago Ochoa , so I sent them both the same questions via email and asked them to respond.
Transhumanism is a way of thinking about the future that is based on the premise that the human species in its current form does not represent the end of our development but rather a comparatively early phase. We formally define it as follows:
(1) The intellectual and cultural movement that affirms the possibility and desirability of fundamentally improving the human condition through applied reason, especially by developing and making widely available technologies to eliminate aging and to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities.
(2) The study of the ramifications, promises, and potential dangers of technologies that will enable us to overcome fundamental human limitations, and the related study of the ethical matters involved in developing and using such technologies.
There are a variety of ideas that go along with transhumanism, including superintelligence, singularity and extropy. Perhaps the most well-known feature of transhumanism is its seeking of immortality, most visibly represented by Ray Kurzweil.
I read through a variety of resources (listed at the end of this post) about these topics, and was struck by how there was virtually no mention of work. With superintelligent, immortal transhumans running around, what would that mean for work? Now, I ask that question in a tongue-in-cheek fashion here, but honestly, as we look into the future, the increasing melding of technology and humans seems to be inevitable. So it would seem worthwhile to discuss what these trends might mean for work. Our Q&A, accomplished through email, follows. I have edited some of the answers for length.