Life has never been so exciting and work has never been so meaningful any time in the past. As we usher in this new era of technology led working: with higher mechanization, automation and robotisation in the way the world works, our existing paradigms of Work organization, Leadership, Talent Scouting & Management and Organization Culture are going to go through a deep transformation. We need to welcome these changes and adapt to them faster, as they are going to be a reality sooner than we currently realize. Technology shifts are fast-paced and businesses are in a whirlwind looking for breakthrough innovations. As I write here, possibly many teams and people across the globe are already working towards the principles, I write later in this article.
Leadership paradigm in an age of technology driven supervision and self-managed and self-paced work, will be way different, with a far higher focus on strategy and integrated thinking.
So, the question is, as we prepare for this new era, what should HR leaders and CEO’s be more prepared with, in the times to come? As I see it, CEO’s, People Leaders and HR professionals are already dealing with a more volatile and differentiated problem than they have ever faced in the classical scientific management era. We, in a way have been living in this paradigm even now. A system where we break work down into logical chunks and create jobs. And then, we have effective supervision and review systems to ensure uniformity.
As work begins to integrate due to the advent of technology-led working, we need to evolve our people management systems, processes and the way organizations work in a much different way. The following five paradigms are real issues which most organizations need to start thinking about, to be able to attract, retain and motivate the best talent available.
1. From Hard-wired organizations to Free-wired organizations: With automation, two realities are going to change continually. #1 work requiring execution, is going to require lesser and lesser supervision and management. In fact, execution itself will be multi-dimensional and multi-faceted requiring higher order skills and multi-disciplinary approach. May be there will not even be many permanent roles. #2, we will more and more see, externally managed and project led organizations, with managerial roles being played by outside agencies, outsourced staff. Internal managerial integration of work being done primarily through technology. This means very few middle management layers and roles. Structure evolves to mostly solution creators and the business managers, with very fewer layers in between. We will find increasing degree of this composition in a not so distant future. Organizations need to ready themselves to this reality. The other factor in making workplaces leaner and less supervised is the rising human consciousness and “Reinventing Organizations”, by “Frederic Laloux” is a great piece of work that points to this direction.
2. From Product to Service Organization: Ultimately there are going to be very few product-led organizations. With societal changes, particularly those around managed living, solutions are going to be the way forward. With integrated home, office & lifestyle management, companies would require to walk the extra mile for seamless service, even in classical B-to-C businesses. Managed services that reduce people interface with fewer less-value adding activities is the way for businesses in the future. We already have classical businesses changing gear, viz. Mark Fields, CEO- Ford Motors in outlining his vision during a recent Business Insider (January 16, 2017) interview talks about Ford Motors transformation to a services organization rather than selling just cars. This is going to be the way forward, and organizations would need to re-align entire structures on their abilities to provide managed services.
3. From Internal Culture to Providing Meaningful Work Streams: The paradigm is slowly shifting here too. Organization culture is no more internal. It is some form of glue that binds staffers who are no more employees, but associates. Associates working may be a few hours a week. What happens to core values and culture in such a paradigm? Organizations would need to develop a character, that appeals to external world, with right mix of reward systems, so that the right people are attracted and come to work with them temporarily. With the changing trend in workforce, Organizations are moving away from the old goal based performance system to the individual based performance and reward systems. Protective walls of culture and closely guarded values will give way to open systems interfaces that will define the character of organizations and their ability to provide meaning to workforce will become increasingly real. As symbols and even the underlying assumptions (in the Edgar Schein culture framework) loose meaning with fewer and fewer permanent workforce, espoused values will be driven more around the individual values and an organization’s ability to attract the right workforce it desires.
4. From Directed Leadership Need to Autonomous Working: Leadership classically is about providing direction and inspiring people. As the social structure evolves, and the collective consciousness expands people prefer higher degree of autonomy and self-direction. People will work where they find added value in terms of the meaningfulness of work. This will require leaders of a different kind, those who may create right ecosystem for collaboration, autonomy and self-discretion. Design work around people, rather than designing people around work, that is the paradigm shift. Dan Pink in his beautifully written book, Drive, talks about some of the inherent motivations and how world is fast moving towards autonomy.
5. From Analysis led gross-processes to Analytics led micro-processes: We are generating data at an accelerated pace ever since we embarked on the technology led journey. Technology will push more and more processes at the back-end. Convergence of data is leading us to the realms of micro-processes. Interfaces between people and the organization will increasingly be individual based processes rather than generalized HR processes deployed across a cross-section. Real time performance management, potential mapping, deployment and creation of project teams would pretty much be driven technologically in real time, with very little process interface. Working to the specific deliverables, competence development will increasingly become individual led processes based on deep analytics and organizations providing, more of the platforms and infrastructure. As we observe around, real-time analytics is already being leveraged in a variety of organization processes including those of HR and there is enough being written on this aspect already.
So where are we headed in terms of our organization systems that we are so used to? Walls of processes, integrated ERPs, hierarchical and solid organization leadership & structures and our great abilities to assign accountability seamlessly across a large workforce, where are they all really headed? Well, we would need to possibly break some of these deep-rooted paradigms. We need to be able to reorganize work and our workplaces at the pace of technology, and that a much faster rate than we have imagined yet.