Welcome to Part 1 of our two part series on the Future of Work: Reinventing Your Company for the Networked Era by Les Martel and Jeff Loher. In Part 1 you will learn what the “Networked Era” is and what it means to you and your companies survival. The authors introduce you to the “Organizational Fitness Lens”; a handy tool to asses your company as it prepares for the coming evolution/revolution of “work”, employment and corporate structure.
In Part 1 you will learn how to use the “Organizational Fitness Lens” to assess your company’s survival in the coming evolution/revolution of “work”, employment and corporate structure, as well as, what you can do now to prepare yourself and your company for the coming changes.
We look forward to even more guest blogs by the authors as we explore what the Future of Work will mean for you and your companies in the coming years. Please use the contact information provided to reach out to the authors with any questions you have or start a discussion right here on our blog.
Tell us what you think the Future of Work will look like.
Recently, the authors worked intensively with the executive team of a global company to determine what they needed to do to survive. The company was sinking fast and they knew it, but they didn’t know what to do to stem the flow of red ink and lost market share. The 60-year-old company had successfully weathered a number of restructurings, but something was different this time around. The Problem: their ‘vertical silos and horizontal slabs’ organizational structure was built for a bygone business era in which decision-making was focused on top-level management. The executive team knew that the silo and slab structure wasn’t working anymore but they didn’t know where to begin to rebuild the company for the networked era. They spent their management meetings bickering over yesterday’s numbers rather than focusing their energy on the real problem. The solution: They had to rapidly transform their company into a networked era organization. This was job 1 if they wanted to survive.
What’s so different about networked era organizations?
A networked era organization has specific attributes that set it apart. The authors routinely assess an organization’s “networked era maturity” by considering three sequential phases of networked era development. In phase 1, the company focuses on creating cutting edge instrumentation that enhances efficiencies in the business. In phase 2, the company focuses on the ability to connect the instrumentation so that dynamic, iterative conversations and connections are going on among people and machines. In phase 3, the focus is on intelligent, algorithmically powered, real-time feedback loops that drive continuous improvement. Phase 3 is the 21st century version of the Peter Senge’s learning organization; continuously ramping up organizational efficiency and effectiveness. Early adopters are either companies that don’t have 20th century legacy issues to grapple with (e.g. Facebook, SpaceX or Snapchat) or industries that have no choice (e.g. NASA or BP). Going into space or deep below the ocean requires really creative, technologically enabled solutions. The 3 phases are visually illustrated below in figure 1.
Step I: Where to begin? Look in the rear view mirror and the windshield
Over the past 70 years the world of work has dramatically changed. How so? In terms of 1) how work is being done, 2) where it’s being done and 3) who is doing it. The future of work has little in common with the past. Today a worker is just as likely to be a robot or an algorithm as a human being. Naturally, the way we manage work must change as well. As startling as this new reality is to some, these changes have come in recognizable phases, encompassing the pre 1950’s manual era, moving to the mechanization era, evolving to the automation era and now to the networked era. Each phase is another development in information availability and automation of work. Then as now, the winners have taken advantage of these discontinuous changes to create market advantages, while companies that couldn’t keep up shrank or simply disappeared. In the 1970’s the successful business dominated its market by creating economies of scale, made possible through communication advances and ease of travel. In the 1980’s the winners used better information to successfully optimize their value streams. In the 1990’s growing transparency favored organizations that were matrixed, flattened, empowered and continuously improved. While each era was an improvement on the past, all were based on industrial era thinking. They were designed to optimize the vertical silos and horizontal slabs as efficiently as possible. Today these models have outlived their usefulness as new technologies have driven a sea change in the workplace. As illustrated below in figure 2, the networked era has little in common with preceding eras.
Step 2: Design your company with the future of work in mind
In the Networked Era, companies migrate from an industrial silo and slab structure to networked organizational forms. Rather than structure themselves in functional silos that primarily communicate at the top, companies organize around tasks and challenges. A networked era company is organized around mission critical tasks and not functional silos. Interestingly, once this change is put in motion, individual work begins to naturally migrate to higher levels as algorithms and androids take on the more mundane and repetitive tasks. Past performance is defined and easily reviewed, so the bickering over what has happened in the past stops. The growing legions of knowledge workers now have the time, freedom and information to focus on higher-level business challenges, adding measurable value to the organization. It’s a win-win for all. The company becomes more open, flexible and innovative with increased organic collaboration across boundaries. Networked era organizations “bake in” organizational agility and decreased innovation cycle time. While this may sound like a daunting transformation, few businesses will be able to survive without taking the leap.
What should you do right now? We have developed an efficient lens through which to view your company’s networked era organizational fitness. Begin by assessing your company though this fitness lens and you will have taken the first big step on the road to your networked era transformation journey.
Step 3: Use Our Networked Era Organizational Fitness Lens
The networked era organizational fitness lens is the tool that we developed to quickly assess organizational capability in the networked era. By assessing each individual component we are able to understand where the company is on its journey to becoming a networked organization. This tool helps us define and understand the value and impact of specific investments an organization can make going forward. While your organization may be doing many things right, this lens serves as the top-level screen identifying gaps and opportunities.
Our Networked Era Fitness Lens as seen below in Figure 3 below has five interlocking components:
A: Robust technology backbone: A rock solid technology infrastructure
B: Right & ready Data Access: The right data, for the right person, at the right level of granularity, at the right time
C: Collaborative Bias: Cross-boundary collaboration must be the cultural norm
D: Boundary Porosity: Internal/external organizational barriers must be low and porous
E: Talent Intensity: Highly specialized talent with contemporary “hard and soft” skills
Please join us next week to learn the secrets of using the Organizational Fitness Lens to make a difference in your company and see if you will survive the Future of Work.
About the Authors:
Les Martel is a senior level Organization Development professional with strong applied business acumen and a keen ability to link strategy with execution. Currently, he is Principal Consultant with Virtual Consulting International, a global strategy consulting firm based in New York City. Les works with organizations to meet the challenges of the emerging networked era organization to strategically reposition their business. Les focuses the talent capabilities needed for the business to thrive and the collaborative architecture needed to ensure seamless integration of strategy, people, processes and organizational structures regardless of physical location.
Previously, he was an Executive Consultant with Personnel Decisions International (PDI) serving key strategic accounts and a Senior Consultant at Development Dimensions International (DDI) designing, project managing & delivering talent & leadership development engagements on a worldwide basis. From 2000-2004 he was based in New York City as VP & Global Head Talent & People Development for The Instinet Corporation, the world’s largest global electronic securities broker. In that role he partnered with senior leaders to successfully drive a wide range of key strategic, operational, and human capital initiatives across the enterprise. For example, in that role he designed and deployed the first corporate-wide learning platform linking selection, talent assessment, performance management, & succession planning with mission critical business imperatives. He also created & implemented the external/internal emerging leader coaching & career path programs in addition to serving as the internal executive coach to top management.
Prior to joining Instinet, Dr. Martel was a Senior Leadership Development Consultant for Downey-Kates International, a strategic HR consulting firm based in New York City serving a diverse range of global clients. He specialized in executive assessment, feedback & development coaching as well as design & delivery of customized senior management leadership development programs.
Jeff is a strategy and organization design consultant based in New York City. He brings extensive international and cross industry experience, strategic insight and problem solving skills to bear on complicated issues at companies of all sizes – from startups to some of the world’s largest companies.
His experience includes and corporate strategy development, innovation, new market entry, risk management and creating effective organizations in the networked era to deliver effectively. Some of the companies he has worked with include: Butterball, Daimler Benz, the Ford Motor Company, Borax, Rio Tinto and Peabody Energy where he has been a leader in developing strategy and innovation projects that drive efficiency and rapid growth.
He is active in the design of new organizational models for the networked era and bringing new ways of working to companies looking to meet the challenges of a changing market. He has also developed innovation processes that have allowed both industrial and also consumer firms to reinvent themselves, create new operating models and redesign operations.
Jeff has an MBA from the Anderson School at UCLA.