Organization Design Blog
Organization design blog- December 2013
'As I said yesterday, our goal with XNet is to stretch and elevate our thinking, and to grow and promote a community of thought leaders. The "X" in Xnet represents the unknown, the uncertain, the open-ended, "the space between the question and the answer when everything is possible," to borrow a beautiful line from one of you. Moreover, the "X" marks the intersections, the zones of friction, the counter-intuitive. Most importantly, it stands for the reach into the organization, the ripples that this effort should ideally create beyond this group, ultimately connecting our convictions, point-of-views, and ideas, as individuals and as firm, with the outside world.'
Stirring words there and right on for a business, one of whose '3-year goals' is to 'become a network organization' with the intention that the network will 'generate more ideas leveraging the total firm network' in order to 'augment the firm's quest for value creation'.
So now we've attended the workshop, we've had the call to action follow up message, and we know that
'Our goal for yesterday was to ignite the spirit for this initiative, build "muscle," and spark first conversations. The next step is to spread the word within the firm and include more voices in this effort.'
On Monday I was in a one-day workshop where the theme for the day was "A Good Life" and the purpose of the day was 'to collectively immerse ourselves into high-level questions that guide our work and thinking: How can design and architecture help shape "a good life"? What is our perspective on the future of performance? The future of health and wellbeing? The future of community? The future of learning?'
This was a difficult day and theme for me because over the previous few days I'd been involved in the sadness and distress following the fact that 'Alice ... committed suicide on the 26th Sept 2013. She had been exhausted by the housing and harassment issues she faced over a period of years and the poor/negative response from the authorities. These circumstances are to be considered at an inquest to be held in the near future.
She was an amazingly beautiful, wise and strong woman who despite her very difficult personal circumstances over recent years, gave all her energy to caring for others around her and all those who face injustice in the world. Alice was especially a proud feminist and her work in this area will be continued by all those she inspired, laughed with and loved.' The costs for Alice's most basic funeral were raised by donation.
"How can we get people more engaged, more productive, and happier at work? Is technology part of the problem – and could it also be part of the solution? Dave Coplin, Chief Envisioning Officer at Microsoft, imagines what might be possible if more organisations embraced the full, empowering potential of technology and encouraged a truly open, collaborative and flexible working culture. "
So runs the intro to the RSA Animate Re-imagining work that just came out. It's a great video that presents in a nutshell the issues and opportunities around mobile working, workplaces, work, and technology . It was timely that I came across it because I've been working on a presentation that I'm co-giving at the Las Vegas Corenet conference. The session's title is Keep Moving: The Rise of the Mobile Worker .
The session description reads 'The world of work moves at lightning speed, so why should workers stand still? Thanks to ever-more-sophisticated technology, workers are becoming increasingly mobile. In this session, a manager/consultant, champion of mobile working and a mobile worker herself, addresses key concepts in developing an effective mobile workforce. Specifically, she'll explain how HR, IT and CRE can work together to create a seamless transition and achieve optimal results.'
Tomorrow I head back to Washington DC after a month's worth of work travel: 5 countries (China, Austria, Romania, UK, The Netherlands), 10 presentations and workshops, various hotels, airports, railway stations, metro systems, buses, taxis and languages. At this point I'm tempted to write about packing techniques, hints for mastering airport security lines, methods of minimizing currency confusion, how not to lose important items, and what seems to work to keep the 'day job' going during a period of patchy internet access, changing time zones, and missing smart-phone alerts to call-in to a meeting back at base. But instead I'm sticking with the organization design theme.
One of my colleagues on Friday asked what were the preoccupations and questions I was hearing from people in these various presentations and workshops – anything in common across them? It was a great question that caused me to mentally skim over various perspectives of organization I'd been discussing over the month: four workshops on methods of organization design, four seminars on aspects of the future of work and how this might affect organization design, one session on organizational health, and another on changing the culture of an organization. All told somewhat over 350 people representing private and public sector, multiple nationalities and job roles attended the events. Each event needed a different set of information, PowerPoint, handouts, etc.
In 1992 The Work of Nations: Preparing Ourselves for 21st Century Capitalism was published. In it author Robert Reich says that 'Essentially, three broad categories of work are emerging, corresponding to the three different competitive positions in which Americans find themselves. The same three categories are taking shape in other nations. Call them production services, in person services, and symbolic-analytic services'. (p 205)
In person services have been top of my mind this week: I'm increasingly noticing that what were in-person services are not now. What did Reich mean by in-person services? Twenty years ago he says that 'In-person servers are in direct contact with the ultimate beneficiaries of their work. ... included in this category are retail sales workers, waiters and waitresses, hotel workers, janitors, cashiers, hospital attendants and orderlies, nursing-home aides, child-care workers, house cleaners, home health-care aides, taxi drivers, secretaries, hairdressers, auto mechanics, sellers of residential real estate, flight attendants, physical therapists, and – amongst the fastest growing of all – security guards'.
Look at the list above. How many are still 'in-person services' in your experience? Last week I did the following:
- Checked in and checked out of two hotels
- Checked into flights
- Bought railway tickets
- Entered a country
- Got money from more than one bank
- Bought goods from supermarkets
On Monday last week I was facilitating a session on neuroscience in business at the Cambridge Network. While I was preparing for it I scanned through my blog pieces to find out how many times I have referenced neuroscience since I started writing the blog in 2009. It turns out to be in ten blogs. I then re-read the section in my forthcoming book Organization Design: Engaging with Change that has a piece about neuroscience in one of the chapters. What I was reminding myself of was the number of points where neuro-something touches organization design. It's quite a few.
Undoubtedly what scientists are discovering about brain function will continue to change the way we approach and work with organization design and development. But we need to be cautious about what we appear to know. Although seems as if we know a lot about 'hard wiring', brain sections 'lighting up' and so on which we take as 'evidence' for certain things we are currently in the very early, elementary, and unsophisticated stages of being able to speak with certainty on neuro stuff applied to organization design and development. Nevertheless it is an exciting and appealing arena and one where already lots of happiness coaches and neuro-marketers are doing very well.