Standardized work continues to be automated, by software and machines. The re-wiring of work is essential for every part of our economy. The challenge is to identify what work can be automated and focus people on being more creative, both in dealing with complex problems and in identifying new opportunities. Human creativity is a limitless resource. Too often, it is wasted in our organizational structures.
“The family farm is an example of automation being used to free people to do what they do best. As one farmer said, it’s difficult to hire people who want to milk cows everyday at 4:00 am.
While automation is one of the reasons there’s been so many job losses in manufacturing — taking over repetitive tasks, experts in the field says it’s time to re-think the point of jobs themselves.
Despite automation, the Shantz family says cows still need personal attention. And although some farmers are skeptical of robots are taking over jobs, experts in the field say that with technology forging ahead it’s time to re-think the point of jobs themselves.” —The Current, CBC
What is the point of a job? Farmers are in a position to see their entire work system and make it better. The future is for people to work on the system, not in the system as replaceable cogs in the machine. We can get there if those people in charge start identifying ways to make all work more human and focus on talent development – creativity, curiosity, and empathy – to name a few. In a post-job economy, management is preempting automation.
My recommendation over the past few years has been that every person in an organization, with the help of data and peer feedback, should be able to determine what percentage of their time is spent on routine work. If the percentage is over a certain threshold, say 50%, then it becomes a management task to change that person’s job and add more customized work. Management should be constantly looking at ways to automate any standardized work in order to stay ahead of technology, the market, and the competition. While automation is pretty well inevitable, it does not have to decimate the workforce.
Looking at the overall company balance between standardized and customized work should be an indicator of its potential to succeed. By visualizing the Labour / Talent split, people in the company can take action and make plans before the inevitable shift. This of course means that jobs and roles have to become more flexible and open to change. But this is a post-job economy we are moving toward. We cannot stay tied to the concept of the job as the primary way to work.
Building ways to constantly change roles (perpetual beta) will obsolesce the standardized job, which has no place in a creative economy. This one small change could have a major impact on any organization. It just requires a slightly new way of looking at work, collecting good data, engaging all workers in the process, and being transparent about it. Most of all, this change requires companies and managers who really care about people. After all, aren’t people every organization’s most important asset? Well it’s time to walk the corporate talk.