How we will manage

Is Google an indication of the how organizations will manage in the 21st century?

Experienced managers who join Google from other companies can find it difficult to operate in a culture where power over subordinates is derived from one’s ideas and powers of persuasion, not job titles, says May. Decisions on promotions and raises are often made by consensus among peers and superiors. An employee isn’t necessarily going to obey a manager just because he or she is a manager. This is radically different from most traditional corporations, which have a top-down, hierarchical style of management. —eLearning

This sounds like a wirearchy, “a dynamic two-way flow of power and authority based on information, knowledge, trust and credibility, enabled by interconnected people and technology.”

Perhaps we are seeing the future of work appear on the edges of the economy, as Google is definitely a new economy company. Freedom (democracy) seems to be a requirement for success in the network era, as Jason Fried writes about an experiment to let employees decide what they do for a month at 37Signals.

How can we afford to put our business on hold for a month to “mess around” with new ideas? How can we afford not to? We would never have had such a burst of creative energy had we stuck to business as usual.

Bottom line: If you can’t spare some time to give your employees the chance to wow you, you’ll never get the best from them.

 John Hagel shows that standardized work is obsolete.

Now, think about this. If we reduce work to highly specified and standardized instructions that can be performed efficiently and predictably, what have we done? We have reconceived work so that it can be performed by computers and robots. In fact, computers and robots are far more preferable than humans because we humans are ultimately unpredictable and have a really hard time following instructions to the letter, day in and day out.

We are moving to a new economy that does not value any work that can be automated & outsourced. Taylorism is dead. Stephen Gill describes how we have to focus on work that cannot be done by robots.

This new robotics “megashift” has huge implications for the workplace. Employers will need workers who are better educated, more willing to change, and more flexible in their schedules and work habits than ever before. These workers won’t be needed for simple, repetitive jobs. They will be needed for computer-assisted jobs and for jobs that require creativity, innovation, and teamwork. They will have to be continuous learners, keeping up with technology, globalization, and new ways of organizing work.

So what’s the point?

  1. Shared power is necessary in a networked economy.
  2. Autonomy is essential for an engaged workforce.
  3. The social contract for work needs to change.
How will we manage? We will manage by bringing democracy to the workplace.

8 Responses to “How we will manage”

  1. DCStewart11

    Great article. I’d be interested in hearing your comments on how you think applies in the context of traditional educational systems, which are hierarchical, publicly funded and operate within unionized environments.

    • Harold Jarche

      I am a workplace learning specialist and spend little time concerning myself with the public education system, especially since our children are no longer trapped in it.

  2. tom abeles

    what happens to all the workers at Foxcom which is the major supplier of technology to Apple and other companies. How much creativity and innovation thinking is needed or worth salaries from corps? How will economic systems be realigned?

    • Harold Jarche

      I cannot see the future, Tom. What I see currently is that simple & complicated work is getting automated by computers or outsourced to the lowest cost of labour. Work that is not outsourced is work that requires creativity or complex problem solving skills. I am certain that we will see much turmoil in labour markets for at least the next decade.


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