Building the future that was promised

Smart cityscape with wireless network . Futuristic communication technology concept .

As consumers, we’re delighted with the evolution of tools that make our lives easier: a chauffeured car, a room in our destination, a reservation in our intended restaurant, all at our fingertips.

But for a long time, our work experience did not keep pace with the technologies and solutions that we were enjoying every day. As workers, we long for the presence of tools that could make things easier, processes simpler, and interactions more natural (at least considering what started to feel natural in this new tech loaded environment).

The time came when intranets evolved into social networks with contribution recognition, easy–to-use tools to perform our tasks and even workflows present in our smartphones and tablets. But just as this made life easier, it also complicated everything, bringing hacking and phishing risks to receiving emails and chats on a Sunday afternoon. We were supposed to be entering a technological heaven, but some ended up in a nightmare.

Accelerating business for the future of work

At this point we should take a look at what companies are thinking about when they bring these new tools to the work environment. What is it that they are facing? What are the priorities they’re setting?

The business environment today is an extremely volatile and disruptive place. Mercer’s 2019 Global Talent Trends research tells us that more than two-thirds of executives believe that the next three years will bring disruption to their industries. But, what is this disruption that they fear?

It’s a perfect storm of new technologies surrounding us, and each one of them could have created new industries. Things like big data, cloud computing, machine learning and AI have the potential to change the rules of the game. But they’re all here now, at the same time.

Startups are out there, filled with creative people thinking about how to bring new solutions to the needs that fill the market place. These innovative types have adopted a methodology that allows them to solve problems and then bring the solution to customers. As most digital tools, these solutions leave a trail of data that can be leveraged to build even greater products and services, which in turn attract even more customers.

As this cycle of improvement materializes, agile methodologies allows the process to accelerate and bring new iterations of a product in a matter of weeks. Contrast this to more traditional organizations which use marketing departments to uncover and propose new products, which become proposals that undergo debate among committees until they reach the final decision-maker. Then a prototype is ordered, a product reaches a test market, and product is to be launched. Everybody is excited that launch only took three or six months and a great event is under way, but the startup is already on its fifth or tenth iteration of its solution. The brand new product is already obsolete.

Putting the important things first

Let’s get back to user experience. Since we’re looking for ways to compete in an agile and fast-moving world, that’s the kind of business dynamic that the organizations should live by. Providing new tools doesn’t necessarily translate into a new way of doing things, and a holistic approach is needed to make a tangible change in how organizations operate and add value in the current environment.

In this disruptive world, agile teams are often used to organize work and get things done as fast as is required today. These teams are usually in charge of a wide range of tasks, from launching and improving new products and services to improving internal processes and tools.

These teams are multidisciplinary groups of people that collectively have all the knowledge required to face a challenge. Those colleagues usually come from different areas in the company and as they work together, they should be empowered to agree on what the best possible solution is and go ahead trying it out.

As simple as this description may sound, to have a working solution requires many changes that companies are currently deploying. They include:

  • Reviewing decision rights to accommodate how these teams work and provide their solutions to the organization.
  • Reviewing the leadership role and the profile of those able to lead in a more de-structured environment where providing guidance is more important than giving instructions.
  • Redefining the map of abilities required and providing guidance to colleagues on how to develop them through projects and online learning tools for them to structure their own career paths.
  • Provide a new performance management framework to give frequent feedback related to project performance and record observations as frequently as they’re relevant.
  • Structuring a talent platform where multiple sourcing models are integrated to assemble the best possible teams, including in-house talent, freelancers, etc.

To implement such changes requires the use of current technologies in a way that supports the organization’s purposes and actually achieves a working agile environment where being connected and empowered fits the entire organization. Agile teams are being used to understand the situation, develop a list of required changes and implement them as fast as possible. This quest to build jobs where people add value is the driving force for a future-ready workforce.

Luis Fernando Londono
Luis Fernando Londono

Career Senior Consultant