Rewriting The Future Of Work: 8 Movements To Watch

Joost
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- 8 min read

It’s time for a change: a change in the way we work. That should be clear by now. Many corporate rebels, thinkers and writers join us in that vision. But about what kind of change we should target, and how, there is no complete agreement.

Let’s take, for example, the vision of a few of the highly regarded gurus we met on the road: Daniel Pink talked to us about a focus on purpose, mastery and autonomy; Frederic Laloux about purpose, wholeness and self-management; and Simon Sinek about the ‘why’ and servant leadership.

We suggest the main building blocks of an engaged workforce have been known for a while. We try to capture them in the ‘8 habits of progressive organizations‘.  But we haven’t yet come across any organization that has fully developed them all.

This shouldn’t be a surprise. There is simply no ‘one-size-fits-all‘ for the right organization model. Each organization needs to (re)design for what fits them best.

But, having once identified the right building blocks for your organization, which ‘expert’ movements should you follow and learn from? For each of the 8 habits we have selected the movements that inspire us the most. These are the ones to watch.

Purpose & Values

Our observation

Progressive organizations no longer focus solely on increasing shareholder value. They focus on building a workplace around common purpose and values. Why? Because having purpose and meaning gives people the energy, passion and motivation to get out of bed in the morning.

The movement to watch

B Corp is a private certification issued to for-profit companies by B Lab, a global non-profit organization. It is to business what Fair Trade certification is to coffee. B Corps are required to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.

There is a growing community of 2,100+ Certified B Corps from around 50 countries. Collectively, they lead a growing global movement of people using business as a force for good, by embracing the belief that business impacts and serves more than just its shareholders.

Case-study: American clothing company Patagonia and Dutch law firm BvdV.

Network of Teams

Our observation

Progressive organizations know the familiar pyramid is outdated. It simply does not fit today’s fast-changing environment. The rigidity of command-and-control does not promote agility, speed, and engagement. Which is why we find progressive organizations adopting alternative structures. Typically, they turn the rigid pyramid into an agile network of teams.

The movement to watch

RenDanHeYi is an organizational model developed by the Chinese white goods manufacturer Haier in order to prepare for doing business in the internet era. With the help of this model, enterprises are able to transform from their original pyramid structure into a network of small microenterprises.

Over the last year Haier has used the RenDanHeYi model to abolish formerly bureaucratic systems in a range of satellite companies around the world. The model enabled them to transform traditional operating models into networks of small microenterprises.

Case-study: Chinese white good manufacturer Haier.

Supportive Leadership

Our observation

Most command-and-control structures operate with a directive leadership style. This style is based on fear, control, telling others what to do, and how to do it. It neglects the wisdom of the crowd and disengages those lower in the organization.

Within progressive organizations, we see another type of leadership: strong leaders who support those ‘closest to the fire’. 

The movement to watch

Servant leadership is an leadership philosophy that turns the power pyramid upside down. Instead of employees working to serve the leader, the leader is there to serve the employees. This taps higher levels of employee engagement and organization performance.

The term ‘servant leadership’ was coined by Robert K. Greenleaf, in 1970. The philosophy and practices have been expressed in many ways ever since, including by some well-known advocates like Stephen Covey, Peter Senge and Tom Peters.

Case-study: Dutch healthcare organization Buurtzorg.

Experiment & Adapt

Our observation

Plan and predict is a fundamental tenet of traditional management. Think of yearly budgeting, resource allocation, and plans that are cascaded down the organization. But these are all based on the false belief that we can (still) predict the future. 

The new reality is, that as the environment gets more complex, it’s impossible to make precise predictions. Progressive organizations abandon guesses masquerading as precise predictions. They focus on experimentation instead.

The movement to watch

Responsive Org is a global community committed to creating and growing so-called Responsive Organizations. According to their own manifesto, Responsive Organizations are built to learn and respond rapidly through the open flow of information; encouraging experimentation and learning in rapid cycles; and organizing as a network of employees, customers, and partners motivated by shared purpose.

Many of the (founding) members of the Responsive Org. movement are now operating in the field of organizational transformations through American-based boutique consulting firms like August and The Ready.

Case-study: Swedish streaming service Spotify.

Freedom & Trust

Our observation

More and more bureaucracy is a barrier to engagement and success. It hinders autonomy, innovation and creativity. It is a liability for the organization. Progressive organizations, on the contrary, act on the belief that employees are responsible adults who can be trusted.

The movement to watch

Self-management is a philosophy and a fundamental mind-shift which goes beyond employee empowerment. The Morning Star Self-Management Institute describes self-management as an organizational model in which the traditional functions of a manager are pushed out to all participants in the organization, instead of just to a select few.

Each member of the organization is personally responsible for forging their own personal relationships, planning their own work, coordinating their actions with other members, acquiring requisite resources to accomplish their mission, and for taking corrective action with respect to other members when needed.

Case-study: American food processing company The Morning Star Company.

Distributed Authority

Our observation

An important feature of the traditional organization is centralization. This suggests that decision-making competence rises with position in the hierarchy. This is obviously nonsense.

Progressive organizations tend to be highly decentralized. They act on the belief that employees at the frontline should make the majority of decisions—if the aim is to be agile in responding to clients.

The movement to watch

Beyond Budgeting is an adaptive management philosophy that moves beyond the traditional command-and-control model in order to empower front-line employees. It’s about releasing people from the burden of stifling bureaucracy and suffocating control systems.

The movement regards the word ‘budgeting’ not solely as planning and control, but rather as a generic term for the entire traditional command-and-control management model, with the annual budget process as its core. The movement is based on the book ‘Beyond Budgeting’, by Robin Fraser and Jeremy Hope.

Case-study: Swedish bank Handelsbanken.

Radical Transparency

Our observation

Traditional organizations tend to limit valuable information to the leaders. They, then, must call all the important shots. To be able to distribute authority to frontline employees requires a culture of radical transparency.

The movement to watch

Open-book management is a business practices based on radical transparency and consists of sharing financial and decision-making duties among all employees. This practice lets every employee look at the company’s accounts in order to be able to make the best decisions possible.

In 1993 the term ‘Open-book management’ was coined by John Case of Inc. magazine, describing the origins of this method by founder and CEO Jack Stack and his team at SRC Holdings – an American engine re-manufacturing plant.

Case-study: American food business group Zingerman's.

Talents & Mastery

Our observation

Traditional organizations tend to distribute activities based on job titles and descriptions. But many of these are out-of-date the moment they are crafted. Progressive organizations try to make use of the diverse talents present in the whole organization.

They offer people the freedom to choose their tasks and responsibilities. In progressive organizations, employees ‘sculpt’ their jobs based on their interest, talents and strengths.

The movement to watch

Deliberately Developmental Organizations are organizations where employees’ ongoing development is woven into the daily routine of the business. It is based on the philosophy that organizations will best prosper when they are better aligned with the employees’ strongest motive, which is to grow. It is basically an incubator for employee development.

These ‘incubators’ focus on the continuous development of employee talents, enabling them to reach increased levels of mastery. The movement is based on the book ‘An Everyone Culture’, by Harvard professor Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey.

Case-study: Danish hearing aid manufacturer Oticon.

Inspirational movements

The above mentioned movements are great sources of inspiration to us. They are certainly not the only important movements out there, but they are (in our perspective) the ones that are worthwhile to dive into in more detail if you want to improve upon one of the 8 trends.

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Replies (2)

Alain Ruche

Alain Ruche

An interesting aspect of a nertwork is that the one who sets it gets the most. It is a question of accumultaed added values of every one who joins.

On leadership, the new management style is about the shift from an individual to a collective leadership. Please check the process from passion towards communities of practice and only then, to business. When there is a conflict between the community and business, systematically opt for the community.
And from the constellatyion of communities of practices things will, unexpectectly emerge. Could you check this process more in depth, as it also invalidates two classical obssessions : how to scale up? (indeed, NOT a good question), and growth does not solve the problem.

Also check the manager who makes sense of what is happening.I work with the skill of sensemaking, including the role of artists (actually artivists) in this.
Also the very interesting article on liminal leadership by Nora Bateson in latest issue of Kosmos Journal : just register for 30 euros a year!

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Our Lives and Change - Flyntro

Our Lives and Change - Flyntro

[…] with the idea of change and extending it into the future, take a look the “eight movements to watch” in the rewriting of the future of the work.  Even as you give yourself time to focus on […]

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