Death of the Computer Screen? Why Scenarios are Important.

hologramIn 2013 I wrote a scenario (see below) in which I painted a picture of the future of work. In the article, which later became a chapter in my book The Open Organization, I presented the idea that computers would be as small as a silver dollar coin and would operate by voice and hologram. Fast forward to 2017 and a C|Net article titled: World’s thinnest hologram will make screen size ‘irrelevant’. As a futurist, I am always excited when I see a scenario I wrote about coming true. Now, I cannot take credit for the idea of a Hologram by any stretch. In fact, the first time I even knew about what a Hologram even was would date back to 1977 and Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. I was… well.. .young back then…and the now famous scene of R2D2 displaying a hologram of Princess Leigh is etched in history.
 
Predicting the future and its potentiality is fun… but it is not always easy. While I can spike the ball now – sometimes anticipating a preferred future is difficult and requires a lot of information to get close to .. well.. maybe in the neighborhood of right.
 
Developing Future Scenarios are not about predicting exactly what will happen – but offering a glimpse of what could happen and what we would do with this information if we thought it could come to pass. Foresight is about creating a mental image of a possibility and then creating responses to those mental images in hopes that it will better prepare us for disruptions and market penetration. Scenarios force us into “What IF” analysis of our potential future state. It helps us to navigate theoretically through options before we have to do it in reality.
 
This is why athletes, firefighters, police and even the military practice so much. So that they can be prepared for what ever eventuality the future hands us.
 
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Embracing Open in the New Millennia

Imagine it is the year 2025. You walk into your home office and set your Smart Device (SD) on your desk. The SD, about the size of a silver dollar coin and as thick as a credit card, activates when placed on a flat surface. Sitting down, you lean forward and focus your attention on the holographic screen hovering above the SD. You say, “SD, date and time please.” In a clear voice your SD responds, “February 8th, 2025. The time is now 0900. Would you like to hear your appointments and tasks for today?” You briefly think to yourself how far computers have evolved in just a short period of time. In fact, you think, the constant we face is a world quickly changing before our eyes.

For the United States and much of Europe, the world has already begun to change as it relates to the way organizations interact with their employees. The field of employment has been shifting since the market crash early in the century. By the year 2040 it is estimated several emerging social and technological changes will greatly affect the way organizations view employment and human capital in the Westernized World.

Your SD speaks again, “You have an incoming call from Jeff and Dustin.” You turn your attention back to the hologram and tell your SD, “display call.” The hologram shifts to the images of your colleagues. You met Jeff and Dustin in your doctoral program a few years ago and the three of you formed a successful strategic alliance. Today you are meeting to discuss a proposal the three of you are working on. Your alliance with your colleagues has opened the door for all of you to compete with much larger organization on projects that you would have otherwise avoided.

The Great Shift

Since the late 1980s, Americans have begun working longer and foregoing their retirement. As a result of this trend we are beginning to see an increase in what we now call the Graying of the American worker. We are seeing an increase in job-sharing, consulting, coaching and even strategist positions growing among the Boomer population as Generation X begins taking over the reins of leadership. While the working population of the United States is growing older, fertility rates are also dropping amongst American women which ultimately will create a deficit in human capital available to replace an existing workforce. If that weren’t difficult enough on businesses trying to fill positions, legal immigration is on the decline in America creating even greater deficits in available workers. As a result of all these sociodemographic trends, we are beginning to see demand and acceptance of more flexible, freelance and collaborative opportunities in an increasingly less secure globalized world.

Emerging social and technological changes are forcing companies to move toward the use of short-term, temporary and independent contractors and consultants. With advances in technology and availability of WiFi in nearly every location, employees no longer need to pay to drive to an office setting every day nor will organizations need to continue supporting expensive centralized office space. In fact these advances in technology open the door for workers who are no longer limited by geography thereby permitting them to live anywhere they choose. Smaller offices and fewer employees working in those locations permit businesses to focus on finding and keeping essential employees while outsourcing the remaining positions to independent contractors. With these changes, businesses will be better able to shrink overall expenses and employees will gradually no longer see themselves as being employed by a single company. Employees are now able to work anytime and anywhere they choose as long as they are able to meet their job objectives.

The future of employment appears focused more on an individual’s talent. In fact, it is estimated that most jobs of the future will require higher education, advanced skills and high-tech training. The twenty-first century organization will require an ability to share ideas, knowledge, resources and skills across organizational, generational, and cultural boundaries from within and outside of the organizational system.

The year 2025 is closer than you may realize. Technological and social changes are moving at an alarming rate and while many may see the opening scenario as fantasy, the trends say otherwise. Collaboration will breed a greater competitive advantage, create influence and consolidate resources and expertise within a given organization and in a future that requires less human capital to produce a product or service. Now is the time for organization to begin examining the impact of a shrinking workforce. The Open Organization will likely be the formal response to the much anticipated deficit in human capital. Organizations will become flatter and there will be a greater level of shared information and even evaluations will come from co-workers rather than the traditional top-down leadership review. In fact, we very well could be witnessing the end of much of the hierarchies we’ve grown accustomed to since the early 1800s.

This shift in organizational structure will take time to adopt yet it is believed that these structures will be the most effective way to obtain a competitive advantage in the future. However, organizations may experience managerial resistance in adopting new organizational structures. Success is reliant on the commitment of the organizations leadership. It is necessary for organizations to address the fears of management and leadership in an effort to overcome delays in adoption.

The days of an abundant workforce are coming to a close. This shift in demographics will require organizations to view their structures far beyond the traditional business school training. Experts claim that there is a lack of future-readiness in the United State of employers and employment. Great challenges are ahead of us and the best way to address them is take the long-view and plan ahead for a new economy, new organizational structures, and a mobile diverse workforce like we’ve never seen before. These changes will require rethinking the view of hierarchies, traditional employment, and what it means to be self-employed. Technology will play a key role in the adoption and success of the organization of the future.

The conference call with your colleagues went well and as their holographic images fade, you sit back and smile. “SD,” you say, “Open RFP Alpha457.” Your SD responds, “Opened. What would you like to do?” You begin to dictate to your SD and so another day in this new world economy begins. You smile and remember a time when you used to work in a cubical and you think to yourself, “I’ve surely come a long way from those early days in the working world.”

As the story begins to illustrates, the twenty-first century organization will require an ability to share power, authority, ideas, knowledge, resources and skills across organizational, generational and cultural boundaries within and outside of the organizational system for the purpose of achieving desired goals. The world will continue to become smaller as technology advances and organizations grow in diversity of individuals from differing cultures and geographical locales. Organizational decision-making styles will grow in influence by generational and cultural attributes of the individuals from with the organizational system.

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cropped-img_0100-001Dr. Philip A. Foster is a Thought Leader focused on the Future of Work and the 21st Century Workplace. He is a prolific writer, International Lecturer and Best Selling Author of “The Open Organization” – now available on Amazon. He is an Ambassador to the OpenSource.com community and holds a Doctorate in Strategic Leadership with emphasis in Strategic Foresight from Regent University, Virginia. You can contact him at http://www.maximumchange.com

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Does your organization have cultural flu?

I was talking with a friend recently and he lamented that his employees email him over everything. Without hesitation, I told him that someone in his organization must have taught them to do that. Either knowingly or unknowingly someone has modeled this behavior. It was not necessarily done with malice. He went on to say that a former supervisor had caused some issues internally and it was at that moment it occurred to me that his culture had the flu. Cultural flu is passed to unsuspecting individuals through behaviors and actions. You see, culture is very much the central nervous system of an organization. Organizational culture, like any culture, holds our beliefs, values and behavioral norms. While they may not have intended on creating an organizational bottleneck, the presence of certain actions may have modeled behaviors that eventually infected other members within the organization. Organizational culture is very interesting to study because it is so pervasive. The problem we encounter is that when one is immersed long enough in a given culture, we begin to grow accustom to the norms and may even participate in those norms knowingly or otherwise. Once a cultural norm has been established, it is difficult to change it. We can use a fancy phrase called cultural relativism to describe what happens when you take on a cultures belief system. Simply put, we will defend what we hold to be true; even when what we hold to be true is not healthy or helpful. I would caution that culture should not be a scapegoat for every problem an organization encounters. Sometimes our problems begin with bad leadership, ineffective training, or poorly designed processes. Regardless, each could play to the bigger problem of how the culture of an organization is changed over time. While change is never easy, beginning to identify and address these cultural issues is important to your organizations long-term success. As an organizational doctor, I would prescribe a regime of assessments to help determine whether your organization has a cultural flu. Once identified, we can begin to develop an approach that is specific needs of the organization. The pathway to a healthy organization runs through the organizations culture.

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Dr. Philip A. Foster is considered a Thought Leader in Business Operations, Organization and Strategic Leadership. He is a prolific writer, published author and lectures internationally. His most recent book “The Open Organization” is now available through Ashgate Publishing.  Philip is certified in both Leadership and coaching and serves as Adjunct professor at Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, TN. He is the Founder and CEO of Maximum Change Leadership and Business Consulting, serving clients from around the world. He is a Doctor of Strategic Leadership with emphasis in Strategic Foresight and holds a Master of Art in Organizational Leadership, both from Regent University, Virginia. He can be reached at philip@maximumchange.com or (615) 216-5667.

3 Reasons Your Org Chart is Worthless

AA008821I know it’s your sacred cow. You spent hundreds of hours perfecting your org chart. It is a visual flexing of your organizational design prowess. It explains in detail the channels of decision making and communication in your organization. I am here to tell you that your org chart is worthless. It isn’t worth the paper it is printed on. While some may wax eloquent of the virtues of your creation – I say it’s a waste of time. Most all org charts are nothing more than idols we pay homage. Org charts represent a 19th century ideal of command-control with focus mainly on the leader(s) at the pinnacle of the chart. Even in a matrix org chart there is a top and bottom. No matter how flashy. No matter how descriptive your chart is – it is worthless.

First – org charts represent a structure that bottle-necks decision making and limits agility. If you want to see where the problems are in your organization, you need not look any further than your org chart (if you can find it). If you were to take an earnest survey of your organization you might find that your structure slows down decisions making and impacts the overall agility of your organization. The truth of the matter is that the 21st century organization will seek greater flexibility as its access to full time human capital diminishes. Your organization can’t be any better IF your organizational structure is cumbersome. Your org chart is a safety blanket that gives you absolutely no real coverage. Ask yourself this… how long does it take for a decision to be made. Does your front line have to ask their manager for approval for everything? Are you hiring based on an outdated slot on your org chart or are you hiring the best and empowering them to do their jobs?

Second – This is not how systems work in the natural world. Organizations are flattening and embracing self-leadership and a more open approach to the process of business. Organizations must find organic approaches to dealing with change and innovation. One such emerging concept is that of a decentralized organization, otherwise defined as the Open Organization. The end result is not to abolish organizational structures but to create a more flexible flow of ideas and processes that meets the needs of each individual within the organization as they pursue the goals of the organization and its stakeholders. Because of the complexity of business today, it is difficult to visually chart an Open Organization or organic forming structure.

Third – we don’t use them. The sad reality is this. Few organizations spend countless hours to actually USE their org chart. That’s right, we design them and then we stick them in a notebook somewhere and will rarely engage them again. I would argue that by the time the proverbial ink dries, your market silo has shifted and your org chart is now out of date. In our globalized economy, your org chart has the shelf life of milk at room temperature.

Here is a simple test. If you feel that you will lose control of your employees and your organization, then you’re running your organization based on command-and-control. This is a strong hierarchical approach where your organization is very much a top-down approach to leading where the bottom of the org chart is focused on completing the commands of the upper tier of the organization. The problem with this approach is that the bottom tier should be focused on the client and their needs rather than the objectives of the leadership. Like it or not, organizations are forced to become more competitive. If you don’t hire the best, empower them, and then get out of their way so that they can do their job – your organization is in trouble.

While I believe that org charts will be with us for some time. I believe that there will be a day when the only org charts we encounter will be in highly regulated industry, government institutions, and the military.  I challenge you… don’t waste one more moment on an org chart. Spend that time exploring how you can create agility and openness in your organization. It’s a new era… it’s the 21st century. It is time we starting acting like a 21st century organization.

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PIC3Dr. Philip A Foster is considered a Thought Leader in Business Operations, Organization and Strategic Leadership. He is a prolific writer, published author and lectures internationally. His most recent e-book “Organization 3.0 – The Evolution of Leadership and Organizational Theories Toward an Open System for the 21st Century” is available exclusively on Amazon.  Philip is certified in both Leadership and coaching and serves as Adjunct professor at Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, TN. He is the Founder and CEO of Maximum Change Leadership and Business Consulting, serving clients from around the world. He is a Doctor of Strategic Leadership with emphasis in Strategic Foresight and holds a Master of Art in Organizational Leadership, both from Regent University, Virginia. He can be reached at philip@maximumchange.com.

The Death of the Manager (the coming extinction)

09wquestion-1346176260458I am not ready to send you to a museum to study the habits and hang-ups of the 20th century manager just yet. But I do see this as an opportunity to create dialogue related to the death of management as we know it. I am in no way abdicating that organizations of the future will be leaderless. I am however sounding the alarm that leaders must find a way to redefine themselves before it is too late. The trends are already proving that organizations are flattening their hierarchies and are doing more with less human capital. The greatest threat to the manager today is denial that things will change whether they are ready or not. The problem, as I see it, is that most all managers are classically trained in business schools to run an organization via the classic command-and-control hierarchy. Many business schools are failing us in that they teach leaders a 19th century approach to leadership. Add to this confusion a 20th century approach to human relations and you have a pending ice age of epic proportions over the field of management. Management is evolving into something greater than a single position of status. Organizations are not moving to leaderless insomuch as they are trending toward self-leadership models. Self-leadership is where everyone contributes from their own strength and skill-set. Everyone has a say in the strategy and direction of the organization as a whole.

I was recently involved in a dialogue with some business colleagues on the matter of who is responsible for the strategy and its achievement in an organization. The crux of the conversation was around why strategies fail. I argued strongly for the coming of the flatter more agile organization that moves away from the idea of a leader dictating vision, goals and process. As you can imagine some of us old school classically trained leaders pushed back on this notion. There is no question in my mind that the state of leadership is in transition. We are about to see the greatest shift in organizational leadership since Fredrick Taylor adopted the Scientific Management approach to production in the 1890s. In an effort to give structure to this idea of self-led organizations, I have adopted the idea of the Open Organization. An Open Organization is simply a method of self-leadership in which individuals participate in the movement of an organization from their strengths. The Open Organization is a decentralized structure which trends away from authoritarian management styles, separatist titles and privileges of multilevel hierarchies found mostly in the 19th and 20th century. So, what are we to do to save our managers? First we should acknowledge the correlation between effective leadership and how much autonomy is given to the followers. A leader who does not trust their followers appear to have the most trouble with change. Leaders who do not trust are most likely to be the ones that go extinct first. Leaders must learn the art of empowerment of their followers. The power behind the Open Organization is that people already tend to self-manage when everyone else can see what they’re doing. Open allows other people jump in when they notice something amiss and of course everyone learns when anyone makes a mistake or does something brilliant. The agility of the organization is the key to the extinction of the manager. Manager’s and hierarchies tend to strangle agility, bogging the organization down in the process of decision making. The organization of the future must be unfettered to make decisions else, it too will die. Now is the time for managers to adapt or expire. We leaders must redefine our roles in relation to our organizations effectiveness. The world is pressed on all sides by a diminishing full-time workforce as well as differing cultural, generational, political, and religious views. The organization of the 21st century must be more agile than ever before. Organizational design is essential to how the organization deals with the challenges it now faces. We no longer can afford to lead a 21st century organization with 19th and 20th century models and processes.

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PIC3Dr. Philip A Foster is considered a Thought Leader in Business Operations, Organization and Strategic Leadership. He is a prolific writer, published author and lectures internationally. His most recent e-book “Organization 3.0 – The Evolution of Leadership and Organizational Theories Toward an Open System for the 21st Century” is available exclusively on Amazon.  Philip is certified in both Leadership and coaching and serves as Adjunct professor at Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, TN. He is the Founder and CEO of Maximum Change Leadership and Business Consulting, serving clients from around the world. He is a Doctor of Strategic Leadership with emphasis in Strategic Foresight and holds a Master of Art in Organizational Leadership, both from Regent University, Virginia. He can be reached at philip@maximumchange.com.