Help With the Future of Flexible and Results-Only Work

The Huffington Post liked Phil Simon’s interview with me on flexible work so much that they posted it twice! Or, it was a glitch, but I like my interpretation. Here is a link from today. A brief excerpt here, then I ask for your advice on moving the future of work ahead, rather than waiting for it to hit us from behind.

In the interview, Phil and I had the chance to talk about my conversation with the father of telecommuting, Jack Nilles. Jack coined the term telecommuting in 1973 and has been working with organizations and their telework programs through his company JALA International ever since. The Yahoo! decision to cancel their telework program gave me a chance to talk with this guru.

Huffington Post Excerpt

[Speaking of Yahoo!]:

TG: The problem with that, is in [Jack’s] experience, most amazing things happen by other kinds of communication and by communication with people who aren't co-located as they are more likely to bring a new perspective to the situation.

[Jack Nilles]: What's important then is to set up the organization so that people do communicate effectively no matter where they are. And to insure that the communication in fact takes place.

TG: When JALA introduces telework, they do communication audits to find out who how often different communication modes are used and then point out ways to maintain the same patterns of results. They don't suggest one change, they suggest a set of changes and how to follow the results of those changes.

PS: This sounds more work outcome focused, like the system Best Buy just killed.

TG: Absolutely! When he made that point it took us into a discussion of results-only work environments -- though we hadn't yet seen the Best Buy story. I asked Nilles, "How do you get them to focus on product and outcomes?"

[Working with the telecommuter and the manager:] Start with a diary of what they did in 15 minute intervals [over pre-telework days]. This helps to set up the communication patterns. We then get them to write a contract with what is going to be required over the next period, and how both the telecommuter and the manager will know when it is done properly. If particular tools are needed, then those are specified. We create schedules, and milestones if it's a long project. Get them through that process to create their joint expectations of the work -- never mind the process.

They then work to help the organization with agreements around when work will be finished and how to handle on-call accessibility for changes and contingencies. "That's what we concentrate on -- getting them to specify this work."

[end of excerpt]

The Nilles model is proactive and thoughtful and so I suspect, quite effective. It takes on organizational practices around work and performance. But can we do more? What if we truly took on the entirety of the future of work, including education, recruiting, talent mobility, and performance management? I know of future-looking tools and communities related to each but think there is value in a more holistic approach.

Asking for Your Advice

Friend and inspiration, Ayelet Baron, had this to say on Twitter today:

We were talking about the growth of Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) and the implications for recruiting if traditional education is less of a checkbox, but as Ayelet notes, it is really a much bigger issue. 

Organizations are made up of human, technical, and organizational practice resources. If we change one piece, we need to make additional changes to support the first. If you agree, and if you've gotten this far I hope you do, how do we begin this proactive process?

Who are the game changers?

Using the ideas from Crossing the Chasm, who has the most pain and the most budget to make a difference? Or, do we just try and get startups off to the right start and hope the ideas will spread?

Subscribe to Quick Insights You Can Use