Technology and Organizations
Maynard Webb and Carlye Adler's new book, Rebooting Work: Transform How You Work in the Age of Entrepreneurship, is both a "how to" for individuals and a wake-up call for organizations. Individuals get clear advice on how to evaluate their skills and navigate new work realities and opportunities. Organizations can use the same framework to think about the employees they have and how they might be getting work done in new, and likely more powerful, ways.
I've been literally and figuratively waiting a long time for this book.
I knew it was in the works and I've had the pleasure of working with Maynard on a university committee (he has served on Santa Clara University's School of Engineering Advisory Board). I had no doubt that this would be an interesting and thoughtful read from a respected source. I thank our School of Engineering and Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship for sponsoring our signed copies.
I say respected source because that is important to know before I dive into the edgy ideas in Rebooting Work. As I said in an earlier post, Maynard Webb is not a work "hippy" (he does admit to having long hair in 1974). His background includes early days at IBM, CIO of Bay Networks, COO of eBay, and CEO of LiveOps, where he is still chairman. He is not a guru with a change to peddle, but rather an executive turned entrepreneur who has a clear vision of work realities. He and Adler share in Chapter 1:
Work as we know it is such an oxymoron: we have record unemployment, yet companies can't find enough of the right talent....
...Workers who have the right skills and operate with a mind-set that they are CEOs of their own destinies are best positioned to be in high demand and will be afforded the most choice.
...given the incredible advances in technology and the amazing way in which the world is connected, you have more choices, It is your responsibility to seize the opportunity by embracing the technological tools available to you. You can do more than you've ever dreamed.... And many entrepreneurs with new technologies, companies, and services are enabling this phenomenon - many because they wanted to benefit from it as well.
Reboot to Take Advantage of Work Upgrades
They are describing a world where whether you work for an organization or for yourself, you are in control of that work. Our work (note that I'm avoiding the term jobs - jobs and positions are less the focus in the future than talent and work) is becoming more flexible, more transient, and as described for some in Rebooting Work, more rewarding.
This framework is at the heart of the coaching in Rebooting Work:
Focusing on Frame 2
My take is that if you work for yourself it is easier to be in control of a Frame 2 style, but I agree that you can be in Frame 2 inside many organizations -- and that those organizations will be getting the most from their workforce.
Take Facebook, described in Chapter 8. Their practice of Bootcamp, where every new engineer, regardless of level or experience, takes part in a six-week immersion program where many make a changes to live code in the first week. After Bootcamp, they pick a project, for a while. After twelve to eighteen months, they are urged to take a "hackamonth" and work on a different project.
Webb and Adler note:
One of the best aspects of these practices is what they foster long-term: relationships that defy boundaries. Bootcamp classmates and hackamonth friends will disperse throughout the organization after these programs end, but participants maintain the relationships they forged with each other and with the senior engineers who served as their mentors and coaches. This gives Facebook a cohesiveness and flexibility that's important, as its projects are deeply interconnected. It also gives engineers a view into other parts of the organization and provides them with many more opportunities.
For individuals, I've said this is, "...a shift from thinking about a job being something we do and have, to an understanding of the value we provide in the work ecosystem.... We apply our knowledge, skills, abilities, and motivations in the service of work opportunities. It's not that we are all "service workers," but rather that we make contributions in service of some work."
There are new skills required in such a world and Rebooting Work has great suggestions about how to start. I don't think Webb and Adler use the term CEO of Your Own Destiny lightly. Like a CEO, you'll have to be tracking trends so organizations you choose to work with will be around long enough to learn from, you need to stay on top of your skill set through lifelong learning, you need a network of supporters and mentors, and you need to work on personal branding and reputation. We may not all end up with Fortune 100 CEO salaries, but perhaps the many of the perks in terms of control and work engagement.
Other recent books have dealt with some of these issues (see Related, below), but I see Rebooting Work as bringing these ideas together with in a strong package and from a source with great credibility.
- Business Model You: A One-Page Method For Reinventing Your Career
- The Start-up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career
- Makers: The New Industrial Revolution
I am happy to be a Twitter follower of Ayelet Baron and now her face to face friend. With that background I was both thrilled and scared when her innovative manifesto came out. I knew that Ayelet had "divorced her job" as chief strategist for Cisco Canada to take on bigger things. I expected she would be singing me a siren's song, and I was right. Getting Unstuck: Live Every Second in Our 24/7 Life is the right message for many of us today.
Getting Unstuck is not just a book. It's what you need it to be and is written to be used flexibly. Ayelet offers these sections noting they can be used in any order:
- Unlearn talks about why connections, conversations, and trusted relationships are increasingly important. Unlearning focuses on shedding old ways that are no longer relevant.
- Unstick looks at what gets in our way and why we may need to choose to do the hard work.
- Unleash discusses the world of abundance and our opportunity to unleash our voice and make our ideas a reality. It's about creating what matters to you.
- Be is about making a conscious decision to work on that hard problem we want to solve. If you feel you are not stuck, you may already be there.
- Getting Unstuck with Seth Godin is a summary of the wisdom Seth shared with us and includes some of his insights to problems workshop participants shared.
Great mentors do not tell you what to do
They ask you hard questions and call your bluff when you give pat answers. They also have relevant examples to share. Getting Unstuck is similar. The questions help me bring into focus how I'm adding and subtracting value from my life, work, and relationships. Notice the tense I used in that last sentence. This isn't a one off. It's a focusing process that if used well is used often.
Good mentors also help you find others who can lend support
Getting Unstuck is full of connections and possible relationships to create. I'll add a few more here. John Hagel, John Seely Brown, and Lang Davison offer:
The ultimate promise of pull [speaking in their book, The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion] is the opportunity to reclaim our individuality and pursue our potential in ways that were never feasible in a world of push. Many of us will attempt to approach the world of pull in a very instrumental fashion. We will study the techniques and practice them as if they were the familiar scripts that we learned in the world of push, all the while hiding our individuality and defining out potential in very extrinsic, material terms. We will try this, but we won't get away with it. For, you see, pull requires much much more from us. It requires us to get in touch with ourselves, to relearn how to be, in order to more effectively become.
Onlyness is that thing that only one particular person can bring to a situation. It includes the skills, passions, and purpose of each human. Onlyness is fundamentally about honoring each person, first as we view ourselves and second as we are valued. Each of us is standing in a spot that no one else occupies. That unique point of view is born of our accumulated experience, perspective, and vision. Some of those experiences are not as “perfect” as we might want, but even those experiences are a source of ideas and creativity. Without this tenet of celebrating onlyness, we allow ourselves to be simply cogs in a machine—dispensable and undervalued.
We are each unique. But we are not alone
Tightly woven into Ayelet's message is the value of relationships. Relationships bring together the power of our unique contributions, but we are still learning how to do this outside of formal organizational jobs and positions. "How do you let others know what you do and how it might help them?" is asked in the Unleashing section. So important.
We don't do this alone. As I offer in the Sharing chapter of The Plugged-In Manager, all of this is much easier if we all understand the rules (unrules?) of the game. If others understand what we do and how we can help, the process is smoother and the outcomes more powerful. This is true in negotiation, team work, and life. Ayelet makes her "ask" clear:
My goal is is to give you a nudge and help as many people as possible simplify our lives and do what matters. Please share Getting Unstuck with at least five of your friends or colleagues.
I've done my sharing and will continue to do so
My posts are focusing more and more on how work is changing, and how we all have more control around this work. The more I think about it, the more I've taken on my challenges in a backward order. I wrote The Plugged-In Manager: Get in Tune with Your People, Technology, and Organization to Thrive to help people get the most from their work, but perhaps I should have tackled what that work might be first. Ayelet Baron and Maynard Webb (watch for my next post) have taken on the more foundational question and I thank them.
Maynard Webb inspired me with the ideas behind his new book, Rebooting Work: Transform How You Work in the Age of Entrepreneurship, last night at Santa Clara University. He's been involved with the transformation of eBay, the transformation of call centers via LiveOps (where he's Chairman and past CEO), and now the transformation of mentoring though the start-up Outside Counsel.
He opened with something I see everyday: Our work outside the organization's walls is more social, more technically sophisticated, and often more productive than the work done inside the walls. As a result, work satisfaction and organizational commitment is down. "What we have outside of work makes the inside of work look stodgy."
Two main points that resonated with me:
- "Leverage the technology revolution that has happened to reboot how we work"
- Become the CEO of your own destiny
Maynard Webb knows something about transformation as noted above. Also important to know that he's not a work "hippy" (I might be). He started with IBM and speaks fondly of the mentoring he received. If he thinks work is shifting, it is a good idea to pay attention.
I'm seeing a convergence on the belief that work will become a service with many more of us as independent agents. Ayelet Brown writes of this as "divorcing your job." Once the concept and boundaries of the job are gone, you are now focused on your life and your work, hopefully in a synergistic way.
I have my copy of Rebooting Work: Transform How You Work in the Age of Entrepreneurship and am looking forward to all it has to offer.
One of my colleagues issued a great real-world challenge after my recent What is Work? post. In that post I offered that "If the idea of a job or position is dropped, we then are both more free and more obligated to find matches for our own talent and motivations." …and that one strategy is to think about knowledge, skills, abilities, and motivations (the talent you bring to the service of your work), and then match it to you opportunities…. "It may be difficult at this stage of evolution for many people to see how their service fits in, because we don't yet have the needed transparency [around the opportunities]." Ted responded to that post with:
I am facing this challenge now as I start in earnest rebuilding my tech team and I am hearing from them that I need to bring it down to more concrete terms and relate my words to their jobs. Aka - I need to create a pretty well defined road map.
My roadmap is actually a couple of spreadsheets
The first is a personal one. It has our different knowledge, skills, abilities, and motivations down the left and opportunities across the top. Take a look at your LinkedIn profile. Don't focus on position or job titles, but rather the "Skills & Expertise" section lower down on the page (at least that where it falls on mine).
As we take on more responsibility for our own workflow, we can start to document our talent and see where it fits into the opportunities available to us. The cells of the spreadsheet hold some indication of how our particular talents were or would be valued in that opportunity. If our talent isn't being used to its full capacity or given its full value, maybe it's time to look for new opportunities. Once you have some documentation (consistent with ideas of lean entrepreneurship - a huge value in this new world), you can begin to make evidence-based decisions about the work you do and the knowledge, skill, and abilities you develop.
Highlight that last: "...knowledge, skills, and abilities you develop." We can never stop learning. The work isn't ours unless we can do it, and the work keeps changing.
As the work opportunities become more visible, there is greater opportunity to effectively match our talents. That brings us to the second spreadsheet. This spreadsheet looks a lot like a project management template offered by Smartsheet. The one change I'd make is that instead of "Assigned To," I'd have "Accepted By" (double win there -- builds on what we know about motivation and goal setting).
The spreadsheet has to be shared across the people with the talent and the people who need the work done. The reason I chose the Smartsheet example is because their tool (which integrates with both Google Docs and Microsoft Office) is focused on sharing. Google's Spreadsheet and Excel can also be shared, but I think Smartsheet gives you great control over what gets shared (and integrates with those mainstream tools).
Before you laugh, the app supported mobile community, Coffee & Power, was designed and built this way (I've mentioned them in an earlier post and am looking forward to an interview with their founder, Philip Rosedale). At a recent conference on crowd sourcing, Rosedale described how they initially arranged for work and pay via a public spreadsheet where people would sign up for tasks that needed to be done in one column, their progress in another, and what they needed to be paid in a third (slide 4). Though their tools have gone beyond a spreadsheet (they use Elance, oDesk, and others), transparency and matching are still at the heart of how they do the work behind this app.
The people with the work to be done have to do their homework too
Again drawing on the classics, the best parts of Management by Objectives can underscore why the homework of specifically identifying the work you need to have done is so valuable. It isn't management by control or micromanagement, but rather an pointer to where you think need to go and then freedom to let others help you get there in the best way. Part of the identified work to share with others may be setting these objectives. Nilofer Merchant's book, The New How: Creating Business Solutions Through Collaborative Strategy outlines the reasons.
Let me practice what I'm preaching. Lead by Letting Go (a project I'm working on) is all about how to share these critical management decisions in ways that get the work done. I'm not saying to just throw a bunch of tasks in the air and see how it lands, but rather I am trying to clarify how to use human, technical, and organization dimensions to build work in a way that can compete in our current environment. If you think there are better objectives, or have building blocks to contribute, please let us all know.
A small group of us continue to think through issues of new ways of working, and specifically, the growth of Work as a Service (WaaS) as supported by Elance, oDesk, and many others. As I said in a previous post, "work used to be contained in boxes in organization charts, but now can come from employees, contractors, machines, and/or crowd sourcing." I was tasked with addressing this question:
How do employees learn to describe their work as a service?
Getting our heads around any new way of working requires a shift in perspective. This is a shift from thinking about a job being something we do and have, to an understanding of the value we provide in the work ecosystem. (I am extending my answer to go beyond employees to anyone who is participating in the broader concept of getting some piece of work done.) We apply our knowledge, skills, abilities, and motivations in the service of work opportunities. It's not that we are all "service workers," but rather that we make contributions in service of some work.
Learning how to describe our contributions and how to find where they can best be of service to work is the task at hand
One of our hurdles is that we don't haven't had an obvious language to shift to. The ideas of job design as formally taught in Human Resources programs took root in 1911 (though job design really goes back as far as any use of the division of labor -- say as far back as hunters versus gathers) with the publication of Frederick Taylor's book, The Principles of Scientific Management. That's a lot of language to shed.
We've had some attempts to move to a new language
Participants in the Management Innovation exchange (the MIX) attempt to hack work. The subheading on the MIX site is "It's time to reinvent management. You can help." One of my co-hackers there, Joachim Stroh, talks about moving from language around filling jobs and positions to matching talents and roles. I like his language and use it as a starting point here.
When I think about talent, I think about knowledge, skills, and abilities. Knowledge, skills, and abilities are a bit old school HR, but if we explicitly combine KSAs with motivation and opportunity we have something a bit new. I say a bit new because Motivation * Opportunity * Ability is a classic model of Performance (Blumberg & Pringle, 1982). I like bringing one of the classics into this modern arena.
The difference here is that, instead of MOA=>P being something that management and HR think about, we all think about these dimensions and we use them as lenses to focus on ourselves
Motivations and abilities are what we bring to the work at hand. The opportunity is where our contribution is needed. Joachim talks about tasks and roles. Tasks (either large or micro) need to be completed as part of the work. If you are generally taking on particular families of tasks then you might talk about how you fill a role. "I tend to be the process facilitator when my team takes on a new problem." Process facilitator being a role and that role is made up of tasks.
The tasks we take on and the quality of our performance is in service to the work. I really want to capitalize it as Work to be sure the gravity of this service is understood.
There are many dimensions to cover in making this shift effective. The first is that work be better understood as bundles of tasks. The second is that we understand how our talent and motivations align with task opportunities. A third is that there be transparency around the tasks to be done and how they flow in the broader work. It may be difficult at this stage of evolution for many people to see how their service fits in, because we don't yet have the needed transparency.
As I tell my organizational design students, and as I explain in my book, The Plugged-In Manager, you can never change just one thing. Instead, we need to be making shifts throughout how we manage work and its design. If the idea of a job or position is dropped, we then are both more free and more obligated to find matches for our own talent and motivations. We need transparency to make these matches: transparency around our own talents and motivations, and around available opportunities. Learning to do this is not trivial, but is the direction I expect we will need to go.
Have you learned to describe your service in new ways? Have you learned to describe the opportunities and tasks you need to have completed in a way that fits this WaaS approach? What guidance can you share?