To what extent do we need to adjust our thinking around "going to work"? A recent article by Peggy Stritch and Clark Sept says that Cisco (the Fortune 100 technology company) "is at the beginning of a shift: How working together is now a global activity. How work gets done -- collaboratively. Where work gets done -- everywhere." A BBC article notes, "Today work is somewhere you travel to - in the future work will come to you." I think that for most of the people reading this blog the future is already here. "Going to work" is more a concept than a location. We work at home, on planes (I'm at 36,000' as I draft this), coffee shops, the car (not doing emails! but perhaps catching up on industry podcasts), a client's conference room, the company cafe, and sometimes even our cube/office. What do we gain by having a more realistic view of what it means to "go to work" (a concept, not always a location) and doing team work (generally not face-to-face)? In an earlier post I talked about "workspace" -- the focus there was also on where we do our work. I made the claim that for many of us, our workspace is inside our computer. Yet, that's rarely a location we're shown during job interviews. Thinking about the computer as our workspace is focusing on the "T" in TOP Management (Technology, Organization, People). What about the organizational component -- the "O" in TOP Management? This component speaks to the organizational form, support, and constraints around how we do our work. For those of us not working in retail sales or hands-on manufacturing -- we are generally virtual workers at least part of the time. Travel budgets, organizational norms, the location of our colleagues, the type of work we do (easily managed via documents -- or demonstrations and joint/real-time design with physical objects). Pixar and Google both are known for valuing work at work due to the interactions and energy of co-location. Pixar: "What we have created here — an incredible workspace, opportunities to learn and grow, and, most of all, great co-workers — is better than any contract" (contrasting with the contract approach more common to Hollywood productions). Google: See the picture connected to this job announcement. They are thinking explicitly about the location of work. There are also considerations from the People component of TOP Management. Sound can play a big role. Dr. Jay Brand, psychologist with Haworth -- yes, the furniture company (they care a lot about the conditions underwhich we do our work) -- has described the different levels of noise we can put up with for different types of work. Our brains filter to a degree, but they also unconciously try to pay attention to discussions around us. Sometimes more noise, like a coffee shop, can be better than less! (Our brain gives up unconsciously trying to eavesdrop.) He and his colleagues provide a detailed discussion of office acoustics here (pdf). Our systems savvy has to extend to be realistic about good work settings for our individual work and good work settings for our group work (e.g., trade-offs between persuasiveness, conflict management, and airfares). People preferences (either for privacy or community), capabilities (how we filter noise), and clocks (sleep/performance cycles) all are part of understanding the P when we think about how we do work. What we need to do is keep TOP Management, TOP of mind. Formally thinking about the Technology, Organization, and People in an integrative way will help us be:
  • Individually more productive
  • Better mentors
  • Better team process designers
Have you developed a strategy for integrating across these concepts? Comments on how you remind yourself and/or mention others especially appreciated.