Thinking in 4T


The rich landscape of the future of work was on full display at the Work Rebooted conference this week in San Francisco. I fall into the camp expecting the workforce of the future to be more than 50% self-employed and focused on projects rather than jobs. Much of today’s work will be automated, but the people will be the glue holding it all together.

Because of these shifts, I strongly suggest that we create new educational opportunities for all ages and levels of experience. Given my research and many of the examples offered at the conference, I think we need to teach how to “Think in 4T.” (You already can see in 3D, so you’re on the right path.)

The 4Ts

  • Target: project and/or task goal
  • Talent: people are the glue holding pieces together
  • Technology: everything from hard automation and robots to basic bots and machine learning
  • Technique: the processes pulling together the work of the talent and technology

You can’t get much done with any one of these pieces. You need to Think in 4T. Some targets will be talent focused, others will draw more on technology. Still others will be more of an equal mix. As you plan out your projects with your workforce made up of talent and technology, think hard about the right mix.

Sociotechnical Systems Theory

For better or for worse, the Thinking in 4T description is mine. However, these critically important ideas go back to the great work on sociotechnical systems theory and design. Great work, though not a phrase I want to keep pushing as it hasn’t been sticky in the last 67 years (except with professors and a few others -- maybe even an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer where they were discussing arcane things they were learning in college). Whatever the term, how to mix the human, technical, and organizational aspects of work is something we all need to be thinking about as we decide how to do our work.

Those of you who follow my work know this is the main theme of my book, The Plugged-In Manager: Get in Tune with Your People, Technology, and Organization to Thrive. There, I went with people, technology, and organizations. I still think we need to have something stickier. Is it Thinking in 4T? Let me know if I'm getting close.

Thank Yous

Thank you to Michael Grove of Collabworks for inviting me to his panel on Disrupting Work: The Digital Workforce. I was then honored to be asked by Julia Douthart of Purpose Events to be the Summit Chair of the conference. Take a look at the list of people involved and you'll see why this was such a joy. Special thanks to my panelmates: Derek Sidebottom, LendingHome and Squadley; George Hudgens, Dolby Labs; Nancy Householder Hauge, Automation Anywhere; and Zoe S. Harte, Upwork (if you're in San Francisco, check out their great ad campaign in the Montgomery BART station - makes me smile).

Photo credits: Indresh Chauhan of Sify eLearning