8 Questions on the Future of Work

I’ve been working on an enquiry framework to explore ‘The Future of Work’. Today i am sharing a first draft of the first half of that. It’s based around 8 questions – and for each i include context and an exploration of four sub questions or considerations. This work is shared as part of #WorkingOutLoud and it may not always read easily – but it is rapidly evolving.

I am sharing two of the four main sections today: ‘Location’ and ‘Agency’ (the other two are ‘Mechanisms’ and ‘Identity’). For each i set a broad ‘context; and then share the four questions. Under each of those are a series of ‘Potential Outcomes’ which is really still my notes on the detail. So again, this is shared really as part of #WorkingOutLoud and i hope of some value.

Framework for the Future of Work

Location

Often the primary area of enquiry – where work happens – and hence the first of the four areas we explore as part of the ‘Framework for the Future of Work’.

Location – Space

QUESTION – “What do you want to do with your ‘Space’?”

CONTEXT – Considering your relationship with the legacy architecture and physical location – often the first dimension that Organisations consider – although probably not the most significant.

POTENTIAL OUTCOMES – Reduce Space

Selling or fragmenting – move from central to local model – consider ‘head office’ as theatrical space with lots of stages for communities to claim.

POTENTIAL OUTCOMES – Adapt Space

Remove zoning – shift ratio of ‘desk’ to ‘meeting’ space – expand support structures (coffee – technology – comfort) – democratise ownership – bring outside community in – create stages and performance spaces – create playful space etc

POTENTIAL OUTCOMES – Share Space

Replace or supplement ‘owned’ space with ‘open’ space – or ‘rent’ space through cafe partnerships. Distribute space into local community.

POTENTIAL OUTCOMES – Remove Space

Erase the physical footprint of the Organisation. Free up resource, but discover the need to find new foundations for culture.

Location – Belonging

QUESTION – “How will people ‘belong’ to your Organisation?”

CONTEXT – Exploring mechanisms of ‘belonging’ beyond ‘contract’ and ‘space’ – how will people join, connect, be effective? Asks if you should take a forward facing view to the mechanisms of connection – moving beyond legal or geographical.

POTENTIAL OUTCOMES – First Dimension – Employed

Consider evolving nature of contracting – for time, value, or effort – look at fluid policies of holiday, even fluid leadership models. Consider what ‘employment’ gives you, and ask ‘what are we unable to buy’?

POTENTIAL OUTCOMES – Second Dimension – Engaged

Consider engagement before, or beyond, employment – mechanisms of safety, scope, recognition and reward

POTENTIAL OUTCOMES – Third Dimension – Aligned

Those who run next to you – experts in a shared knowledge economy – no contractual engagement, but nonetheless contributing to your effectiveness and success. The new Guilds and networks. Ultimately may include AI generated texts and personas.

POTENTIAL OUTCOMES – Fourth Dimension – Connected

Inter-organisational secondments – consider ‘purposeless’ contracts – storytellers – alumni – graduates – tribes. Consider nature of connection – through contract, through story, through experience, even through competition or opposition – consider how Org ‘belongs’ in it’s geographically local community -and global virtual ones

Location – Place

QUESTION – “How do your people find, or construct, their sense of Place?”

CONTEXT – Touches upon mechanisms of joining and belonging – and asks if you should take a forward facing view to rituals, artefacts, and space, to find news ways to create the ‘place’ of work.

POTENTIAL OUTCOMES – Create or Evolve Roles

Consider Ambassador roles – consider how to help people ‘walk’ through the virtual – consider ‘connectors’ – create space, experience, and opportunity to mingle

POTENTIAL OUTCOMES – Consider Artefacts

Consider artefacts of Place – from mugs to badges and pot plants – consider where your storytelling spaces are – where does your institutional memory lie and how is the folklore heard?

POTENTIAL OUTCOMES – Create or Evolve Rituals

Do you need to script, learn, or adapt the rituals of engagement and belonging? Are there legacy aspects to unwind – how much of your ritual is about safety as opposed to ‘joining’.

Location – Ownership

QUESTION – “Who will be the Owner, or Guardian, of your future ‘Place of Work’?”

CONTEXT – As we adapt our Spaces, and culture, we must address arbitration – how things are moderated and controlled – from who tells you where to sit, through to who tells you when to work, or take a holiday

POTENTIAL OUTCOMES – The role of leaders

How is work allocated and arbitrated? How do you balance loads and ensure fairness when you lack physical oversight? Who gains voice and who loses it?

POTENTIAL OUTCOMES – The role of Communities

Ties into your Knowledge strategy – personal vs distributed knowledge – where are your ‘sense making’ spaces – do you need more synchronous or asynchronous space and how does your technology, and capability, support this?

POTENTIAL OUTCOMES – The role of alumni

How are people engaged beyond employment – what bonds do you retain – even mechanisms of remembrance, recognition and reward.

POTENTIAL OUTCOMES – Arbiters of Space

Who decides ‘where’ you sit – control of resources – purchasing – IT policies and provision – shared vs personal spaces – will you have ‘desks’ or ‘zones’ or simply ‘spaces’

POTENTIAL OUTCOMES – Arbiters of Time

Is ‘time’ your mechanism of engagement? Who controls time – holidays – working hours – are roles time based or value based?

Agency

Agency describes the relationship between ‘self’ and ‘system’, the ways that people can invest themselves in work. It’s one of the four key areas we explore in the Framework for the Future of Work.

Agency – Investment

QUESTION – “What do you want your people to invest, beyond their time?”

CONTEXT – A broad question to consider investment beyond time – what are your aspirations for knowledge generation, capability and capacity – ties into strategies for innovation and approaches to change. Essentially this is about determining the Dimensions, and Currencies, of a more Socially Dynamic Organisation.

POTENTIAL OUTCOMES – Knowledge

Desire to access tacit and tribal knowledge – a mix of technology and permission – how will you find it – how will you earn the right to hear it – how will you recognise it and respect it – who owns the outcomes – what can you mine and what must you buy – how will you codify the transient – and how will you decommission the redundant?

POTENTIAL OUTCOMES – Network

Relates to permeability – will you ‘own’ all of your capability, or will some be permeable through your walls – do you employ people for ‘self’ or ‘self plus network’ and how will you earn this right? – how is this impacted in the distributed Organisation – what is relationship between network and space?

POTENTIAL OUTCOMES – Space

In a distributed Organisation, we rely on people investing their space – so how will you trade in that – what support (financial or material – how will you ‘rent or borrow’ that space – which rules apply – and are you mindful of the intersection of personal and official space and the risks and challenges – do you need rituals around this. What about Community spaces – coffee shops and co-working – will you just ‘rent’ these, or invest in them – can you give certainty – buying blocks of time or coffee etc – are you squatting or partnering?

POTENTIAL OUTCOMES – Self

For collaboration, co-creation, innovation, even change, we need an aspect of investment of self – or at least we do if we move beyond utilitarian investment – so what is your view of ‘self’ – relates to questions of safety and control. Which ‘self’ do we expect people to bring – is this the same, or different, from before?

Agency – Power

QUESTION – “How is ‘power’ visible in your Organisation?”

CONTEXT – Distributed Organisations are connected through technology, which democratises hierarchy by giving access and connection – you lose control of both power and story. This changes almost everything – and highlights the need for listening space and skills as well as ‘sense making’ capability – human and technological.

POTENTIAL OUTCOMES – Evolve and adapt Roles

How much power is held within roles (formal system – job titles) and how much in more fluid social structures – is there opportunity to invest in these?

POTENTIAL OUTCOMES – Consider the Story

Are you able to hear, or articulate, the competing narratives of the Future of Work – create space and opportunity to do so – and analyse how they relate to power. Do this within intact teams, and cross functionally.

POTENTIAL OUTCOMES – Access Tribes

Explore the degree to which your Organisation is tribal and hence Domain based – will your vertical structures serve you well in a distributed context, or do they constrain you?

POTENTIAL OUTCOMES – Democratise Change

Consider the degree to which change itself is democratised – how is it initiated, by who – and should that be reversed – what is sacred and what is simple dogma?

Agency – Control

QUESTION – “What are your existing mechanisms of Control?”

CONTEXT – Consider which mechanisms will stand up in your new reality.

POTENTIAL OUTCOMES – Adapt Rules

How will your rules adapt – how reliant are you on rules – who will rewrite the rules?

POTENTIAL OUTCOMES – Rebuild Culture

How will you be ‘together apart’ – what is the new intersection of physical and social – how do dynamics change as your relationship to Space changes?

Agency – Boundaries

QUESTION – “How separate will ‘work’ and ‘life’ be in your future work?”

CONTEXT – The Future of Work may involve a greater diversity of working patterns, philosophies, and approach – how able are you to accommodate and recognise these?

POTENTIAL OUTCOMES – Consider balance

What is expected of people – how will that expectation be felt equally – is anyone disadvantaged or enabled more so than others?

POTENTIAL OUTCOMES – How broad is your net?

Can you accommodate wildly differentiated answer to this – some people 9-5 and others fragmented?

About julianstodd

Author, Artist, Researcher, and Founder of Sea Salt Learning. My work explores the context of the Social Age and the intersection of formal and social systems.
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