Roche Rise, Week 3 … Work Recoded

November 23, 2022 at Online with IE Business School

“Roche Rise” is a series of sessions by Peter Fisk for the future leaders of Roche, the Swiss pharma business – making sense of today’s changing world, understanding how business is responding, embracing an inclusive leadership approach:

  • Roche Rise, Week 1: Future Recoded … How will you embrace the megatrends to shape a better future?
    • Market disruption, future uncertainty, and accelerated change
    • Global megatrends, new possibilities, and emerging agendas
    • Future shapers, from 23andMe and Philip Morris, to Epic and Jio, Tesla and Twelve
  • Roche Rise, Week 2: Business Recoded … What are the new business models to drive success?
    • New business models, innovating every aspect of business
    • Power shifts, network dynamics, consumer influences and business partners
    • Business innovators, from Danone to PingAn, Haier to Fujifilm, Schneider and Shein
  • Roche Rise, Week 3: Work Recoded … How are we changing how we work as individuals and organisations?
    • New ways of working, beyond the hybrid, the power of teams and ecosystems
    • Organic organisations, distributed and empowered, fluid and dynamic
    • Work innovators, from Alphabet and Netflix, Haier and Haufe, Microsoft and Unilever
  • Roche Rise, Week 4: Leadership Recoded … Where do you start, in creating a future-fit business?
    • Getting started, from the future back, and the from the outside in
    • Future and growth mindsets, diverse and inclusive cultures, flat organisations and no rules
    • Inspired by Anne Wojcicki and Satya Nadella, Mary Barra and Eric Yuan, and you.

This week we focus on Work Recoded, and the future of work.

Pandemic lockdown was a catalyst to rethink why and how we work – how we work personally, how we contribute to teams, how we work for and as organisations and ecosystems.

Hybrid working, obviously – but also more flexible to fit with your life, more collaborative across geographic borders, more access to resources and new work tools like Miro, more multi-tasking, less commuting, more empowered, less formality, more deep work.

Remote working was not the answer. It brought frustrations – the lack of socialisation, of a team home, the intensity of being “always on”, the seeming lack of purpose and importance given of business given else was happening in the world, and then going back traditional organisations seemed too rigid and hierarchical, and “the great resignation” followed.

Now, as companies look beyond the pandemic, many are adapting to new hybrid models – hybrid in the sense of home and work, hybrid in the sense of employed and freelance, hybrid in the sense of work and lifestyle.

The future of work, however,  is a much bigger question – the search for meaning, the shift towards organic organisations, working in partnerships and ecosystems, rewards beyond money, portfolio working as a norm, finding new ways to engage young people, harnessing digital tools for efficiency, and humanity for imagination.

The disruption, and experiment, has allowed companies and individuals to reimagine how we work.

Work Recoded

“The future of work” was already a huge question before Covid ever hit. Digitally-enabled transformation of every market and organisation demands that business thinks, adds value and works in new ways. Fast and connected, automated or augmented, collaborative ecosystems and empowered teams, gig workers and multi careers, more flexible, more hybrid, more human.

Haier, the world leader in home appliances, is a ecosystem of 10,000 micro-enteprises, highly innovative and incentivised. Google did a huge study into what made teams effective, and transformed its ways of working as a result. Haufe, the German electronics engineer, has a bi-annual employee vote to agree the CEO. Dutch homecare organisation Buurtzorg empowers people to work how they judge best to achieve team goals.

The World Economic Forum’s Future of Work agenda, updated annually, creates a strong vision of a rapidly changing world of work, most significantly driven by the fourth industrial revolution, the challenge of technology, but also the imperative for human ingenuity. My new book Business Recoded builds on this, connecting it with other ideas such as Laloux’s reimagined organisations, Haier’s “rendanheyi” devolved structure, and Google Aristotle’s safe and extreme teaming:

  • Future-proofed organisations – simple, flat and agile structures – connecting people and partners
  • Align new technologies and skills – augmenting and enabling people to add more beyond process and machine
  • Work portfolios – everyone is a project worker, internally or gig-working, lifelong learning and evolving
  • Doing meaningful work – more purposeful, more responsible, more valued outcomes, particularly for GenZ
  • Human-centric leadership – organisations as platforms to enable people to achieve their potential

The pandemic’s disruption has accelerated this shift. Without choice, we all found ourselves experimenting with new environments, new tools, new ways of working.

Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends report for 2021 focuses on the shrift from surviving to thriving, both in the sense of surviving the pandemic and thriving as we emerge, but also a more general complacency in business, to choose stability over change.  It highlights 5 big trends:

  • Designing work for wellbeing (and the end of the work/life balance or separation)
  • Unleashing human potential (beyond skills, enabling new mindsets and freedoms)
  • Building superteams (power of teams, and using tech to augment the humanity)
  • Adaptive strategies (embracing uncertainty, to make better decisions, with agility)
  • Rearchitecting organisations (enterprise-wide mindset, more fluid, connected and human)

One of the most insightful analysis of what is happening comes from Microsoft, and while they clearly have a Teams-centred tech view of of the digital workspace, they are also an organisation of 166,000 people across the world. Over the last two years I have seen at first hand how they are rapidly embracing a new work style, physical and virtual, not just where, but why and how their people approach work.

Microsoft’s report (see below) has key messages including “leaders are out of touch … productivity masks exhaustion … GenZ most at risk … authenticity drives well-being … innovation in danger … talent is everywhere”.

Teal organisations, hybrid models, B corporations, extreme teams, psychological safety, meta jobs, soft skills, project centric, GenZ engagement, new work contracts, portfolio working, employee democracy, human-tech augmentation, and much more.

I call it “Work Recoded”:

Future Work

By 2025 the majority of workers will be freelance individuals working around the world, independent of distance or background. They will apply their human, emotional, and creative skills to solve ever-more complex problems. They have the hunger to keep learning throughout their lives, the agility to keep adapting and updating their skills, and the open-mindedness to see things differently.

Modern and high-tech working environments are enhanced by a community feeling with shared facilities and resources. Many of the workers are not even employed by the companies, instead they are happier to remain freelance “gig-workers” working on projects that require specialist inputs. New ideas, new skills, new innovations and new opportunities swirl around in the creative atmosphere, and new partnerships often emerge out of the fusion. This is the new world of work. No jobs for life. Few permanent roles. Fluid job descriptions. Multiple jobs at the same time. And companies working together.

Some of the jobs of the future will be highly technical, whilst others will be much more human. In exploring the jobs of the future, Ben Pring from Cognizant explores 4Es to consider the skills required:

  • Eternal skills: Some human skills have existed since our very beginning. No matter how brilliant our technologies become, these human skills, along with many others, will be of value through eternity.
  • Enduring skills: The ability to sell has always been important. Other such enduring abilities – being empathetic, trusting, helping, imagining, creating, striving – will always be needed. Such skills will be central to jobs of the future.
  • Emerging skills: New skills for the future relate to the complexity, density and speed of work. The skill to use a 315mb Excel spreadsheet, or to navigate a drone virtual cockpit. These will enhance our ability to utilise new machines.
  • Eroding skills: Many skills that used to be special are now normal, to manage a social media platform, to product a fantastic presentation, whilst others are redundant like photocopying or replaced like data entry.

However the World Economic Forum suggests that more jobs will be created than lost, 133 million created and 75 million lost over the 5 years to 2025, as we see a huge evolution in the workplace of what people do, as well as how they do it. Top emerging jobs will include:

  • Data analysts and scientists
  • AI and machine learning specialists
  • Software and application developers
  • Sales and marketing professionals
  • Digital transformations specialists

Beyond technology, data and AI, many new roles will also emerge in the broader aspects of engineering and sustainable development. The growth in elderly will drive a boom in care work, and many more creative roles will emerge through relentless innovation and more human pursuits, like sport and entertainment.

Completely new jobs in specific industries will emerge such as

  • Flying car developers
  • Virtual identity defenders
  • Tidewater architects
  • Smart home designers
  • Joy adjutants

Analysis by BCG in 2020 shoes that 95% of most at risk workers could find good quality, higher paid jobs, if they are prepared to make the transition. This shift also offers the opportunity to close the wage gap, with 74% of women and 53% of men likely to find higher paid roles.  It suggests that around 70% of those affected will need to make a significant shift in job, requiring a huge skills revolution.

At the same time, it is not just about refitting people for new jobs. The “dandelion principle”, embraced by organisations like SAP, starts by hiring great people with a diversity of backgrounds and skills to create a richer talent base. It then seeks to build jobs around people, rather than people around jobs, in a more symbiotic way.

More human, more creative, more female

As machines take on our more physical skills, the opportunity is for people to be liberated from the drudgery of repetitive tasks to add more human, creative and emotional value. Imagination will drive progress, whilst machines sustain efficiency.

Human skills matter not only within the workplace, but also in engaging with consumers. In a world of automated interfaces, brands will differentiate  on their ability to be more intuitive, empathic and caring. The roles of people, assistants in stores, nurses in hospitals, teachers in classrooms, will be to add-value with premium levels of service.

Creative skills are not only in demand in the areas of communication, marketing and innovation, but also in rethinking how organisations can better work, how business models can be transformed, and machines themselves deployed in better ways.

Typically these “softer” skills are what we could call more “female” attributes. Of course, that is to stereotype genders, but it certainly requires more empathy than apathy, intuition than evidence, influence than instruction, care than control. At the same time it requires men to adopt these behaviours too, and in general to embrace inequalities and diversity.

BCG’s 2020 research suggests that analytical and critical thinking skills will be crucial to the future of the work, alongside more emotional intelligence and social influence. Learning and creative capabilities will be the most significant growth areas for development in the coming years. They identified these priorities:

  • Analytical thinking and innovation
  • Active learning and learning strategies
  • Creativity, originality and initiative
  • Technology design and programming
  • Critical thinking and analysis
  • Complex problem-solving
  • Leadership and social influence
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Reasoning, problem-solving and ideation
  • Systems analysis and evaluation.

Meta skills, rather than technical or specialist skills which we may have trained for or focused on in the past, will become more significant. These are the more enduring skills which  allow us to evolve and adapt to relentless change. Sensemaking, learning to learn, coping with uncertainty and change.

Sometimes this will require us to unlearn first, to let go of old assumptions and prejudices, and open our minds to new possibilities and perspectives.

In “The 100 Year Life” Lynda Gratton recognises that as life expectancy moves beyond 100, most of us will work for longer, and transition more often, with around seven different phases in our career journeys – not just new jobs, but entirely new vocations.

Future Organisations

Qingdao is the home of Haier, the world’s leading home appliances business. Over the years, the company’s CEO Zhang Ruimin has become an innovator not only of washing machines and refrigerators, but of organisations and entrepreneurship too.

Once a devotee of the “six sigma” approach, Zhang has developed his own management ideology: rendanheyi. By dividing a company up into micro-enterprises on an open platform and dismantling the traditional “empire” management system, rendanheyi creates “zero distance” between employee and the needs of the customer.

At the heart of rendanheyi is the cultivation of entrepreneurship – by removing the costly level of middle management (Zhang famously eliminated the positions of 10,000 employees), you encourage innovation, flexibility and risk-taking.

The quantum mechanics of business

On meeting, we quickly found a common background, having both studied physics, and specifically quantum mechanics. I was curious about how he had embraced the ideas of physical science into his vision of how Haier should work as an organisation. We quickly got into a passionate, and somewhat technical discussion about atomic structure and wave theory. Whilst I’m not sure atomic physics would be many business people’s ideal topic, I was intrigued.

“When I first studied physics, I was amazed by the perpetual motion of subatomic particles. Electrons and protons coexist in a dynamic equilibrium, created by their equal and opposite charges. This sustains a continual existence, it enables atoms to come together in many different formats as molecules, each with their own unique properties, and within these atomic structures is huge amounts of energy”.

The application to business becomes clear, and also much of the founding ideas behind why and how he has developed his rendanheyi model of entrepreneurial businesses.

“Applying this idea from physics to business” he says “small teams of people with different backgrounds, skills, and ideas, can co-exist incredibly effectively. It is the ability to create small diverse teams where ideas and actions are equally dynamic, that enables a business to sustain over time. They become self-organising and mutually enabling. Ideas, innovation and implementation are continuous. And they can easily link with other teams, like atoms coming together as molecules, for collaborative projects and to create new solutions.”

As a result, he challenges the old supremacy of shareholders in the value equation, putting a premium on employees, and the value created by them and for them. However, at the same time, he recognises the need to empower employees to be more customer intimate. As a result, the rate of growth has risen from 8% to 30% in recent years.

 “People are not a means to an end, but an end in themselves. We took away all of our middle management. Now things are working much better. Zero signature, zero approval. Now we have only one supervisor, which is the customer.”

Haier’s evolution has been rapid and relentless, as Zhang has driven the company from an old refrigerator factory – where indiscipline and poor quality was so rife that he took to shock tactics, taking a sledge hammer to some of the products to demonstrate that such mediocrity was no longer acceptable – to a pioneer of digital tech.

In the 1990s, Haier focused on the Chinese market, building a portfolio of high-quality standardised products. The 2000s was about internationalisation, reaching across the world, and then adding more localisation and customisation. The 2010s have been all about digitalisation, embracing the power of automation and data, to the point where Haier is now one of the world’s leading producers of “smart” products, embedded with Internet of Things, IoT, and connected intelligently.

However, the implications are profound. Today, Haier is not motivated by seeking to create the best product. With a brand purpose that seeks to make people’s lives better, it looks beyond products to services, to how it can do more to help people live in their everyday lives, with a focus on the intelligent home.

“In a digital world of globalization, connectivity and personalization, there is no such thing as a perfect product. People will buy scenarios, or concepts, where the products might be free and act as enablers for services. Haier’s products embrace IoT to ensure that they connect with other devices, with other partners in our ecosystems, and with people and their homes. In the future, maybe the product will be free, and people will pay for services – from food delivery, to home entertainment, security or maintenance.”

Organisations as living organisms

The way we manage organisations seems increasingly out of date.

Most employees are disengaged. Too often work is associated with  dread and drudgery, rather than passion or purpose.

Leaders complain that their organisations are too slow, siloed and bureaucratic for today’s world. Behind the façade and bravado, many business leaders are deeply frustrated by the endless power games and politics of corporate life.

Frédéric Laloux offers an alternative. In his book “Reinventing Organizations” he uses the metaphor of an organisation as a living system, with radically streamlined structures that facilitate active involvement and self-management.

He envisions a new organisational model, which is self-managed, built around a “wholeness” approach to life and work, and guided by an “evolutionary purpose”.

Wholeness means that people strive to be themselves, rather than putting on a mask when they go to work. This, he argues can only be achieved when they let go of the idea of “work-life balance” which encourages a compromise. By aligning personal and organisational purpose and passions, you have less stress, and contribute more.

Evolutionary purpose means that meaning and direction of the business is not defined from above but drawn from what feels right amongst people. It might be articulated in a manifesto which defines the actions most admired, the new projects that receive the most interest. And it is constantly evolving, as both the culture inside, and world outside, evolve too.

Laloux describes humanity as evolving in stages. Inspired by the philosopher Ken Wilber, he describes five stages of human consciousness, with associated colours, and proposes that organizations evolve according to these same stages. They are:

  • Impulsive (red): Characterised by establishing and enforcing authority through power, eg mafia, street gangs. For business, this is reflected in the functional boundaries, and top down authority.
  • Conformist (amber): The group shapes its own beliefs and value. Self-discipline, shame and guilt, are used to enforce them, eg military, religion. For business this means replicable processes, and defined organizations.
  • Achievement (orange): The world is seen as a machine, seeking scientifically to predict, control and deliver, eg banking, MBA programs. For business this means Innovation, analytics and metrics, and accountability
  • Pluralistic (green): Characterised by a sense of inclusion, to treat all people as equal, more like a family, eg non-profits. For business this means a values-driven culture, empowerment and shared value.
  • Evolutionary (teal): The world is seen as neither fixed nor machine, but a place where everyone is called by an inner purpose to contribute, eg holocracy. For business this means self-management and wholeness.

Most organisations today are “orange”, still driven by analysis and metrics, driving profitability and growth. Examples of “green” organisations include Apple, Ben & Jerry’s, Starbucks. Examples of “teal” organisations might be Patagonia, Buurtzorg and Morning Star.

The end of hierarchy

What replaces the old hierarchies of organisations?

Henry Ford built his organisation for stability, efficiency and standardisation. Clearly defined processes and controls ensured that it worked like a machine, no space for deviance or change. Some decades later, Kaori Ishikawa went further to systemise the approach with total quality management, seen as the secret of Japan’s industrial success in the late 20th century. Efficiency was the goal, not creativity.

However, today’s world requires a different approach. Business needs to be fast and adaptive to a world of change. Technology has transformed the roles of people inside organisations, automating processes, adding intelligent systems, and digital interfaces. The value of organisations lies in its ideas, reputation and reach. Organisations embrace the connectedness of the outside world, technology enabling knowledge sharing, fast decision making, and collaborative working.

Flat organisations became fast and agile, putting customers at their heart. Yet this is all structural, and did not in itself create difference. In a world where businesses could essentially do anything, they have become more purposeful, and also more distinctive in their character and beliefs.

Expert teams don’t need the old controls. Empowered and enabled, they become more self-managing, and teams collectively work together towards a higher purpose and strategic framework that guides but doesn’t prescribe. As a result, the business develops a human-like consciousness. It resembles a complex adaptive system, where there is a wholeness built on multiple non-linear connections, combining progress with agility.

Buurtzorg, like Haier, is a great example of self-managing teams. The Dutch healthcare business provides home support to elderly people. It recognised that local teams, which acted largely autonomously had a much great commitment to their work, than if they were managed centrally using standard efficiency metrics.

Haufe Group is an innovative media and software business in Freiburg, in the heart of Germany’s Black Forest. As an organisation they have long put people first, sharing in the development of strategy, and the rewards of success. When it came to appointing a new CEO, the company realised that this couldn’t just be imposed on such a democratic structure, and so now holds elections to find who amongst peers will be the leader.

If, as Peter Drucker said, “the purpose of an organisation is to enable ordinary human beings to do extraordinary things” then organisations must evolve to make this possible.

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