Management and the New Work Place

Over the past decade or so, the central theme being discussed in the fields of management has been the pervasiveness of dramatic change. Rapid environmental shifts are causing fundamental transformation that have a dramatic impact on the manger’s job. This transformation is reflected in the transition to a new workplace. The primary characteristics of the new workplace are that it is centered on bits rather than atoms, information and ideas rather than machines and physical assets. Low cost computing power means that ideas, documents, movies, music, and all sorts of other data can be zapped around the world at the speed of light. The digitization of business has radically altered the nature of work, employees and the workplace itself. The old workplace is characterized by routine specialized tasks and standardized control procedures. Employees typically perform their jobs in one specific company facility, such as an automobile factory located in Detroit or an insurance agency located in Des Moines. The organization is coordinated and controlled through the vertical hierarchy with decision making authority residing with upper level managers.


The Transition to a New Workplace

Resources >> Bits – information >> Atoms – physical assets
Work >> Flexible, virtual >> structured, localized
Workers >> Empowered employers, free agents >> Loyal employees.

Forces on Organization
Technology>> Digital e-business >> Mechanical
Workforce >> Diverse >> Homogeneous
Values >> Change, speed >> Stability efficiency
Events>> Turbulent, more frequent crises >> Calm predictable

Management Competencies>>>

Leadership >> Dispersed empowering >>Autocratic
Focus >> Connection to customers employees
Doing work >> by teams >> by individuals
Relationships >> Collaboration >> Conflict competition
Design >> experimental learning organization >> Efficient performance

In the new workplace by contrast work is free flowing and flexible. The shift is most obvious in e-commerce and high tech organization s, which have to respond to changing markets and competition at a second’s notice. However, numerous other organizations such as McKinsey & Company CNA Life and Nokia are also incorporating mechanisms to enhance speed and flexibility empowered employer are expected to seize opportunities and solve problems as they emerge. Structures are flatter and decision making authority is pushed down to lower levels. The workplace is organized around networks rather than rigid hierarchies and work is often virtual with managers having to supervise and coordinate people who never actually come to work in the traditional sense. Thanks to modern information and communications technology employee can perform their jobs from home or another remote location, at any time of the day or night. Flexible hours, telecommuting and virtual teams are increasingly popular ways of working that require new skills from managers. Using virtual team allows organizations to use the best people for a particular job, no matter where they are located thus enabling a fast response to competitive pressures. When IBM needs to staff a project for example, it gives a list of skills needed to the human resources department which provides a pool of people who are qualified. The team leader then puts together the best combination of people for the project which often means pulling people from many different locations. IBM estimates that about a third of its employees participate in virtual teams. Teams in today’s organizations may also include outside contractors, suppliers, customers, competitors and interim managers who are not affiliated with a specific organization but work on a project by project basis. The valued worker is one who learns quickly shares knowledge and is comfortable with risk, change, and ambiguity.

Forces of Organizations:

The most striking change now affecting organizations and management is technology. Consider that computing power has roughly doubled every 18 months over the past 30 years while the cost has declined by half or more every 18 months. In addition, the Internet which was little more than curiosity to many managers a decade ago, has transformed the way business is done. Many organizations use digital networking technologies to tie together employees and company partners in far flung operations. Companies are becoming interconnected and managers have to learn how to coordinate relationships with other organization.