Organizations that are stagnant and bound by tradition are less and less likely to survive the turbulent change that the economies of the world are currently experiencing. One of the biggest problems in managing an organization today is failing to adapt to the changing world. To better understand this issue, let’s look back on the road we’ve taken.
It’s easy to forget that just 30 years ago no one had a fax machine, a cellular phone, or a notebook computer. Terms we now use in our everyday vocabulary, such as e-mail and Internet, were known to may be at best a few hundred people. Computers often took up considerable space, quite unlike today’s 4-pound laptops. Moreover, if you were to talk about networks 30 years ago, people would have assumed you were talking about ABC, CBS, or NBC – the major television networks.
The silicon chip and other advances in technology have permanently altered the economies of the world and, as we’ll show momentarily the way people work. Digital electronics, optical data storage, more powerful and portable computers, and the ability of computers to communicate with each other are changing the way information is created, stored used, and shared. One individual who has studied these changes and predicted some of their implications is futurist Alvin Toffler, who has written extensively about social change. Classifying each period of social history, Toffler argues that modern civilization has evolved over three waves and with each wave came a new way of doing things. Some groups of people gained from the new way: others lost.
The first wave was driven by agriculture. Until the late nineteenth century, all economies were agrarian. For instance, in the 1980, approximately 90 percent of people were employed in agriculture related jobs. These individuals were typically their own bosses and were responsible for performing a variety of tasks. Their success or failure was contingent on how well they produced. Since the 1890s, the proportion of the global workforce is needed to provide our food; in the United States, it’s fewer than 3 percent.
The second wave was industrialization. From the late 1800s until the 1960s, most developed countries moved from agrarian societies to industrial societies. In doing so, work left the fields and moved into formal organizations. The industrial wave forever changed the lives of skilled artisans. No longer did they grow something or produce in its entirety. Instead, workers were hired into tightly structured and formal workplaces. Mass production, specialized jobs, and authority relationships became the mode of operation. It gave rise to a new group of workers – the blue collar industrial workers – individuals who were paid for performing routine work that relied almost exclusively on physical stamina. By the 1950s, industrial workers had become the largest single group in every developed country. They made products such as steel, automobiles, rubber, and industrial equipment. Ironically, no class in history has ever risen faster than the blue collar worker. And no class in history has ever fallen faster. Toady, blue collar industrial workers account for less than 30 percent of the US workforce and will be less than half of that in just a few years. The shift since World War II has been away from manufacturing work and toward service jobs, today, manufacturing jobs as a proportion of the total civilian workforce are highest in Japan at just over 20 percent. In the United States, manufacturing jobs make up about 15 percent of the civilian workforce. In contrast, services make up about half of the jobs in Italy (the lowest percentage of any industrialized country) and more than three fourths of the jobs in the United States and Canada.