Sunday, May 10, 2015

BOOK BRIEF: "The Future of Work" by Jacob Morgan

Instability is the one constant I have seen in my broad travels through the world of work in the private and public sectors over the past four decades. In my communication with hundreds of business owners and corporate executives, few, if any, have talked about a long-term vision for their company. They're too busy reacting to the latest must-have technological advancement, the most recent business security threat, or the most pressing client opportunity to concern themselves with a 10-year or even a 1-year plan. 

While acknowledging the realities that shape such a mindset, Jacob Morgan wants to change it. In his latest book, The Future of Work: Attract New Talent, Build Better Leaders, and Create a Competitive Organization, Morgan reveals the sensibilities of today's office and workers that undermine managerial nearsightedness and demand a fresh approach to hiring, cultivating, rewarding, and keeping excellent staff. In doing so, he also renders a practical reference guide for how employees should see themselves if they are to benefit from breaking developments in the workplace.

Morgan begins with a look at technological and demographic trends that continually spark new workplace behaviors. It's already old news that we are living a more public life through social networking, blurring the distinction between our personal and professional lives. We have parlayed our acceptance of instability and disruption by seeking greater flexibility in our work hours, locations, and assignments, and by expecting management to broaden its employee evaluation criteria and recreate its corporate ladder. Our acclimation to an endless barrage of data has inspired us to customize work, adapt our devices, and share information and responsibilities. Disappearing are annual performance reviews and managers making business-critical decisions in a vacuum of hoarded information and predetermined work structures.

The new business leader, says Morgan, must "follow from the front" and embrace the vulnerability that comes with organizational flattening and vanishing hierarchies. He cites case studies from Cisco, General Electric, Microsoft, Unilever, Whirlpool, and even the United States government to tout a managerless company that fosters employee retention, quicker decisions, and happier customers. Closing with 14 principles of future organizations, and the required steps to overcome roadblocks that stand in their way, Morgan offers a compendium of a whole new world of commerce and its consequences. Armed with this knowledge, entrenched and aspiring business leaders might well get a better handle on their company's future.