This road map for the next generation of work is for the up and coming entrepreneurs to make sure they start on the right foot.

  • What happens when the tools and technologies we use every day become mainstream parts of the business world?
  • What happens when we stop leading separate “consumer” and “professional” lives when it comes to technology stacks?

The result is a dramatic change in the products we use at work and as a result an upending of the canon of management practices that define how work is done.

New tools are appearing that radically alter the traditional definitions of productivity and work. Businesses failing to embrace these changes will find their employees simply working around IT at levels we have not seen even during the earliest days of the PC. Too many enterprises are either flat-out resisting these shifts or hoping for a “transition”—disruption is taking place, not only to every business, but within every business. 

Paradigm shift

Continuous productivity is an era that fosters a seamless integration between consumer and business platforms. Continuous productivity manifests itself as an environment where the evolving tools and culture make it possible to innovate more and faster than ever, with significantly improved execution. Together our industry is shaping a new way to learn, work, and live with the power of software and mobile computing—an era of continuous productivity.

Continuous productivity shifts our efforts from the start/stop world of episodic work and work products to one that builds on the technologies that start to answer what happens when:

    • A generation of new employees has access to the collective knowledge of an entire profession, experts, or enterprise.
    • Collaboration takes place across organisation and company boundaries with everyone connected by a social fibre rather than the organisations hierarchy.
    • Data, knowledge, analysis, and opinion are equally available to every member of a team in formats that are digital, sharable, and structured.
    • People have the ability to time slice, context switch, and proactively deal with situations as they arise, shifting from a start/stop environment to one that is continuous.

    Today our tools force us to hurry up and wait, then react at all hours to that email or notification of available data. Continuous productivity provides us a chance at a more balanced view of time management because we operate in a rhythm with tools to support that rhythm. Rather than feeling like you’re on call all the time waiting for progress or waiting on some person or event, you can simply be more effective as an individual, team, and organization because there are new tools and platforms that enable a new levels of workflow.

    Some might say this is predicting the present and that the world has already made this shift. In reality, the vast majority of organisations are struggling right now with how to face these challenges. Beside the ones who try to ignore this shift, majority of the organisations are trying to use this new technology to run their old system. Even the winning organisations face an innovator’s dilemma in how to develop new products and services, organise their efforts, and communicate with customers, partners, and even within their own organisations.

    This disruption is driven by technology, and is not just about the products a company makes or services offered, but also about the very nature of the work and work force.

    The Social-place

    The starting point for this revolution in the workplace is the socialplace we all experience each and every day and it is propagating through the globe like a wild fire.

    We carry out our non-work (digital) lives on our mobile devices. You use global services like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Gmail, and others to communicate. These services plus the entertainment services from YouTube, Netflix to Spotify to Pandora and more the Internet itself. Add the local services to the list above and you have over a billion people collectively  and routinely using them . Every day new services such as Pinterest or Instagram enter the scene and are used deeply by tens of millions in relatively short times.

    In short, the socialplace we are all familiar with is part of the fabric of life in much of the world and only growing in importance. The generation growing up today will of course only know this world and what follows.

    Around the world, the economies undergoing their first information revolutions will do so with these technologies as the baseline. Try t o be part of it.

    Historic workplace

    Briefly, it is worth reflecting on and broadly characterising some of the history of the workplace to help to place the dramatic changes into historic context.

    First half of 20th Century workplace – Mechanised productivity

    The industrial revolution that defined the first half of the 20 century marked the start of modern business, typified by high-volume, large-scale organisations. The essence of mechanisation was the factory which focused on ever-improving and repeatable output. Factories were owned by those infusing capital into the system and the culture of owner, management, and labor grew out of this reality. Management itself was very much about hierarchy.

There was a clear separation between labor and management primarily focused on owners/ownership.

Second half of 20th Century workplace – Knowledge productivity

The problems created by the success of mechanised production were met with a solution—the introduction of the computer and the start of the information revolution. Knowledge created a new culture of business derived from the information gathering and analysis capabilities of first the mainframe and then the PC. The essence of knowledge was the people-centric office which focused on ever-improving analysis and decision-making to allocate capital, develop products and services, and coordinate the work across the globe.

The modern organisation model of a board of directors, executives, middle management, and employees grew out of these new capabilities. Management of these knowledge-centric organisations happened through an ever-increasing network of middle-managers. The definition of work changed and most employees were not directly involved in making things, but in analysing, coordinating, or servicing the products and services a company delivered.

Middle-management grew to spend their time researching, tabulating, reporting, and reconciling the information sources available. Knowledge is power in this environment. Management took over the role of resource allocation from owners and focused on decision-making as the primary effort, using knowledge and the skills of middle management to inform those choices.

A symbol of knowledge productivity might be the “meeting”. Meetings came to dominate the management culture of organisations. The essence of these meetings was to execute on a strategy—a commitment to create value, defend against competition, and to execute. The work products of meetings—the pre-reading memos, the presentations, the supporting analytics began to take on epic proportions. Staff organisations developed that shadowed the whole process.

Even with the broad availability of knowledge and information, companies still became trapped in the old ways of doing things, unable to adapt and change. With this era of information technology came the notion of companies too big and too slow to react to changes in the marketplace

even with information right there in front of collective eyes.

21st Century workplace – Continuous Productivity

Today’s organisations are either themselves mobile or serving customers that are mobile, or likely both. Mobility is everywhere we look. With mobility comes an unprecedented degree of freedom and flexibility—freedom from locality, limited information, and the desktop computer.

Today’s marketplace has access to more data than ever before. Today’s answers are generated instantaneously  from the users behaviour online. We no longer spend countless hours debating causality because what is happening is right there before our eyes.

The availability of the information and communications tools is moving us from a hierarchical access model of the past to a much more collaborative and sharing-first approach. Every member of an organisation should have access to the raw “feeds” that could be material to their role. Teams become the focus of collaborative work, empowered by the data to inform their decisions. We see the increasing use of “crowds” and product usage telemetry able to guide improved service and products, based not on qualitative sampling plus “judgment” but on what amounts to a census of real-world usage.

  1. Information technology is at the heart of all of these changes, just as it was in the knowledge era. The technologies are vastly different.
  2. The mainframe was about centralised information and control.
  3. The PC era empowered people to take the data and make better use of it and later to create new, but inherently specific information sources.

Today’s mobile cloud-based technology serve entire organisations or network of people globally.  This is such a fundamental shift in the availability of information that it changes everything in how information is collected, shared, and put to use.

Management using yesterday’s techniques can’t seem keep up with this world. The “young” employees seem to know more about what is going on because of Twitter and Facebook or just being constantly connected. Where people used to sit in important meetings and listen to important people guess about information, people now get real data from real sources in real-time while the meeting is taking place or even before.

There’s a new role for management that builds on this new level of information and employees skilled in using it. Management must assume a new type of leadership that is focused on framing the outcome, the characteristics of decisions, and the culture of the organisation and much less about specific decision-making or reviewing work. The following table contrasts the way we work between the historic norms and continuous productivity.

Then Now, Continuous Productivity
Process Exploration
Hierarchy, top down or middle out Network, bottom up
Internal committees Internal and external teams, crowds
Strategy-centric Execution-centric
Presenting packaged and produced ideas, documents Sharing ideas and perspectives continuously, service
Data based on snapshots at intervals, viewed statically Data always real-time, viewed dynamically
Process-centric Rhythm-centric
Exact answers Approximation and iteration
More users More usage

Read More
The role of workplace technology has evolved significantly from theory to practice as a result of these tools.
Read More

To read the second paper  on the Next Generation of Work follow the link below:

Road Map For The Next Generation of Work – Theory & Technology (2)

Extracts from the paper by: Steven Sinofsky

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