Right now around the world people are working from home in new digital cubicles. We may not be in the office, but we are in new boxes of isolation in our homes. The social separation is greater than in the office cubicle, because the distance between employees is measured in kilometres. The usual information methods of information sharing have been lost. Context, coaching and coordination are missing. The external pressures, of family, of financial stress and of survival, are greater. Back-to-back video conferencing meetings have taken over from back-to-back physical meetings. The myriad of interruptions, the searching to find information and the process glitches mean that any productivity gains from remote work and meeting efficiency are lost.
Digital transformation is the opportunity to do differently, not just digitally. Smashing the same process, organisational models and decision making through videoconferencing and collaboration platforms is not anything new. We need to start solving the problems of our people, our customers and our communities in new ways to create sustainable value from our current uncertainty and stress.
The opportunity to work digitally has existed for a long while. As we discover it in this forced change we need to consider not just how we work digitally, but how we work better. For me that challenge comes down to three key issues:
- how to we become more responsive to our environments and learn faster?
- how do we change our methods of working so as to benefit from digital work?
- how to we use our potential to collaborate better to create new value for our people, our customers and our organisations?
We have been forced to react. We have done the tactical things to keep working. The strategic opportunity in front of us now is to do differently to create new value, new competitiveness and support our people to realise their potential in this a new normal.
How do we end the digital cubicles?
Here’s a series of starting points for pulling down the walls of the digital cubicles and rethinking the way we work,
Enable Greater Learning and Responsiveness
There’s a lot of change going on and a lot more needed. To be able to manage this in a distributed way, we need to increase learning, responsiveness and adaptation. This means our management mindsets, accountabilities, processes and our decision making need to change first. You can’t micromanage distributed learning and adaptation:
Start Changing Our Practices and Processes
Aligned to this we need to rethink our personal work practices and our organisational structures, processes and systems to work at scale in a distributed organisation. We will need to reflect on the foundations of our work and how best to use new ways of work to realise strategy and achieve our shared purpose.
Increase Collaboration for Strategic Value
Knowledge work is networked work. The more digital we are the more knowledge work we will have in our organisations. We need to think about how our people collaborate to create value, especially remotely and using their new digital tools. We need to find, foster and develop the distributed leadership that will scale agency and change in our organisations and support a culture of continuous innovation:
Of course this means we also need to understand what value we want to create for ourselves, our employees and for our customers and creating the open platforms to leverage our organisation capabilites to realise change.
None of this digital transformation has anything to do with how many video images your videoconferencing platform shows on screen in meetings. What matter is how organisations and individuals work, learn and adapt. The real value is not to work on digital tools. The value creation occurs when we work, learn and adapt in new ways.