The latest buzzword on the management improvement circuit is the very broad and yet hopeful ‘future of work’.
Somehow it always reminds me of Star Wars Episode IV – A New Hope – here to save the future of work or is it from work?
And before everyone calls me Debbie Downer, I am grateful for the many people out in the world thinking, writing about and discussing what work could and quite frankly should look like in the future.
But what about the now?
“The future depends on what you do today.” ― Mahatma Gandhi
Every time I see the hashtag or read an article about the future of work, I think of the following quote by Mother Theresa ‘Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.’.
I find it interesting that society and humankind either seems to dwell in the past (guilty as charged) or is in a futuristic frenzy, wrecking their heads whether robots will already serve the chai at a nearby coffee shop next summer…on polar opposites, while the present is either ignored, taken for granted or simply condoned.
But let’s go back to the future of work…or is it actually back to the future?
Are the FOW (yes, I love acronyms) concepts presented something radically new or even remotely unique?
Hand to your heart, how many methodologies, systems, practices, concepts, have you come across and/ or lived through that were utterly distinct and different and have seriously and positively impacted the way we work today.
‘Good writers borrow, great writers steal’ is what Sam Seaborn said in the West Wing.
Now let’s ponder that for a while.
Quite frankly, looking at the methods and tools I use in my consulting practice, I owe the majority of techniques to the great thinkers and creators who came before me…Masaaki Imai, Maslow, Einstein, ITIL…mixed with some ‘new age’ innovations such as Design Thinking or the Leadership Circle.
What I like to do is to apply whatever part is needed out of each methodology, sprinkle in active listening, a good dosage of common sense, experience from the trenches and some E, I and CQ.
So why did I just write all of that…well, the point I am trying to make is, if the FOW concepts are not radically new but rather evolutions of existing methods and system, why are we so hopeful for their future implementation if none of them have really seemed to benefit work so far?
I am not one to tussle, no matter what they do to me, BUT seriously folks, why are we not seeing the great future of work at work now?
Picture this…imagine companies would be serious about culture, change management, pay equity, equality and consequences that would follow egregious actions?
The positive outcome of this endeavor would be that there wasn’t yet another market to regurgitate existing concepts that will without any doubt add to the 90,000+ management and 70,000+ leadership books out there already.
But foremost, we all could finally live somewhat happily in the present…what a novel and strangely utopian thought, isn’t it.
This is NOT a jab at the FOW creators and thinkers, please continue to do you and to spread the immensely important work you are doing!
What irks me is that companies are yet again chasing the next shiny object or in this case buzzword, spending more focus on the future than on the actions that must happen now…squirrels to left, squirrels to right and here we are, stuck in that middle.
And again, the present seems to be put on the sideline as everyone and everything is ordered to march towards all future of things.
But how does a company expect to get to the future of work if the current state of the business is beyond fragile?
What about the cracks in the foundation that are growing and the internal frustrations that are deepening day by day?
One option could be to wait for a sinkhole to open, for all to be swallowed and start afresh. But, for the sake of humanity, let’s discard that option right away.
So here is what I want, my manifesto for the present work, the now of work:
I want a company to inspect their foundation – not just in a crisis but every year with a diverse and alternating group of stakeholders.
I want companies not to faff around, be sensitive or ego-driven about their challenges, gaps and weaknesses…guess what, a company is still run by humans and humans are deeply flawed and that is PERFECTLY ok.
I want companies to ask for help and input, and to please start with their employees first – they are THE goldmine for growth and innovation.
I want companies to stop misusing JFK’s “Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You” for their gain…seriously, enough already, his quote was not meant to be mission statement for businesses!
I want companies to stand up and admit failure and bear the consequences – without being paid handsomely for negatively impacting and often times ruining people’s lives.
I want companies to be aware of their limits and when time has come for their management, to develop successors and leaders and then to stand down and leave.
I want companies to make an insane amount of profit but not off the backs of their employees or vendors or customers.
I want companies to accept and work through criticism and issues without retaliating on people who have the courage to speak up…this is what true inclusion looks like.
I want companies to walk the talk, their company policies and values, not everyone deserves a second chance, trust me.
I want companies to be transparent. Nepotism was and will never be productive and profitable.
I want companies to be serious about culture, change management, pay equity and equality and, if the going gets tough to remember why the changes were necessary – it is called growing pains for a reason…be patient with the process and follow through for the changes to stick.
I want companies to invest their profit in their employees and customers and to give back to their community, to build and retain top talent, skills and excellence – for the market, the environment and the health of everyone impacted.
Foremost, I want companies to understand that work and organizations can be both meaningful and measurable…by meaningful, I am talking about joy…and with measurable, I am talking about profits and bottom line.
“Real generosity towards the future lies in giving all to the present.” ― Albert Camus
The solution is to commit to the work now – the reward is what future greatness and legacy is all about.
We have a lot do, so, let’s start NOW!