Jan 18, 2011

Musings on the future of Work and Organizations



Debu Mishra has a great post on why Performance Management/ Appraisal doesn't work. He raises some pertinent points, the critical one for me is how HR leaders keep changing and going by latest fads on performance management. Just because it worked in one organization doesn't mean it'll work in your organizations.

There are no best practices. They are contextual to the culture and climate of an organization.

However, the nature of work is itself changing. JP Rangaswami (one of the most incisive thinkers I have come across recently) blogged about how the "maker generation" will force organizations to think about work in new principles. Go read the full post, I can't do justice to all the thoughts here.

So the future of work in the future knowledge-based organizations is all fuzzy. As I noted in my comment to JP's post:

if these principles are really embraced and integrated – maybe there will not be any “corporation/ enterprise” at all.. just a “brand” and free agents willingly aligning with that brand – to services customers, suppliers (and other stakeholders)

Will the future look like that at least for some knowledge-based organizations? Will they become the “un-organization”?

The idea itself is not radical. Visa (the credit card firm) emerged out of similar principles.
Dee Hock and his committee of bankers retreated to a hotel in Sausalito, California to try to envision the structure of the new organization. He says he began with a purpose, "enabling the exchange of electronic value," a vision far more expansive than that of his peers, and then set out to devise some principles by which to achieve that purpose:

  • it must be equitably owned by all participants
  • power and function must be distributive to the maximum degree
  • authority must be distributive within each governing entity
  • it must be infinitely malleable yet extremely durable


Using these guiding principles, Hock and a small hand-picked staff created NBI, which opened for business in 1970 with 243 charter members. In 1977, NBI changed the BankAmericard brand name to Visa, and similarly renamed itself Visa International.

So the future was already in the past. How long before the old structures go away and new organizations like Visa emerge?

Some more posts about the workplace of the future: PwC's scenarios, Gartner's predictions

What are your predictions?