The Future of Work: A book review by Bob Morris

Posted on: December 10th, 2014 by bobmorris

Future of WorkThe Future of Work: Attract New Talent, Build Better Leaders, and Create a Competitive Organization
Jacob Morgan
John Wiley & Sons (2014)

The future workplace environment: one within which personal growth and professional development are most likely to flourish

Years ago, Peter Drucker asserted, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” I agree but there are always forces that are beyond any one leader’s or company’s control. Hence the importance of recognizing emerging trends, especially those that may indicate a paradigm shift. For example, after Henry Ford introduced the Model T in 1908, the owner of the #2 buggy whip manufacturer recognized its potential implications and began to prepare to design, manufacture and market automotive products. Within a year, four of the other top five went bankrupt. To a significant extent, the future of work is determined or significantly influenced by the impact of disruptive innovations, with the Internet and Web only the latest examples.

I agree with Jacob Morgan: “Many organizations around the world today are in trouble. The world of work is changing around them as they remain stagnant. The larger the gap grows, the greater the chance becomes that these organizations will not survive.“ This is what Marshall Goldsmith has in mind in one of his latest books, What Got You Here Won’t Get Your There. Presumably Morgan as well as Goldsmith agree with me that what got you here won’t even enable you to remain here, much less get there.

Morgan cites “The Five Trends Shaping the Future of Work” in the first chapter, any one of which – all by itself – poses significant challenges to organizational leaders. New behaviors, for example, will be shaped by social media and the Web whereas ever-expanding globalization initiatives will eliminate all traditional boundaries. The “there” to which Goldsmith refers becomes more difficult each day to define.

Morgan is spot-on: “Employees are bringing new approaches, attitudes, expectations, and ways of working into organizations. Managers must adapt to this new way of working by changing the way they lead, which then forces the organization as a whole to adapt to employees and managers.”

The Millennial Workforce (13-16)
Engagement Is Important but Lacking (24-27)
The “Fabulous Five” Generations (27-30)
FIGURE 3.1 Seven Principles of the Future Employee (32)
The Three Components of Flexible Work (33-35)
The End of the Traditional Work Schedule (41-47)
Sharing and Stack Ranking (49-55)
New Crucial Employee Behaviors (59-62)
FIGURE 3.3 The Evolution of the Employee (67)
Companies Using Freelancers (73-76)
Manager of the Past/Today (77-84)
Outdated Management (85-89)
Ten Principles of the Future Manager (91-92)
Embrace Vulnerability, and, Belief in Sharing and Collective Intelligence (101-106)
Bed a Fire Starter (106-108)
What Makes These [Managerless] Companies Work? (126-129)
The Benefits of a Managerless Company, and, Issues with Managerless Companies (129-133)
14 Principles of the future Company (146)
Operate Like a Small Company (154-157)
Innovation from Anywhere, All the Time, and Creating Ecosystems (160-168)
The Four Roadblocks of the Future Organization (189-191)
The 12 Habits of Highly Collaborative Organizations (194-201)

Long ago, Charles Darwin observed, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” In Chapter 11, Morgan presents a six-step process for adapting to the future of work:

1. Challenge assumptions.
2. Create a team to help lead the effort.
3. Define your “future of work.”
4. Communicate your “future of work.”
5. Experiment and empower employees to take action.
6. Implement broad-based change.

For each of these, Morgan carefully explains how to complete it. He urges his reader to make certain that the right questions are being asked. Obtaining correct answers to the wrong questions can destroy an organization faster than almost any other activity I can imagine. I suspect this is what Drucker had in mind when insisting, “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.” Almost all of the information, insights, and counsel provided in this book — as well as the six trends examined — are relevant to almost any organization, whatever its size and nature may be. Successful companies will be those that attract new talent, build better leaders, and create a competitive organization. Those that don’t will have no future. What has always been true in the past will be even more true in months and years to come: The most valuable workers insist on a culture within which personal growth and professional development are most likely to flourish. I commend Jacob Morgan on a brilliant achievement. Bravo!

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