- The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated a structural shift in the way we work and many organizations performed a ‘lift and shift’ of their local operations to a remote environment during 2020.
- Remote work is here to stay, which creates an opportunity to completely rethink the way we collaborate and reap big benefits.
- To avoid siloed and narrow changes, organizations will benefit from a team of domain experts who can deliver synergy between technology, process, and culture through enhanced work redesign.
The Great Experiment
The great ‘work from home’ experiment of 2020 put to rest the debate whether synchronous and physical co-location work models improves productivity. We now know that a more flexible, dispersed approach to knowledge work is both possible – and even beneficial. The pandemic was an opportunity to experiment with dispersed work in real-world scenarios, and like all experiments, it yielded some successes and some frustrations. The challenge for organizations that wish to capitalize on the benefits of this work model – and truly become leading remote/hybrid operators – is to avoid siloed, single-threaded transition efforts. Successful organizations should elevate this to a strategic initiative, and commit resources towards a total rebuild of the way their teams work and collaborate.
The companies that continue to take an incremental approach to dispersed organization transformation will fail. High levels of complexity, demotivation and ambiguity creep into some of the modest savings that are realized from office space reduction.
Consider the following likely scenarios:
- A CIO is tasked with creating a technological environment for remote work and does a great job at evaluating and acquiring software, but ends up with unused licenses and overwhelming help-desk requests.
- A COO wants to optimize processes for remote collaboration, but imprudently applies automation workflows that alienate and confuse the workforce, stifling innovation and productivity.
- A CHRO focuses on creating remote policies and training to prepare the workforce, and inadvertently introduces ‘Zoom-fatigue’ that drains the mental capacity of the team.
Why We Need a Team to Succeed
Left to operate independently, each of these domains can only implement basic changes in support of dispersed work. True dispersed work transformation is a team sport that requires cross-functional domain experts to deliver synergy between technology, process, and culture. Taking guidance from organizations that have successfully operated remotely for over a decade, we know that effective partnerships between domains creates a work system in which the ability to work from anywhere is the side product of more important outcomes like agility, scalability, productivity, quality, and empowered teams.
With a cross-functional team in place, considerations for building the core capabilities of a dispersed work organization include:
- Developing dynamic strategic and financial planning capabilities to increase market-responsiveness
- Building an asynchronous communication culture to accelerate innovation and delivery through global “follow the sun” workflows
- Enhancing virtual-first internal and external customer experiences to expand the market beyond the metro
- Implementing global sourcing and recruitment automation to reduce interviewing hours by 90%
However, the emerging dispersed work blueprint demands more than just cross-functional partnering, embracing uncertainty, lean process redesign, and automation. The secret to making this work paradigm superior is to deeply redesign the work of the organization, and it’s likely to be overlooked due to a lack of dispersed work expertise.
To flourish as a dispersed organization, it’s imperative to:
- Focus on the most important company-level outcomes, and ignore the noise that comes with all work.
- Design workflows around human-centric parameters, retaining the parts that require human ingenuity and passion, and transforming each employee into a “world expert in their field”.
- Build the remote organization and information structure around the work, not the roles.
- Integrate each module of the organization through a common, intuitive management system that demonstrates a bias for quality, not throughput.
The Future of Remote Work is Bright
The story of the dispersed work transformation is much more than just automation and flexible work arrangements. It is about elevating human performance through the use of technology, liberating teams from mundane tasks while allowing them to achieve their full potential.
The future of work will be about human ingenuity and passion, creativity, and collaboration. It is an exciting time to be crafting a global workforce, now more than ever!
What type of remote and/or hybrid work challenges have you identified in your organization?
by Jon Rothbart, with Stephanie Newell and Bryan Barber