The Future of Work

What a Wonderful World!

December 19, 2016

Chelsea Flower Show

We are living in troubled times. I’ve even seen recent references to Charles Dickens, hungry orphans, and the ghosts of Christmas past.

While it’s common at the end of each year to reflect on where we’ve been and vow to do better in the new year, I believe it is equally important to simply stop, take a deep breath, look around, and enjoy where we are.

Because no matter how grim things seem, we do live in a beautiful world. This is a great time to stop and enjoy it (and of course to commit to preserve it for future generations).

In fact, I urge you to take two minutes right now and enjoy every word of this version of “What a Wonderful World,” sung by Louis Armstrong (YouTube video published August 7, 2016, by Christophe Letecheur):

As a friend put it many years ago, “There’s a reason we call ourselves human beings and not human doings.”

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checklistEach December I try (with mixed success) to invest time during the last two weeks of the year to reflect on what I’ve accomplished personally and professionally over the past twelve months, what I’ve learned, and what I want to do differently going forward.

It’s a ritual we all go through to some degree, whether formally or not. This year feels more important to me than most, particularly since I am still celebrating (and leveraging) the publication of my book Making Meetings Matter last February.

It’s also important because 2016 has been unsettling for so many of us. The national election we’ve just completed, and all the continuing uncertainty (and anxiety) that event has created, made it a tough year not just for the United States but for the entire world.

Today I just want to suggest briefly three specific actions that you can take to put yourself in charge of your own future: [click to continue…]

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Disappearing Work - StuckyIn October my monthly Talking About Tomorrow membership program (“TAT”) featured former IBM researcher and current Distinguished Visiting Scholar at Stanford University – and Very Smart Person – Susan Stucky, who led the group in an important conversation about “disappearing work.”

But Susan wasn’t talking just about all the jobs that are being automated out of existence. She is of course highly aware of, and deeply concerned about, automation, but she asked the TAT participants to focus on another, often unseen, side of the emerging digital economy.

She opened with this statement by economist W. Brian Arthur, External Professor at the Santa Fe Institute, from a 2011 thought piece in McKinsey Quarterly:

Digitization is creating a second economy that’s vast, automatic, and invisible—thereby bringing the biggest change since the Industrial Revolution.

(from “The Second Economy,” October 2011) [click to continue…]

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Telescope_to_Right2016 is coming to a close; this is the time of year when most organizations and their leaders focus their energy and attention on the future. It’s a time for visioning, strategic planning, goal-setting, and sorting out how tomorrow will be different from today.

But how many times have you completed a strategic planning exercise, or a visioning effort, with high energy, high hopes, and exuberant optimism that the effort will finally – finally! – produce meaningful change, only to see everything evaporate in the face of organizational resistance and/or apathy?

Pushing a rock uphillAchieving lasting and meaningful change in large organizations often feels impossible. It’s like Sisyphus rolling that boulder up the mountain, only to see it cascading back down to the valley, and having to start pushing it uphill all over again – and again, and again.

One of the best ways I know to avoid that kind of frustration and stagnation is a Future Search Conference.

 

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Crystal BallYou don’t know – you can’t know with 100% certainty – what will happen tomorrow. Yes, you can (and we all do) contemplate the future with a good sense of what is likely to happen, although these days the future seems incredibly cloudy, uncertain, and basically unpredictable. And if tomorrow seems hazy, what about next week, next month, next year, five years from now?

And the less certain you are of what the future will bring, the more highly stressed you are likely to be. That stress comes from not knowing, and from being afraid that you won’t be able to control whatever does happen.

But what if you could “premember” tomorrow as clearly as you remember yesterday?

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peekingfear_000014658459November 8, 2016, is election day in the United States. This has been the most contentious, drawn-out, and, yes, tedious election in my memory. Everyone I know is glad it is about to be over. No matter what your politics or political values, I am positive that like me you are relieved we’ve finally reached the end of this unpleasant journey.

One inevitable result of this year’s electoral dysfunction (deliberate pun) has been rampant uncertainty about the future. And one of the best indicators of uncertainty is the stock market. The U.S. markets have been unsteady and volatile throughout the year, and foreign markets have generally followed suit. [click to continue…]

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For the last several weeks I’ve been making the case that you can improve the quality and productivity of your meetings with relatively little effort. Rethink the basics, offer a simple training workshop, and improve the way you measure the cost and quality of your meetings.

All well and good – but I’ve just realized that I’ve been thinking mostly about the “regular” meetings that happen in every organization and every business unit on a daily basis – the 20 million-plus meetings that take place every day in the United States.

That’s a lot of meetings, and a lot of organizational time and money.

But the meetings that really matter are those infrequent occasions when leadership teams actively explore their organizational future and chart new courses for their business. [click to continue…]

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What is it worth to make your meetings both more efficient and more effective?

As I have been suggesting for the past several weeks, meetings can be improved in many different ways, both by reducing their costs (fewer meetings, shorter meetings, fewer participants, smaller conference rooms, and relying more on virtual meetings), and by improving their outcomes (crisper decisions, more explicit commitments to action, more active follow-up and feedback).

In the course of thinking through how meetings work, how they unfold, and what it takes to improve them, I’ve developed a formal “Meetings Quality Assessment” or a “MQA”, as well as a “Meetings ROI” formula (M-ROI). I’ve also clarified what kinds of actions can increase your MQA score or produce a positive M-ROI. [click to continue…]

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Women Hand writing ROI Return on Investment

Over the last several weeks I have been exploring several basic ways to improve your organizational ROI for meetings.

Last week I talked about two complementary approaches to improving meeting efficiency:

  1. Holding fewer meetings
  2. Conducting shorter meetings

(See “The Business Case for Making Your Meetings Matter (Part 3)” for details).

Today I am focusing on how distributed meetings can reduce costs in dramatic ways. I then conclude by proposing an integrated, three-phase approach for jacking up that ROI.

Reducing Costs: Let Me Count the Ways

There are many kinds of savings that come from greater use of distributed meetings. Note that some of these benefits accrue to organizations, some to individuals, and some to society more broadly. [click to continue…]

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return on investmentOver the last two weeks, in “Back to Basics: Making Your Meetings More Effective,” and “The Business Case for Making Your Meetings Matter (Part Two),” I have been sharing several basic ideas for improving your organizational ROI for meetings.

Clearly, the only thing that ultimately matters about any meeting is the quality of the decisions made or the ideas developed during the meeting. However, even if a particular meeting doesn’t produce all the desired outcomes, there can still be value from the conversation:

Even if on the surface the group failed to complete its task, it is worth remembering that the participants may have forged new relationships, learned important facts about the issue or each other, or generated new ideas that will eventually produce even more meaningful results. (from Chapter 8, page 193, Making Meetings Matter)

Reducing Costs

Today I want to focus on reducing the cost of your meetings. [click to continue…]

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