work management change
January 23, 2019

The Essence of Modern Work Management Is Change: Video Interviews with 3 Work Experts

During the launch of Done Right: How Tomorrow’s Top Leaders Get Work Done, we spoke to three thought leaders about work management:

Without prompting from us and without consulting each other beforehand, each of these thought leaders focused on change as the essence of modern work management.

Laura Goodrich noted that "a central trend is the need to be able to change very quickly, to be able to steer toward opportunities and away from threats." Sophie Wade said, “we have to have a look at how the nature of work has changed and therefore how what needs to be managed needs to change.” And Mark Schaefer observed that "if you’re managing the same way that you managed 5 or 10 years ago, it’s not going to work. The world is passing you by.”

According to these interviews, changes in work management may include:

  • Collaborating digitally across generations
  • Adopting shorter time intervals for KPIs
  • Scheduling more frequent performance reviews
  • Embracing remote work
  • Personalizing work to the strengths of each individual
  • Rapidly adjusting workflows and management styles

To explore these topics, we asked a number of questions such as:

  • What are the biggest challenges facing companies today?
  • When it comes to work management, what should companies be focused on?
  • How can knowledge workers best overcome the hurdles they encounter today?
  • What lessons can readers take away from Done Right?

See each video below, along with the corresponding transcript.

Laura Goodrich


LAURA: "I think the distinct value of Done Right is that it really creates a space for collaboration between generations. It’s an opportunity to collaborate, to create, to problem-solve together and really bring about some of that positive change between generations that has been difficult within organizations for a long time.

I one time heard a psychologist say, “You can’t bring diverse groups together and just expect it’s going to to go well.” If you’re going to bring diverse groups together, give them something to accomplish together. Give them a problem to solve, give them an innovation to work on, give them something that has meaning to them. I believe that is really a powerful piece of Done Right because it creates a space for that to happen.

What gets in the way of innovation and change is fear. There’s a lot of fear that gets in the way. There are a lot of assumptions that are made that get in the way when we’re not working on something to accomplish together. So if we bring diverse groups together intentionally, we come to understand and appreciate differences and think, “We could actually leverage that difference as a positive thing.” Rather than rolling our eyes about each other, which just isn’t working. We’re solving problems, we’re innovating together, and we have ability to step into somebody else’s shoes enough that it eases the edge of our own orientation of how it should be done.

A central trend is the need to be able to change very quickly, to be able to steer toward opportunities and away from threats. I think the central trend is that there is no industry that’s exempt from this type of market, and many of us will have to make very abrupt changes. The challenge that we face is that we’re not so good at those abrupt changes. We’re really tethered to how we’ve done it, even when it’s not working anymore.

I’ll come back to the philosophy of Done Right. We have to come together into that place of common goals to understand each other. And maybe we just get in and reckon with those knee-jerk reactions that have always worked but aren’t working anymore. We get in, and we challenge, and we have the confidence in one another and the trust where we can have that honest dialogue so that we can challenge ourselves and not just stay there and watch the market move in another direction while we’re not a part of it."

Sophie Wade

SOPHIE: "Work management is so important these days. We’re dealing with a workplace that is much more distributed. The workplace is much more decentralized, and work is much faster. It’s much less predictable. It’s accelerated by technology.

When we were all in the same office, management was in some ways kind of random. You could management people just by chancing upon them: “Hey, Mark — how’s it going?” But now that we’re all working in different places, work is much more projectized, and it’s more obvious how differently people work. And that is really causing a challenge for managers who need to understand how each person works differently and how to support them better. It’s.very different type of work management — much less predictable, much less linear.

When it comes to work management, I think most companies are overlooking how work has changed. KPIs used to last a year, which is way too long these days for the most part. We have to have a look at how the nature of work has changed and therefore how what needs to be managed needs to change. We have to ask, “How do we need to break it down? How do we need to engage with people?” So that’s how performance reviews are changing a lot as well because having one yearly performance review isn’t going to make any sense. Having weekly check-ins help people manage for different types of work. So a lot of things are changing at the same time.

Understanding how to support people differently — that you’re different from somebody else and therefore must be managed differently — is often overlooked for a one-size-fits-all approach, as though that worked. Well, it didn’t really work.

Now when we’re dealing with things that are moving much fast, and we really need each person to perform at their best, not overlooking the fact of how different people are is becoming critical.

Companies can take individual people into account by first understanding what they’re good at, what their skills are. We’ve actually been defined by our job titles, and if you ask people, “What are your top three skills?” They don’t know. And within a team they don’t know. So it’s about really understanding what you’re good at and therefore being able to understand if we’re working on a project or working in a team how we can actually allocate the work best to really understand what it is you’re really good at, what you really like, what you really hate. Because if you’re on a team and you really hate something, there’s likely somebody who really likes it. It’s really understanding that you might want a gym membership, but I might want nutrition coaching — whatever it might be. There are lots of different options now, and technology is fantastic at support these different customizable elements of it in terms of being able to support someone. I might need a lot of support, and you might need a check-in every three weeks because you are really good at organizing and are self-disciplined where somebody else in the team might not be and might need more check-ins from the manager or more milestones.

So technology and managerial oversight are the ways you can customize for each individual."

Mark Schaefer

MARK: "The big challenge of work management today is the speed of business — and really adjusting to the speed of business.

When I was in graduate school, a lot of the things I learned really don’t work anymore because it was all about management, not necessarily leadership. Today, one of the most important aspects of leaders — and it trickles down to management — is this tolerance for ambiguity.

I’ve been working on a new book, and there’s this amazing quote in the book: “You can either keep pace with the pulse of culture, or you can measure. You can’t do both.”

That is an amazing way to think. And part of me is saying, “I really love that idea.” And part of me is saying, “I really hate that idea.” Because Peter Drucker’s talking in my head saying, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

So this idea of adjusting to the speed, the pulse of culture — we don’t have a choice. And so creating workflows that can adjust rapidly, that can handle the ambiguity of our world today is absolutely essential.

The biggest thing that companies are overlooking today when it comes to work management is trying to do the things they’ve done in the past, holding onto that and not being responsive — not just to market changes but also to workforce changes and expectations of the workforce. If you’re managing the same way that you managed 5 or 10 years ago, it’s not going to work. The world is passing you by.

That is the biggest thing I see. It’s actually really a sickness right now. The absolute biggest problem is that so many leaders are stuck because they’re just ignoring some of the changes, trying to hold on to what they have. The great leaders of the future will be able to adjust.

I’ve been studying how consumer trends are changing, and the biggest change I see for businesses of any kind is that most of our marketing is going on without us. The research backs this up. About two-thirds of our marketing is not our marketing. It’s the conversations — social media, reviews, consumer-generated content, influencers. That’s something I see that businesses are overlooking — this dramatic change in consumer behavior enabled by technology.

Loyalty has really almost become a myth today. There was this research across 80 different industries that found that 87% of our customers shop around. We can only count on 13% of our customers to be loyal.

The biggest challenge I see in business today is starting to adjust to these new consumer realities and incorporate some of these new ideas into how this world is working into our businesses."

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