One of the main projects concerning the future of work is simplification. Simplification of what? Simplification of everything.
When employees are asked to come up with an adjective that describes their company, their work, I think the one that would be most frequently cited is “complicated.”
And the worst thing is that we find it normal! It’s obvious that we live in an increasingly complex world, a fact that we can’t do much about, so it’s logical that the organization is complicated. It is inevitable. Well, it’s not.
Complexity is nature’s work, complication is human’s. As Hervé Sérieyx said: “a Boeing 747 is complicated, while a dish of spaghetti is complex“. And besides, didn’t Peter Drucker say that “what we call management consists in complicating people’s work“?
We will therefore as always see how the factors that impact the future of work the subject of inevitable simplification.
Our organizations did not wait for the pandemic to be complicated and to discuss it. I remind you that Six “Simple Rules: How to Manage Complexity without Getting Complicated“, by Yves Morieux, dates back almost 10 years.
On the other hand, the pandemic has made what was a matter of reflection that many considered theoretical and remote from them, a tangible reality shared by all.
If some people have experienced remote work well and others have experienced it as hell, it is not because of remote work itself, but because it was practiced by organizations that were not used to it on this scale and often their complication was not adapted to the distance. Our organizations had reached their limits, and remote work showed it.
How did they react? Rarely in a global way, most often each manager tries to clean up his own house when faced with an obviously dysfunctional situation.
And they have done so in two ways. Either by piling new rules on top of existing ones, making the situation even more untenable, or, more rarely, by simplifying things.
Whatever the case, the subject has been experienced by all and the real condition for success of hybrid work that is taking shape in front of us is not so much to find the HR modalities that make it possible but to create the organization that goes with it and stop being omnubilated by the remote and forgetting to think about the work.
We are at the heart of the matter. In terms of tools and processes, while the customer experience is becoming simpler and more fluid, how can we explain that the employee experience remains the same?
This is indefensible.
And when I talk about employee experience, I’m not talking about well-being at work but about everything that affects individual and collective performance.
It is by no means a magic wand but an indispensable lever in certain cases and, a fortiori, because it embodies the gap we have just mentioned.
We know from our experience as simple users and customers that it can make things much simpler than they are, or rather, that it is the last step in a simplification process.
But slap any technology on a complicated organization and processes and it will continue to generate complication.
Technology is the lever of an organization that wants to simplify, but it will never simplify anything by itself without human will and intervention. Conversely, constantly adding new tools without reinventing what they are used for only makes things worse.
The evolution of society and the economy
The continuous acceleration of rhythms and cycles cannot be satisfied with organizations that hire talented people but end up slowing them down.
And since we’ve been told for so long that we’re in the “experience economy”, it’s time to understand that it’s not just for the customer.
The transformation of service activities and knowledge work
Here we are also at the heart of the matter. I will quote again the New York Times and Drucker.
“Peter Drucker noted that during the twentieth century, the productivity of manual workers in the manufacturing sector increased by a factor of fifty as we got smarter about the best way to build products. He argued that the knowledge sector, by contrast, had hardly begun a similar process of self-examination and improvement, existing at the end of the twentieth century where manufacturing had been a hundred years earlier”.
The awareness that applying a Taylorian heritage to activities that are more often than not ahdoc and more akin to case management no longer works. Between the employee and the process, there can no longer be a submissive relationship but rather a feedback loop that makes each one impact the other. We will certainly talk a lot about People Centric Operations in the future.
Simplification is a central issue in the future of work because it affects its content, its design. We are not talking about things that are peripheral to work and have no direct impact on operations and business, but things that directly affect the performance of individuals and the organization.
I had initially identified complication as one of the major irritants in the employee experience. It is, but by labeling it as such, some people have limited themselves to making it a Quality of Life at Work issue when it is an organizational and operational issue.
But a lot of work remains to be done. There are existing concepts to be used, adapted or even rehabilitated because they have a bad reputation for being misused. Agility, Lean…
There are also things to develop or invent, such as People Centric Operations.
This is a subject that can be agreed upon for two reasons: firstly, because it impacts the way employees experience their work, and secondly, because it has a direct impact on performance. But it is a subject that can quickly be swept under the carpet because “it’s too complicated to redo everything, and besides, we’ve always managed like that by gritting our teeth.“
But for the most complicated businesses, the risk is to disappear like the dinosaurs in their time, for lack of being able to adapt to their environment.