The NextGen Enterprise will rely on The New Work Operating System

The speed and dynamism of modern work outpace traditional job structures

I share with you here the essential points that I take away from reading “Work without Jobs”, the book by Ravin Jesuthasan and John W. Boudreau.

The conventional approach of defining work via “jobs” and individuals as “jobholders” is becoming outdated. The contemporary business environment, driven by digitization and automation, demands a fresh approach to work structure: a “work without jobs” operating system for enhanced organizational agility.

Historical Context & The Significance of Agility

Traditional work frameworks originated during the Second Industrial Revolution. Though they’ve persisted, they’re not equipped for modern challenges. Due to these inflexible job-based structures, businesses grapple with adapting to emerging technologies and methodologies.

Agile methodologies, initially designed for software development, prioritize individuals, adaptability, and customer collaboration. These principles are crucial to the new work operating system. For instance, a consumer goods organization, despite adopting agile principles, faced collaboration barriers because of rigid job roles and descriptions.

Principles of the New Work Operating System

In comparison to the conventional work operating system which begins with job roles, the new system focuses on tasks that need to be done. Traditional systems might question the implications of automation on current jobs, whereas this innovative approach asks what tasks exist (or will exist), who can perform them, and how best to engage talent, whether through full-time employment or alternative arrangements.

Here are the main principles of the new work operating system:

  • Start with the Work: rather than conventional jobs, the focus should shift to current and upcoming tasks and the competencies necessary to accomplish them.
  • Humans and Automation Combination: automation shouldn’t be viewed solely as a replacement for human tasks. The relationship is nuanced, where automation can either replace, augment, or transform human roles.
  • Diverse Human Work Engagements: the traditional full-time employment view is restrictive. The new paradigm should embrace various engagements like freelancing, part-time roles, gig work, and collaborations. This third principle emphasizes the spectrum of human work engagements. Instead of just creating job roles, managers should deconstruct work into its elemental tasks and then determine the best engagement method for each. This could mean tapping into external labor sources or partnering with other organizations to share talent resources.
  • Flexible Talent Movement: Instead of tying individuals to fixed roles, they should be allowed to employ their skills dynamically, transcending the limitations of standard job descriptions. This fourth principle promotes the fluidity of talent. It urges a departure from rigid job descriptions and emphasizes the necessity of talent moving where it’s most impactful. In certain cases, talent may have fixed roles, but they could also move from project to project or even have hybrid roles.

Practical Applications and Challenges

The previously mentioned consumer goods company could enhance its agility by breaking jobs into tasks. This change fosters collaboration and smooth task execution. Organizations must introspect their existing work structures, pinpointing areas demanding agility. Critical assessment areas include outdated job descriptions or situations where candidates lean towards non-traditional work setups.
However, the shift to this new approach won’t be uniform across all sectors of an organization. Some roles may remain aligned with the traditional system. Nevertheless, as time progresses, an increasing number of areas will benefit from these unconventional work engagement methods.

Implications for the Future

The book underscores a pressing need for a shift in the traditional work model. While certain jobs still fit within the conventional framework, the evolving nature of work demands a more agile approach, integrating automation and diverse work arrangements. Adopting this new operating system provides a strategic advantage for businesses to remain competitive in a changing landscape. The speed and dynamism of modern work outpace traditional job structures.

Though not all jobs will immediately fit this new paradigm, the trend is undeniably moving towards more flexible, non-traditional work structures.

Organizations must adapt to this new work operating system, particularly in domains requiring agility. Adopting such a system will future-proof businesses as the work landscape continues its pivot towards a “work without jobs” model.

Author: Luc bretones, Founder of NextGen