With great satisfaction I ended the first week of this New Year with two accomplishments. One, I learned to shoot a gun. Two, I completed a challenging goal at work.
I shot two different pistols, and in one hour’s time I learned many new things: how the mechanisms of that piece of machinery work, new muscle memory skills, and new eye-hand coordination. I was instructed by two different people with very different teaching methods. One focused my attention on squaring and leveling the sights, repeating the instruction over and over with each shot. The other reminded me to breath, pause, and stop shooting like a girl, which we’ll translate here to being firm in my stance. Both methods were effective; both produced the same result, consistent shooting, with a few rounds close to the bullseye.
When I applied this experience back to the challenging task at work of creating a scalable org structure which will support career paths for individuals, in a company experiencing exponential growth, with a globally distributed workforce that transcends traditional geographically located centers, I was reminded that there are different paths to achieve the same goal.
Millions of workers are expected to be impacted in the coming years by the displacement of jobs due to Digital Transformation. While new technologies create new jobs, quick pivots to new skill sets puts stress on both organizations and individual employees.
Finding people and teams with the right skills distribution to keep up with this demand is one of the riskiest challenges organizations face today. Meeting this demand also creates one of the most exciting and greatest shifts in workforce management and employment opportunity since the industrial era.
It is just as important to a company that the team members contribute by continually accruing skills which are not directly related to their position. Globally remote talent stay connected by being active, relevant, and visible in their communities and abroad. They do this by authoring books and articles, organizing and attending meetups, speaking at conferences, creating internal IP, and contributing to open source communities. These are the activities that create skills accretion that cannot be prescribed by a graphic of a stair-step career ladder which requires no thought or dissidence from the employee. Instead, individuals now take an eCommerce, consumeristic view of managing their own career. They look for an organization that is more than just a job hub. They seek out truly agile companies that provide a platform to allow them to climb the ladder that they design and build themselves, without the impediments of geographic boundaries and strict management hierarchies.
This consumer-driven model of managing one’s career path has become very important criteria for organizations to succeed. People skip-jump over career skills, job levels are as varied as the individual company, and titles are as creative and self-assigned as social media handles. People stay at jobs and companies fewer and fewer years as each generation enters the workforce; and this is healthy for both the organization and the individual. Change brings great opportunity and growth in the form of new experiences for employees, and fresh ideas for companies. Agile organizations must stay pressured to provide an ever-expanding venue for smart, talented people to learn and grow as the talent base now create globally connected networks of friends and colleagues that provide continual opportunity.
The role of a modern agile consulting organization that is focused on Digital Transformation is to provide a platform that attracts talented people from across the globe that allows them to quickly and seamlessly meld into a virtual community that is driven by a common DNA. If you get this DNA right, each individual in your globally distributed workforce feels as connected as a team in a traditional collocated delivery center. The responsibility of such a platform is to supply the strategy, structure, and support to allow team members to not only be successful in delivering on their commitments, but to continually refine, and redefine, their own career paths.
Rethinking an organizational structure to align with this approach is far more complex than can be represented on a traditional 2D org chart. Companies with globally distributed workforce and virtual teams break the geographic management structure associated to physical offices. In the past, career paths were often tied to working one’s way up the chain in a regional office, while others were doing the same in a different location with a cloned org structure. To accommodate career growth in a Digital Transformation organization departments and practices become multi-dimensional, with overlapping Venn diagram-like boundaries, supporting centers of skills excellence, and agile cross-functional matrices. Management becomes more self-organizing based on degrees of freedom, and peer to peer decision making. This promotes the ability of an employee to change their career direction in a frictionless manner to meet the changing needs of customers, or their own changing desires.
Sometimes the discipline of creating something new requires the rethinking and blending of known approaches. The coming decade will bring an ever-changing view of what a person’s lifetime career portfolio looks like. In turn agile companies must continually iterate over organizational structure to be leading contributors to the digital economy.