The Future of Management
Remote working, Web3 and AI could be changing the game
Management is changing. The bread crumbs are clearly visible. Remote working, Web3 and artificial intelligence (AI) will fundamentally alter the way in which organisations are managed and controlled. The organisers will also have to change, perhaps more than anyone can imagine in a world led by digital natives and co-operative work styles. A system that America’s newly discovered aliens might even be impressed with.
The old definition of management, ‘management is the act of getting people together…’, is going through a once in a generation makeover as ‘getting people together’ is increasingly ‘gather people remotely’. The old, physical meeting room has been cuckooed by a video conferencing device. Today, management is defined, more than ever, as first and foremost about organising and managing systems. The people might have to start coming second. It will likely require a new breed of managers to make it work. That or ‘WALL-E’ will replace them.
It is amazing that management is such a popular career option. A google search to define the term ‘management’ does not exactly inspire. Top of the snooze list is Wikipedia’s explanation.
Management is the administration of an organisation, whether it is a business, a non-profit organisation, or a government body. It is the art and science of managing the resources of the business.
Anything that ends with ‘the art and science’ is clearly hedging its bets and, in this case, seems to have little idea where things are likely to head for the nebulous, pin-striped, dark art of old. Most standard definitions about management pontificate about organising people, resources and budgets to meet specific targets. Required skills include planning, strategy, budgeting and people management. This all made sense in the twentieth century. It could make increasingly less sense as the 21st century unfolds.
What happens when software does ‘management’ for you? When ‘resources’ just mean bits and bytes? When practically everyone is working remotely.
Surely then management will mean something entirely different.
The organisation that we started the century with might look nothing like the organisation that defines the end of it. Just two decades into this century we have already switched from a people-centred view of management to a system-centric approach. Businesses that are successful are digital. WALL-E was right.
Tomorrow's organisation will likely be 100% remote, 100% digital, fully automated. Lean, innovative and fast.
Younger employees are starting to view more ‘traditional’ managers as barriers to progress and growth. And they can spot them from a mile off - like a hyena can spot a burger joint.
Older style managers often apologise for not understanding technology or the latest devices. They like their lunches and want employees in offices so they can see them and God forbid, ‘touch them’. They keep telling stories that are well, a little yesteryear. They don’t do empathy as well as they might, or future strategy (because they don’t get the technology stuff) and they are not exactly Steve Jobs when it comes to managing remote meetings.
They bang on as though they understand the latest trends, when perhaps they do not. And, to be honest, they could be a little more ‘diverse’.
Some of the older style managers are still less than comfortable with the company’s core systems. Their emails are too short and cryptic, they are slow to respond and they lack the more modern acts of ‘ownership’. They prefer more traditional customers and partners. You could perhaps replace ‘traditional’ with ‘older’. You know, a bit like the Queen does with England.
The traditional manager is still struggling with Web2 apps and approaches. They will look like a canary in a coalmine when Web3 takes over.
But Web3 is already here.
And the future style of management is being shaped by the switch to remote working. Managing remote resources requires a fundamentally different approach as technology takes the lead and ‘organising’ experiences a reboot. And the latest systems for communication, planning, project and process tracking are getting rolled out. Lets face it, Zoom is just the first step.
And if anyone is confused about the size of the switch to remote working, Findstack offers some sobering statistics:
16% of companies in the world are 100% remote.
44% of companies don’t allow remote work.
Better work-life balance is the main reason why people choose to work remotely.
77% of remote workers say they’re more productive when working from home.
The average annual income of remote workers is $4,000 higher than that of other workers.
85% of managers believe that having teams with remote workers will become the new norm.
74% of workers say that having the option to work remotely would make them less likely to leave a company.
The three biggest challenges associated with remote work are unplugging after work (22%), loneliness (19%), and communication / collaboration (17%).
Overall 58.6% of the total U.S workforce are remote workers!
When it comes to managing remote resources managers need to be more organised, better at communication, more empathetic and more comfortable with the digital surround. They also need to be clearer, crisper and more gentle when defining strategy and targets. You know, more Christiane Amanpour than Piers Morgan.
Remote working operates most effectively when each team member assumes full responsibility for themselves and the team communicates effortlessly with each other. An almost self managing entity. The principles that we have adopted by working with customers remotely over the last few decades also need to be applied internally. It is corny - but transparency is everything. Transparency through systems - not just faces behind desks or in company cafe’s.
Terms like the back office and front office will disappear as our office becomes our home, and that could be anywhere in the world if Airbnb have their way. They promise that this has nothing to do with their public company requirement to find growth wherever they can - including flogging remote homes to their employees!
Airbnb's new flexible working policy can be summarised in five main points:
You can work from home or the office.
You can move anywhere in the country you work in and your compensation won't change. Hello New Mexico!
You have the flexibility to travel and work around the world. (So long as you use Airbnb to book it).
We'll meet up regularly for gatherings. (Presumably with the swankier Airbnb hosts).
We’ll continue to work in a highly coordinated way.
And it looks like this last point will become more important as a growing number of employees work from the beach in Bali puffing at the indigenous ‘oregano’.
If managing remote employees might be better suited to the newer, more flexible and digital generation, then just wait for the transition to Web3 and AI. The former is challenging the very heart of organisational structure while the latter will automate practically any task worth doing. And the more the merrier. Kind of a libertarian nirvana. (Not the band).
Inspired by the decentralisation of cryptocurrencies, a group of developers came up with the idea for a decentralised autonomous organisation, or DAO, in 2016. The DAO was an outfit that was designed to be automated and decentralised. It initially acted as a kind of venture capital fund, based on open-source code and without a typical management structure or board of directors. Just lots of R2-D2’s.
DAO’s are still young and immature, but they are starting to gain traction in the non-profit sector - allowing the new crypto wealthy to use their Bitcoin or Ether (assuming they have any left after the collapse) for good causes. It might also be partly fuelled by a sense of guilt over the environmental cost of mining cyrpto as a number of these DAO’s are designed to provide funds for climate aid. Which is probably better than a remote visit to the confession box.
But, the system merit of DAO’s might get adopted more widely as organisations look to move decision making and processes into the blockchain and as smart contracts expand.
The theory being that if a crypto techno-founder kid can conjure up an automated approach to global currency then surely a few smart techies in the corporate dark room can figure out how to apply this trendy new stuff into the corporate maze, even if mostly to appeal to the next generation of investors, but with the simultaneous benefit of allowing managers to shift/blame more decision making on the black box called IT - with a side dish of sayonara for a few more employees. As a result potentially upping the non trivial salary disparity a notch further. After all, have you seen the impact of inflation on the take home of these poor, overworked corporate managers?
But even this might prove to be just the beginning as AI and robotics replace pretty much all organisational decision making, tasks and processes. Once AI really gets firing you could imagine an IBM Watson supercomputer designed to, well, run IBM. After all, if it can win a chess shindig and tell us what the weather is going to be like in Ohio then figuring out how to sell a few bits of corporate software and services should be a breeze.
And while IBM is figuring out how Watson replaces your management team, and crypto sorts out how they get paid, BostonDynamics is figuring out how to replace everyone else, including the company dog, with their yellow, shape-shifting robots.
“And given this, have we still not read the tea leaves of the Great Resignation/Retirement?”
Maybe we should chuck our spare money at the 16% of companies that have already understood how to do 100% remote working, alongside the Web3 super-innovators and any of the robot makers come future cleaning companies. That way we could stand to make a pretty penny while we retire and watch the new generation get shafted, just like we did, only by the R2-D2 version next time around.
Thanks for reading Letts Journal! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support our work.
Keep up to date with the Letts Journal’s latest news stories and updates on twitter.