Is your business as fast and agile as a Formula 1 car? The analogy’s been used before: The car (the core of your business – product, solutions, systems and processes) and your team (drivers, pit crew and others involved in keeping it running – i.e. your employees) are all working together at optimal speed and performance to ensure you win the championship (i.e. achieving your business goals). 

To do this, however, you need to adapt tools to new ways of working that enable teams to perform work efficiently. There are clear trends that dictate a preference for SaaS apps and collaboration tools, as well as remote work and how AI chatbots facilitate mobility. We must now dig into what the hierarchy of the future organization looks like and how accountability and transparency feeds into that.

Network vs. Hierarchy: Linear vs. Complex Org Models    

In the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, technological advancements are digital in nature. As this current period focuses on smart machines and humans working together, we can only imagine this will shape how organizations move, adapt and thrive. This will affect our operations and how teams look at each other and interact. 

Most organizations were based on traditional org models comprising hierarchies that fit the mold of the time (the Second Industrial Revolution starting in the late 19th century focused on mass production and the third starting in the ‘50s on personal computing and the commercial Internet). However, with businesses now focuses on agility, the ladder needs to be broken, making way for a network of cross-functional teams that works in a way that best suits them. 

The commercialization and democratization of many Industry 4.0 technologies, as well as access to an expanding breadth of knowledge online and at institutions, makes talent ripe for many industries and organizations today. Even from the recruitment stage, the focus should be on empowering workers and engaging them with the tools they need, leaving siloed data and information in the past and increasing walls between functions and titles obliterated.

Teams should largely flow from left to right (as seen above), just like data does. This provides a flexible and effective people-centric model, which allows teams to evolve and grow depending on their needs. This encourages organic team chemistry and interaction, the fluidity of data and best practices, and greater transparency overall. This also allows teams to be assembled and dissembled as needed based on projects, providing greater flexibility than ever before – just like how Formula 1 pit crews assemble and disassemble parts of a car as necessary, ensuring precision.

How Are Teams Held Accountable?

You may think disparate teams encourage ineffective workflows (and workers), but this is where accountability comes into play. By creating a culture of transparency, however, where individual teammates share their challenges and goals, you can support ownership, engagement, timelines and trust between colleagues to accomplish their work. Some companies have real-time dashboards to track BI tools, the lead-to-opportunity process, hiring and employee retention, and other factors throughout the organization to boost transparency.

OKRs (or objectives and key results) are a way to implement this. Implemented by the likes of Google, LinkedIn and Twitter to drive success, it’s a way for teams to consistently work towards growth in a way that’s measurable and makes sense for your brand. These goals, by definition, are a bit of a stretch so that you’re improving upon what’s been done before, but not to the point where teams are wildly over their heads. The point is to make them just out a reach and trackable along the way, driving motivation throughout the quarter and creating lessons learned for the future. 

The objectives portion of this technique, or what you’re trying to achieve, should be aspirational and qualitative in nature, according to Kumud Kokal, Director of Enterprise Apps & Insights at Stitch Fix, who spoke about OKRs in detail at Biz Systems Magic. These single statements about your goals should be about 70% obtainable, which is where the stretch element comes in – they’re difficult to achieve but not impossible. Each objective should be tied to up to three key results (or KRs), which make it measurable. Any more than three KRs and you’ll dilute the key objective you’re trying to achieve.

As each objective will have three metrics to track, it’s recommended you have no more than five objectives per quarter. They should be actionable by the team, in terms of what individual members can do to help achieve the goal – as well as from an organizational standpoint, working towards what the business is trying to achieve overall in the market.

They let everyone see exactly who’s doing what, what they hope to achieve, and how this impacts business as a whole – visibility that may have otherwise not been acquired without metrics in place and players in Big Tech driving the initiative.

The Future of Work Is Automated

There’s a misconception that AI and robots are here to take our jobs, but that’s actually not the case. With human-machine interaction, Industry 4.0 technologies are here to help teams work smarter, saving them from tedious, repetitive tasks and freeing space for more complex, value-added work. Like Nutanix who accelerated IT tasks by 30% with machine learning and automation, you can create more headroom and capacity to do complex work and remain steady-state by introducing these new technologies. 

In one scenario, Nutanix optimized and automated the provisioning of virtual machines (VMs), which their engineers use everyday for work, using Slack as the interface. The engineer can now request a VM in Slack (one of their most commonly used tools), which prompts Workato to automatically create a ticket in ServiceNow. Once this is done, the requester is identified and Workato looks up their current VM usage in Nutanix. If the requester is asking for a standard VM and they have a good VM history, Workato automatically approves the request and sends it to them in Slack with instructions on how to retrieve it. This significantly reduces time spent on context switching and eradicates the manual approval process.

Across many tech companies, business systems teams help drive efficiency across business. From IT to marketing, sales, RevOps, HR, finance and more, business systems teams work with stakeholders to adopt new systems (if needed) and introduce automated workflows that’ll ensure teams work as efficiently as possible, while also contributing to business goals, as any project should address an overall initiative that business is trying to achieve (similar to OKRs in that it helps the individual department as well as the overall business it serves).

Business systems teams are fueled by platforms that democratize integration for business users. It lets people who own the process (like stakeholders in sales, marketing and so on) integrate systems and automate processes on their own behalf, allowing them to access knowledge and data they couldn’t before (without IT’s help). This fuels transformation and an automated way of working that serves both employees and the organization.

Prepare for the Future of Work Now, Including How You Use Your New Time

While it may sound great that automated workflows free your hands to do more tasks, it’s what you do with the time that deems the future of work successful. Strategy is required by both executive sponsors and the people closest to the work to ensure that work is productive. This may be where you use the time to work on OKRs and inch closer to that 70% achievement rate. You also may use some of the time for stand-up meetings or weekly check-ins to ensure everyone stays on track and meets deadlines. You could also use this time for health and wellness check-ins to prevent burnout.

If you enable teams to break down silos and encourage transparency, it also makes sense to include them in the decision-making process and have them dictate how this network of teams functions, whom “reports” to whom, and how projects work in this new organization. While business-level decisions are still left to C-suite, it should be up to the teams doing the work (and bringing all this talent to the door) that ultimately impact the future of their work.

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Pamela Seaton
About Pamela Seaton

Pamela is a journalist and technology enthusiast writing for the growing business systems community.