Yet Another Glimpse At the Future of Work



About a month ago the summary of McKinsey’s research on the use of the Web and social computing tools in the knowledge-based workplace made the rounds of the blogosphere and the Web.  It brought to mind an article from the January 2006 survey “Knowledge and the Company” in The Economist titled “The New Organisation” to which I have pointed several times over the past two years.

Why did that particular article come to mind ?  In the context of McKinsey’s research summary, for two reasons.

The first because the article started out with several paragraphs that took us back to the 50′s and William H. Whyte’s famous “The Organization Man“, noting that basically organizational structures and basic management techniques haven’t changed much since then, whilst juxtaposing that with the increasingly obvious facts that with the Web, web services and tools and mobile devices many (if not most) knowledge workers are continuously connected and ever-more densely interlinked … today we euphemistically call it ‘networked’.

The second because towards the end of the article The New Organisation McKinsey and Mercer (two high-end blue-ribbon management consulting firms) were cited as demonstrating rapidly growing interest in, and awareness of, the emerging new landscape for networked knowledge work.

In my previous posts pointing to the Economist article I have somewhat sarcastically noted that these firms knew a good market space to grow into when they smelled it (sarcastically because I have been aware of and following practitioners who have been talking and writing about this for almost ten years now) … the granddaddy of them all Stafford Beer, and people like Bill Ives, Euan Semple, David Weinberger, JP RangaswamiJohn Hagel, John Seeley Brown, Jay Cross, Harold Jarche, Stan Davis, Verna Allee, Chris Meyer, Jim Ware, Arie de Geus, Tom Stewart, Hubert St. Onge, Tom Davenport, Jim McGeeDion Hinchcliffe, Gary HamelLarry Prusak, Dave Snowden, Andrew McAfee, Don Tapscott, Niall Cook, Lee Bryant, Matthew HodgsonPatti Anklam, Jenny Ambrozek, Anne Marie McEwan, Ross Dawson, Cindy Gordon, Marc Prensky, Karen Stephenson, Valdis Krebs, Michel Bauwens, Nancy White, Dan Rasmus, Robert Johansen, Michael Schrage, Tom Malone, Jessica Lipnack, Luis Suarez, and on and on and on.  If I know you and I’ve left you out, please forgive me; there’s so many it will get boring if I keep thinking of and listing them (it probably already has).  Shameful egotistical plug …  I count myself as one of them, albeit probably on the farm team.

So … given the arrival and settling into place of what’s called Web 2.0, I think that the McKinsey summary mirrors what many leading thinkers have been saying for some time about the impact of the interactive participative Web on the workplace.  It’s useful, as it offers a fairly concise overview of the core issues associated with the shifts in leadership, management and basic organizational effectiveness management; and because it’s McKinsey, it provides an imprimatur of legitimacy to the ongoing discussion of and refinement of strategic and practical implementation issues related to this massive era-defining shift in the way work is perceived, designed and carried out.

To be fair, people at McKinsey have also been paying attention to knowledge work for quite a while now.  Anyone remember the name Brooks Manville – closely associated with McKinsey’s knowledge management practice back in the day ?

To help us all understand even more clearly, here’s a video clip explaining McKinsey’s Six Ways to Make Web 2.0 Work.



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