The Future of Work

The Future of Work.

Tom Malone is the Patrick J. McGovern Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management.  He also is the founder and director of the MIT Center for Coordination Science, and one of the two founding co-directors of the MIT Initiative on “Inventing the Organizations of the 21st Century.”  He has a new book out called The Future of Work.  Run — don't walk — to Amazon to get this book.  Robert Weisman, a columnist for the Boston Globe, wrote an excellent article about the book in today's paper.  Weisman spoke to Ray for his column late last week, and quotes him in the article.  Says Ray, “The real story is what technology-augmented decentralization is doing to business and society. Fundamentally, the technology is being used to reduce the cost of coordination to get a problem solved.”

Malone says his book is about “new ways of organizing work that are becoming possible.”  To give you a better sense of his perspectives, here are a couple of snippets from Chapter 1.

Says Malone:

“If decentralization becomes increasingly desirable in business, then we will need to manage in new ways. But most of us still have — deep in our minds –models of management based on the classic, centralized philosophy of command and control. To be successful in the world we're entering, we need a new set of mental models. While these new models should not exclude the possibility of commanding and controlling, they need to encompass a wider range of possibilities — both centralized and decentralized. Here is one way of summarizing this new perspective: We need to shift our thinking from command and control to coordinate and cultivate.”

Later in the chapter, he says:

“Now, we are in the stages of another revolution — a revolution in business — that may ultimately be as profound as the democratic revolution in government. New information technologies make this revolution possible. Dispersed physically, but connected by technology, workers are now able on a scale never before imaginable, to make their own decisions using information gathered from many other people and places… There are many buzzwords describing the kinds of organizations this revolution will make more common. Self-organizing, self-managed, empowered, emergent, democratic, participative, people-centered, swarming, and peer-to-peer are just a few of them. The word that I'll use most often in this book to encapsulate all these different terms is a simple and timeless one: decentralized.”

What's interesting to me is that both Tom Malone and Ray Ozzie, who have been studying and implementing computer-supported cooperative work for more than 20 years now, have come to a similar conclusion. That a more decentralized approach to management and work is required for success. Malone expresses his point of view in his excellent, new book. Ray's viewpoint is expressed in the binary 1s and 0s that comprise Groove. No doubt, I'm biased. But I believe both the book and the software deserve further examination, since they represent both the future and present of work.  [ Weblog]

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