The status quo organisation is out of its depth in the 21st Century - see: "Why is the status quo not up to the 21st Century challenge?".
And there are plenty of good reasons for why we can be encouraged that taking the step forwards is worthwhile - see: "Why should I believe that a new way of working will succeed?"
But there is never an easy time to drive change; the challenge is to choose a new future despite the uncertainties. Nevertheless, here is a list of reasons why changing the way we work is urgently required:
Challenging the Norm
Anything that has remained unchallenged for 125 years desperately needs a comprehensive review. This is the case for the world of work; we must start questioning why we do things the way we do.
Competition is no longer about operational details such as efficiencies; they reap only marginal gains. Competition is now about organisational models, in particular: structure, management innovation and a meaningful reason for why an organisation exists.
Pace of Change
Bureaucratic, hierarchical, linear thinking organisations do not survive environments experiencing exponential change. The fact that whole industries, not just individual businesses, are currently finding themselves being disrupted tells us it’s time for a rethink.
Information-enabled industries require a whole new approach to the analysis of, and response to this level of data. Information is the fuel behind the exponential pace of change.
The price of communication and technology is dropping rapidly. For potential disruptors, this means the cost of entering the market is becoming ever less of a problem.
Barriers to Entry
Deregulation, technology and the ease of people movement have dramatically increased the possibility of new market entrants.
Strategic life-cycles are increasingly short: the five-year plan remains commonplace but is pretty much an irrelevance.
Demise of Expertise
Shrinking cycles and mass change mean that the “expert” is an endangered species. Organisations can no longer rely on retained knowledge and expertise to keep them ahead.
The digital economy is vastly different from an analogue one - why shouldn’t we see an accompanying level of innovation in our organisational models?
Only 1 in 4 people are actively engaged at work. To have 75% of the workforce unengaged is alarming, to say the least: we wouldn’t tolerate that level of “failure” with anything else. But it's not the people that are failing - the model they’re in is failing them.
Large companies are losing quality employees at an alarming rate and MBA students are no longer filing into industrial conglomerates and investment banks. These are two stark examples that people are voting with their feet for organisations with more joy, meaning and freedom. Build it and they will come (or stay)!
Our organisational norm squeezes people into fixed job descriptions, rather than building roles around people. It asks the workforce to leave part of themselves at the door to fit into the status quo. This has led to mass stagnation and disengagement.
Our economic model has placed an unsustainable burden on our natural resources. We need to build a sustainable future based on stewardship.
Investment models are based on assumptions that are outside their shelf life and cannibalising the system from within - short-termism, the expectation of exponential financial growth, little/no reference to externalities, the use and measurement of GDP, the issue of stranded assets etc. Capital markets should serve the real economy; our system works the other way around with the real economy servant to capital markets.
The sense of exasperation at our political class and institutional leadership points to the length of time there has been a void in this area. Long periods without moral courage is a recipe for disaster; people's hunger for authenticity is symptomatic of this.
Bureaucracy has become a normalised feature of everyday life not just in business but education, NGOs, the armed forces, everywhere. We have become so socialised to it, we even insist on its necessity; absorbing it into the smallest of organisations. Either we really do need it - which we must recognise as a poor reflection on humanity’s ability to get things done without it - or, we must consider whether it’s not the people that are the problem but the structures they’re asked to exist within.
Organisations have increasingly porous and unclear boundaries, significantly reducing the amount of influence they can exert. They are becoming ever more like ecosystems than singular machines, and a new mindset is needed to exist within that reality.
Economic and social experts are calling for an economic model that isn’t reliant on limitless consumption and customers are increasingly wise to its detrimental effects. This would be a seismic shift: best prepare early.
Ever more influence and purchasing power flow towards stakeholder groups looking for organisations empathetic of their wider impact. For a hundred and one reasons it makes sense to align with this movement.
Innovation and Learning
Only innovative, responsive, learning organisations will thrive going forward. The command-and-control model does not support this; it really is a case of change or disappear.
The scale of burnout and personal distress in our organisational norm is shocking - at both the bottom and the top of the hierarchy. The way we work simply sucks the life out of us. There must be a better way; our humanity certainly obligates us to try.
Employment is no longer a guarantee against poverty. And the gap between rich and poor grows alarmingly wide. More democratised workplaces will likely mean more equitable rewards.