Musings on designing experiences & (re)engineering complexity

Apr 2020

Distributed Work, Flows

As many companies are beginning to understand what they can and cannot do in regards to a distributed workforce, it is a good time to take a look at the resiliency of workflows. Specifically, what does it mean to have a workflow that is more impervious to disruption, against one that is conductive to relational specifics?

For example, one company looks at how they can continue to maintain a particular level of support. However, realizing in this “remote only climate“ is that support has actually been more about an interpersonal relationship which leads to addressing problems/amplifying solutions. This isn’t a bad thing. In fact, this realization can lead to better articulation of organizational desires. The problem is however, the company only knows how to articulate and discover those problems within the context of a physical, interpersonal communication. And this is what has been cut off with “social distancing.“

Another has found almost no disruption in the way they work. At least as it relates to direct productivity. They mention the lack of commuting as being something which adds time to the day, leaving needed room for creativity and spontaneous productivity. There is also a better handling of pivots, shorter (more direct) meetings because of bandwidth considerations — there is, some resiliency to the way their work flows from one into the other regularly. Nothing about the current context has actually changed productivity except that more space is now given to “deep thought” work to breathe.

At these and other stories, the idea of a disruptive workflow comes to mind. Or more specifically bouncing disruption against this framing: have work environments created themselves to be resilient against/towards change? Is it possible that some organizations’ ideas relating around work, work culture, or productivity, increases social bonds but makes “work” or productivity less resilient to change?

Should a work culture, or even a state of productivity, be resilient? There should be bonds which allow those folks who are doing the work to gain a sense of worth and compensation. But, should there also be behaviors inside of this culture, inside of this “productivity“ which is able to leverage not only the things which have made the business profitable, but also the paradigms to which that business now exist?

What we are seeing today is a validation (re: judgment) of the many organizations who have promoted “digital transformation.” A truth about whether they were preaching the right thing, or merely shuffling forward or culture they did not understand. Is the tide now changed in such a way that it’s impossible not to see whether transformation is real, engineered, or managed?