Thank you for checking out Part 1 of 4 of our Evolution of Modern Work series. By the end of the series, we’ll be back here in 2019 and even peeking into 2020 and beyond, talking about what it takes to survive and thrive in this era of modern work.
But today, our journey begins pre-Digital Revolution, pre-internet, pre-“I have 37 notification icons blinking at me right now on 3 different devices”, or better known as The Good Ole Days.
The Good Ole Days
The idea that all business processes across an enterprise share a single mission was once an obvious concept; picture the Mad Men office where everyone from the C-suite to the front line was connected through highly-structured, yet fairly primitive communication and execution mechanisms because technology had not yet enabled more complex and expeditious methods of getting things done.
With teams fairly centralized, and the typewriter and rotary phone the keystones of modern workplace technology, staying focused on the mission-critical priorities was nowhere near the quagmire it is today.
Since this scene is so far removed from what we experience in the workplace today, it may be hard to imagine how anything got done; even though everyone may have been quite literally sitting at the table, they didn’t have the tools we consider essential to doing work today.
But there was much accomplished. Think post-World War II –men were returning home and to work, women were contributing to the workforce in unprecedented numbers – the economy was booming, consumer confidence and national morale soaring. The Civil Rights movement began, the structure of DNA was uncovered, the polio vaccine and the first organ transplants was bringing hope to the afflicted. And the computer, which would forever change the way we work, made the leap from exclusive science labs and war rooms to the business office.
“I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won’t last out the year.” Editor of Prentice Hall business books, 1957
Problems + Solutions = More Problems
Throughout the dawning of the Digital Revolution, as technology evolved more rapidly and adoption expanded with innovations becoming more accessible and affordable, the modern workplace, too, evolved.
Among other fundamental shifts, the very characterization of “team” changed – geographically dispersed teammates, connected by global networks (and able to visit in-person more easily thanks to parallel technology advances in the travel industry) were able to collaborate quickly and around the clock.
Similarly, the concept of “work” was entirely reimagined, where the physical became digital. Where “work” was once a tangible object – definable, measurable, and repeatable, it became abstract – a new and strange concept where the workforce simply ushered information from one place to another.
In this new world, where the bottom line was hinged upon these dispersed teams, collaborating (faster than ever before) to shepherd information, a new problem emerged: the old administration mechanisms couldn’t keep up with this new world of work.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of our Evolution of Modern Work series, where we introduce the 2 phases of Enterprise Work Management that aimed to address the challenges of modern work but didn’t quite get us there.