Smart Working in Turbulent Times

smart systems2I
had intended writing a series of blog posts in the run up to the pilot
launch of  The Smart Work Company’s social learning platform in
September. Turmoil in global financial markets, with the downgrading of
the US credit rating and simultaneous shenanigans in the Euro zone,
gives focus to the topics I want to explore.

The series, Smart Working in Turbulent Times, will
include themes that I have talked about before in previous blog posts in
a random way. My hope is that this series will pull topics together to
create a rationale for smart working, to explore what it is, to make the
case for why now (urgently) and to show how smart working practices can
be enabled, drawing on researching new ways of working over a fifteen
year period and years of practical experience of helping senior
executives make the transition to new ways of working.


Off the top of my head, the themes will include:


  • Context: turbulent times past and present – there are lessons
  • How organisations work (and don’t) – relationship dynamics, power,
    culture, conflict, alliances, psychological needs, performance
    environments etc
  • Smart principles underpinning design for:
  1. Viability (including emotional and psychological well-being)
  2. Adaptability
  3. Autonomy
  4. Integration
  5. Collaboration
  6. Wirearchy
  7. Distributed diversity
  8. Collective intelligence
  • Social skills
  • Thinking skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Learning skills
  • Performance environments, including:
  1. Cultural and social environment
  2. Online place
  3. Physical space
  4. Whole system of leadership


All this research and good practice that others have found effective
in specific contexts and at specific times cannot be be copied or rolled
out. What to do?

  • Draw out principles and interpret for your own situation
  • Create hypotheses about what is happening or what you want to happen
  • What might work?
  • What might enable or prevent it working?
  • Engage everyone you think will be affected or can contribute
  • Dialogue
  • Decide
  • Experiment and reflect – expect to meet obstacles, fail, get up, learn and go again.

In their excellent book The Innovating Organisation, Pettigrew and Fenton say that:

Most crucially the time series data in our case studies
have revealed the more or less continuous process of organising and
reorganising faced by our eight firms … the innovation journeys were
always incomplete … organisations may be resting uneasily on the cusp
between order and disorder.

Complexity, uncertainty and confusion? We better get used to it. This
is now normal. We need to be able to sense, respond, distill and turn
on a sixpence ie act quickly. The diagram below summarises the
work-based approach that I have been engaged in for the best part of ten
years, while working with a UK university.

My own experiment is now developing the approach and taking it
online. Once the series has reviewed the core topics identified in this
post, the focus for the blog after that will be my reflections on trying
to create communities of people brave enough to challenge the status
quo in their own turbulent workplaces. A tall order? Certainly but we
are out of options. It would be a terrible thing to waste a good crisis.

We have a lot of ground to cover!


Link to original post

Leave a Reply