This article is part of a series titled A brief History Of The Organization
- Part 1: The Rise Of The Industrial Machine
- Part 2: Ch-Changes, Turn and Face The Strange
- Part 3: Return of The Human
Times They Are A Changing, They Are Are a Rapidly A Changing, They Are a Accelerating a Changing, They Are a Exponentially A Changing, They Are…
Ok, so I need to pick my musical metaphors, and I am likely aging myself a bit, but the I hope the point is clear. The world of today looks very different from the world at the turn of the last century.
It must be quite a surprise to many of you. I joke, I joke.
I am sure most of you are keenly aware how different the era of today looks from the era that birthed the Industrial Organization.
Change is name of the day. Constant change, rapid change, exponential change, changing change. The only constant seems to be that the rate of change keeps accelerating.
It turns out that the industrial organization is a victim of it’s own success. When our customers become wealthier, they also become much more discerning about what they want to buy. It’s a good thing that wealth also brings a lot more competitors, all who are vying for the customers’ dollar, and can provide all sorts of different choices to our customers.
When customers have more to spend, and more suppliers are competing for that spending then product lifecycle get shorter, and shorter. Let’s not forget the role that technology is also playing in disrupting familiar business models at an ever faster rate. Obsolescence can come in months, weeks, and even days.
Oh and your customers now want their stuff personalized to their needs, wants, and tastes. So that design-it -once-and-repeat-for-everyone idea is now pretty much out the window. We are long past the point where markets are no longer vast with spacious amounts of room to easily grow simply by doing more of the same.
Instead markets are highly segmented. Goods and services are personalized to variety of user personas. We are in the age of mass customization.
Finally the world itself seems to be rising up against us. Environmental issues, disasters, pandemics only add to our sense of a volatile world.
All of this adds up to an era typified by volatility, by uncertainty, by complexity, and ambiguity, (VUCA)
The challenge of today’s era (this far) is to use market learning provide differentiated solutions that create customer delight and loyalty to an exact and exacting audience
From People to Machine, back To People Again
Before the rise of the Industrial Organization, people played the primary role in creating goods for others. This was great in the sense that people could order to their unique needs, and service was familiar, even intimate. But production was expensive, very few goods could be produced this way.
As the industrial organization gained prominence, the machine become the engine that delivered value. Humans, were merely cogs in this machine. Automatons, parts that could be replaced with cheaper humans, or automated away with technology (the real machines).
While this was great for that initial burst of wealth, it wasn’t great for our humanity. Thinking about people as machines is also a lousy way to take advantage of peoples innate ability to solve novel problems. Increasingly this problem solving was required for organizations to deliver customer value
And this is nothing new. Since at least the 70s people have been rising back to ascendancy. Organizations increasingly rely on knowledge workers to navigate between shifting market demand and constantly evolving technology.
Even old school manufacturing style assembly line work is requiring expertise in operating advanced robots, and programming these complex machines so that they perform in a way that is fit for purpose. Thanks to software, the vast majority of work is now knowledge work.
So we have gone full circle. From human, to machine, back to human again.
- the only constant in today’s era is accelerated change
- discerning customers, segmented markets, crowded competition, shrinking product lifecycles, rapid technological innovation, and a shifting environment are all playing a role
- Today’s era requires that we think of human organizations, where people and their problem solving capabilities matter more than machines