• Wendy Castleman

We can't ignore the accelerating pace of change.

My grandfather was born in 1906 and died thirty years ago. I remember thinking about the changes he’d seen in his life. As a kid, most people still had horses, although cars were catching on.  Grampa’s first car was a Model A Ford. During his lifetime, we saw commercial and military air travel, rockets to the moon, a spaceship that could land and be reused, microwave ovens, televisions, VCRs, CDs, giant supercomputers and tiny desktop computers… it was a mind boggling shift in the way people lived and worked.  But, in the thirty years since his death, the world has changed significantly more.

Today, we have self-driving cars, voice-activated interaction with the internet - which contains nearly all of the information in the world, we carry around computers that connect us to this information and to one another - so we are in constant contact and everything we would ever want to know is at our fingertips. We are able to create, curate and share our lives with each other at all times.  Money is more often virtual than in the real world, you can send a tweet to order a pizza and you can have a live map of wherever you are in the world, so you cannot get lost.  

Back in 1989, it felt like we were at the pinnacle of technology, yet it was really kind of the dark ages.  I had a computer then. It had two low-density floppy disks and no hard drive. I had a telephone attached to the wall with a 20-foot cord so I could walk around to different rooms.  I had a car that had cruise control. I had a Walkman to listen to music when I was on a treadmill at the gym.  

A month ago, I bought a car. It has cruise control, too, but it has the ability to sense traffic around me and adapt to the speed of traffic.  It also has access to the internet, I can make calls and listen to satellite radio. It keeps me within my lane automatically. The backup camera helps me see when I’m going in reverse, and will automatically notify me if someone is coming from the side (great when trying to back up out of a parking space in a busy parking lot).  It’s a pretty standard car, really, these days.

Okay, you are in my world today, too.  You have noticed technological changes moving faster, evolving quickly.  These technological changes are impacting the way that we live our everyday lives. You’ve probably noticed that everyone interacts differently today than they did in the past. If you are out in the world, you see that most people are interacting with their phones, as a portal to the world, rather than the physical environments that people are actually in.  We rarely interact face-to-face, and when we do there is the constant interruption while someone looks something up or responds to an urgent text. The latest tech of AI, AR, VR, data and Voice are all actively being implemented in ways that will further impact our everyday lives.  

The trickle down effect of this technological change has implications for the environment that we work in.  Although HR organizations have processes to manage people, they are not keeping up with the pace of change and the expectations that employees have for the experience of working.  Today as an employee, you expect all information to be at your fingertips at all times. You expect things to be easy and quick to access and use. You expect to be able to create, curate and share information with others, and to collaborate seamlessly.  You expect to be able to work from anywhere, at any hour. The boundaries between work-life and home-life are permeable (if they even exist at all), which is leading you to increased feelings of burn-out and expectations of having to be immediately responsive.  Since our bosses and colleagues and customers are online all the time, they see us as being a bad worker if we do not respond right away… even if it is late at night. Our teams are becoming increasingly global and distributed. We leverage videoconferencing to see one another “face-to-face” and use tools like SLACK to share and curate information with our teammates.  

Because of the increasing pace of change, it is more urgent than ever to create an agile, fluid, human-centric work environment.  Our internal functions in corporations need to change their systems and processes - how they work in order to address this increasing pace of change.  

When I speak with people in all levels of corporations, people are feeling really hampered by their corporate cultures and bureaucratic processes.  You are probably getting in the way of your employees doing their best work. You may be losing significant numbers of talented, passionate employees because they think the grass might be greener somewhere else.  

I just talked to someone who was trying to request a specific type of leave to go to a work-related conference that was key to what she was working on. Her boss turned her down, saying that this type of leave must be requested 6-months ahead of time. The conference was just created two weeks earlier… she couldn’t have asked for it. This is a key example of something that is getting in her way. Be instant, timely, flexible!

Just because phones used to be connected to a wall doesn't mean that we still need the cord.

It’s time to let go of the corded telephone that can be carried from room-to-room.  We need to recognize that CHANGE here to stay, and it’s time to embrace the fully customized, easily used, immediate, ever-evolving  world we are in, and reimagine what work can be.

I've been studying change, and what helps people to create meaningful and enduring change in organizations. I'm currently developing a set of offerings to help leaders who are taking on new changes on new teams. Subscribe to my newsletter to keep up on the latest developments!

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