The Future of Work: It’s Already Here
I’ve been doing some research for my new book and I’ve been struck by how many people are writing about ‘the future of work’.
But so many things that are referenced as ‘the future’ are already here. AI, automation, robotics – these are all things that exist in the tools you probably already use.
You might not know it, but those capabilities have been around for long enough now that they are already embedded in the way you use consumer-based products.
The PMO Flashmob has been looking at the role of robotics in the PMO recently, as one example. Research from McKinsey points to technological skills seeing a 55% increase in use at work by 2030.
Interestingly, the second greatest shift in skills used is in the predicted growth of social and emotional skills, which will see a 24% jump in the same time period.
So we need to be both better at working with software, and better at working with our colleagues.
The challenge we have as project leaders is that our work-based tools haven’t really kept up.
Too much of what I have to do each day is routine, and – frankly – mundane. I know that a lot of project management is administrative, but I’m not paid for my ability to fill in a risk log. I’m paid because I’m good at leading the work to manage the risks on that risk log so that my project and my company aren’t caught out because of them.
Adding value with the 80/20 rule
My time in a day – like yours – is stretched. I have too much to do. I have to prioritize, and a while back I wanted to know what to focus on.
I looked at the broad categories of work I do in a day. I looked at the successes I had on my projects, the problems we had fixed and the conflicts resolved, that kind of thing. I drew lines between the work and the successes to establish what I was doing that drove the good stuff.
Unsurprisingly, to me, at least, 80% of my results were down to 20% of what I was doing: stakeholder engagement, facilitating the process and driving the workflow.
In other words, I spent a lot of time working with and talking to my colleagues, helping them see the value in the project, creating buy in, moving tasks forward, removing roadblocks and fostering a culture where they can do their best work.
If you do a similar exercise you might find that you get results from another type of behaviour. I’m not saying my conclusions hold true for everyone, but it brought home to me the things I should be doing more of to drive more value through my projects. But I need time for that.
If I could spend less time on the grunt work and more time on the activities I know add significant value to my projects, then wouldn’t life at work be better for everyone?
Enter the Work Operating System
If we acknowledge that we want to spend more time on the value-added work, we need to spend less time on the other stuff, because no one wants to be doing more work overall. I don’t have more hours to spend at my desk, so something has to give.
The good news is that with the ‘future’ tools that have already arrived, we can make a lot of changes – as long as you are open to new ways of working. One of those ‘future’ tools is a work OS, an emerging category of tech that includes unicorns such as monday.com, Airtable and Asana. These tools make our work lives easier by being so flexible you can work the way you want to, and spend less time on the drudge tasks.
Drudge tasks are menial, repetitive actions that we all have to do… at least, we did. An important feature for project managers in a work OS is automations, and that makes a significant difference to handling the drudge of project management.
For example, let’s think about the kinds of regular tasks we could automate on a project:
- When the status of a task turns Red, move the task to a list of high priority tasks that need management oversight
- Or when a task is Red, notify me every day until it isn’t Red any more
- When the status of a task like ‘monthly reporting’ moves to Complete, create a follow-up task for the next ‘monthly reporting’ task
- When an update is posted in our project group, notify everyone (or just me)
- When a new task is added, notify the task owner and the project manager.
And so on.
These are things you don’t even think about doing, but you do them. You hold those mini-processes in your head. You might make sticky notes about them (“Tell Claire that the task has finished”).
You don’t need to. Automations within work operating systems like monday.com help you streamline and manage all of that stuff, without you having to spend any brainpower on it.
Goodbye mundane tasks!
I want to spend more time on the work that I know makes a tangible difference to my project results. The stuff I enjoy, and am good at. And I can, with tools that support me to do that, freeing up my time.
As a team, we can get our work done faster because we all know what’s going on, and no one has to take the responsibility for doing all the little bits of chasing up statuses or moving tasks on the Kanban board from one column to another. It’s got to be done – but why not let automation do it for you?
Of course, as a sentient being in the team, you always have oversight over what your tools are doing for you. The difference is that an intelligent, modern work operating system supports us the way we want to work.
The future of the future of work
We do need to keep half an eye on what the future will bring, but we also need to deal with the realities of where we are today. Disjointed tools, siloed teams, conflicting priorities – these should already be past us.
We have the technology we need already to help us deal with the complexities of the modern workplace. There are already solutions out there that allow us to juggle project and non-project work, and make flexible, data-driven decisions about where to focus our time.
If we can already benefit from the ‘future’ of work, what’s keeping the futurists busy right now? I don’t know, but I can’t wait to find out.
This article was made possible with support from monday.com.
Great content! This blog post rings many bells 🙂 It describes very well the gap between the promises of automation (through AI or any other tech) and the hard reality of Excel-based and copy-pasting reporting activities. And not only that, but also the still very present misconceptions around the role & responsibilities of a PM (I had an interview last week for a highly exposed program manager position in a global transition & transformation initiative, and was asked if I knew JIRA, MS Project and other similar systems – at that level, I can’t be bothered with PMO tasks, and Powerpoint is probably the only tool I need to master…).
I am also interested in the Future of Work topics currently, but from the slightly different angle: as this is transformative, we Project Managers have also a role to play in the introduction of new tools, methods, governances, ways of working, mindsets, cultures, etc. that will shape the work of the future (and maybe also ours). So we should not only be users, but also promoters, in our position of change agents.