Changes are occurring at a rapid rate in organizations at all levels and in all structures. These changes affect systems, processes, roles, responsibilities, worker relationships and essentially, how work is produced. The changes are characterized under the general banner of DISRUPTION. For purposes here, we categorize DISRUPTION of this type in organizations as (1) technical disruption and (2) Organizational Disruption. These changes are not of the type we have seen in organizations before. Previous changes were considered innovative, but labored under the false notion that leaders could “manage change.” The changes we speak of now are of a different construct. They are disruptive with higher levels of intensity. These disruptions occur rapidly, with greater frequency, and are far-reaching into most areas of the organization…often simultaneously!
In addition to having the potential to strengthen certain organizational capabilities, DISRUPTION can impact other elements embedded in the organization …not always positively. Uncertainty looms large as necessary innovations adjust normal work patterns. Disruption pushes structures, systems, processes and their associated organizational boundaries. If not handled properly, innovation and its accompanying organizational disruption will have a devastating effect on workers and the intended outcomes.
THE MAIN POINT
Although not a new concept, we have paid far more attention to Technology Disruption [data innovations] than to the lingering disruptive effects experienced by people in the workplace. We defend technology disruption easily as par for the course of innovation. However, in comparison, worker’s ability to sustain their productivity during the various phases of disruption has received little attention. We have paid much attention to the positive outcomes associated with technology disruption. We have replaced legacy systems, reformatted organizational boundaries, shifted managerial control, all in the interest of ensuring the technological innovations are well-seated. We espouse the benefits of technological innovations and as a result, are able to make better decisions with the data produced.
Although these innovations reach every part of the organization, leaders often fail to pay attention to the impact these innovations have on workers. Innovations impact workers on several levels: personal, organization cultural, work stream, work methods and social networks. Work processes about which they were “certain” are now approached with uncertainty. The way people assessed their own productivity has been disrupted.
DISRUPTION impacts people at work! People…associates…employees…teams…remember them? They’re that multi-generational, inclusively diverse, divisionally-contained, hierarchically stacked, leader aligned group of individuals. They have conformed to the rules of the long-existing culture and are guided by the beautifully crafted organizational mission. They remember a VISION of old but don’t hear too much talk about that anymore. In the meanwhile, it’s feeling a bit different at work. Approaches that were thought of as effective previously are seemingly unimportant now.
QUESTION: Workers in Disrupted organizations are beginning to think of the workplace as unfamiliar. What experiences do you have working in a Disruped Organizational environment?