Open post

Would you let a robot cut your hair?

Any workforce and all management is thinking about tomorrow.  The skills we need, how we’ll manage with remote workforces, managing automated worforces. How we’ll deal with all the HR issues we have today – like absenteeism, sick days, low performance…but really, will they be issues?

If we have remote workforces and the technology to engage them properly – and the work for them to do that they are a) capable of doing and b) happy to do – won’t that have a natural knock on effect to lower issues?

Of course, there will be the ongoing problems with isolation and human contact but proper profiling and work allocation, with calibrated contact models (think ‘employee service’ instead of customer service and you’ll have the idea) and this should all look completely different.

Tomorrow’s problems won’t be because of today’s issues.

Tomorrow issues will be how we manage the work itself, who does it and how – and this is where the work of the future is more than just about the skills we’ll need.

Work as we know it today is designed the way it is because of the way computer software, early automation and process was designed.  There was nothing organic about it – it was all designed to align with the time and motion studies of the early twentieth century and the software business rules that originated in the 1970’s.   Process has tied organisations in knots since the first computer terminal had an interface.

So how to unpick that?

Work in the old days (before accelerated systematisation – say, 1950s) regardless of whether it was office or manufacturing was done in organic, logical steps that included all of those who wanted to work and could.  Sure populations were smaller, things were less complicated, systems did not exist for continuous improvement and things took a bit longer.  Compare that to today:  we have process snarls that kill efficiency gains, technologies that can halt business for days, vulnerabilities that defy capture and whole workforces marginalised because they don’t fit the ‘workforce models’.

This means that the workforce changes we need to see for the future – especially in streamlined back office operations, in so called digital transformations – could look back to what did work in the past. Community, sharing, trust. Employee loyalty and confidence.   What did these have in common?  People.  Is it reasonable to design work for people AND work for robots?  The skill for technologists and business analysts alike (and ok, solution designers) is how to separate the work that people can and should do, from the work they rush to design for automation.  The new skill in digital will be how far you can humanise work, not the opposite.

For today, that translates as  work that can best be done by people should be done by people, and things that benefit from digitisation should be designed for optimisation by that new army of automation.

This means a distinct workforce design, different work architecture and an overhaul of the work design architecture inherent in software and application (apps) business rules.

What’s wrong with simple batching and consolidation techniques?  Let’s move away from today’s assumption of how things should be done and move to how they can best be done.

After all, let’s imagine the future as we’re racing to that vision: would you really let robot cut your hair?


Robotbarber pic courtesy of PC Mag 21032012