The rules are changing. The work we do -- and where and how we do it -- is undergoing a revolution. In order to thrive in the global economy, companies need a whole new business model--one that enables them to embrace new technology, understand the ever-changing workforce, and rethink the way they structure work environments. Corporate Agility provides the blueprint. The authors are founders of the Work Design Collaborative, a renowned think tank that helps companies become more productive. In Corporate Agility, they share the results of their ground-breaking five-year research project and the forward-thinking strategies that have grown out of this new knowledge. Readers will discover how to: Reduce fixed operational costs to remain competitive in the global marketplace Institutionalize the innovation process to quickly react to a changing marketplace Confront the coming "talent gap" for creative and knowledge-based workers Filled with case studies of companies that have learned to stay ahead of the curve and interviews with their top executives, Corporate Agility will help every company ensure that it stays profitable and sustainable for years to come.
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Charles Grantham (Prescott, AZ) and Jim Ware (Berkeley, CA) are the founders of the Work Design Collaborative and the Future of Work program, whose members include Boeing, Accenture, and Intel. They have been featured in Fast Company and Business Week. Cory Williamson (Croton-on-Hudson, NY) is an author and talent agent.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
C H A P T E R 2
The Three Major Business Challenges:
Costs, Labor, and Innovation
No one can sketch the business world of the future with any accuracy, but
one thing is certain—it will be as different from its predecessors as the factory
was from the farm. And although the great drivers of change in the past
century—globalization, the diffusion of technology, and shifting demographics—
may not have combined to create a world that is truly flat, the playing
field is unquestionably far more level than it once was.
The flow of manufacturing jobs from the traditional centers of production
in Europe, North America, and the Pacific Rim to the developing economies
of China, India, Central America, and South America has been well documented.
But while the economic giants of the twentieth century have been
able to soften the blow of that loss through the realignment of their labor
forces, the long-term consequences of the transformation have not yet been
fully understood. At the very least, companies with decades-long reliance
on traditional product lines—whether they be automobiles, electronics, or
pharmaceuticals—have begun to realize that it is not only production that
has fled their shores. Accompanying those jobs, it seems, was the culture of
education and innovation upon which the West was founded. As a result,
forward-thinking corporate managers have been forced to rethink cost structures,
management priorities, market strategies, and product development.
The workplace programs of today will age just as surely as the workforce
will. It is only by continually reviewing market conditions, reexamining corporate
strategies, and reallocating resources accordingly that businesses can
prosper in a volatile and unpredictable global economy. Accordingly, the three
major challenges facing businesses today are:
1. Reducing fixed operating costs
2. Confronting the coming talent shortage
3. Institutionalizing innovation
Of these three, the most important core function is the institutionalization
of innovation. The case studies introduced in the first chapter—The Sprint
Powered Workplace, H-P’s Workplace Transformation, and Jones Lang La-
Salle’s Workplace Strategies—are textbook examples of forward thinking in
action, and we will get back to them later in this book. As successful as they
have been, however, they are but products themselves of institutionalized
innovation. The key to ongoing success lies in integrating innovation into
every aspect of the company.
In the pages that follow, we will address each of these challenges in turn,
citing research, discussing the best practices of industry thought leaders, and
featuring case studies from Future of Work members past and present.
We will also describe in some detail the management tools and methodologies
we’ve developed at the Work Design Collaborative, in collaboration
with members of the Future of Work community. Those experiences have reinforced
our belief that corporate agility can be achieved only through the
continuous, collaborative management of HR, IT, and CRE. We call this
approach collaborative strategic management, or CSM for short.
That said, collaborative strategic management involves much more than
the simple integration of those traditionally separate functions. CSM means
putting processes and practices in place that will allow HR, IT, and CRE
managers to create a unified approach to the organization’s business imperatives,
and to resolve them while respecting a core of shared corporate values.
Seen from this perspective, CSM is as much about the why of strategy as it is
the how, affecting not only strategic decision making but also plans made in
the larger pursuit of corporate agility.
CSM is meant to ensure that HR, IT, and CRE work together toward
common goals. It does not demand that the boundaries and differences
among these three professional disciplines be eliminated. Rather, it recognizes
and values those differences, and the unique contributions to the business that
each of them make. It further requires that those contributions be made
within a context of mutual respect, and with the understanding that all three
perspectives are needed to produce an effective, sustainable, agile, organization.
CSM is strategic in the sense that it anticipates—in fact, even expects—
continual change in the broader business environment. In that sense, it is
about management over time, because continuous environmental change demands
continuous organizational and managerial change. CSM, then, is the
dynamic and ongoing process of internal decision making that is the essence
of corporate agility.
Let’s return now to the three major business challenges of the twentyfirst
century. There are various options for reducing fixed operating costs. We
will examine the following:
■ Corporate real estate (CRE) issues
■ Nontraditional business (government agencies, nonprofit, etc.)
■ Green building
■ Variable-cost labor
■ Employee turnover
Next, we will address the shortage of human talent—the difficulties corporations
are now experiencing recruiting and retaining qualified, engaged
employees. Under this heading we will examine the following:
■ Shifting global demographics
■ Changing attitudes in the workforce
■ Benefits crunch
■ Educational trends
■ Politics and immigration
Finally, we will turn to the institutionalization of innovation, or the ways
in which corporations must not only react to changing business conditions
but also build innovation into their corporate structures, ensuring that today’s
solutions do not become tomorrow’s problems. We will look at these case
■ Herman Miller
■ Johnson Controls
■ Jones Lang LaSalle
For now, however, let’s turn to a topic that keeps the CFOs of the world
awake every night—the reduction of fixed operating costs. This is the subject
of Chapter 3.
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