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The end of job

The end of job

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Published by hernanrj

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Published by: hernanrj on Apr 14, 2011
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10/23/2013

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BL
What do you consider to be the core mes-sage of your new book 
Jobshift 
?
WB
Essentially it is that the whole, traditional,concept of the
Jo
is now rapidly becoming ahistorical artefact. It was a product of the firstindustrial revolution; jobs as we know themdid not exist until there were factories andoffices. The
Jo
was designed to do the work of the factory and the office; where the activitycould be subdivided, where neither productsnor policies changed very often or very quick-ly. It worked best in high volume, mass pro-duction situations where people were requiredto undertake simple tasks that were repeatedagain and again. Those jobs met the needs of the industrial revolution very well. But now,jumping ahead 175 years, the communica-tion/information age does not require every-one to be at the same place at the same time,because much of the added value of work isbeing increasingly done on information,rather than through physical effort on a pro-duction line. The production line and otherrelatively unchanging activities can be, andare being, automated. The
Jo
, surroundedby its job description, is no longer a good wayto get work done today. As a result a numberof other developments appear on the scene:temporary work, outsourcing, re-engineeringand empowerment programmes. All thesetrends, in my view, represent a single underly-ing development, which reflects a fundamen-tal change in what we mean by work, how it isorganized and undertaken.
BL
You consider that we are moving into aradical new situation, rather than finding theold organizational life-cycle patterns beingrepeated in a new context?
WB
Yes, thats right. Much of the conversationin the press, and elsewhere, has assumed thatall that was happening was that the old cycleswere repeating themselves; then, as soon as wewere out of the recession, all the old jobswould return.
BL
But what is it that is really different thistime?
WB
The thing that is different this time is that,with the help of information technology, thereis a wide range of new ways to get traditional
29
The International Journal of Career ManagementVolume 7 · Number 2 · 1995 · pp. 29–33© MCBUniversity Press · ISSN 0955-6214
The end of the job
Bruce Lloyd interviews William Bridge
The authorsBruce Lloyd
(Head of Strategic and InternationalManagement, South Bank University, London), indiscussion with
William Bridges
, author of
Jobshift: How to Prosper in a Workplace without Jobs.
Abstract
Presents the transcript of an interview with WilliamBridges, author of
Jobshift: How to Prosper in a Workplace without Jobs 
. Argues that the whole, traditional concept ofthe job is now becoming a historical artefact. As well asdiscussing challenges for the future, touches upon bench-marking and re-engineering, leadership and strategy, andthe high priority for learning. The transcript is followed bya review of the book.
 
work done and new work can use completelynew structures.
BL
Some people would argue that informationtechnology is having a similar impact onwhite-collar workers to that whichmechanization has already had on the blue-collar workers/industry.
WB
There is a lot of truth to that. Those peoplewho argue that there is nothing really new inthese changes, that we’ve been doing awaywith jobs and labour by replacing them withmachines for years and years, have a goodpoint. One key difference is that the oldprocess changes tended to concentrate work into one place – a factory, even an office. Butinformation-related activities, which are nowbeing increasingly automated, can be donealmost anywhere, and almost at any time.That comment applies to virtually all the newadded value activities that we now call jobs.
Challenges for the future
BL
What do you see as the key developmentsand challenges for the future?
WB
The first challenge is for the individual whohas been, and still is, pretty comfortable withthe idea of being an employee. And the chal-lenge here is how can you learn to take theskills and experience that you have, and turnthem into something that the marketplaceneeds, as an independent business person, orprofessional, without the support of what wehave traditionally called a
Jo
? Essentially thatmeans being paid for the work you do, ratherthan because you are on the payroll of someorganization. The second challenge is for theorganization; if many people are providingwork from this “outsourcing”, how is theorganization itself going to manage thesepeople and the overall process? This requiresthe organization to rethink a wide range of itsactivities from the very practical, like healthand safety insurance cover, to the broaderquestions of strategy. All these questionsproduce major challenges for the remainingmanagers who have the responsibility for theorganization’s future. The third challenge isfor society as a whole. Society has found the
Jo
a very convenient vehicle for certain socialsupport services and many financial transac-tions between the individual and the state,including a large number of taxes and ben-efits. What happens if people no longer havejobs in the traditional sense? The Governmenthas to start dealing directly with many moreindividuals over these issues.
BL
One pressure that is causing this process toimpact on an increasing number of white-collar workers is the need to measure thevalue added of the activities of those workers.This has been done extensively for decades onthe factory floor, but it is only just starting tobe done with the same rigour in the office andthe white-collar industries.
WB
That’s right. Another way of putting that isan administrative culture has built up, whichis primarly concerned with the administrationof the rules. That administrative mentality isthe classical status quo mentality. What hap-pens if that world has to change rapidly, as isthe case today? That administrative mentalityis not adequate; it is going to have to becomeefficient, to provide good service and above allbe willing and able to change.
BL
For many managers, and white-collarworkers, that requires them to switch from arule-bound, status quo environment to amanaging change culture. How can manage-ment respond to this challenge? Or will thenew patterns, after a short time, also producetheir own new administrative rule-bound,status quo pressures?
WB
I am not willing to wait until we see if thesenew patterns actually emerge in that way,because we can easily rip ourselves apart onthe journey, if we do not take action now. Thechallenge is to find some measures, or bench-marks, for what we are now doing, so that weknow whether or not we are doing better orworse, both over time and between our andother similar organizations. This is the sort of question that the administrative culture doesnot ask itself. One interesting technique thatis being increasingly used in the USA in thiscontext is activity-based costing (ABC),which allows everyone to assess more effec-tively what individuals and groups do.
BL
This trend is reflected in the increasing useof devolved budgets.
WB
So you push profit and loss responsibilityfurther down?
30
The end of the job
Bruce Lloyd interviews William Bridges 
The International Journal of Career ManagementVolume 7 · Number 2 · 1995 · 29–33
 
BL
Yes. But what organizations need to recog-nize, and it is too often missing, is that thistrend usually makes people more short-termin their operating decisions. Hence a key issuefor management is to ensure that somehowthe longer-term strategic issues are not lost inall this devolution.
Benchmarking and re-engineering
WB
Yes. Devolution across the board rarelymakes sense. Organizations are complexsystems and there are functions that essential-ly have a service role within the overall organi-zation. But it is essential that these functionshave appropriate performance measures todetermine their role and size within theorganization. Benchmarking and re-engineer-ing are two invaluable techniques that can beused to assist this process of performanceimprovement. Benchmarking helps to ensurethat the activities are competitive with those of other organizations, while re-engineeringmakes you ask questions about whether par-ticular activities should be done at all.
BL
But is there not a paradox here? Bench-marking tends to be much easier when there isrelatively little change going on, and whereyou can have reasonable confidence that youare comparing like-with-like, while re-engi-neering invariably is about producing evenmore change, and that often makes it harderto establish reliable benchmarks.
WB
This views the process the wrong wayround. Typically the solution to this dilemmais to ensure that you benchmark the rightactivities in the right way. For example, I work with a pharmaceutical company in the USAwhich benchmarks the time it takes to get adrug to market and the time it takes to getformal approval for its use. They found it took twice as long, compared with their competi-tors, and that information identified the needto re-engineer the process. That is how thetwo techniques can be usefully integrated andusing them in this way enables one techniqueto provide valuable support to the other. It iscritical that benchmarking is applied to theappropriate factors and, just as in the case of performance indicators, if they are not right,the answers can easily make the situationworse.
Leadership and strategy
BL
One of the points I found surprising wasthat the index in your book did not mentioneither the word
leadership 
or the word
strategy 
.Where do you put leadership and strategy intoyour analysis?
WB
I made a deliberate strategic decision not todeal specifically with the issues of strategy. Myobjective was simply to challenge what Iconsidered to be the accepted view of the
Jo
.I wanted this basic point to be accepted and Ideliberately decided not to cover many of thesocial issues, as well as avoiding digressionsinto questions of strategy and a discussion of the organizational implications. If I wrote asequel to this book, those are the subjects thatwould be covered. One of the points I wouldmake is that strategy has traditionally beenfocused on market strategy, but I would arguethat what is needed is a greater focus onresource strategy. How are we going to get thework done? We know about the customer andthe product but how are we going to organizeourselves to exploit that link? Do we use ourown employees? Do we “outsource” and, if so, what? Do we joint venture? That is a wholearea of strategy that in the past has usuallybeen a secondary focus, almost coming intothe area of tactics rather than strategy. Myargument is that market strategy is becomingmore the area of tactics, while these humanresources and fundamental organizationalissues are becoming the key strategy decisionareas.
BL
Is this going to make it even more difficultfor the traditional large organizations tochange and compete with the new organiza-tions that are taking all these ideas on boardfrom the start? Will these large, historically-driven companies have to run exceptionallyfast in making changes, only to find that theyare not making any real progress?
WB
I think the short answer to that question is:Yes. But that is an inadequate answer becausethere are things that large companies can doin the way of breaking themselves up andrefocusing their activities, in a way that makesthem act more like small companies, in anattempt to compensate for those differences.But many large companies will find they arenot successful at this process.
31
The end of the job
Bruce Lloyd interviews William Bridges 
The International Journal of Career ManagementVolume 7 · Number 2 · 1995 · 29–33

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