Digital Workplace consultant? Don’t just focus on the technology.

Are you a digital workplace consultant? Then please remember that the technology is only part of the solution. But you sometimes sell it to me, as if the technology will save me from all evil. Please remember that, if all the technical gadgets and solutions do not support our culture and strategic goals, it will be close to meaningless.

As an example, today I stumbled upon a recruitment ad for digital workplace consultants. No, I am not looking for a new job, but since I receive a lot of notifications within this professional area, it reached my eyes. It was talking about cloud based solutions, mobility, and more. Those can be gorgeous, of course. But the ad did not emphasize enough the customer’s employees, adoption, or aligning the technology with the client’s culture or strategic goals.

From my perspective, everything starts with WHY here. And where does this ‘why’ reside? In the company culture. And how does a company culture live on over time? Through the humans who work there. Therefore, creating a better workplace requires people who understand people. I don’t care how awesome Office 365 (or any other product) is, if you don’t hear what I say in the first place. As Simon Sinek said: Place the Why in the middle, and then work your way out to How, and What. If you miss the Why (people, culture, values, strategic goals), I don’t care about the What (shiny technical stuff).

Therefore, the next time I see an ad for digital workplace consultants, I hope the technology is only 10%. The other 90% should be about being a good listener, one who can understand businesses, and bridge strategic and human needs to selecting the best gadgets and solutions. Have you sat in long near meaningless meetings with reluctant people introducing technology they don’t feel they need? Great! Have you struggled aligning what you do in your department with the overall goals of the company, but not known if you have a match? Awesome! You can become a digital workplace consultant.

Yes, we need smarter apps, better IT systems, and shiny things that alleviate us. But first of all we need great people who listen and understand us. Therefore, I hope this will be reflected in the digital workplace consultant ads going forward.

Three versions of the #futureofwork

Recently, I came across three articles and reports that are describing the future of work:

Going through each of these reports and drawing all necessary conclusions is a big task. But I would like to see if there are any similarities regarding how our future work and workplaces are described.

Let us start with the first to articles above – the ones from Microsoft/Poptech (left-hand side) and Business Insider (right-hand side). To makes things easier, I simply copied their own descriptions into each square below (they of course have all the credits and copyrights):

The Changing World of Work
“The exponential growth of digital connectivity, devices and information is driving profound changes in the way we work, all around the world. In order to survive in this world, companies need to rethink everything from culture to tools and environments.”
  The corporate ladder could become the “corporate lattice.”
“In the past 25 years, one-quarter of companies have reduced the number of layers of management they have, moving toward a flatter, more grid-like management structure.”
The Responsive Organization
“Responsiveness is becoming the key to competitiveness in the ever faster moving and interconnected global economy. To succeed, companies need to shift their focus from efficiency of process to effectiveness of outcomes.”
  Artificial intelligence could replace jobs previously held by humans …
“In May, NPR created a digital tool to calculate how likely it is that certain jobs will be taken over by robots 20 years from now. Manual-labor jobs appear to be most at risk, while jobs that require empathy, like social workers and caretakers, are least at risk.”
Elements of Responsiveness
“In pursuit of adaptivity, companies are decentralizing decision-making and empowering their people with information. This increases engagement and enables continuous learning.”
   … but could also create jobs that didn’t exist before.
“Canton predicts a scenario in which humans and robots work side-by-side in the future, where new jobs could include operating artificial intelligence-based technology and old jobs could be augmented by it.”
Working Like a Network
“As the world becomes more interconnected, value creation is shifting from the individual to the collective. Resilient, high-empathy teams will drive the best business outcomes.”
Employers could start recruiting labor from a global pool of freelancers instead of traditional, full-time employees.
“It’s cheaper for employers, who have an entire world of workers at their fingertips, to hire freelancers as needed rather than full-time employees, as it doesn’t involve a lengthy hiring process or require them to offer benefits like health insurance or social security.”
Leadership in Transition
“The role of the leader is changing, yet it’s more important than ever. To create adaptive organizations, leaders need to actively shape an open culture that fosters collaboration and builds trust.”
Retirement could become a thing of the past.
“People are living longer, and the cost of living keeps going up, requiring many to keep working much later in life. Younger generations also aren’t saving money for retirement the way their parents’ generation did, because they can’t afford it.”
The Social Workplace
“When you can work from anywhere, why go to the office? Human connections and serendipitous encounters matter more than ever. Modern workplace design needs to be intentionally designed to foster collaboration and tacit knowledge exchange.”
Workers may demand more of employers, leading to even more career hopping.
“A “future of work” report from PricewaterhouseCoopers predicts that people will continue shifting away from the one life, one career mentality — an already observable trend among millennials. Workers will follow their passions as they change, and for many that also means changing careers.”
A Spectrum of Spaces
“Our future workplaces should inspire people to do their best work, both individually and in teams. They will provide a richer variety of spaces to support the full range of human activities and needs.”
Employees could be monitored, and not just at work.
“The PwC report also envisions a world in which employers can monitor and screen their employees at a much more advanced level: “Sensors check their location, performance and health,” the report states. “The monitoring may even stretch into their private lives in an extension of today’s drug tests.””
Unlocking Creativity
“Automation is changing the nature of our jobs. While many jobs will be eliminated, automation and intelligence will also help us focus our attention on what matters most, create new forms of value, and allow human creativity to flourish.”
More companies could dissolve traditional offices and headquarters.
“Coworking spaces are becoming more and more popular, not just among freelancers and entrepreneurs but also corporations that can use them to relocate employees. Dissolving the traditional office headquarters would enable companies to hire the best candidates all over the world regardless of proximity to a central company hub.”
Driverless cars could make the morning commute faster and easier.
“Both Price and Dr. Canton imagine a world in which driverless vehicles could eliminate mass transit and transportation jobs, but on the positive side, these cars could potentially eliminate daily commuter traffic, not to mention crashes and fender benders.”


Even if their words are different, we see some major things that are supposed to happen:

  • The tools we use, ranging from personal tech, via Internet of Things and self-driving cars, will include much more AI than today. Robots and computers can help us do so much more, but also do our work for us. Depending on the outcome, we might do everything from falling in love with them (as in the wonderful movie HER), or feel less valuable since they take our jobs, or invade our privacy.
  • Work is what you do – not where you are. This has been a mantra in the Digital Workplace area a few years, and all the above confirms that this is happening. Here, the technology can help us be more free than today, since we carry it with us all the time. Already today, many physical meetings can be replaced by Yammer, Skype or the like. This could also have an effect on the environment, since we travel less. And given that the boundaries of ordinary office work disappears, we feel more creative and can perhaps solve problems in new ways.
  • The traditional ways of running companies have soon had its time, it seems. People will get more tired of traditional hierarchies, strict policies, and the long pointless meetings staring at PowerPoint files. Already today, some companies such as Hootsuite and Digital Workplace Group create more virtual teams of experts. There is no point in itself of replicating the ways companies worked in the 1900s.

This leads us to the third outlook on the future: The Future of Jobs by World Economic Forum (see below). Here we see that Creativity is taking a big leap from number 10 to number 3 between 2015 and 2020. Complex Problem Solving is still number one, and might be enhanced by our AI buddies. And given the networked world we seem to be creating, that is where the Emotional Intelligence at place 6 in 2020 might come in: Robots and computers can only do so much the coming years, and we need to build trust to each other even if we don’t meet physically:


If all the above are correct descriptions of what might happen to our work and workplaces, a lot will happen:

  • Companies need to be ready to restructure to allow more creative and free flowing work. Some employees might leave since there are networks of people that allow them to work more freely. And they must take care of the workers whose jobs are replaced by machines.
  • For us as individuals, we need to handle new skills to survive. We need new methods of learning, such as Personal Knowledge Mastery and Working out Loud. If we are unlucky, we are replaced by machines. If we are lucky, we can avoid the mundane and boring things and focus more on the unique skills that make us human.

I will continue to elaborate on these ideas, and the above is only a start in creating the mental landscape of the future of work. This post by no means covers all the things necessary to take on the future. But is is a start.


Too much collaboration? Try some cooperation.

Recently, several people have written, and referred to, articles regarding collaboration and its benefits and drawbacks. Some examples are:

Physical and online meetings seem to be the key to making business nowadays. But too many people attend too many meetings, not getting any “real” work done. There is simply no room or time left for private thoughts on how to advance the business. And a few percent of the staff are collaboration heroes, attending nearly all meetings, but burning out. Something must change, but is there a better way?

Maybe Harold Jarche is on to a solution. See for example “In networks, cooperation trumps collaboration“, he combines the Cynefin and TIMN frameworks and applies it to working:


So, while we have evolved from the Chaotic level up to the Complicated level, many have stopped there. In such cases, the companies are still on this level:

The market form, the third form of organization to take hold, enables people to excel at openly competitive, free, and fair economic exchanges.” (Materials for Two Theories: TIMN and STA-C by David Ronfeldt – thanks Harold Jarche for the link).

The next step, the Complex stage, is here described as: “The network form, the fourth to mature, serves to connect dispersed groups and individuals so that they may coordinate and act conjointly.” By then, we have also moved from Collaboration to Cooperation. Harold Jarche also explains this in one of his models:


This means that we should focus less only on simply working together in structured and goal-oriented scenarios – collaborating. It is based on old ways of working and forming companies. Yes, we need it and can fine-tune it with Collaboration Managers, but it is not the final stop on the bus ride: Probably, we need to learn how to cooperate via informal and opportunity-driven scenarios, and thereby create more humane digital workplaces.  Less two-hour meetings with no agenda. More sharing freely in networks, without expecting others to return your favors. As Harold Jarche says, cooperation makes us human.

How do we create this cooperation in our companies? I have no clear answer yet, but I have seen enough meeting fatigue in too many colleagues over the years. The tools and methods we use at work must now reflect the more open and spontaneous mindset of cooperation. I will explore this further in my own work, and look forward to hearing from others.

Create – the fifth C and the humane digital workplace

This is the sixth post on my journey towards working with a humane digital workplace. It started with “Building a humane digital workplace” (listing the 5 Cs) and was followed up with “Connect“, “Communicate“, “Collaborate“ and “Coach“.

The fifth and final C is Create, and the 30.000 feet overview of our intent with Create is that we:

  • Are responsive, adaptive and open to new ideas
  • Dare to do things differently
  • Challenge the traditional ways of working
  • Come up with continuous improvements

Over the years, all companies change and create new ways of working. The idea here, is to being in charge of these changes, instead of only letting the outside world demand them from you. And these new, creative ways of working don’t always need to be revolutionary. For example, upgrading to a very well functioning intranet can make paper forms and administrative tasks a distant memory. Virtual teams distributed in time and space can work together, complementing traditional structures. And by introducing tools such as Yammer, we can replace some of the dark silos created by e-mail.

As a customer oriented company, we also constantly see if there are new ways to innovate. Also here, it is not always about revolutionizing everything at once. Rather, we constantly make sure our processes, tools, and skills evolve. Here, I also come back to the people that inspire me to do more and better:

  • Use Working Out Loud by John Stepper to bring ideas in to the open, and see where they take us.
  • Be inspired by other ways than e-mail to collaborate thanks to Luis Suárez, and others.
  • Use the current methods for communicating internally and externally thanks to experts like Rachel Miller and Gloria Lombardi.
  • Don’t journey alone. Let the Digital Workplace Group (DWG) and their friends guide you in modern ways of working.
  • With a new world comes a new way of learning. Let Harold Jarche and others guide you on this journey.
  • Collaboration is at the center of everything we do, as Oscar Berg and others clearly emphasize.

Now, the next step is to make sure we truly bridge the 5 Cs with the ideas from the digital workplace domain. The goal remains: Creating a humane digital workplace, based on our values and culture.

Coach – the fourth C and the humane digital workplace

This is the fifth post on my journey towards working with a humane digital workplace. It started with “Building a humane digital workplace” (listing the 5 Cs) and was followed up with “Connect“, “Communicate“ and “Collaborate“.

The fourth of the Cs is Coach, and the 30.000 feet overview of our intent with Coach is:

  • Success is embedded in the actions of yourself and those you work with
  • Experience, creativity and contributions of others is appreciated
  • Exchange of best practices

Coaching has become an industry of its own. This is not the focus of this post. Instead, we should explore how we can coach each other on a daily basis in a global company. Most probably, it is a matter of having the right mindset. As an employee and human being, you can always teach someone else something new. But you can always learn something from a fellow human too. So coaching each other should move in both directions: Knowing when to offer it within your expertise area, and knowing when you should be open for receiving coaching.

Much of this will happen via face-to-face discussions and meetings. Here, coaching falls into the informal learning and the 90% that is not formal learning via the 70:20:10 model. For example, see how Michelle Ockers explores 70:20:10. Many companies spend a lot of money in the formal training area, and feeling rather comfortable using these methods. Informal learning, however, is not about diplomas and certificates. It is about finding sound ways to learn and coach each other via our daily work.

There are of course also digital tools that can assist coaching and social learning. For example, I presented more on this at IntraTeam in Copenhagen, via “The 5 Rs of Social Learning applied to an intranet“. It was my first attempt to apply the ideas of Jane Hart on an intranet. Launching an Enterprise Social Network (ESN) can also be promising. It opens up a company globally, and people can easily coach each other in writing, with badges and more.

At Haldex, we have just migrated the content from the old intranet. With the new year comes great opportunities to level up and take the next steps. By applying the ideas of informal learning and Personal Knowledge Mastery, we can support coaching in great ways the coming years. And of course, by applying the ideas of Working Out Loud, it is much easier to coach each other: Be open about what you need, and others can help you.

Collaborate – The third C and the humane digital workplace

This is the fourth post in my journey towards working with a humane digital workplace. It started with “Building a humane digital workplace” (listing the 5 Cs) and followed up with “Connect – the first C and the humane digital workplace“ plus “Communicate – the second C and the humane digital workplace“.

The third of the Cs is Collaborate, and the 30.000 feet overview of our intent with Collaborate is:

  • Focus on the team
  • Engage and work together
  • True team player
  • Appreciate diversity

Here, my first thought immediately went to Personal Knowledge Mastery (PKM) and the work of Harold Jarche. He mentions collaboration and cooperation in several posts, such as “In networks, cooperation trumps collaboration” (2012), “Extending collaboration toward cooperation” (2013), and “Retrieving cooperation” (2014). Should we, in a professional environment, ignore the collaboration and go for the cooperation instead? I would say no: We all need to start where people often do their daily business, and then incorporate more. It is not either-or.

In the 2012 post above, Harold posts the continuum all organizations live on:


By starting in the structured and goal-oriented corner and collaborating in work teams, we can accomplish a lot. Collaboration is not worse than true cooperation. In fact, as Harold shows in “Cooperation in the networked workplace” (2013), they complement each other:


One goal for us on the journey towards a humane digital workplace, could be moving towards cooperation. With a sound base in Work Teams, we can incorporate more Communities of Practice and Social Networks along the way. We already explore these in our company, but we could engage even more people and use the right tools to do it.

There are also other things I have started relating to Collaborate, when it comes to typical things mentioned in the digital workplace:

  • It must be easy to create and maintain virtual teams, no matter your device. This could be done in tools like Yammer or Slack.
  • We make it mandatory to fill in your expertise and your photo on out intranet, so others can find you easily.
  • We could set KPIs that measure that you have actively contributed via the collaboration channels we provide. Exactly how, I am not sure of yet (or even of we should do it). But we could surface the fact that you engage actively in collaboration also in the social sphere.

Other thinkers that can guide us here are for example (there are of course many more):

We could probably do more in exploring which tools fit Collaboration, Communities of Practice, and Cooperation. The above posts are great. Meanwhile, we get several new tools per year it seems, but now we have a continuum to measure them against.

Communicate – the second C and the humane digital workplace

This is the third post in my journey towards working with a humane digital workplace. It started with “Building a humane digital workplace” (listing the 5 Cs) and followed up with “Connect – the first C and the humane digital workplace“.

The second of the Cs is Communicate, and the 30.000 feet overview of our intent with Communicate is:

  • Open, transparent and active communication are the keys to our success
  • Listen to others
  • Share information and knowledge

Here are my first thoughts when relating Communicate to typical things mentioned in the digital workplace:

  • Use the best available systems for communicating easily with any audience, including between employees. Move away from e-mail as far as possible, since it builds silos without meaningful context. Learn how to move from e-mail from experts like Claire Burge and Luis Suarez.
  • Create an updated communication plan based on our own needs, while learning from experts like Rachel Miller, Gloria Lombardi and more.
  • Ensure it is very easy to reach anyone, anywhere, from any device.
  • Don’t try to convince everyone at the same time when launching new tools. Instead, begin with the people that need it the most and build a solid business case from that.
  • Business intelligence must be channeled to the correct people in the right time.
  • All departments must share best practices and stories regularly.
  • Continue to keep a very detailed and clear use of our documents including archives.
  • Deliver and execute a new Learning & Development plan, including our version of learning at the workplace. Here, the ideas of experts like Harold Jarche, Kenneth Mikkelsen, and Jane Hart can help.

Yes, all of the above are major tasks for any organization. But they are for sure worth looking into. Going forward without effective ways to communicate, is a dead end for any company.

Connect – the first C and the humane digital workplace

A few weeks ago,, I published “Building a humane digital workplace“. It included a video from my employer Haldex, where we introduce you to the 5 Cs. These are 5 Cs that all employees should embrace and express in our work.

The first of these is Connect. Now I have started relating what we mean with Connect, to some items others have created regarding the digital workplace. Let’s start with the 30.000 feet overview of the meaning of Connect:

  • One Haldex approach
  • Connect the dots and understand the bigger picture
  • Connecting with each other to become a team

My first attempt at relating this to the digital workplace ended up in ideas like these:

  • Help all employees understand how we do business, so we move in the same direction.
  • We serve the users with news from the industry we act in.
  • Ensure people have full access to all necessary systems no matter where they are.
  • Ensure it is very simple to contact anyone directly, preferably from your mobile.
  • The Management Team should vocally support the Humane Digital Workplace.
  • The governance plan must include all aspects of the Humane Digital Workplace, and not only the intranet.
  • We must connect services to our mail, to draw the structural capital from individual mailboxes into open forums where we can discuss them.
  • Apply techniques like Working Out Loud (WOL) and Personal Knowledge Mastery (PKM) to let knowledge into the open and build a networking sharing habit.

Am I going in the right direction? Is something vital missing? This is hard but fun work, and all input is welcome.

The 80/20 principle for the humane digital workplace

Once I continued working with developing our plan for our humane digital workplace (see my previous post), I felt it was easy to get overwhelmed. Everything starts internally with our culture and strategy. But then we also need to take into account the other aspects of what very wise people and companies have presented regarding the digital workplace. And that is where the fatigue can set in: There are simply too many aspects to take into account, and then I haven’t even covered all the wise contributors in the area.

Maybe books like Richard Koch’s classic “The 80/20 Principle – The secret to achieving more with less” can help here? Also for the digital workplace, maybe 20 percent of the efforts we spend can produce 80% of the rewards? But which 20% are key to succeeding?

Most probably, the 20% varies between each company, given their culture and strategic goals. But I believe everyone working with applying smart ideas on building humane digital workplaces can win from such ideas. You simply cannot do everything others list as crucial for succeeding. You might just feel overwhelmed, tired and do less than you hoped. But you can find the key aspects that can have the biggest effects in your workplace, and start working on those.

As an example, our 20% could potentially be: getting the mobile access right, grounding all humane digital workplace ideas in the extended management team, and turning manual procedures into effective workflows and forms. I will explore this the coming weeks.

The workday is only so long. Choose wisely.