Everything new by digitalisation?

Dear reader,

For a client abroad you are planning a production facility jointly with your staff. Team meetings do not take place in adjacent meeting rooms but via Skype, Lync or else. Blue prints and documents are available to the team on computer screens via internet in virtual “meeting rooms” and can be worked by all members.

You do not know all of the team members in person. Specialists, hired for partial tasks, bring in their know-how from as far as Japan or the US. You are no longer the boss who takes care of all details, but a “spider” in a (virtual) web which does not need a hierarchy and is able to organise itself. Everything becomes more decentralised and more flexible. Some professions are replaced by computers capable of learning, new professions are created. Livelong learning is a must.

This is just a small section of changes which come along with digitalisation.

Is there still the need of a boss or can the team organise itself in every aspect? How do we assure the project’s success? How do we keep all strings together? Which strings do we need to hold and which ones can give out of hands? One thing is for sure: “knowledge means power” was yesterday’s paradigm. Today, it is all about sharing knowledge and to collaborate in such a way that 1+1 becomes more than 2.  To this end, even more trust and less control but is needed as well as delegation of responsibility among the team.

If we want to judge work performance of team members, whom perhaps we never will see “live” face to face, we need to adapt our management schemes and incentive systems to the new situation: more flexible work schemes in particular with view to supervision by distance, participation and more co-operative management within flatter hierarchies.

On this path, there is much to regulate by politics, employers and employees representations in companies as well as by social partners, industry and ourselves, who are shaping the work process. Let us bank on the successful reaping of digitalisation’s chances whilst avoiding aberrations as pre-empted in the “2084”movie. Little time is left for this approach, as working and knowledge performance is traded on a global market facing global competition via the internet.

And, as it is often the case: especially managers and executives will be challenged to shape this development. Let’s do it!


Bernhard v. Rothkirch