Disruption Management – impact of disruption on roles, organisation and people

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Disruption Management –

impact of disruption on roles, organisation and people.

By Tay Kay Luan, Senior Partner – Organisation Design, Lim-Loges & Masters

There has been so much written on the impact of artificial intelligence and robotics that McKinsey Global Institute is predicting as much as 60% of present work activities world- wide would likely to be displaced by 2030. It would be fair to say that a high percentage of these positions are in the semi-skilled and unskilled categories.

Many experts would agree that it is hard to ignore the possible business disruptions to the future of work. Lessons from business history show that while technology has always played a key role towards shaping work it has also created new and future opportunities that do not exist today. For example, we need to go no further than to witness how digital revolution has transformed the way we communicate and connect to each other without borders and conveniently.

From a disruptive management perspective, rather than focus on the negative impact of loss of jobs and deskilling process we should understand in broader context how such disruption can bring overall benefits to organisation and individuals.

The impact of disruption on working lives are plentiful. We narrow these down into six broad impact that will shape the future on how organisation and individuals manage disruption.

First and foremost, we recognise that there are no companies or jobs that are not prone to technology disruption. The past three decades have witnessed the rise in productivity because of technology. From the introduction of IBM main-frame to the use of tablets, in these 40 years, employees have greatly benefitted from additional convenience, and services across every sector. We also need to recognise the automation is impacting tasks and not jobs.

An excellent example is the use of technology to drive scalability, and such organisational effectiveness wouldn’t have been possible in the days of manual and routine duties. Empowering employees to serve allows the opportunity to introduce a culture of innovation, change and forward thinking, and to improve decision making.  Such development has upskilled certain key tasks, take for example banks cashiers whose tasks are taken over by the Automated Teller Machines (ATMs).

The second impact comes from the organisational design perspective. Whilst technology has boosted productivity, there will be emphasis on the acquisition of new skills and competencies. In a new era, a connected culture demands greater teamwork and cooperation, and greater emphasis on information analytical and facilitating skills. The ability to analyse and adapt to faster and unpredictable environments is perhaps an emerging competency that will be the differentiator.

Disruption management will include the need to revisit the whole concept of career development.  The traditional and conventional approach to career prospects i.e. possible life time employment and vertical management progression will come to an end. This will make way for a broader but horizontal career road map, where multi-tasking, and co-ordination skills in a networked environment will be necessary. Indeed, career routes will be less structured, and collaborative. In a new artificial intelligence era, growth in the gig economy will accelerate which will see more outsourcing and thus, more employees on short- term contracts with flexible locations and hours.

Given that the impact on skill acquisition will shift towards the fourth impact which is on training that has become more participative, knowledge becomes more digitalised. Mobile applications will also provide flexibility to working adults to pursue continuous learning.

The upskilling or training purposes has already manifested in the proliferation of fast growing digital education companies providing on-line tuition. A recent Babson Survey Research Group even suggests that 6.7 million post-secondary students are taking at least one on-line course compare to just 1.6 million in 2001. However, there are challenges. For on-line learning to be available, access to internet is a must, and given the inadequacy of digital infrastructure in remote parts of some countries, access remains a challenge. Equally important is the adaptability of learning styles towards on-line, as learning in isolation may not be practical for a working adult.

There is a general agreement that e-learning technologies will continue to evolve and become much more accessible and interactive through mobile devices, empowering the younger workforce to construct their own meaning and digital identity.

It is predicted half of all higher education students will have experienced on-line learning by 2020. Demand for on line learning will continue to grow based on greater acceptance of its flexibility and cost efficiency.

The shift from functional hierarchical to a network based organisation will not only de-emphasise on titles but re-emphasise skills and capabilities, and these continue to evolve as the digital age demands for more fluidity and responsiveness. There must be changes made to make performance management more agile and responsive. Organisations may have to consider discarding the old concept of the ‘big curve’* approach in favour of new models that give greater weightage on short term, and intangible success factors.

In the digital age the shift from muscle power to more brain power is complex and more stressful. The thinking tasks will see the inclusion of indirect contribution in future reward culture. This requires a different concept of how expectations are established, conversed and accepted. As teamwork demands greater collaboration so too is the need to place priorities on inclusion and diversity management. Reward practices will be focused on individual competencies, and less dependent on a structured pay systems.

Disruptive management isn’t a bad thing. There is unprecedented opportunity to break up hierarchises and allow greater empowerment so that people talents can harnessed. Disappearance of routine tasks allows better network access, empowerment and analytics. Rapid changes will also give organisations and individuals the opportunity to enjoy a better future.


Kay Luan Tay is a senior practitioner in……and currently heads the Organisational Design Practice at Lim-Loges & Masters (www.limlogesmasters.com)

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