Conversation about the future of work is everywhere, but who really knows what that means, and who can help guide us into that future? This is the work I’ve been doing at Open Assembly and also in my role as Executive in Residence at the Laboratory for Innovation Science at Harvard (LISH). We support companies around the world on their journeys to adapt to new future-of-work systems. (And by-the-way, the “future of work” is actually happening now).
It’s easy, especially for people who are innovators, to race ahead quickly with a new idea or model. That would work if only one person were leading the charge or needed to be convinced of merits, but that’s not how lasting change happens within an organization. Most company cultures, no matter how nimble or adaptive, need to first understand what they are getting into and why. And the good news is, there’s a clear tried-and-tested way to do this that will lead to good results.
What we’ve found is that there are four fundamental phases to go through when building open systems, and organizations that follow these phases are more likely to enjoy long-term rewards and end up with programs that last. Here’s a short summary of the four phases. Check out our OAQ Playbook on How to Thrive in the New Economy of Work for more detail.
Phase 1: Learn “Sell the vision”
During this phase, focus on education, culture and communication with intent to create a coalition of the curious and the willing.
The Learn Phase of adopting open systems and tools may feel less glamorous and even tedious to those who wish to jump ahead fast, but it is a key stage in the process. Skipping this phase could mean the difference between a program that soars and a program that fails. Goals for the Learn Phase are to lay groundwork for the program through education and communication, gain buy-in and find support from key players both within and outside an organization, identify and secure resources, begin to look at the problems that need to be solved, and begin to communicate the benefits of using open systems and tools toward that end.
Phase 2: Experiment “prove it works”
During this phase, practice using new tools and systems, measure results, and share results to gain wider buy-in.
The second phase in the journey to adopt open systems is to practice what you’ve been learning and prove it is effective. The Experiment Phase should begin only after an organization has spent time in the Learn Phase. During the Experiment Phase an organization will continue to facilitate cultural buy-in through communication, education and alignment workshops, and it will also begin to look at and lock down business systems. During the Experiment Phase an organization can rely on the technology provided by the talent-network platforms. Goals for the Experiment Phase are to form a clear plan for moving forward, share the plan and create alignment throughout the organization with all stakeholders, finalize problem identification and selection, select the appropriate platform to solve each problem, and begin to practice using the open systems and tools. It’s crucial to have a plan in place to capture and measure the results and then to communicate the results to get buy-in to continue.
Phase 3: Build “create the infrastructure”
During this phase, establish an open talent practice within the company that has a specific identity, structure and measurable outcomes.
The Build Phase is the phase most people think of and want to be in right away when they begin the process of adopting open systems and tools. This is the phase where the juiciest, most fulfilling learning can take place and the most exciting results can occur. But organizations that jump ahead to the Build Phase without due diligence spent in the Learn and Experiment Phases, often have trouble gaining traction because they didn’t spend the time to nurture and evolve their internal culture to accept this new way of working or because they didn’t effectively establish the business or technology systems needed to succeed. Goals for the Build Phase are to expand the repertoire of platforms the organization is working with, to begin building the infrastructure and systems that will host the new program, and to tend to the culture with a targeted communication program.
Phase 4: Scale “fully integrate”
An organization that is in the Scale Phase has created a model that has fully integrated gig thinking and gig working throughout its entire culture and systems.
To date, no organization that we know of has achieved full mastery of the Scale Phase when it comes to how its entire culture thinks of, or works with, internal systems. Likewise, we haven’t seen an organization that’s fully integrated the practice of open sourcing throughout all divisions, though one or two are beginning the process. (Prove us wrong if you know otherwise!) Here we will treat the mastery of the Scale Phase as a future state, an ideal what-if scenario. The goal for this phase, at the employee level, is to empower, train and require as part of their job descriptions all employees at all levels to utilize on-demand talent networks, global talent pools, Artificial Intelligence (AI) support, and other open digital tools to inform, support, and maximize their insight capability and productivity levels. The goal at the organizational level is to build capability and systems throughout all company divisions, whether that means a server with automatic access to outsourced talent or having performance evaluations include a section on working with new systems.
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on LinkedIn.