An Atlassian ‘work guru’ says businesses should stop being efficient and become effective

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Atlassian’s work futurist, Dom Price. screenshot/Youtube.

A leading expert on the future of the workplace has warned many business leaders are not bracing themselves and their teams for the next evolutions in business.

Dom Price, the Work Futurist for Australian tech giant Atlassian, told an audience at the SXSW conference most businesses are set up to deliver efficiency rather than effectiveness, which is a bad place to be in the modern business world.

He pointed to the changes in most businesses from being manually-based to more intellectual pursuits as the reason for these changes.

“When disruption happens in hundred year cycles efficiency is cool,” Price told the audience in Austin, Texas during his talk entitled ‘A Robot Wont Take Your Job: A Human Will’.

“When that’s the case you can repeat the same process year after year and everyone is happy. Most businesses now are still set up the same way, a foreman at the helm and lots of workers on spreadsheets,” he said.

“If you look at most financial institutions and banks they still look the same way, centralised decision making going down the chain of command.

“Every time you start a project you create large teams, your goal is to create the biggest functional team in the world. Efficiency is fine if you have predictability, but we don’t have that any more.”

Price took a shot at the practice of managing people and teams based on key performance indicators as a significant way that bosses are holding their teams back.

“When you get to the end of the week and someone asks you how your week was you say, ‘Busy, really important, lots of meetings’ – I never want to wake up and think I’m going to be busy today, I want to wake up and be effective,” he said.

“Instead I focus on outputs and outcomes. KPIs are instant gratification, we measure it and it feels good. Outputs require a leap of faith, they don’t occur that week, or that month, they require time.

“Outcomes are about the impact you have on your customers, and your customers’ customer.”

Pointing out that most people now will hold several different jobs across different sectors in their lifetime Price warned: “We all need to go on several reinventions to remain relevant. If you define yourself on the degree you got you won’t be effective.

Referring to the current schooling system as “factories” he also said that while the next generation will hold “infinitely more job roles in their lifetime, they are not being prepared for that”.

Price said while getting better tools in was one way of helping to change things, if you have the wrong people in place they will just become noisier, quipping “a fool with a tool is still a fool”.

He pointed to the need to employ or empower people with a “growth mindset, the willingness to be vulnerable, to explore and experiment”.

The third pillar which needs to be addressed according to Price is practices, the way businesses work.

“Every organisation will have HR teams to look after policies and CIOs to help with technology, but who is looking after the way we work, who is looking after the human beings?” he said.

Atlassian has addressed this in several ways, including setting up two types of teams, leadership teams to own the strategy and the vision for the company and a revolution team to inspire people.

The futurist said they needed to eliminate what he dubbed the “pigeon boss”.

“A pigeon boss has read all the literature and leadership books and a really nice person and give you lots of space, and then on the third week of the month they will wake up one morning a bit nervous, and they fly in, shit everywhere, and then fly out,” Price said.

Creating balanced teams is also vital to success, he said. But he said people needed to understand their responsibility and role in each team they are a part of, rather than go by what their title dictates.

“By altering my role and understanding my responsibility it makes me effective, not efficient,” he said.

“If you’re effective and evolving you will end up in a very different job but still have a job.”