by Kevin Eikenberry

The question you ask determines the answers you get.  This is a profound truth that most people would recognize and agree with.  It has major impact on the success of problem-solving efforts and helps us clarify our thinking.  Unfortunately, this truth is being ignored by many organizations right now.  Nearly every organization is facing the questions about what the future of work will be in their organization, but I believe they are asking the wrong question first.

Why we’re asking the wrong question

We all know the situation – months ago organizations were forced to send people to work from home.  The experiences of everyone in the organization, right up to the CEO, since then has changed how they look at and do their work.  Now the easing of the pandemic allows us to think about the future of work and make decisions about the future.  The obvious question is, “What will our workplace look like?”

This question is important, relevant, and everyone is wondering what the answer to that will be in their organization.  For many reasons you will need to answer that question.  But it shouldn’t be the first question.

The first question should be: How will we decide what our future of work will be?

What answers will you get?

The answer you arrive at might be similar or even exactly the same whether you consider the how question or not – but that isn’t the point.

Precisely because everyone has relevant experience with working remotely – they rightly have ideas and input into what they have found that worked – for themselves and the teams they are a part of.  Will you take that experience and insight into account, or take it for granted?

Your answer to the how question will say much about the future of your culture, the trust across your organization, and the ability you will have to retain and attract talent.

Make no mistake, you are answering this question whether you are thinking about it or not.  My point is to urge you to stop, step back, and consciously consider how you will decide the future of work (and who you will involve in it).  If you do, then you are asking the right question first.  Carefully considered, it will have more impact on your future success than exactly when and where people will do their work. 

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