Any industry. Any system. Any process.

Business 3.0

New styles of people management are driven by data transparency.

gareth-reesJohannesburg local with a world-class skill set, Gareth Rees joins IoT.nxt as our Head of Global Partnerships.

Seeing the potential of the IoT.nxt product offering, and the agile manner in which we implement solutions, Gareth is on a mission to prove to businesses that there is exponential value in the quick adaptation of IoT, all whilst he scales the IoT.nxt partner ecosystem globally.

No stranger to the IoT space, Gareth, armed with a BSc in Genetics and Biochemistry and an MBA, ran the Digital Transformation division for Deloitte Africa, where he witnessed – and played a fundamental role in shifting companies into – the start of the 4th Industrial Revolution.

A positive, super-charged straight-shooter with a penchant for running, Gareth calls it like it is and isn’t scared of a challenge. Disruption is his strong suit and he prides himself on being able to create solutions to drive progress. We couldn’t think of a better person to guide clients through digital transformation and into interoperable, interconnected business environments.

This is the guy you want by your side as you digitise your business – if you can keep up with him.

“Specialised resources and key managers are still relevant. In fact, they need to be allowed to be more relevant by driving innovation and improvement, rather than monitoring and managing a system that can self-organise.”

Disruptive technologies are going to fundamentally change the landscape of business, and break many of the traditional trade-offs that companies have been forced to make in the past.

Organisations have been designed for information scarcity. This is easily understood when a simple question is asked: how many managers do you need to manage a company of three people? The answer is simple, none. The distance between leadership and the workforce is small enough to not require management. The converse is also true: how many managers do you need to manage a company of 1 000 people? The answer is also simple, lots of managers. The distance between leadership and the “edge” of the workforce is great enough to require many managers to close this gap. But should these questions be so simple to answer?

If positioned differently, as the distance between leadership and the workforce grows there is an increasing need for a function that controls and communicates the activities of people to align with the direction of the organisation. This function we have called management… can management be done in the cloud?

This management function is so significant that often an employee’s experience at work is more greatly impacted by their direct management than by what they do and who they do it for. Typically, the manager has the knowledge and owns the responsibility of delivering on a set of tasks, which they then break up and give to a team to execute on. Then the manager reviews and evaluates the work and ensures everyone is doing their part by rating them on some form of performance management system. In many cases the manager is not actually doing work, rather they are preoccupied with ensuring that a finite number of people are performing optimally against a stated objective. As a manager’s team grows too big it is likely they will need to bring on other manager to assist in coordinating the growing number of tasks from the growing team.

This structure exists because a manager can only effectively hold influence and manage the tasks of so many people, before they start to become ineffective as the distance grows between them and the “edge” of their team. This can be similarly understood in a school classroom environment, where increasing numbers of children per class room increases the difficulty of driving effective learning.

Okay, nice rant but what does this actually mean?

This is a logical trade off that business and society has built into its DNA, because of the scarcity of information flow and knowledge. We now have all the technology to change this paradigm and provide intelligent information to any level of the organisation in real time to create self- governing systems. Exponential businesses are those that have integrated this new way of thinking into their operating models, not into their products. There are several well-known companies that have got this right, but it is not a luxury reserved for a few industries. Let’s look at a few examples of how this could fundamentally change some industries… and sooner than you think.

In no sector is information scarcity more obvious than in the underground mine. Workers go underground and product comes out. Exactly what happens underground is a matter of opinion. The information feedback loops are long making it impossible to deal with problems in real time. One example of this is the common monthly bonus structure where if a mine worker can see by day 5 that he is unlikely to reach his bonus, there is no further incentive for him to work.

What if the actual productivity of a mine worker underground could be measured in real time and the mine worker could be paid for work done at the end of each day? Highly visual leader boards demonstrate productivity and allocate workers to high performing teams, in which they can obtain ever higher company benefits. High performing miners are incentivised to share knowledge and train colleagues to increase their productivity, and it can all be tracked and attributed. Workers wear biometric vests that monitor vitals, air quality and warn of impending danger. Access to remote mine support via augmented reality to link highly specialised resources to support numerous resources across different parts of the mine. All of this information is available and visualised in real time from a control centre.

Sounds like science fiction, but it’s all already in trial in mines today. This is not to say in any way that specialised resources and key managers and leaders are no longer relevant. On the contrary, these people need to be allowed to be more relevant by driving innovation and improvement not monitoring and managing a system that can self-organise. But we need to consider the operating model implications of these technologies and be open to totally different styles of people management driven by data transparency.