Industrial Age vs. Future Organisation

Updated: Aug 31

As we progress into the 21st-century we see a significant change in the way we organise our businesses. Organisations become less hierarchic, more networked and more sharing. And their focus is shifting from shareholder value to overall stakeholder value. Now many people believe that this all is just a consequence of the developments in digital technology. But I wonder if this is the true reason or is the digital technology just an enabler for much deeper needs & values of human beings?


One of the primary consequences of technology is that things are starting to pick up speed. Changes come faster, they come more often and they have a bigger impact. To keep up with all of this our organisations have to be very resilient, flexible and adaptive. Modern organisations will have to be built to adapt rather than built to last. Hence the reason why many of them move away from fixed structure, hierarchy and control.


But there is another, and in my opinion equally important reason, why organisations are changing. Over the last 65 years the average education of the average citizen has improved. Young people are much more aware of the state of affairs on our planet and also their position with regard to the work - life balance has changed significantly. Modern employees want to work with purpose, they want to add something to society. They also want to improve their skills, they want to work with equals in their field and achieve a level of mastery. And last but not least, they require a certain level of autonomy. This means that many young and highly qualified professionals, refuse to work 9 to 5, for a big multinational, in a large office block doing predetermined tasks. Instead they choose to work independently, is small flexible project teams, where their skills are complementary to the rest of the team and they can make direct impact. Modern employees refuse to become a number.


Remarkably there also seems to be a group of companies that’s moving in the total opposite direction. They focus on evermore automation, planning and control, consequently making employees just a cost burden. In such organisations the primary goal is to reach an optimum in efficiency, i.e. shareholder value. We believe that this constitutes a downward spiral, a race to the bottom that will be achieved at the expense of customers, suppliers and employees or better said – the other stakeholders.


In a Post-Industrial Age world, egoism stands out easily and is not particular welcome. Owners, leaders and policy makers who recognise this changing role of organisations, are destined to excel in the 21st century.



Evert Bleijenberg MBA


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