The web’s evolution has impacted the nature of work by significantly increasing the value of collaboration, connection, access to information, and teamwork. With the transition to an information-based, outsourced, and constantly connected economy, work is becoming less tied to space, time, and distance. The removal of these constraints has made cross-functional, global collaboration the norm and placed the team, which may include asynchronous or synchronous global collaborators, as the preferred work unit. The web has also inspired the easy movement of capital; according to Friedman (2007), capital looks for the most productive labor at the lowest price, and moves to places that have proper infrastructure, education, governance, and environment. The web facilitates this process, which results in companies employing outsourcing, home-sourcing, and other labor management strategies that decrease the necessity of large co-located business locations and traditional schedules. In doing so, the web has drastically changed the way businesses approach all facets of operations, from hiring to marketing to producing. Furthermore, by removing traditional time, space, and distance barriers, the web has increased competition, enlarged markets, and enabled small entities to compete with larger, more established companies. Friedman (2007) stated that the incredible degree to which individuals or small groups can now act and compete globally is one of the defining characteristics of the web era – along with the dissolution of traditional management hierarchies in favor of collaborative teams, the web has allowed small entities to compete on a massive scale with minimal infrastructure, technology, and marketing investments (Husband, N.D.).
For leaders, these changes have conceptual and structural implications. First, the dissolution of time, space, and distance constraints ensures leaders are always connected, always accessible, and always accountable. To succeed in this environment, leaders must recognize that traditional work hours and observation-based management techniques are not applicable and instead pursue a collaborative, productivity-based approach. Furthermore, leaders must adapt to the rise of teams and become comfortable leading and managing global, asynchronous teams. This approach requires trust and empowerment, and lessens the value of hierarchical organizational structures. In time, this trend may result in traditional hierarchies giving way to project-based teams led by subject matter experts; with this construct, ‘leaders’ will emerge based on specific skill, shepherd a defined group for a defined time period, and then join other teams as a member after their project finishes. To manage these role changes, companies must develop leadership skills in most or all employees, and Husband (N.D.) suggests companies employ e-learning strategies to enhance technical effectiveness and safe costs. In the future, companies will likely choose to deliver portions of leadership training via e-learning platforms, collaborative discussion boards, and other community learning strategies that leverage the power of the web and deliver content to the wide variety of teams and locations that make up their workforce.
Friedman, T. (2007). The World is Flat (3rd ed.) New York: Picador.
Husband, J. (N.D.) What is Wirearchy? Retrieved from http://wirearchy.com/what-is-wirearchy/