Hacking work: the businessman's Trojan

People are increasingly bypassing corporate-supplied tools so they can do their job the way it really needs to be done.

The way we organise work matters....

People are increasingly bypassing corporate-supplied tools so they can do their job the way it really needs to be done.

The way we organise work matters. It informs who we are, who you are, how we relate, how you relate. Most of all, it affects what you believe you are capable of.

From the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, when we gave up our cottage trades, we have relied on our employers to provide us with the tools we need to make a living and that, by extension, define our capabilities. It has pretty much been that way for the past 100 years. But that is changing. We are at an inflection point.

The tools we use to work and the tools we use to organise people are no longer exclusively owned or controlled by our employers. They are no longer prohibitively expensive or complicated. In fact, they are cheap, easy to use, and widely accessible. And nearly everyone under thirty-five years old has back-of-the-hand familiarity with them.

Workers everywhere are discovering just how poorly corporate tools and procedures serve their needs and are going outside their workplace to regain control over what they do.

Realising that you have access to tools that are as good as, or better than, what your company provides fundamentally changes how you work. Everything from "Who is my manager?" or "What is a manager?" to "What is work?" to "Why work this way?" gets called into question. It is all up for grabs. You start to realise that there are too many corporate controls for you to succeed the way you need to.

That is business's Trojan horse: to give you tools and procedures that force you to place limits on yourself. How you determine what is possible and what is not is built into most of your daily routines - "Well, of course I have to delete all e-mails after 30 days and work with this team and not that one and spend time on this and not that and manage projects this way and not that way"

The tools you use affect how you make decisions and how you get things done. Even a well-intentioned infrastructure can end up making you work harder, not smarter, if the way you need to work is different from what was built for you.

This is not malicious. No company is out to get you, there is no hidden workplace conspiracy. But business's priority most definitely is herding you into predetermined paths that it believes will lead to the most predictable, profitable, and manageable outcomes for the firm. Its priority is also simplified control. Fewer variations in tools and processes mean less complexity and less work for the people above you.

The infrastructure you use to get your job done is becoming a more important tool of control than budgets, plans, hierarchy, or your boss.

This is an edited extract from Hacking Works by Bill Jensen and Josh Klein, published by Portfolio Penguin, £12.99

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