Starting off with a brief explanation of each term on its own, to conclude on their commonalities and differences. The article is based on my own understanding of the terms and their use.
The social philosopher Frithjof Bergmann has introduced the term already around 1985. It presents an understanding of work in a society where more and more traditional work is automated and the need of human labor continuously decreases. In consequence, work needs to shift to be in line with individual values, competences and interests. In Frithjofs’ words: doing what is really, really important to you. The core conditions needed for that are full autonomy and freedom of choice.
Today the term is often used to describe requirements posed on employers by their (potential) employees as well as the skills needed to strive in todays and future work environment. Therefore terms and concepts commonly used when speaking of NewWork are: autonomy, values, self-sufficiency, trust, transparency, continuous learning, knowledge work, time management, self-organization.
In business context agile mainly refers to a collaborative way of working within a team. It enables the team to continuously gain new insights, questions the works value and the teams’ way of working. Key concepts of agile work encompass (a) its focus on value (and therefore often the end-users needs), (b) experimenting and testing hypotheses (commonly known as build-measure-learn) and (c) self-organized work (including need for the team to make their own decisions). This kind of work is especially advantageous for complex work that includes uncertainties, thus very suitable for todays’ VUCA world. Terms and concepts that are often used together with agile are: frameworks such as Scrum or Kanban, scaled frameworks such as SAFe, team roles such as Product Owner or Scrum Master, PDCA (plan, do, check, act/adjust), hypothesis, user feedback, review meeting, retrospective, MVP – Minimal Viable Product.
Digital Transformation describes the need for organizations to change in order to meet the new market circumstances due to digitalization. Those new circumstances are in particular (a) the extended reach to potential customers through digital channels, (b) changing customer expectations & behavior and (c) new, mainly disruptive, business models that challenge the current market leaders. To be successful in the new market, a wide range of adjustments are demanded and associated with Digital Transformation such as
- automation of business processes,
- altering organizational structures in order to enable faster decision-making,
- agile working methodologies to learn faster and continuously adapt the product towards higher value,
- adding competencies such as innovation and interpretation of big data,
- extending customer relationship (e.g. to utilize the customers potential as key influencer and reviewer)
- and improvement of working conditions such as culture, leadership or skill management aspects to attract suitable employees.
Commonalities and difference
The presented buzz words all deal with todays and future work setting, each one from a different perspective.
- NewWork focuses on the individual. Effects of work environment on workers and concepts of how to be successful in it are proposed.
- Agiles main point of view are teams, collaboration and the way of working in order to be efficient and effective.
- Digital Transformation takes the view of the company. Adjustment to business models are demanded.
Individuals, teams and companies all exist in the same ecosystem and therefore influence one another. To best capture the new labor and economic reality, all three perspectives need to be considered.
What are your experiences with those buzzwords? Do you regularly use them or are they “just” buzz to you? We would be happy to get in touch and further discuss the influence of individuals, teams and companies on the current and future work setting with you!