3x3 Institute

Everyone a manager - What the future of work look like

June 24, 2023

When i first started working each department had a secretary. They provided typing services, did filing, managed schedules and meetings, and were as essential to a well run department as the manager. With the introduction of personal computers they all went away. And each individual contributor and manager had to take on these responsibilities themselves.

With AI how does that departments dynamics change? Well for one that department of people becomes a functional unit that one person is possibly sufficient for all the work of the department.

Every individual contributor becomes a manager. They will manage a team of AI contributors.

Some ICs will struggle with such a change of role and responsibility. For most I think the net benefits will improve their work life. This will require the IC to be an expert in their subject area as their technical contributions will be those that the AI will not be able to provide.

Tasks that require a team of people will now be done with one person with their AI support.

Companies will struggle with this. Multibillion dollar corporations don’t want to be dependent on a single IC and to be dependent on a large set of ICs is clearly something that they can not support. The likely strategy is to have at least a 2x redundancy of people with each IC having experience over a couple functional areas. Since there will be more people than necessary companies will require only 3 days of full-time work a week.

The metamorphosis of the departmental structure through AI is akin to the introduction of the personal computer. PCs displaced secretarial roles, and the consequent restructuring empowered individual contributors to a level where each one became capable of managing administrative tasks themselves. This time, AI’s integration promises another leap, except the shift is much more profound; it’s not just an augmentation of human capabilities but a transition towards fundamentally new forms of work.

AI integration into corporate workflows means a lot more than just productivity optimization. We’re witnessing an opportunity to rethink our traditional departmental structure, reshape our understanding of management, and redefine the meaning of work.

As AI technologies mature, routine and repetitive tasks can be automated, freeing up individuals to focus more on strategic, creative, and problem-solving activities. In such an AI-driven organization, each individual contributor (IC) becomes a manager, overseeing and directing AI contributors, and becoming central to their respective functional areas.

This transformation brings several implications, including:

  1. Role Transitions: The shift of ICs to managerial roles would involve substantial change management. ICs would need to grow into roles of orchestrating the AI-based tasks and overseeing the work of the AI systems. This change could initially be daunting for many, but in the long run, it should enhance productivity and provide new opportunities for personal and professional growth.

  2. Expertise and Specialization: With AI taking care of routine work, ICs would have more time to delve deeper into their fields. They can become subject matter experts, adding value in areas where AI might fall short – such as decision-making in ambiguous situations, applying human empathy, and fostering innovation.

  3. Workforce Reduction and Redundancy: With AI-enabled efficiency, the number of human workers required for a task can potentially be reduced. Companies may struggle with the idea of being dependent on a small number of ICs, thereby necessitating the creation of redundancy. This strategy would involve having more than one IC experienced in each functional area. However, with the increased efficiency brought by AI, full-time work might reduce, potentially to about three days a week.

  4. Employee Retraining: The introduction of AI will necessitate an upskilling of the workforce. Individuals must learn to leverage AI tools effectively and transition into the role of AI supervisors.

  5. Business Resilience: Companies might have to grapple with the inherent risks of AI, including system failures, bugs, and cybersecurity threats. These challenges can be mitigated by creating robust AI governance frameworks and investing in advanced AI risk management strategies.

The advent of AI in the workspace represents an unprecedented opportunity to redefine work. It brings a promise of increased efficiency and productivity and opens up a world of new opportunities. However, it also presents challenges that need to be thoughtfully managed, such as workforce transitions, technological risks, and changes in corporate structures. As we navigate this AI-driven future, businesses must remain agile, adaptable, and prepared for continuous learning and evolution.