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Modern Workplace Demo at Microsoft Ignite 2018.jpg
Modern Workplace Demo at Microsoft Ignite 2018

Microsoft: Changing Company Culture Relies on Fewer Distractions

The company is taking aim at "context switching" with its product offerings, changing company culture through improvements in personal and corporate productivity.

ORLANDO, Fla. -- We're familiar with Microsoft's mantra of "digital transformation," but the company's got its eyes on another type of transformation.

In his keynote address on Monday, Sept. 24, CEO Satya Nadella pitched the necessity of changing one's approach to work by appealing to the bottom line, and changing company culture as a result.

"In order to be a proponent of change industry-wide, companies need to change internally," he said, then reiterated: "It's a complete culture change internally as a means for [a company] to change the industry."

It's a sentiment that he laid down in his 2017 book, Hit Refresh. Chapter Four, "A Cultural Renaissance," lays out his philosophy on changing company culture:

An organizational culture is not something that can simply unfreeze, change, and then refreeze in an ideal way. It takes deliberate work, and it takes some specific ideas about what the culture should become. It also requires dramatic, concrete actions that seize the attention of team members and push them out of their familiar comfort zones.

Throughout the chapter, Nadella emphasizes that culture is a corporate asset, one that requires continuous mindfulness. As he concluded, "We’re making great progress, but we should never be done. It’s not a program with a start and end date. It’s a way of being."

That way of being informs two of the products in Office 365 -- Workplace Analytics and MyAnalytics. In the Ignite session "Workplace Analytics and MyAnalytics: Transform productivity with collaboration insights from Office 365," Microsoft product manager Kamal Janardhan walked attendees through the Microsoft approach to cultural change.

The Microsoft approach to changing company culture is data-driven: By quantifying the time spent on different aspects of white-collar work -- holding meetings, answering email, establishing or extending internal and external networks, working after-hours -- people can identify areas where the organizational culture may be impeding productivity, performance or morale.

Workplace Analytics and MyAnalytics are two different products. As Janardhan explained it, MyAnalytics helps drive "cultural transformation through personal insights" by giving individual users regular feedback on how they're spending their time. The aim is to "focus, find balance, and strengthen relationships." Workplace Analytics is aimed at the organization as a whole: the idea is to drive cultural transformation through organizational insights. Managers get data about their employees in the aggregate (so no, your boss can't see how many hours you personally are spending on email) and can monitor any changes or improvements -- for example, seeing whether the number of hours an employee can do focused work goes up when meetings are reduced.

Janardhan brought up an improved ability to focus as a key benefit of MyAnalytics and workplace analytics. "We are fighting the war for attention," she began, then shared research that claims workers are interrupted every three minutes and extreme multitasking -- switching from application to application to application to application -- costs the U.S. economy an estimated $650 billion per year in productivity.

Consequently, companies and the people in them should be aiming to help everyone fight the good fight against distraction.

This research -- and there is plenty of it at -- and the resulting conclusion that "context switching" is bad for work is a consistent message at Ignite.

Karuana Gatino of the Microsoft Teams group walked attendees through the benefits of Microsoft's collaboration hub in Tuesday's "The time for Teams: Scenarios to realize the value of Microsoft Teams" session. She explained that "context switching" is the act of moving between applications as you try to complete a workflow, and she emphasized the need for having one central place from which you can execute an entire task flow.

"It is more than a set of products -- it is a fundamentally different way of working," she said. Microsoft Teams, which pulls in data from other applications (both Microsoft's and third-party), is her suggested solution.

If Microsoft successfully executes on its vision of Teams as the workspace hub, capturing everything from conversations to collaborative creation and editing, it will have changed the user expectation of how people work. These users will expect an application to be flexible enough to seamlessly incorporate a wide variety of tasks -- tasks formerly siloed in separate apps -- and to stack those tasks on top of one another as the user responds to requests and plows through a to-do list.

And if Microsoft successfully executes on its vision of analytics as a driver of mindful habit change and improvement, it will have inoculated customers worldwide with Nadella's vision: a mindful approach to work, one that is subject to the expectation of continuous and endless growth -- both for the individual and the company's bottom line.


TAGS: Office 365
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