A look at NASA’s Future of Work study

space shuttle

NASA has a mandate to explore space. And, apparently, it also has time to ponder the future of work right here on Earth.

Over the past year, the space agency has been publishing excerpts from its Future of Work study. Nick Skytland, who heads NASA’s Future of Work initiative, identifies eight themes that comprise what he calls the Future of Work Framework. While that framework is intended as a “foundational compass” for NASA, Skytland says it is “a useful tool for any organization that is interested in organizing, recruiting, developing, and engaging 21st century talent.”

I would agree, though you’ll need to drill down far beyond the brief descriptions of each theme in the framework for meaningful details. To that end, I’ve included links to entire posts on each theme:

  1. Designing for Agility, Focusing on Impact
  2. Redefining Talent
  3. Learning and Developing for a Lifetime
  4. Deploying Talent, Mobilizing Careers
  5. Embracing Modern Workspaces and Collaboration
  6. Designing for Sharing and Security
  7. Prioritizing Digital Transformation
  8. Unleashing Automation, Analytics, Algorithms and Artifical Intelligence (and, apparently, alliteration)

Everything on the list above has been a familiar topic in the Workplace of the Future blog, so congratulations for being on the right track, NASA! Unfortunately, enacting the people/process/technology changes that drive digital transformation is more complicated than checking some boxes.

There must be a strategy and a synergy built around a strong core. And that core is your organization’s mission. NASA’s operational mission is relatively clear (space!), though the agency’s stated vision is broader: “To discover and expand knowledge for the benefit of humanity.”

For enterprise leaders, the first order of business in devising a digital transformation strategy is to define the organization’s mission, and then clearly communicate that mission (or vision) to employees. If you don’t know your mission — and if employees don’t know your mission — it will be a challenge to coordinate, collaborate, and galvanize workers. Lack of a clear mission also makes it difficult to be agile because employees and business units aren’t on the same page.

In addition to the links above, the main page of NASA’s Future of Work project includes another dozen articles about work and the workplace of the future that are worth a read.

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