Over the past few decades, both the rate at which market leaders topple and the level of competitive intensity have doubled. It used to be that 60 percent of corporate value creation depended on hard assets. Now more than 85 percent relies on the intangible assets of people, brand, and intellectual property. This shift places a higher stake on an organization’s ability to engage its people. Continuing to invest for the future using yesterday’s hard-coded corporate ladder blueprint is futile.
In this book, we contrast the characteristics of the industrial-era corporate ladder with that of an emerging knowledge-era corporate lattice™, describing the differences between these two metaphorically rich models. We show that the lattice isn’t a hypothetical case—it’s already on the horizon, and there are clear benefits for companies that intentionally evolve toward it.
All of the research and observations we have gleaned in the development of this work can be distilled into one projection: The intersection between high performance and sustainable career-life fit is the battleground upon which competitiveness in the talent marketplace will play out.
High performance refers to all the usual characteristics the term evokes, including extraordinary financial results, commanding market share, a culture of innovation, and a portfolio of compelling products and services. What’s new to the equation is the added dimension of career-life fit. The term refers to the attributes that individuals value, such as extraordinary growth and development, opportunities to make meaningful contributions, a sense of belonging and connection to a greater whole, the accomplishments each person delivers and takes pride in, and the ability to have all this and still have a life outside of the office.
The ladder belief that high performance and sustainable career-life fit are opposing forces must give way to a new reality: that they are mutually reinforcing and inextricably linked.
The corporate lattice is a model that organizes and structures a response for the changing world of work. It also has wide-ranging implications for talent practices that are proving central to both a company’s brand and achievement of high performance. It organizes and advances a company’s existing, incremental efforts into a comprehensive, strategic response to the altered corporate landscape. It recognizes that career and life are no longer separate spheres but are now interdependent. And it connects corresponding and necessary advances in talent practices with business operations to deliver both high performance and career-life fit.
To leverage the corporate lattice, organizations need to question unstated assumptions and overturn long-standing norms of the ladder world. Lattice ways describe how some companies are accomplishing this change in three core organizational areas: careers, work, and participation. Together, the lattice ways form an integrated model that drives forward the structure, processes, systems, and culture of a company.
Too many companies are walking into the future backward, using the ladder world of the past to direct their response to the present and future. It’s time to take a forward-facing stance.