The Challenge of Workforce 2020

Recently, Aaron Pressman wrote about AT&T’s Workforce 2020 program for Fortune magazine.

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I’ve been recommending the article to school leaders because I think it holds some nice lessons for those of us who think about, and execute, professional development in schools.

Via the 2020 program, AT&T is trying to retrain a huge swath of its 270,000 person workforce. If you think about your relationship with your landline at home, you will understand why a company in the rapidly changing telecommunications industry would be willing to take on such an enormous “upskilling” project. The shift to mobile, in particular, requires a skillset that many AT&T employees did not acquire during their formative educational years. There are some obvious upsides for corporate: being able to upskill continuously from the inside, instead of having to hire from the outside, could be a huge competitive advantage for AT&T.

Also, there are some obvious upsides for human beings. If Workforce 2020 succeeds, it will allow people to keep their jobs, to grow steadily, to move into new jobs within the same company, to benefit from change by changing. There’s a twist, of course, in that the training has to happen outside of work hours. People who want to keep their jobs will have to fit in the work, even if it’s inconvenient, even if they are trying to raise children or deal with other personal matters outside of work.  A sociologist quoted in Pressman’s article qualifies the arrangement as “impressive but not entirely happy.”

Technology, taken seriously, puts us in that position again and again, causing continuous reckonings. It can help us to do impressive things, though we won’t always be happy on our way there. The question is, how impressive do we want to be?

In schools, where our job isn’t to swap out landlines or move data into the cloud but to care for and empower young people, the answer should be “very.” Pressman’s AT&T article is important because it shows us a company that is drawing a line in the sand but making sure that the line is dashed. They want their people to be able to get to the other side.  I wonder — are school leaders drawing similar dotted lines as they consider how work in schools is organized and how we are preparing out workforce for its inevitable future?

First Come, First Served

Blending Leadership was published almost one year ago by the good people at Wiley Jossey-Bass. Since then, we’ve talked about the book all over the world, partnered with Global Online Academy and Laussane Learning Institute, appeared on almost a dozen podcasts, and even appeared on television. To celebrate the one year anniversary of the book, and all of the wonderful colleagues we have met as a result of our book’s success, Reshan and I are booking 5 digital meet-ups with leadership teams (3 or more people) to talk with them about their reactions to the book.  These sessions will last for about an hour, be conducted via Zoom, and must take place in June, July, or August.  First come, first served.  Contact me by adding a comment to this post or via twitter: @sjvalentine.  Thanks for the support and for making year one of Blending Leadership much better than we ever dreamed it could be.


Never Doubt a Scientist

While straightening up the house, I found a sign hanging in my daughter’s room.  This was one of those moments where I realized that her education is unfolding exactly as it should be — thanks to her teachers and school environment, she’s developing beliefs and mindsets that will be utterly foundational for her as she begins to add layers of skill, content, and insight.  And it sounds as if, should she pursue science, she might just be stubborn enough to succeed. “Never doubt a scientist because they never give up.”


Notes on Fred Wilson’s Blog

I’ve written about AVC before, and I’m pretty sure this is going to become a regular thing as I process my learning from a source that has been consistently useful and enlightening.

Here’s a quote I like from March 16, 2017:

I love it when companies quickly get into a market, start delivering a product or service, and then, over time iterate on their products and services to expand the market and their share of it. Contrast that with a company spending years getting something right before shipping their first product. I much prefer the ship quickly, get customers, and iterate and automate approach.

And here’s a post about Disqus (from March 22, 2017) wherein Fred tells a business growth story fueled by a company’s ability to adapt more quickly than its bigger competitors. Additionally, he explains, in pure shorthand of course, that he invested in Disqus when he finally understood it properly: it was “a network, not a utility.”

Fred’s blog, I’m learning, is telling a consistent story as that story unfolds — i.e., what it means to live and work (and thrive) in a networked age.