CollabWorks: Conquering Management Bottlenecks with Contemporary Solutions

COVID 19 Disruptive Framework Technologies IndustryWired

COVID 19 Disruptive Framework Technologies IndustryWired

CollabWorks is a technology company that provides a powerful management framework (FrameWork™) in the form of software and professional services. It offers SaaS software and services to organizations to provide their employees with a medium to “self-manage” the value of their work. This revolutionary process dramatically reduces the managing overhead of typical multi-layer management structures while empowering innovation and adaptability of the organization. The company’s mission is to transform organizations to provide simplified human-centric managing. CollabWorks has created an easy-to-implement managing framework that allows individuals to “own” their work and manage the customers who receive the benefit. Instead of managing from top-down, managing begins with the individual and requires the least managing to align with the organization’s needs.


Leadership with an Innovative Mindset

Having a professional portfolio as CEO of five companies, Michael Grove was surprised at the number of communications, processes, and justifications needed to get the right work done. This managing time compounds itself the larger the company as more layers of management leads to higher the complexity and managing overhead. For instance, a typical four-layer 2500 employee organization includes a managing cost that typically exceeds 30% of labor costs.

Michael holds Bachelor’s and advanced degrees from California Polytechnic, UCLA, USC, and Wharton. He started his career at Lockheed-Martin, where he progressed from an entry-level engineer to Director of Advance Commercial Aircraft Programs. There he learned to work the Lockheed “system” by negotiating with silo functions such as Finance and Procurement. He reminisces, saying, “At its peak Lockheed had over 4,000 engineers developing its commercial aircraft. To estimate the cost of an aircraft R&D, it could take months to work through an 8-layer organization. In one case, a longer-range version was estimated to cost US$250 million.” Though the program was rejected, a year later, after Lockheed laid off all but 100 engineers, this small team created a post-production version for only US$25 million. It was then Grove realized that the cost of complexity is huge and saps innovation and adaptability.

About eight years ago Michael led a research project in conjunction with Cal Berkeley called the Virtual Enterprise. This study and subsequent workshops with executives of leading corporations such as Facebook and Autodesk led to the conclusion that the root cause of managing overhead and complexity was relying on management to get the right work done.  Instead, Michael believes that managing starts with individuals and teams, and optimal managing should add the least amount of managing overhead to align the services to the needs of the organization.


Expanding Business One Step at a Time

Michael started CollabWorks nearly eight years ago. Initially called OpenIT Works, the company’s mission was to collapse the repeated problem solving that often occurs among IT organizations. This was accomplished by IT organizations sharing solutions and people – hence the name OpenIT. It today’s jargon, it was ‘Uber’ for IT, where the platform was sharing expertise. Though it was too early, this was when he met Gary Hamel, a famed management expert. The latter has made a career in coaching management to eliminate bureaucracy (overhead) and discover dramatic improvements in productivity. Michael wrote his first paper on Work-as-a-Service or WaaS where he described a model where all work could be managed as services, and each service included a customer or customers who benefited from each service. The paper stated that all workers have a managing role in managing themselves and their customers’ experiences.

This experience led Michael to pivot the company. He renamed it CollabWorks, and invested two-years of research and development, interviewing over 25 companies and creating the Work-as-a-Service self-managing platform, which is now deemed as the FrameWork.

For the past five years, CollabWorks has been creating IP, building out its SaaS platform, and implementing it with organizations. “It has been a journey indeed,” remarks Michael beaming with pride. Michael believes the technology is fundamental to collapsing the complexity of managing large knowledge working organizations. The first step is to fill the gap between job descriptions (which rarely reflect the real work) and tasks that are tedious to track and difficult to monitor and manage. Instead, CollabWorks stresses the most fundamental feature of any organization, value creation. Michael recognized a huge part of the economy is built on services where one or more people provide a service to one or more customers. If the customer continues to consume the service, then there exists a market mechanism of supplier-customer, and either explicitly or implicitly, there is a value exchange. He further noticed that organizations are increasingly dependent on outside services that range from major suppliers such as Accenture to tiny services from Gig platforms. This led him to his eureka moment when he realized all work could be described and managed as services. By managing any work from any work as a service, CollabWorks simplifies the managing process into something flexible enough to work for any organization and individual.


Aiming for Effective Management Solutions

FrameWork is a quantifiable patent-pending digital management system that fosters agility and responsiveness. This platform creates value in the first two hours of usage. Companies that use FrameWork are pleased with their ability to relate the value contribution of the individuals at all levels of the organization to overall business performance. Michael explains that CEOs and VPs of large companies have created objectives and identified changes in 5-20% of their work in less than two hours. In his tenure, there was an instance when a young engineer of a large high-tech company identified wasted time of 3-4% of a 5,000-engineering software organization. She then formed a team, researched the problem, got executive support, and her leadership produced over US$25 million in value – with no new budget and no one objecting that her team was outside its job description. One FrameWork implementation created 21 project improvements, a 12% increase in productivity, and a 30% increase in those demonstrating leadership over 15 months. Not surprisingly, their engagement scores improved by 33% over the same time.


Overcoming Challenges through New Outlooks

Michael is an advocate of the fact that the obvious does not sell if one is swimming upstream against a top-down management culture that has existed for centuries. A managing framework puts the primary managing effort on those doing the work, and their effectiveness of serving customer needs regardless of job title or organization structure. Hence, instead of relying on managers to get the right work done, individuals must be self-reliant on getting the right work done with the least amount of managing. Managing comprises providing direction, focus, and problem-solving coaching support. The result is a collapse of bad managing – meetings, reports, complex processes, and people getting in the way of progress to justify their existence.

Michael says, “While easy to implement, once our process gains traction, we run into the “blockers” – middle managers who are threatened, HR who is reluctant to own the use of talent or CEOs like me who have been trained and are comfortable with traditional top-down management of the work.”

This provoked him to avoid venture capital, and keep the “overhead” low. Doing so provides CollabWorks the time to continue to simplify its process, improve mobility, and add features that start with adaptability and innovation rather than reducing managing overhead. However, the company’s big breakthrough has been the disruption due to COVID-19 that forced organizations to survive by working remotely.

According to data collected through research, CollabWorks found out that 85% of knowledge work today is being done remotely. And while temporary, facility experts are forecasting the percentage of distributed remote work to increase from pre-COVID of 5-10% to post COVID of 50-60%. The management processes and culture of best management policies against the backdrop of this new reality are now in flux.

This presented an excellent opportunity for CollabWorks FrameWork. Michael points out that by starting with the work and allowing those who perform the work to own its value everything gets simpler. And since the financial payoff in reduced overhead and lower workplace costs are enormous, CollabWorks suggests if the employees come to the office only two days per week, its model for major metropolitan regions indicates a 5% increase in productivity and an annual labor cost savings of 10-15%.

As per Michael’s vision, the strategy is to offer both a consulting and technology solution to the C-suite that allows them to manage and execute when 50% or more of the work is remote. This is a broad colossal pain point that will provide his company the path to mainstream applications. The future of managing is about to change!