Work Style Innovation: Changing How You Do Business by Depicting the Ideal Work Style with UX Design

To realize work style innovation, both the management and employees must design the ideal work style. However, designing the ideal work style and sharing it by company-wide consensus is not easy. Given such circumstances, a user experience (UX) design approach starting from "what you want to accomplish" has been attracting attention.
[Fujitsu Insight 2017 Seminar Report]

Companies' Efforts to Achieve Work Style Innovation

People now acknowledge the need for work style innovation, but particularly in large companies, employees in the field are always pressured by work and have "no time" to tackle this issue. They often need to attend meetings, handle email, and prepare materials unexpectedly requested during working hours; they cannot work on their original tasks until after their regular working hours have ended.
To achieve innovation, it is also important to harness various types of knowledge and collaborate with external parties. To do so, an additional block of time must be created by eliminating various kinds of waste and improving productivity.
Fujitsu Research Institute (FRI) supports companies' efforts to achieve work style innovation with the aim of enhancing global competitiveness and realizing sustainable growth. FRI's support starts by thoroughly eliminating waste using communication and information sharing infrastructure services, such as Office365 and BOX, alongside the latest technologies, such as AI and IoT. If productivity can be improved by 20%, one can save time equivalent to one day per week, which improves the quality of current work and even makes it possible to take on new challenges.
The following matrix illustrates various initiatives by FRI customers to achieve work style innovation.

Many companies are working to provide an environment that facilitates efficient access to people and information while reducing unnecessary travel time through mobile work or telework. Such work styles have also attracted attention from the perspective of work-life balance.
The needs for meetings, which are often called hotbeds of waste, are currently being reviewed. Meetings for information sharing can be replaced by alternatives such as internal social networks and portals, and the manner of meeting management itself is being reviewed by improving meeting scheduling efficiency and use of online meetings.
A prerequisite for these improvements is an internal practice of going paperless. It is impractical to always carry a large amount of papers and impossible to distribute papers in remote meetings. If all such materials are converted into data, they can easily be viewed and searched on any device. This also allows people to immediately share useful information with internal stakeholders and frees them from the trouble of preparing meeting materials.
To generate innovation, an increasing number of companies are undertaking initiatives such as "building strong employee connections" and "knowledge utilization." In the same manner as internal innovation, it is also important to promote external collaboration by reviewing communication and information sharing methods with other companies and external experts to generate competitive advantage.

Why Is Work Style Innovation Necessary Now?

The work style innovation initiative is being driven by the government, but to realize innovation, various issues must be addressed in connection with the low labor productivity of Japanese companies and changes in labor supply and demand relationships. In the global competitive environment, Japanese companies' traditional common sense and practices seem not to work well.

In the near future, Japan will face a decline in its labor force; however, at the same time, it is also expected that a large number of workers will be made redundant by active use of AI technologies. All instruction manual-based jobs will be replaced by AI. Companies must make efforts to improve productivity as well as to ensure sustainable employment through employee education and awareness reform to adapt to the new era. Employees must also raise their level of expertise and challenge themselves to achieve transformation.

Five Key Points for Successful Work Style Innovation

I will next introduce five key points for successful work style innovation that I learned through experience by supporting various companies' work style innovation efforts--namely, "Vision," "Scene," "Measurement," "Action," and "Passion." I refer to them as "VSMAP" by combining their initial letters.

"Vision" is to communicate the innovation's vision to all employees in an easy-to-understand way so they can empathize. To this end, a vision map is used as a communication tool.
Besides vision maps for the work style innovation as a whole, there are also cases in which visions are designed for initiatives such as telework that have difficulty taking root and effects are generated by holding workshops with those directly involved and managers.

"Scene" is to define specifically how the field work in question will change. The changes expected to be brought about by the innovation to ways of communication and information utilization in the office, sales, and the field are organized into templates for each work scene. FRI has prepared templates for more than 100 scenes based on past support experience.
"Measurement" is to define and measure the innovation's effects. The return on investment is calculated based on the expected quantitative and qualitative effects as well as items leading directly to cost reduction.
"Action" is to extract all necessary measures for each work scene. In addition to use of technologies, various other measures, such as reviewing rules and systems as well as employee awareness reforms, are combined and put into action.
"Passion" is to create plans and measures that reflect the passion of all members, from top management to field personnel.

UX Design Approach: Leading Work Style Innovation to Success

So, what kind of ideas and methods lead to successful workstyle innovation? As a solution, Fujitsu proposes a "UX design approach" that enables employees to design their work styles and depict a vision that stakeholders empathize with from the perspective of a vision 10 or 20 years into the company's future. It is important to approach not only present issues and problems but also consider users' essential desires and goals based on design thinking and co-creation.

Design thinking is a method that expands designers' ways of thinking and creation methods into processes in which anyone can participate and use to generate consumer value and business market opportunities. Under the UX design approach, customers depict the "ideal form" from a future-oriented mindset. To do so, they must first understand the "current form," then set a future ideal workstyle vision and share mid- and long-term goals before finally deriving a short-term business policy to achieve the "ideal form."

In UX design, it is important for participants to proactively design visions that they can share from a future-oriented mindset and take steps forward to realize said visions. To support UX design activities, Fujitsu provides the HAB-YU platform, which is a co-creation platform that helps customers generate new value as well as discover and solve issues. By planning and holding a workshop in an environment different from their usual one, customers can effectively design their future work styles, determining themes and drawing out stakeholders' thoughts through co-creation among related departments.

FRI's Strengths in Promoting Workstyle Innovation

Thus far, FRI has provided total support for work style innovation from planning through to implementation for leading companies and others in various industries. FRI divides work style innovation into four phases: "vision and planning," "preparation," "implementation," and "sustainability." A UX design consulting service is provided in the vision and planning phase. Project startup support is provided in the preparation phase. Support for meeting and document management using templates, rules development including security rules and communication manners, and portal design services are provided in the implementation phase. Assessment based on education and work style maturity levels is provided in the sustainability phase.
FRI's strength is that it can identify the problems and needs of companies trying to tackle work style innovation and derive improvement measures (awareness reform, rules, and ICT) by harnessing the know-how, tools, and methods it has accumulated through its experience in providing work style innovation support to more than 50 companies.

Work style innovation is not merely a short-term initiative to promote telework or reduce overtime work; rather, it is an initiative for strengthening the business itself. Therefore, the level of organizational work styles, including labor productivity, must be elevated to the global level and everyone must strive to strengthen themselves and the organization while responding to various environmental changes.
Companies that will begin work style innovation today may think they will fall behind companies that have already started innovating. However, full-scale work style innovation has only just begun, and late starters have the advantage of being able to achieve efficient implementation by referring to preceding cases.

  • Toru Kikumoto Managing Consultant,
    Manufacturing Industry Consulting Group, Consulting Unit,
    Fujitsu Research Institute