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A Fractional Future of Work; An essay by Guy Pierce Bell

Living in the Past Today

How many of you went to work today at the same time you went to work yesterday and plan on getting to work tomorrow? If this is you, I’m guessing you go home in much the same way unless you’re in the leadership role and working later or starting earlier. In this case, consider how many of your employees are in the routine.

Work today is no different than work yesterday for a majority of us. Our lives continue to work like clocks as we go in at 9am and leave by 5pm. Each day adds another form of measuring whether or not each of us is checking the box or hitting goals. For the managers, you are both acting out this same routine and measuring others by their daily expectations.

In this transactional life, we are limited by design. Our roles are largely designed by a school of thought that is now accepted as “the way we do business”. This belief dates back to the Ford assembly line and the new age of efficiency.

While the assembly line mentality has evolved into agile workflow, and other more sophisticated systems, business has largely remained focused on sequential thinking in relationship to space and time. This fixation has kept us confined to incremental improvements in our time measured approach.

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” Buckminster Fuller

A Glimpse of the Future

The future has been slowly unfolding for decades and is now here in visible threads woven together. The cell phone, micro lending, social funding, shared office space, and the growing universe of low-cost high-quality digital solutions has led us here. Tony Hsieh and a growing number of young wealthy investor/creators have been building a new incubator economy. Greylock Partners, Peter Theil, and a growing number of thought leaders are accelerating this transformation.

Why does this matter? The future of work cannot exist without a new way of thinking about this future and the ecosystem necessary to grow into it.

There’s a growing gig economy where coders, digital artists, lawyers, and modelers have taken back their personal power to sell a fraction of their talent to multiple buyers. This is now, on scale, trickling into editing, writing, and social media. What businesses once hired and controlled in their employee environment can now be leveraged at a fraction of the cost.

Today, most CEO’s and investors continue to push back on virtual work. Never mind the fact that virtual work is only the gateway to fractional work. This aging belief that you have to be in the same office as the manager has become one of the greatest barriers to our future of work.

We can all list the executive reasoning for this desire to control people’s schedule and see them working day in and day out. But it is neither the most effective nor the most efficient way to run a business.

No matter how you slice it, change is tough. Particularly when there is not a roadmap.

Fractional Work = Shared Value

Isn’t this just a new way of describing the well-established world of consulting? For now, yes.

It’s natural that aspects of an old system will transition well into the new system. Most of the consulting work of our past had to do with hiring a firm specializing in a service. This transactional relationship points to a future where the “firm” is you and me. And the relationship is no longer transactional.

Sounds like a distinction without a difference.

Episodic engagements to manage cost or leverage talent specializing in some esoteric nuance remain part of the equation. The difference is to get all services that can be a fractional ongoing relationship off the employee payroll and into a lower-cost higher-quality engagement. We’re breaking down the wall to expand into a more productive future of work. In turn, companies improve their labor costs and improve results.

Since I’m one of these believers in this future of work, I’ll describe how this works in my life. I’ve spent much of my career turning around underperforming businesses. For a variety of reasons, my expertise is to assess systems and people, management and measurement to target the change that earns results. I’m good at staying focused on the big picture and incremental details. And I have an insane sense of urgency to meet our full potential.

My passion is simplifying the complex and embracing the full human potential. As an employee, I would thrive in the turnaround phase, stay focused in the early growth phase, and be less effective when the interest shifted to “keeping the status quo” or “don’t bet the farm” mentality.

Being a fractional CEO/Strategist and Agitator is my strength. As an employee, I leave the company before I’ve overstayed my welcome. As a fractional partner I add immediate value, stay in some fractional way to go deeper into the underpinning of the system and people, and ultimately stay in some fractional way to coach, troubleshoot or keep the company focused on staying agile and responsive to their business.

You’re Future Self

How do you fit into a system that embracing fractional work? Can you see yourself using your strengths, owning your fractional role and delivering the “goods” for multiple companies? Once you get past the fear of security and realize you have never been more secure and you have your real power back, that fear turns into confidence and your ability to control some or all of what you do and when you do it changes your life.

This future state of you and of business will transform both.

Everyone Wins

Companies will continue to have some employees, less and less over time, and find their right balance between employees and fractional support. This shift will move from fear and control, to well-structured work and execution. Learning the real power of a business is caught up in mutually productive relationships largely managed by agile tech solutions.

The biggest win for companies is smart, agile, and response individual and team decisions. Performance will improve by decluttering the inevitable political nature of offices and employees. Forcing the company to learn the art and science of clear project expectations will improve results and strengthen their applied strategic capabilities. A few of the other big wins are having a smaller real estate footprint. Less risk around the cost of turnover and the cost of employment.

The fractional expert wins because her earning potential goes up. Her time management, in greater part, is in her control. She keeps fractional engagements because she’s doing her best work when she is doing it the way she works best. When it doesn’t’ work, consequences will be immediate and clear, in most cases, giving everyone a chance to course correct or choose to disengage. Done well, both are fine outcomes. The cost of failure becomes what it’s meant to be, a lesson. Neither good or bad.


GUY PIERCE BELL Over the past twenty-five years, Guy has led publicly held, equity backed, and privately owned businesses with a not-for-profit thrown in. In many cases Guy was hired to turn-around performance. Throughout his experiences, he has developed a deep understanding of the pointless discord between business and people. He is convinced business has the unique ability to change the world for good, but only if we choose to unlearn the dogma of limiting thoughts and behaviors. Success is easy. Sustainable success is hard. Part people – part systems. His success equation: when you get people right, you get business right. Guy teaches organizations and their leaders how to expand beyond their limiting beliefs into their full potential. Email. Website.

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