Fighting organizational black holes

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Photo courtesy: ckaroli

Astronomy 101: A black hole is a region of spacetime from which nothing, not even light, can escape. ~Wikipedia

“Birds of a feather flock together” is commonly used to express how natural it is for people of similar taste/interests/area of expertise… to congregate in groups “silos”. Our instincts as humans suggest that the denser our groups, the more powerful we are. We’d rather spend our time socializing with people who think the same, read the same, sometimes even dress the same as us. And of course such behavioral patterns are brought along to our workplace.
In fact, it has been proven that people at the office are inclined to communicate and discuss ideas with other people from the same silo. Ronald Burt has observed that information circulate within groups before spreading across groups. Leaving thus, big gaps between those silos that only few “connectors” tend to cross. The fragmentation of the information flow within organizations can cost them their survival in an economy as complex, competitive and changing as today’s. These critical gaps are serious inhibitors of collaboration, effective problem solving  and innovation. These gaps are what I like to call “Organizational black holes”.

An organizational black hole is a department/division/team/group… that absorbs information and siloes it inside its boundaries preventing it from being shared to the outside.


How to identify organizational black holes?

Organizational network analysis (ONA) can provide an x-ray into the inner workings of an organization — a powerful means of making invisible patterns of information flow and collaboration in strategically important groups visible. ~Rob Cross


The use of Social Network Analysis (SNA) within organizations has proven to be of great added value for businesses. ONA’s perspective of an organizational network gives great insight on the connections among and between different entities. Most companies don’t even have a comprehensive picture of their employees’ capabilities, how information flows, who are the go-to experts within their organization… X-raying their inner workings helps organizations uncover these black holes and hence, remedy to the situation.

How to close organizational black holes?

Once the picture of the information flow/collaboration/decision making… network is clear and the gaps pinpointed, focused actions can then be taken. The idea is not to have a massive hairball connecting everyone to everyone else. It’s not realistic and clearly not very efficient. The idea is to create targeted connectivity.
Step 1: Identify key network members -the few people who cross the gaps- and connecting them together. This can help enhance the flow considerably.
Step 2: Insure that these handful of people champion initiatives that build communities (an internal social network for instance), encourage networking and tap into the knowledge of the communities’ key members by making that knowledge available and sharable. Some organizations tend to bring employees together to work on a project when they wouldn’t have met otherwise.
Step 3: Recognize boundary members who bring insights and perpectives of one community to another.
Step 4: Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Networks are very dynamic and the need to measure the progress every step of the way is essential to keep the implemented actions on track. Isolated nodes aren’t welcome but neither are over-connected ones.

“The ability to see how something obvious in one field (such as bicycle chains) can be applied to a problem in another field (such as how to transfer power from an engine to a propeller) is often how new knowledge is created. Membership in multiple communities enables that.” ~Tharon Howard, Design to thrive.

Are you willing to let such knowledge slip out of you hands? We know you can’t afford to.

Lamia Ben.

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The right collaboration: A fine line.

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Photo courtesy of HikingArtist.com

I don’t know if you’ve noticed but it seems that Cisco’s boards and councils’ structure is stirring much conversation about the optimal collaboration effort to implement within organizations. Let’s get something out of the way first; I truly believe that collaboration is not necessarily good. As Morten T. Hansen puts it in “When Internal Collaboration Is Bad for Your Company”

“…the conventional wisdom rests on the false assumption that the more employees collaborate, the better off the company will be. In fact, collaboration can just as easily undermine performance.”

As the context of organizations is getting more and more complex, getting collaboration right is becoming a hard and critical job. In Social networking for business, Rawn Shah states that “Although collaboration is at the heart of modern business processes, most companies are still in the dark about how to manage it…they do a poor job of shedding light on the largely invisible networks that help employees get things done across functional, hierarchical, and business unit boundaries.”

So “Let’s collaborate” is no silver bullet. The right questions to ask are how much collaboration we need? And how can we avoid under-collaboration and/or over-collaboration? Through a network perspective, it comes down to finding which bridges to cross and which to burn based on intrinsic characteristics of the nodes, the ties and based on the context the team evolves in. How do you know when enough collaboration is enough? How do you set the line between over and under-collaboration? A very tough question indeed and no single fix can fit it all. I’ve been pondering this for a while and I really think that analyzing organizations through a network lens can help shade some light.

Targeted collaboration

Here is a fact that is often overlooked: every formal organization has in its shadow an informal “invisible” organization. And this informal organization is where the real work gets done. So the first thing we need to do is acknowledge that any effort aiming to enhance collaboration must go beyond the organization chart and dive in its shadowed structure.

Once we come to that realization, we need to analyze collaborative and decision -making networks and identify the weak spots. Over-collaboration is recognized by a very dense collaborative network and by high costs in terms of traffic and communication between its different nodes. Under-collaboration on the other hand is identified by a fractured network and too many bridges with few people to span them.

Once we get a clear picture of the organization’s collaborative network, we can start remedying to the situation by implementing targeted connectivity. This means that we need to cultivate collaboration precisely where it is needed the most. A way to solve under-collaboration issues for example is by identifying the most connected employees from different clusters (small-scaled interlocked structures) and encouraging them to connect, which by extension means spanning structural holes among their clusters as well.

It becomes obvious then, that any collaboration initiative depends less on the technological choices but rather heavily on the network components of the organization. Leaders need to weave their collaboration efforts into the organizations' strategy. They need to design the underlying collaborative networks as much as they do with the matrix structures they've been acustomed to manage. Leaders will therefore need to upgrade their skills by adding yet another crucial one, what Ibarra and Hansen like to call "collaborative leadership".

Lamia Ben.

Enterprise 2.0 reads – January 2011

Here are some snippets from article I found mostly interesting last month. I hope you’ll enjoy them just as much as I did. Have a blessed February!

Every Worker Is a Knowledge Worker By Evan Rosen

If you’re not soliciting input from the employees who haul boxes, assemble products, and drive delivery trucks, you’re missing out on profitable ideas.

The terms “knowledge worker” and “manual worker” are no longer mutually exclusive.

In command-and-control companies, value creation suffers because management makes decisions in a vacuum without broad input.

In a collaborative organization, on the other hand, all workers’ knowledge counts, regardless of their roles… And most important, information flows in multiple directions rather than cascading from senior leadership down through multiple levels of management to front-line people.

Any employee might have information and input that can help the organization develop better products and services, manage real business performance, bridge strategy and execution, make better and faster decisions, and increase profit.

The facets of collaboration – Enter the matrix! By Paul Culmsee 

 Out of all of the material that I researched, I found that these four dimensions or facets of collaboration (task, trait, transactional, social) helped me explain most collaborative scenarios.


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Task Based Collaboration (Outcome driven): members do not necessarily have shared interests beyond the outcome being delivered.

Trait Based Collaboration (Interest Driven): trait based groups tend to come together to share their learning and experiences. It is the shared interest that drives the members’ attention and participation.

Transactional Based Collaboration (Process Driven): the people in the process can often be “swapped out” with other people, because transactional process is designed to be well defined, optimised and easy to follow consistently.

 Social Based Collaboration (Insight Driven): This is usually characterised by more ad-hoc sharing of perspectives and information. It is realisation or insight through pattern sensing via group interaction, rather than structured business rules.


TIBCO Launches tibbr and Demonstrates the Difference Between Social Business and Enterprise 2.0 By Larry Hawes

Social Business is about people first. Enterprise 2.0 is primarily about technology that enables business processes (or, more accurately, barely repeatable processes and process exceptions) via human interaction. Both are valid and valuable approaches to structuring and running an organization, but it is critical to know which one your company values most. Does it want to be a social business that emphasizes and connects people, or an entity that uses Web 2.0 technologies to achieve business goals when rigid, transactional systems can’t help? Answer that question first, then choose your technology solution.

“Madness of Crowds” or “Wisdom of Groups”? By Leslie Brokaw 

Researchers concluded that “group intelligence” correlates less with the intelligence of the individuals and more with the social sensitivity of group members, an equality in how conversation is handled, and even the proportion of females in the group.

“[Senior author of the study] Malone and colleagues could not find an example in which people had asked the relatively simple question of whether groups had intelligence, the same way individual people do.”

Why has that question not been asked before? Why is it difficult to think of a group as having a measurable intelligence? “There’s been a tendency to focus on the negative, the mob psychology, the idea that people can bring out the worst in each other,” Robert Goldstone, a professor of psychological and brain sciences at Indiana University, told the Globe. “There’s just as much evidence that people can bring out the best in each other.”

Social Learning, Collaboration, and Team Identity By Larry R. Irons

Organizational analysts refer to the challenge of establishing team identity as a boundary definition problem for teams, when members are spread across large distances whether geographic or cultural in nature.

Social software tools in the Enterprise, such as awareness/sharing tools (Yammer, Chatter, etc.), or collaboration tools (Wikis, blogs, discussion forums, etc.) assumed that increased information sharing would decrease such boundary definition problems among distributed teams… Mortensen thinks it is unclear that reducing boundary disagreement on distributed teams results in positive performance… Lack of an agreement on who is a member of a distributed team does not present a problem that needs solving in order to manage performance. The awareness that differences exist about who is on distributed teams, and recommendations on how to manage those differences, point to the focus needed on collaboration from management.

Collaboration isn’t just about people sharing information to achieve common goals. Collaboration is about people working with other people to achieve common goals and create value. Even though goal-orientation is a big part of collaborating, collaboration requires more to achieve goals effectively. It requires shared experience.

 

Lamia Ben.

Hubs and the fallacy of connectedness

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Photo courtesy of  jared

I bet this is how your organization looks like right now: a bunch of highly connected nodes scattered here and there. I bet as a decision maker you’re thinking you will do the impossible to keep these “hubs” on board. I bet as a knowledge worker you’re thinking you should be like one of those… believe me, you don’t. There are better positions that need to be filled, and being a hub is not one them.

I’m not saying that hubs –which are the most connected nodes in your organization’s network- aren’t important. They surely are, they shorten paths between members and insure the spread of information within the organization. However I firmly believe that they do not enhance the connectedness of the organization and here are some reasons why:

– Hubs may play a great role in connecting different nodes together, but like it or not, they are a threat to your organization. Envision how your organization’s network would suffer from the loss of a hub. Fragmentation of your network is the first consequence that comes to mind although it might not be an immediate one. Loss of knowledge is however the most important risk to consider since that the routes taken by information become much lengthier increasing the probability of its loss along the way.

– Hubs can also intentionally –when organization’s politics are in play- or unintentionally create cliques, which may hinder collaboration initiatives and create conflicts in the long term. This will surely harm any shared vision you instilled among your knowledge workers and damage your organization’s culture to great extent.  

– It takes a great deal of social capital to become a Hub. Too often these central players can have a substantial position within the network as Go-to people when colleagues are seeking information or advice. However hubs can easily become bottlenecked and thereby end up using their time inefficiently and holding up work and innovation at myriad points in the network.

– And here is another issue most hubs might face. They may be well connected within the organization but that’s about it. Their connections revolve in a small world, a micro-sphere and they hardly step outside their little bubbles. Hubs don’t bring about competitive advantage because they evolve in the same-old-same-old environment obstructing their chances to innovate.  

So again, I’m not saying that you needn’t interlace the network within your organization. I’m just pleading you to be careful while doing it. Organizations are complex systems where people and social objects evolve in an interwoven context and an off-the-top-of-my-head approach would suggest promoting an overall connectivity, thinking that the more connected these components are, the best they would interact. Actually, this has been proven to be too simplistic and it often ends up overwhelming employees and creating bottlenecks. Fostering innovation and better collaboration in the organization can only happen through targeting connectivity of the right expertise with the right influence in the right position.  


Lamia Ben.

Enterprise 2.0 reads – November 2010

Here are some of the reads I really enjoyed this November. The biggest highlight of the month is of course Santa Clara’s Enterprise 2.0 Conference which brought out a rather heated debate on Enterprise 2.0 vs Social business. I’m not going to go there, I’ll just leave you instead with what Larry Hawes wrote about it: Enterprise 2.0 or Social Business: Who Cares?!

A thorough coverage of the conference is available thanks to Jim Worth’s: wiki page.


Want Value From Social? Add Structure. by Tom Davenport on HBR

Many managers these days face a social dilemma. They want to use social media because they know that an organization’s judgment is improved if its ideation and decision processes incorporate insights from multiple perspectives. But they can’t bring themselves to let employees use social media at work, because they fear too much social activity will hinder productivity.

I’m becoming convinced that the way to gain value is to combine computer-based sociality with computer-based structure.

…the combination of the social and structuring aspects of technology ensures that online social activities are oriented to getting work done. The addition of structure makes everyone more conscious of the work tasks at hand, which limits the desire for purely social interaction.

Purely social applications are too social, and purely structured applications provide too much structure. Combinations of the two are where the work gets done fastest and most effectively.

 

Time to socialize your business processes? by Oscar Berg            

The main reason why I am interested in social software is that I believe we can use the reach, immediacy, richness and interactivity that these technologies bring to shrink large organizations and make them more agile and collaborative.

…If someone asks me how social software-powered communication and collaboration ties into business processes (without being specific about their processes), I can give them quite distinct answers:

·       They help you to improve existing processes by connecting different teams, or actually the people and their ideas, across organizational and geographical borders

·       They help you to fix broken processes by allowing anyone who might have an idea for how to solve it, or even a solution ready, to get involved in the problem solving-process

·       They help you ensure that the information resources you need to do your job are supplied, accessible and findable by involving everyone in the challenging tasks of information management instead of just a few select people.

The State of Learning in the Workplace Today by Sumeet Moghe 

The traditional approach to workplace learning has been about managing and controlling the learning experience, keeping it really top down…We need a shift.  …Three practical steps towards the new era of workplace learning:

·       We need to encourage people and support individuals and teams to address their own learning and performance problems.

·       Provide performance consulting services.

·       We need to provide advice on appropriate tools and systems.

 

All of us are better than one of us: thoughts on collaboration by Edward Boches

Want to get better at collaboration, as a company and an individual?  Here are some thoughts.

Become a collaborative company: For starters, get rid of walls and departments and silos. Mix people up. Put technology in the creative or marketing department.Second, change the teams.  If you once started the process with a writer and art director, mix it up. Include UX or social or mobile.Third, consider changing your incentive and compensation programs to reward the kind of behavior you want to encourage. People follow leaders. But they also follow the money.

Become a collaborative partner: Step one is to embrace a mindset of contribution versus control. Two, try and align yourself with companies that think the same way.Finally, if you’re the lead, get the other parties involved at the beginning before everything’s figured out. Only then will everyone feel truly invested.

Become a collaborator: Get yourself in the room before all the decisions are made, even if you have to push your way in.  Learn how to make other people’s ideas better and at the same time make sure they know what you can add.

 

A Sea Change? by Andrew McAfee

To motivate the business case and convey why pragmatic, skeptical executives should be interested in [the strength of weak ties, open innovation and emergent expertise..], I used former Hewlett-Packard CEO Lew Platt’s great quote that “If only HP knew what HP knows, we’d be three times more productive.”

As I listened, I realized that a fundamental shift had taken place: these executives were no longer talking mainly about their concerns, hesitations, or reasons for caution around Enterprise 2.0; instead, they were talking about their frustrations that their companies weren’t moving faster toward it.

In short, it felt like a sea change had taken place… So I inferred from our discussion that Enterprise 2.0 is no longer perceived as a wild new idea. The CIOs I was talking with apparently considered it just a good idea, and one whose time had come.

I find this very good news, and wanted to share it.

Lamia Ben.

Thinking Networks for better innovation

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Image courtesy: gapingvoid.com

The “sole inventor working alone” is almost total myth: most new ideas occur in networks of thinkers who are mulling over similar issues. If you want to be creative, be in a network. ~Steven Johnson


 One thing is sure: innovation is not a one-man matter. It takes engagement and ongoing exchange with internal and external actors to ignite creative ideas within any organization. But what is more fascinating is that most breakthrough innovations are recombinations of existing ideas or technologies. If many organizations fail to innovate, the main reason would be either their inability to leverage their internal and external networks in a way that recognizes opportunities or their incapacity to tap into the hidden business value of collaboration in order to recombine expertise and ideas. The first problem is a failure to exploit expertise at an organization’s disposal, the second is an inability to reshape the networks in ways that create value and open new markets.


In their compelling book “Driving results through social networks”, Rob Cross & Robert J. Thomas assert that the major barriers to innovation result not from failures of individual genius but from failures of collaboration. They actually do a great job pinpointing the major obstacles to innovation seen through a network perspective: 

Fragmentation. Collaboration often breaks down across functional lines, technical capabilities, and occupational subcultures in ways that invisibly undermine strategic innovation efforts. What is interesting is that network fragmentation often arises from the organization’s formal structure itself!

Domination.  The voices of a few central network members can drown out novel ideas and drive innovation efforts along traditional trajectories. The constitution of some cliques can form and preclude the integration of important expertise, creating an invisible barrier to innovation and execution that the team was formed to bridge in the first place.

Insularity. The inability to recognize and leverage relevant external expertise can yield excessive cost structures and delays that result in missed market opportunities.

The use of Social Network Analysis is particularly interesting in diagnosing these specific issues. Identifying the white spaces in the formal network renders information about possible fragmentations. Analyzing clusters within the organization’s informal networks can give clues on cliques, on who’s central in the network and who’s isolated. Collaboration patterns’ analysis gives an idea on what supports innovation and what hinders it.

Once the issues spotted, targeted initiatives can ensue. Decision makers can:

       Incorporate brokers (knowledge workers bridging the network’s gaps) into the innovation team in order to channel external information to the team

       Recombine existing expertise and resources to produce innovation breakthroughs 

       Ensure connectivity among those with the right expertise in a given domain and those with the right influence in the organization to help get things done 

       Ensure collaboration between the right roles at relevant points in a project

       Bridge the white spaces by enhancing connectivity across team members

       Decrease the hierarchical information seeking that creates bottlenecks and less efficient decision-making processes

       Encourage ties to relevant parties both inside and outside the organization

      


Thinking networks when trying to stir innovation can benefit the organization by suggesting targeted initiatives that save time and money. The question that remains is: is relying on networks enough? Boris Pluskowski once said that we exist as a community, but we achieve as a team. Preparing the right conditions for serendipity to take place isn’t guarantor of the occurring of breakthrough innovation. Formal structure is just as necessary. It is therefore critical that leaders ensure the right balance of reliance on formal structure (to ensure consistency and efficiency) and networks (to ensure innovation).

 

Lamia Ben

 

Related article:

Thinking Networks for a better alignment

 

Thinking Networks for a better alignment

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Image courtesy: gapingvoid.com

“Adding a new “Network layer” to our thinking process would bring clarity to everything around us and help us uncover the most complex mysteries” from last post: Musing: Think Networks.

We can’t say this enough: One of the most essential ingredients for a better collaboration within an organization isn’t its tools but rather its Culture. 

Culture is critical to any organization’s effectiveness. But more often that we’d like to admit, top management’s conception of culture is rarely aligned with the true underlying subcultures reigning in the organization. Sometimes, groups within the same unit can unconsciously do their best to negate their peers’ hard work. But how do we identify such misalignments?

In their insightful book “driving results through social networks”, R.L. Cross and R.J. Thomas present ONA as the ultimate solution. ONA (= Organizational Network Analysis) consists in x-raying the organization using Social Network theory to get a clear view of the different networks evolving in the shadow of Formal structures.

That surely implies that an organization is a set of informal networks that cannot be seen through traditional lens and tools. But what it essentially states is: Informal networks are a more realistic representation of how the work gets done. So modeling these networks can help diagnose collaboration’s shortcomings and culture misalignments.

We tend to have this reflex: better collaboration = more connectivity. The problem with such approach is that collaboration requires people’s time and drawing a line between every two nodes of a unit’s social graph would cost more than the value it delivers. So the aim would be increasing collaboration at points that would create value and decreasing connectivity where it causes more harm than good -> appropriate connectivity, focused collaboration.

The second problem that leaders tend to overlook is how cultural dynamics can shape collaboration within the organization and how they go beyond the formal structures and value statements. A network perspective gives a clearer view on how culture is distributed throughout the organization. This can help identify diverging values, practices, and goals that are invisibly hindering any collaborative initiatives.

Knowing where the problem lays precisely is often halfway to the answer. Thinking networks when dealing with collaboration helps visualize the key points that need bridging, diagnose the negative cultural carriers on whom cultural change initiative need to focus, locate connectors who need empowerment and recognition and so on. Having a network perspective not only gives a clear view on what’s happening, but also gives decision makers heads up on what should be done next.

 

Lamia Ben.

Working in a governmental agency: a year in review

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Image courtesy: Dilbert.com

This post is a location-focused blog post and a result of personal reflections. If you think Moroccan governmental agencies are any different than the one I work in, please drop me a line, I’d be glad to push the discussion further.

 It’s been a year since I started working at a governmental agency. To be frank, the thought of working there has never crossed my mind. But with my PHD taking over my time, I had to switch from the hectic-private-sector lifestyle into a more measured environment where I can get more control over my time. It turned out to be a good compromise –considering my constraints. 

Most people think governmental jobs aren’t as challenging as the ones from the private sectors. The thing is, they are, just on different levels.  Working in a +6000 employees organization is definitely not a piece of cake, addressing the traditional paradigms and dealing with bureaucracies and office politics isn’t either… and the list can go on and on. 

As this year went by I have come to confirm some thoughts I had about public sector, refute others. But I believe a profound national discussion should be triggered in order to bring efficiency into the public workspace.

What I have learned since last year:

On collaboration: Collaboration is very scale-sensitive. The bigger the team, the more time it takes to collaborate. The more cross departmental the team is, the harder it is to work together… and expecting work to go faster while using rudimentary platforms is obviously delusional. 

On planning: There is nothing as frustrating as the fire-fighting phenomenon. Fire-fighters can go on days without having much to do, but once a fire breaks, urgency is the main trigger. In the workplace, I think this happen for 2 reasons:  Inaccurate planning and the illusion of urgency. And productivity is the number one victim. Working under constant stress can get things done faster but are they done well?

On Rationalizing spending: There are alternatives to proprietary software, there is proprietary software that can replace expensive proprietary software, and there are local consulting firms that would do a better job responding to your needs than the well-pronounced international consulting firms. Thinking about rationalizing the expenses of everyday choices has to become part of the process. And as the saying goes: you can find in a river what you can’t find in the sea.

 On sustainability: You cannot expect your employees to innovate if they’re worrying about fulfilling more basic needs. Harnessing employees’ engagement can only be a result of an effective HR strategy. Training your workforce isn’t an option anymore; it’s the only driver to better performance. Offering a less bureaucratic, less politically charged atmosphere is the basis of the organization’s sustainability. 

How I would love to see all this changing: (Pic: tweet about time travel and Intranet)

Collaboration platforms and Intranet 2.0: The traditional Intranet used solely to announce the organization’s latest press releases or the reorganization of some entity in a far away region is so Outdated! There is a solid business case for Intranet 2.0 and I can’t do a better job describing it than Oscar berg on his blog post : The business case for social Intranets

 Transparency: Beyond office politics, shady strategies etc., transparency has to be harnessed for it is what builds trust. And trust is a major ingredient for collaboration to succeed.  Better collaboration can only mean better performance.

 A more People – centric environment: Employees are not supposed to be cogs in a giant machine; they’re independent spirits, with ideas and insights that can greatly benefit the organization. Treating them as such is the only way to tap into the hidden and unbelievable power of collective knowledge. Breaking down silos (not all of them, at least some) between management and knowledge workers is essential to nurture innovation, and God knows how we desperately need that in public sectors.

As I’m writing these lines, I came across a very interesting article on HBR by Saul Kaplan: Confessions of an Accidental Bureaucrat. Saul brings out an interesting point: “I think there is much that the public and private sectors can learn from each other.”

 

Do you work in Private sector? What lessons do you think public sector can learn from you?

Lamia Ben

Enterprise 2.0 reads – August 2010

Under the blazing sun of August, enterprise 2.0 experts and practitioners have been shining their brightest with great articles and insights. Here is a taste of what I think to be the most exquisite #e20 reads of last month: 


Enterprise 2.0: All Social Software is Not Created Equal 

Software for the business is, and should be, different from that offered in the consumer market. 
Today’s expectations are being set by the consumer market…The trouble is, the pace at which consumer’s expectations are changing is quick and vendors are constantly trying to keep up. 
Social business software has to empower employees, it needs to provide capabilities that seem almost natural to use because it helps get the job done, helps them work together and seems like a natural part of the process. 

 

When we read Semler we can’t say anything else than ‘Hey ! They’ve been 2.0 since the 90s”….and forget there is no mention of any tool in Semler’s story. Maybe they’re not using social media at all…because their culture makes it useless. Maybe they use social media but don’t even mention it because either they think culture and management is what matters and the rest comes with it, or that it’s so natural to use it in such a company that questioning social media’s relevancy is a waste of time.

The Evolving Social Organization

In complex environments, learning is much more than just a matter of structured knowledge acquisition. However, that is all that training enables. 

We know that informal learning happens all of the time but often the best answers or experts are not connected to the person with the problem. Social learning networks can address that issue by giving each worker a much larger group of people to help get work done.

As our work environments become more complex due to the speed of information transmission via ubiquitous networks, we need to adopt more flexible and less mechanistic processes to get work done…But the ability to deal with complexity lies in our minds, not our artificial organizational structures.

The business case for social intranets 


Most people will, if they’ don’t already, come to understand that a social intranet is not just about adding features such as blogs, wikis, activity feeds, social bookmarking and micro-blogging on top of a traditional intranet; it’s about rethinking the purpose of intranets with the intention of bringing the paradigm shift in how we communicate and collaborate.

Although the notion of social intranets is quite new, the business case for social intranets is anything but new. In fact, it has existed as long as there have been enterprises, and it’s growing stronger and stronger the more vital timely access to the right information and knowledge becomes for an enterprise in order to compete and thrive…

Don’t call it Enterprise 2.0  It doesn’t convey any message that revenues and profits will increase any time soon.
Don’t use the word ’social…most of [CEOs] believe that … [ a happy social life] is something best kept out of the office
Don’t emphasise the technical pointsMost CEOs do not want to hear about iPads or whether iPhone or Blackberry is better for accessing Twitter when traveling.  And if you descend into discussions about bandwidth, you’ll have lost them completely!

Other goodies:

Extensive List of over 30 Enterprise 2.0 Case Studies and Reports

“Dear IT Guy, Can You Actually Use the Tool You’re Creating?”

Lamia  Ben

Enterprise 2.0 reads – April 2010

Here is April E20 article round up. Some great discussions took place last month. One of the most interesting was about “Best Practices” and whether or not they make sense for an enterprise 2.0.

Luis Suarez Why Best Practices Don’t Work for Knowledge Work 

 “Best Practices” are the worst thing you can apply to any kind of knowledge work. Any kind. Social Computing is no different.

Oscar Berg Forget about copying best practices

If you are looking for best practices, then you should try to develop these best practices yourself.

Bill Ives Are There Best Practices for Enterprise 2.0 Adoption? 

Based on my experience, I agree with Luis that best practices can do more harm that good.  This does not mean that there cannot be lessons learned and some starting points to keep in mind as you move to new work.

 

There has also been a couple of interesting posts featuring Business Performance and Enterprise 2.0/collaboration.

Sameer Patel Performance acceleration and enterprise 2.0 

At a time when organizations are looking to pull themselves up from a near death spiral by surgically focusing on set of needed business fixes, instead of providing the necessary depth to articulate what’s structurally wrong with a given mode of conducting a business activity and how enterprise 2.0 could be a possible performance enabler, the focus often is on the benefits of social towards more nebulous outcomes such as openness, information and email overload, sharing, and productivity.  All of these are important but addressing these benefits need to be a means to some measurable business end.

Jacob Morgan Does Collaboration Impact Business Performance?  reviewing a report: Meetings Around the World II: Charting the Course of Advanced collaboration

Companies that deployed collaboration tools saw improved performance in innovation (68% vs 39% that didn’t deploy), sales growth (76% vs 50% that didn’t deploy), and profit growth (71% vs 45% that didn’t deploy).  These are pretty solid numbers across the board.

For now, consider that collaboration does have an overall large impact on business performance; that should be the key takeaway from this report.

 

Another great post from cecil Dijoux tackles employees’ engagement and its relationship with Enterprise 2.0 while reviewing Global Workforce Survey 

Three conclusions from this report:

  1. The global workforce is not engaged — at least not to the extent that employers need their employees to be in order to drive results.
  2. Engaged employees are not born, but made
  3. Employees worldwide want to give more, but they also want to see a clear and measurable return for their effort.

Now: let’s see how and where Enterprise 2.0 can help in nurturing engagement …

1. Senior management sincerely interested in employee well-being.

2. Ability to improve skills and capabilities

3. Organization’s reputation for social responsibility

4. Employees’ input into decision-making

5. Quick resolution of customer concerns

6. Setting of high personal standards

7. Excellent career advancement opportunities

8. Challenging work assignments that broaden skills

9. Good relationships with supervisors

10. Organization encourages innovative thinking


And if you’re looking for a great compilation of E20 articles, I can’t think of a better list that this one: The Must Read Enterprise 2.0 Articles – A Guide

Lamia Ben