After a recent discussion with a wish-they-were-a-client, an interesting and stimulating conversation yesterday with Dr. Anne Marie McEwan of The Smart Work Company in the UK, and reading this comprehensive blog post this morning by Dave Pollard, I settled in for a bit of think and now some writing.
In writing about the emergence of both wirearchy and Enterprise 2.0, I have often commented on and called for the re-design of the ways we carry out knowledge work. I still think it’s useful if not necessary, but I am no longer convinced (I think) that it need be approached in apprehensive ways as potentially traumatic or wrenching for a given organization.
I, and many others, have made this essential point often:
What Intranet designers and managers fail to appreciate is that the principal way people share information and build useful knowledge (italics my addition) hasn’t changed in centuries — people get it through real-time conversation with people they respect and trust. This gives them comfort that the content they’re given is current and authoritative, and through the conversation they can also appreciate the context behind that content, and ask questions to make it more useful to them.
The principles of organizational development (OD) recognized long ago that most people like working and want to make their contributions to purposeful getting-things-done … and also recognized that one of the critical issues in helping organized social systems of on-purpose people (organizations, enterprises, etc.) was going beyond the strictures of over-rigid organizational structures and management methods towards treating with the essential human component of organized activity exactly as if “most people like working and want to make their contributions to purposeful getting-things-done … “.
Even after 3 years or so of discussion about Enterprise 2.0 challenges (often focused on obstacles presented by organizational structure and culture, a plethora of calls for ROI justifications and case studies showing that there’s real and tangible value, worry about loss of efficiency and so on), I remain surprised that there hasn’t been more enthusiastic take-up.
After all, I think it’s clear that now the tools, services and understanding of the dynamics are advanced to the point where it’s apparent that people connected online can and are mimicking closely the way(s) people have always exchanged information and built knowledge. If I were an organizational leader, I’d make it a priority to experiment with, implement and embed in an organization’s regular practices this now-accessible new way of working.
However, many organizational leaders remain skeptical, having been weaned on efficiency-driven objectives, measurement and micromanagement techniques. These controlmeisters are missing the point, I think. After business processes have had the bejesus engineered out of them and all the objectives, measurements and milestones are in place, the people and how they work … individually and together in groups … remain as the most important, and most complex, variable.
I think knowledge-workplace guru (deservedly so-labelled) Dave Pollard has done us a great service by clarifying that the tools and services know available are there to support more effectively how people have always (and will always) exchange information and build useful knowledge. He tends to build lists and decision grids (with every other blog post, it seems .. thanks, Dave, for doing what few of us can, at least consistently). With this most recent presentation (A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO IMPLEMENTING WEB 2.0 (AKA SOCIAL NETWORKING TOOLS) IN YOUR ORGANIZATION ) he offers a path to clarifying and understanding what might best support a given organization’s quest for greater effectiveness. At the end of today’s blog post Dave states:
This presentation has suggested an approach you can use to gently move your organization from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0, without a lot of expenditure, other than in energy to actually talk to the users (not the suppliers) of information and connectivity tools in your enterprise. In the process, I think you’ll find some ways to reduce the cost of maintaining legacy sites and systems that no longer provide value, get yourself some recognition as a shrewd and focused innovator, and have a lot of fun helping the people in your organization to work a little bit smarter.
At the tail end of my previous mainstream management consulting I found myself caught in a paradox more-or-less of my own making. I loved the opportunities to act as a skilled tailor or architect, helping client organizations to understand issues from within their own context and that of competitive external markets, and designing a path to addressing those issues effectively. At the same time, I loathed working with the same tool-kit and the same rapidly-getting-tired methodologies that were by and large derived from the core industrial era assumptions about efficiency and the structure of work. I thought too much and too hard about the bind that placed me in, and so had to move on … deciding I wanted to belong to the future and not to the past.
However, today as a recovering mainstream management consultant (you’re always recovering from addiction, they say) I’m inclined to suggest that we do not look for recipes or checklists or established homogenous models of how to carry out Implementation 2.0. I’m inclined to say “let’s get on with it”, we still need to address a business purpose or organizational mandate and mission, set objectives, make intelligent decisions about what to measure and how, but for goodness sake let’s use the tools, services and dynamics of purposeful exchange that are available and on offer.
Another deservedly-labelled knowledge-workplace guru put it thus:
The 100% guaranteed easiest way to do Enterprise 2.0?
GET OUT OF THE WAY
KEEP THE ENERGY LEVELS UP
Yeah, you have to read the whole blog post, not just the section headlines above, to grok what Euan’s on about.
But .. Dave and Euan’s points are similar. The way(s) of working on offer today are more “natural” than ever, because people can share more easily and effectively.
By and large, adult people will stay on purpose and will want to get things done so as to contribute more effectively to goals and mission. A leader or manager’s job is to make the goals and missions clear, help them resonate with why people are doing them, and treat that complex variable called people as responsible adults who want to be effective and get things done.
As they say in Quebec with that charming no-”th” accent … that’s it, that’s all.