At the end of my last post I mentioned that KM (even Talent Management) or social computing need a top-down approach, shift, or message when it comes to collaboration, sharing, and organisational effectiveness…or better put a balanced approach.
Sure you will get lots of success in sense-making and sharing by facilitating the use of grassroots tools that are bottom-up just like email (but better than email).
BUT, is the use of new tools enough to catapult into a new way of working…it will take a long time to hit that tipping point.
Even if we do all the right things like facilitate, understand human behaviour, create and nurture conditions for participation, have an enterprise-wide concept…I don’t think it’s enough.
We need a complementary top-down shift to a new culture of working, as I said in my last post, a move from a competitive to collaborative organisation.
NOTE: I’m referring to within the walls of an organisation. I’m yet to think about this concept industry-wide ie. companies collaborating, rather than competing…a new type of capitalism I guess…got many links on the natural enterprise, but no time to read them
What do I mean by top-down?
I mean how are we measured and rewarded for what we do…
If I’m rewarded just for my achieving my personal output, I don’t have an incentive to share as what I know gives me the edge, it’s not about the organisation, it’s all about me.
Workers are instilled to be efficient robots, which leads to…I don’t have time to help you out, or an interest, as that is less time that I spend on achieving my objectives, and helping you out doesn’t get me a reward anyway; my objectives are important as that’s what gets me a reward.
We are told to share, but how can we when the senior management strategy doesn’t walk the walk…yes they talk that it’s good to share, but then strategy goes against that ideal.
Can you believe a lot of organisations run this way…this is a strategy to amass an aggregate of personal efficiency ie an incentive to stack a pile of efficient people, at the expense of an effective organisation where the people share what they know with each other so the organisation can adapt, be resilient, innovate, etc…
Why would an organisation do this to itself?
ie. concentrate on cost reduction and efficiency alone by neglecting the big picture, and instead just focus on each worker by rewarding good outcomes. How are you gonna adapt to changes in the industry if you don’t have a connected organisation…sure, you can have lots of intelligent people, but if they are not connected, you will hear lots of “why didn’t we know about you, I didn’t know you were an expert in that, we could of used you to help with this issue”
Workers self organise their behaviour to sometimes ignore this strategy, as it’s being connected that helps you out. You don’t know everything, if you did, what’s the use of an organisation. We get by at work by give and take, you interrupt me today, I’ll interrupt you tomorrow…I’ll forgo some of my time to help you out, as I trust that this will be reciprocated. An organisation is a web of relationships, we all need contacts, to help us achieve our targets.
So yes it’s natural to share, as it’s a need, actually it’s survival…but this needs to be seriously recognised and harnessed as a strategy, and a smart strategy where it cooperates and is cohesive with other strategies. ie you can’t have a strategy about sharing is important, if you have another strategy that essentially says hoarding is important (this conflicting strategy I’m referring to is the essence of this post ie the strategy of what you know gets you ahead of others, it gives you the edge so sharing would be the wrong thing to do…and my objectives get me rewards, so why would I spend time with you).
Anyway, looking back at an old post of Rex Lee’s outstanding blog, I found something very relevant to this meme.
It’s on the negative impact that “well defined measurable objectives and tying them directly to compensation” has on knowledge sharing, and ultimately organisational effectiveness.
“It seems logical that if you do a good job, and it’s linked to your objectives then you should be compensated for this.
The difficulty lies in the individual nature. The first concern is around the competitive aspects of this kind of model. If your knowledge or expertise could really assist someone else but helping them had no relation to your objectives, would you help them? What if we took it one step further. What if your helping of someone else actually hurt your ability to meet your objectives? Perhaps it would take you away from completing your objectives or actually go counter to your objectives? What if the more important thing for the company was helping that other person?
Often a cascading objectives model (one in which, you get your objectives from your boss, and she gets them from her boss, etc..), leads to solio’d thinking. Opportunities that arise that cut across silo’s (and requiring collaboration) are simply never seen. It’s not that people want to be malicious, they simply don’t see the opportunity.
Is it possible to structure objectives, that allow for collaboration that still are well defined, measurable and linked to compensation? The answer depends in what “well defined” means. In theory, an objective about collaborating could resolve this. It’s worked for other organizations. If you go this route though, keep in mind the implications it has on organizational structure as well. Proceed with caution, you’re changing institutional models that may be as old as the organization itself.”
In the next post I want to look at the ROI of spending time helping others.
[ADDED 16/11/09 : Bertrand Duperrin]
“Unlike the general public web, businesses don’t know how not to pass a local cost along to the the whole organization since everyone has to justify the way the allowed funds are used. In brief, businesses don’t understand free across its departments. Rather, their internal policies don’t make that possible.”
[ADDED 16/11/09 : Jack Vinson]
“the business doesn’t reward collaboration. It rewards individual action.”
[ADDED 6/01/10: Peter-Anthony Glick]
“3. Reward achievements of each individual based solely on personal objectives: the “you are judged on what you achieved, not on what others have achieved with your help” syndrome.”