NOTE: I’m not a futurist or organisational anthropologist, but it seems that my interest in knowledge and networks has led me into thinking about such matters as fundamental as the future of organisational structure.
A while ago I posted on how organisations can become more agile. People can connect horizontally…the silos blinders can be removed. What this means is talent is revealed and self-organisation (which we already do regardless) can really shine. Work groups can form that attract the right people in a decentralised way, and then disbanden. My past post I’m refering to is called, We are more than our job title describes, so let’s get social!…get into it, as this is a big aspect of the state of enterprise 2.0 that we will eventually reach.
As I mentioned in a few previous posts, it’s fine that we can use bottom-up tools to connect the enterprise in a network fashion, but this has to be accepted from top-down.
Jack Vinson says it pithy in a response to my post:
“…business doesn’t reward collaboration. It rewards individual action.”
And then Bertrand Duperrin equally said it simply and effective in another way in a tweet to me:
“Tell me how you’re measured & I’ll tell you how you work”
My posts in question I’m talking about are:
This seems to be the meme of late, as I just read Venessa Miemis say:
“It’s becoming more accepted that collaboration, not competition, is a more effective avenue towards producing emergent, innovative results. Now that millions of people participate in online social networks, it seems high time to develop a system of matching people’s skill sets with common values and goals in order to bring about positive change.
Social networks have the advantage of being able to connect globally distributed individuals, who can then operate with flexibility within a bottom-up, non-hierarchical framework. But, just having access to each other is not always enough to make things serendipitously happen.”
She echos this in another post (which I just couldn’t help putting in bold):
“It’s becoming clear that to constrict a person’s capabilities into rigid, set roles that limit creativity and innovation just doesn’t make sense. Diving talent into silos is an outdated paradigm. Rather, we should be encouraging the facilitation of diverse groups of people working together on common problems.”
Here’s a link to that quote if you want to point someone directly to it, as I think it encapsulates enterprise 2.0 without having to talk about social computing.
“Many of us are transitioning away from job to roles based on work for some portion of our organization. This is an important paradigm shift for leaders – ownership for talent is shared. Talent needs to be flexibly deployed against the areas of highest value for the organization.”
Venessa says above that access is not enough, and when I re-read Bertrand’s post he had something else to say which is an obstacle:
“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.”
This got me to reflect on my own organisation
We do not yet have a social network, but we have CoPs as a start which is good, because already we see people discovering others, connecting and collaborating…this is a distributed way to optimise talent and work.
Even without CoPs of course people are networked, but it’s harder…usually management are good at this as they know more people than the regular worker.
Anyway my point is that I agree with the points Bertrand and Venessa allude to in that; access, networking and connecting is only the first step.
At my work, our culture is OK with workers being borrowed by others to work in tasks where their talent is needed.
But we reach two obstacles.
I can only stretch so much of my time
I have my regular job, but then I’m in a handful of extra activities like voluntary work groups. And most of these are from my own doing as I’ve shown an interest and want to have some input (I really like how our organisation is open to this).
But like I said I don’t have enough hours in the day, and in the end I’m measured on my main job by the manager I work for. I don’t get measured on these other activities that I work on…in school you would get extra points for participating in extra activities
The other thing is that I can’t charge my time to these extra activities, my boss is paying for my time spent elsewhere…but since this is our cultural attitude, in that it’s for the greater good, my boss is OK with it.
OK, so I’m not getting kudo’s for extra work, or it’s not part of performance measurement, which doesn’t personally worry me too much because I have passion for these work groups…but it would be good if it was measured, as it is work tasks, in contrast to sharing and learning in CoPs.
NOTE: CoPs are about sense-making and being better at your tasks, but they are not the task itself, which is more an attribute of a team (but I do understand that the world is not so black and white).
And as I said, I don’t have enough time to devote to these work groups.
Even if I could charge my time to these work groups and had to contribute to deliverables I still wouldn’t have time…actually this would make me very stressed.
So the question is…
How can I roam around the enterprise as a free agent, like a freelancer, getting my own tasks?
NOTE: a by product is that I become multi-skilled, exposed to diverse sides of the business, work with different people and operations.
I compare this to a cinematographer who gets their own gigs, jumping from one film to the next.
Only thing is I would still want security from the organisation, in that they will slot me somewhere if I don’t network well enough…or when there are down times they will find me something to do.
The enterprise would still have managers setting tasks, but the workers would gravitate to these tasks, or be invited…basically you have to find your own projects to work on.
Would this be hard? In a networked enterprise jobs would come to you, via your interest feeds, and those who you are connected to…and people who know about you would give you leads and offers.
So even though managers are setting tasks, they are not so much managing you, but more responsible for the coordination of the project.
You manage yourself, it’s in your own interest to do a good job otherwise people won’t want you on other tasks. This point kind of reminds me of the self regulated nature of eBay. Since buyers rate sellers, it’s in the sellers interest to be honest, which keeps eBay from falling over in a distributed way.
But an enterprise would not only rely on workers managing themselves as operational reliability…coupled with this managers would be 50% managing and 50% leading. Managers need to spend more time on mentoring human performance, bringing out the best in people, so workers can better manage themselves.
This kind of means you don’t have a boss? You only work for the manager of the task you are on, and when you disbanden your on your own again, looking for another task which will be managed by someone else.
I said there were two obstacles, the other one is…
Backing money vs level of effort
As I mentioned earlier it’s great my work has an open culture where people’s time can be lent out by a manager to work on extra activities.
When I say extra activities, I mean cross-functional work groups, or even improvement tasks within the one team.
Some examples of these are:
- I’m not on the Intranet team, but there is an Intranet redesign project that I’m happy and glad to participate in
- Within my own team I’m part of a focus group on “internal communication”.
So what’s the problem?
Because these work groups don’t have deliverables or timelines, they wane.
But even if they did have deliverables, and I could charge my time, us borrowed participants would not be able to spread our time, as we have our main jobs.
Again the solution to this seems to be a freelanced networked type of organisation I was pondering earlier…but what is the seriousness or repercussions of this…come on organisational theorists, cultural critics, futurists…let me know what you think!!
I don’t think this aspect of enterprise 2.0 is talked about enough, where do we see a networked enterprise heading to…
From what I remember in complexity theory, what manifests from the interactions can change the system itself, the very system that has been the platform for these interactions to happen.
So when we talk about enterprise 2.0 it’s been about how we do work and sensemake, and also transparency, crowdsourcing before making a decision…and we have tools and an approach to do this. This is where we are at now, but what’s the inevitable transformative result of this?
Will it be a blended enterprise of hierarchy and networks where talent roams around slotting into tasks?
I digressed a little, back to it…
I said if we could charge our time to the work group, but this isn’t so at the moment…why?
Because most of these special work groups are nice to have ideas, actually they have gone beyond ideas, they actually get started, but fizzle.
At our work if you can get sponsorship, and a level of effort from borrowed resources, which I have explained is the culture at my work, then we see these work groups take off.
But they get to a stage where they manifest into something but then need proper backing to keep going…ie they need funds.
It’s good in a way as we don’t need to show ROI, as it’s based on level of effort, but we do reach a wall.
It’s a real good approach, that enables us to experiment and fill needs, allowing self organising groups to form to serve the greater effectiveness of the organisation. So the ability to allow for this emergence is great, it’s an aspect of an agile organisation, but…once we can prove this momentum is worthwhile, then we need the funding for these work groups…and that’s the wall that causes them to wane over the long term.
If these work groups, or as Dave Snowden calls the “crews” were offered funding for their work, where would you find the people who have time…do you hire more people, that you only need for a short time…or does the organisation fully transform into a new enterprise where we move from CoPs and matrix organisations to social network stimulation and crews.
[ADDED 5/01/10: Crews - Slide 4]
- Key concepts of on tour
and on watch.
- People are trained in role
and expectation of role
- Delegation of authority
without loss of status
- Rapid assembly of teams
without team formation
- Work across silos and
boundaries within &
without the organisation
For more information on crews check out these posts
Please don’t get workgroups and communities of practice confused. Workgroups are more like teams where deliverables need to be achieved.
Bertrand has more:
“Communities are places where practices, knowledge, informaiton are exchanged and has not to be confused with workgroups which are operational entities…Groups know that they have to do, to deliver, and that’s why they exist. Groups exist because they have operational purposes. Communities exchange to learn, groups exchange to execute (even if there a learning dimension in the background routine). The group is a manager’s reponsability, the manager being responsible for objective’s achievement. Communties can be handled by external people who is an expert, a skilled communicator while groups only react to hierarchical hierarchy (even if expertise matters in the background).”