Category Archives: Social Business – Enterprise 2.0

My Nostalgia Trip to Pre Social Business

As part of my unlearning and learning process towards better understanding of Social Business I’ve been thinking back the time I worked for a Swedish Supply Chain Management (SCM) company IBS.

Yes, I am recalling the attempts we made in order to build a platform for a global wholesale distribution, the concept was called as Virtual Enterprise.

It is now most interesting to follow the discussion about social business design and to find many similar perspectives.

Simultaneously with The Power of Pull, a warmly recommended read, I have been re-reading older European research about business process design (pdf), written by two Swiss gentlemen Elgar Fleisch and Hubert Österle. Already eighteen years ago (!) in 1993 they created an interesting concept of Integration Area that refers to organizational processes which are characterized by high dependency, and therefore require a high degree of coordination.

They discuss the complexity of inter-organizational networking which is associated with human interaction, organization structure, and the culture. In order to reduce this complexity, Fleisch and Österle presented the Coordination Areas. The five coordination areas that are highly dependent of each other are: Supply Chain Management, Relationship Management, Innovation, Infrastructure, and Organization Development.

Here below their model for inter-organizational networking for complex environments:

Coordination Areas. Source: Fleisch & Österle (2000)

The difference between these two concepts is that the integration area pursues integration through integrated information processing, while the coordination area pursues integration through the organization of dependencies.

Related to the latter, organization of dependencies, an interesting parallel could also be drawn to the systems theory and its qualitative determinants. Two system determinants, attributes of the elements and the degree of the organization among system elements, employ the same kind of complex dependencies.

Fleisch & Österle also used a notion of networkability:

“The inter-organizational dependencies within coordination areas are contrasted by the intra-organizational dependencies across areas. Both play a decisive role in the networkability structure of businesses.”

It is easy to find confluence. After reading some of the recently published books related to the social business and comparing the models and messages in those to this older research – you can find many themes that are in common.

Good old SCM and the Social Business

Fleisch & Österle state that coordination of business processes have to cover both outputs and all associated design areas such as process, IT, people, organization structure, and culture. The efforts my company made 10-15 years back, associated with Supply Chain Management, were directed towards this kind of coordination of the inter-organizational processes.

Yes, there’s a clear connection between these SCM development efforts and Social Business/Enterprise 2.0! Exactly as Jacob Morgan tweeted while ago.

Here’s few more pickings from the nostalgia period research (1997-2001):

Fleisch and Österle developed a model called “Five computerization phases towards business networking”. They describe an integration area as an indicator of the degree of “informatization” of an organization. The size of integration area is growing while technology develops. Well, this reminds me of Enterprise 2.0 when seen from a tool & information perspective. However, their model was not yet very social one.

Some of the nostalgic themes of that time were:

  • On the tool side, the new portal technologies as the tools to give a common view of supplier relationship related information and system integrations for integrated processes. For example information stored in the ERP, CRM and Human Resource systems. Very much system and information flow centred approach.
  • On the process side, the concept of Supplier Relationship Management (SRM) was a hot topic as the supplier relationships emerged and companies wanted to create a strategically managed structure around their supplier relationships. In 2001 Gartner Group stated about SRM as follows: “[…] this goes beyond e-procurement and strategic sourcing to embrace the collaborative creation and management of supplier-enterprise products and processes.”

A bit like pre Social Businessian, isn’t it?

Summarized it can be said that the focus were clearly around the processes, work flows and managing information within the processes.  Some initial ideas for the collaboration on the individual level were present, but were still rare in the businesses. What was missing then was naturally the emerging new communication culture and the possibilities enabled by social media – to connect, discuss, and to create value also on the individual level.

From a System Level to a Human Level & The Power of Pull

The focus is now broadening from the system level to the human level: how individuals communicate, interact and create value together has become essential. The core concepts have changed from the pure process view with task descriptions, detailed instructions and strict control towards empowerment of people, enhanced interactions inside and outside of the own organization, away from the information/knowledge silos – all this supported by the new kind of social technology.

However, there’s much to do. Firstly, we are still often calling people as resources or assets, sigh! We do have Human Resources departments, like people were parts in a machine. And secondly, social media is often reduced to a set of tools only.

One of the best readings on the topic is the latest book of John Hagel, John Seely Brown & Lang Davison. They present a Pull approach with which you can turn uncertainty into opportunity, and further enable small moves to make a huge impact. The Pull approach consists of three levels:

  • At the most basic level, pull helps us to find and access people and resources when we need them.
  • At a second level, pull is the ability to attract people and resources to you that are relevant and valuable, even if you were not even aware before they existed.
  • Finally, the third level of pull – the ability to pull from within ourselves the insight and performance required to more effectively achieve our potential.

I do believe that the Pull approach enables us to learn faster and translate what we’ve learned into improved performance; the performance of ourselves but also the people we connect with.

One driver for this nostalgia trip was actually this sentence in their book:

“These three levels of pull go far beyond the “on-demand” focus of technology industry in recent years. On-demand initiatives generally seek to facilitate the first level of pull, but they have very little to offer regarding the second and third levels of pull.”

I fully agree with them.

I will continue to study social business design and how to use the power of pull to access new sources of information, to attract like-minded individuals, and to shape serendipity to increase the likelihood of positive chance encounters.

Still much to learn for a Serendipity Hippie like me. The passion will help me on the way.

PS.  Dachis Group describes the Social Business Design in a way I like a lot. Their model covers how customer can participate in the value creation, how to enhance collaboration, and how to rethink and optimize the value network. The latter – Business Partner Optimization – is quite close to the Virtual Enterprise concept I was working with in the end of the 90’s. It is fascinating to notice how the basic ideas of social business have been around for a long time, and now finally becoming part of our daily business.

Related reading from Dave Grey of Dachis Group – The Connected Company.

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Social Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, ready for the Social Business?

Supertramp album from 1975 - Photo by me

I recently found my old thesis, and yes, some of its topics and content are (still) relevant, as this one: the evolution of organization and work structures. The very same topic Esko Kilpi is researching. The discussion in my old thesis and Esko’s blog posts inspire me to learn more about this topic.

One chapter in my thesis starts with a quote by Michael Porter:

“Industries are profitable not because they are sexy or high tech; they are profitable only if their structures are attractive.”

Well put. Many industries and organizations are trying to score right under the constant change requiring new type of more adaptable structures. The development has been very rapid and raises increased demand for choice, chance, change and flexibility.

A number of concepts have been proposed and developed over the years. Earlier we spoke about Virtual Organizations, and now about Enterprise 2.0 and Social Business.

The evolution of organization and the work structures has been fascinating. More and more of our core business processes are cross-functional; and cutting company borders. And we all have seen that it can open up for aggressiveness and resistance to change.

If you put fences around people you get sheep

This quote above by William L. McKnight suits well for many organizations. Are we social wolfs in sheep’s clothing? The silo-like organization cannot act any better than a flock of sheep, and the genuine value creation requires a larger ecosystem. Esko Kilpi writes beautifully about this in his post “From systems to ecosystems”:

“Minimal hierarchy, organizational diversity and responsiveness characterize ecosystems. Ecosystems are a response to the increasing complexity of strategic horizons and short half-life of designs. To cope with the uncertainties firms see themselves and the world around them as ecosystems, where every unit, every node in the network, should engage with learning. Instead of centralized design and planning, the activities of exploration are the responsibility of the whole network. Because of greater complexity, coordination and communication cannot be planned in advance, controlled or managed hierarchically.

Authority needs to be distributed; it is no longer delegated vertically but emerges horizontally in the networked ecosystem. Under distributed authority work teams and knowledge workers need to be accountable to other work teams and other knowledge workers instead of a single boss. You need to have many “bosses”. Success at ecosystems depends on learning by mutual accountability and responsiveness. This is much more than matrix organizations or internal markets.”

He ends his post with wise words:  “Value creation cannot be understood as industrial systems any more, but as continuously developing, complex, responsive ecosystems of connected people.” I warmly recommend you read the entire post.

This discussion also reminds me of old article of Normann and Ramírez (From Value Chain to Value Constellation: Designing Interactive Strategy, Harvard Business Review, 1993). They stated that organizations that are going to survive in the changing environment are:

“[…] those looking beyond their immediate boundaries to the social and business systems in which they are enmeshed and discover new ways to reconfigure those systems in order to reinvent value for their customers.”

And this article is 18 years old.

Crisis? What Crisis?

Yes, it is a name of an excellent album by progressive rock band Supertramp, but also a question Larry E. Greiner raises up. Related to the issues described above I’ll find Greiner’s model of organizational growth and development very interesting. The model describes the way organizations change over time and how these changes can shape not only organizational structures but also management practices.

His model consists of five development phases, which are made of two stages; evolution and revolution. What he means is that each evolution stage causes its own revolution (crisis). The original phases and the following crisis are:

  1. Phase of evolutionary creativity followed by leadership crisis;
  2. Phase of directed evolutionary growth followed by an autonomy crisis;
  3. Phase of evolutionary growth through delegation followed by a control crisis;
  4. Phase of evolutionary growth through coordination followed by a crisis in bureaucracy; and
  5. Phase of evolutionary growth through collaboration followed by another crisis of unknown origin.

In 1998 Greiner added a 6th phase into his model: growth through extra-organizational solutions. It suggests that outsourcing, mergers, networks and other solutions involving other companies come into the picture.

However, the Greiner model emphasizes the age and size of the organization and the growth rate of the industry – but now we have a special addition to that, the paradigm change in the way we communicate.

Do you have the personality structure for the social business?

Associated with the fifth phase of collaboration Greiner speculated that the following crisis could be around the psychological saturation of the employees. He says:

“Intensive teamwork can dissipate employee efforts on the other hand, while on the other some may find the new behavioral concepts and techniques incompatible with their personality structure”.

What an interesting point of view! Think about the development and the challenges many Enterprise 2.0/Social Business initiatives are facing. Indeed, evolution and revolution on-going: on the system, ecosystem, and the personal level. Could we apply Greiner’s phases to the adoption of the Enterprise 2.0/Social Business?

Ha, I think my personality structure is made for social business. How about yours?

PS. For my Finnish readers, another natural association from Greiner’s model & Supertramp is, of course, Ismo Alanko’s song “Kriisistä kriisiin” (a Finnish song called From crisis to crisis).



I am a Knowledge Worker and a Serendipity Hippie

My Serendipity Hippie T-shirt! | Copyright Serendipiteettihipit 2010

 

Last weekend I attended Professor Esa Saarinen’s seminar, and as always I was touched and inspired by his thinking. Few days earlier futurist Jarno M. Koponen wrote a beautiful blog post about creative future thinking. Both of these gentlemen touched on a question I’ve been thinking lately:

How to be creative in a hectic entrepreneur/knowledge worker life?

I’ve earlier blogged about Esa Saarinen’s theory of Systems Intelligence and the two thinking systems that we all have: the automatic, associative, and intuitive, and rational, systematical one. This theory of Saarinen’s emphasizes how we often have a surprisingly narrow sense of ourselves – meaning that we seldom utilize our associative, intuitive System 1 in our work life, instead we are blocking it by System 2 kind of rational thinking.

Futurist and designer Jarno M. Koponen brought up an interesting topic in his Futureful blog: the role of reading and writing in a creative process and future thinking. For him, written words lead to constructive reflection and reflection leads to action. Further he describes how everyone’s creativity is different, how we all have our own ways of nourishing our creative thinking.

Touché! These two gentlemen made me look closer at my mental habits: how do I approach challenges and act in various business situations.

I recognize the need to mix the associative and intuitive with the Rational Riitta. As a knowledge worker I need to be more open and creative in order to find solutions that are not the obvious ones. One of my methods is to imagine the present situation couple of years ahead from now. Often this opens up a couple of new doors for thoughts.

Other means I often turn to are writing (not always publicly as now), reading (The Power of Pull is waiting for me), mindmapping, enjoying visual beauty in form of photographs and movies from different decades, and listening to the music. I am letting System 1 to have a proper leg room during the flight. There’s one more thing empowering me: positivity.

The Power of Positivity

Esa Saarinen discusses positivity in a wonderfully inspiring way. Most of us easily understand the value of the positive emotions; still we systematically understate the long term effect of positivity. This is what Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, Saarinen’s research partner, claims. Similarly to Saarinen’s thoughts, Fredrickson says: we can expand our awareness, by taking in from all of our senses. Fredrickson’s urges us to invest in things that bring us positive emotions; music, dance, books, walk in the woods, a hobby you love.

Fredrickson also speaks about 3-to-1 tipping point ratio meaning that we need three positive emotions to lift us up for every negative emotion that drags us down. Further she states “in the long term, our positive emotions broaden and build, and therefore result in more resilience and life satisfaction.” If you became curious, read more about Fredrickson’s thoughts in her research paper “The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotion” (pdf).

I found this lovely video (6 min) by Barbara Fredrickson, warmly recommended:

My favorite part of the video is her recommendation: create the mindset of positivity by being open, appreciative, curious, kind, and most of all, real. Very beautiful and doable!

A Serendipity Hippie

Inspired by these ideas I recently named a group of my friends, including myself, as ‘Serendipity Hippies’. I think the name describes quite well the attitude and spirit I wish to nurture.  As a startup entrepreneur and a knowledge worker I need to be a Serendipity Hippie too – I need to keep my both ‘systems’ active, let intuition, interaction and positive emotions affect my actions and decisions, which in turn hopefully nourishes my creativity, and also help me to develop ‘Hagelian’ trust-based relationships.

Via all these means and with help of my social (media) interactions I wish to give creativity and serendipity a chance, every day.

Finally, I would like to share a story Barbara Fredrickson told her audience during one of her lectures:

“One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, ‘My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all. One is Negativity. It’s anger, sadness, stress, contempt, disgust, fear, embarrassment, guilt, shame, and hate. The other is Positivity. It’s joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe, and above all, love.’ The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: ‘Which wolf wins?’ The old Cherokee simply replied, ‘The one you feed’.”

We can become better versions of ourselves.


Playing Social with Words

A quick post about playing with words, notions and associations, and about what I did 10 years ago – and in the end of the post I make a promise!

 

Years ago I was in Supply Chain Management business, and now my startup is developing a SaaS application for businesses, in a #E20 style. That is why I am very curious about Social CRM, SCM and Enterprise 2.0.

Two recent ‘good bits’ started a thought process: 1) Jacob Morgan’s tweet and 2) Seth Godin’s fantastic post.

Seth Godin wrote about “the pleasant reassurance of new words”:

“It’s a lot easier for an organization to adopt new words than it is to actually change anything. Real change is uncomfortable. If it’s not feeling that way, you’ve probably just adopted new words.”

I do agree, seen that happen.

Jacob Morgan tweeted about how we are using new words for something that has been around for a long time:

 

What Seth is saying and what Jacob points out reminds me of two examples of how words are getting new lives – gently or with some violence – or how old and new denotation can live side by side:

Social Business

One example of the phenomenon Seth referred to could be the use of the notion of ‘Social Business’ by the big (legacy) players. In an interesting Forbes article ‘Shining the Limelight on Social Business Services’, by Rawn Shah, he describes how the large vendors are looking for different approaches to integrating collaborative capabilities into the IT infrastructure. In addition he points out an important issue:

“However, it’s important to see that social business is not simply a software one. It is a business transformation involving organizational culture, enterprise business processes, customer relations, and workforce behavior just as much as it is a change to the enterprise IT infrastructure.”

He continues with wise words:

“While it may be relatively easier to push technology onto users, transforming business culture takes much more convincing: changing attitudes to do work in a social space, changing task and workflow behavior, changing motivation and compensation models, changing business metrics and KPIs, changing customer facing processes, working through longer adoption cycles, and ingraining a culture of collaboration. This involves a different lens than just the IT department—it can involve HR, business management, customer service, product development and innovation. Hence, to develop a mature social business, you will need to explore how it applies to these respective areas—this is where consulting services can provide guidance.”

Indeed important, a trinity of the people, process & technology. A very timely topic I’ve touched on in my earlier post ‘A job for a Silo Integrator?‘.

Lean

For me the word lean still denotes strongly to the Japanese car industry! Yes, I worked in a Swedish Supply Chain Management company at that time and the local car and machinery industry was actively applying lean production. And I still recall ABB Sweden’s T 50 project (cutting troughput time by 50%) quite well.

We have seen a clever reuse of the notion ‘lean’. As a startup entrepreneur I do like a lot Eric Ries’s Lean Startup philosophy. His work was presented in Wall Street Journal with these words:

“Mr. Ries’s Lean Startup philosophy aims to help new companies make speedier decisions by taking a more disciplined approach to testing products and ideas and using the resulting customer feedback. “

I definitely want to study Eric’s philosophy and writings in more detail, and maybe I get rid of the Toyota association.

Social Business Process Management

Back to Jacob Morgan’s tweet – what he asked in his tweet gave me an idea: Social Business Process Management! I thought I had invented a new notion, I googled, and of course found a nice post about Social BPM written in June 2010 by Joe McKendrick. In the post McKendrick describes his discussions with Forrester Research analyst Clay Richardson, and shares some SBPM aspects: the need for increased end-user involvement, better understanding and assessing the capabilities, and how the communication and coordination issues between the teams are challenging in many organizations.

Ok, enough playing with words.

What did I write 10 years ago?

What makes me very excited is the fact that I have written about these issues 10 years ago. And forgotten most of it! I just found and browsed through my old Master thesis (from 2001) with the title Value Creation in the Integrated and Collaborative Business Processes. I am reading it now in order to find out how “Enterprise 2.0” my old work is. With quick browsing I saw quite many fitting E 2.0/Social Business key words. And the Analytical Framework which summarizes the thesis is not totally bad.

So, my promise to you is:

As soon as I have had time to write down couple of thoughts around it, I will post again and also, if you like, share the thesis with you. It’s not a masterpiece, but might be of interest for some of you.

PS. Does adding prefix ‘social’ remind you of adding the little e? eCommerce…


Entrepreneur: An Adventurer with Inbuilt Crap Detector

Guy Kawasaki's Note to Me @ Paris 2010

Inspired by an interview of Francis Ford Coppola and by an old article about Ernest Hemingway, I compared their advice to my experiences as an entrepreneur.

I’ve blogged earlier about my favorite topic, tacit knowledge and its role in personal and organizational learning. Francis Ford Coppola’s words took me back to these thoughts. In the web magazine The 99 Percent’s interview  ‘On Risk, Money, Craft & Collaboration’ he describes his working methods and techniques, for example how making notes, e.g. writing down the first impressions of a novel, helps him to find what’s essential in it.

I have a habit of making notes all the time, not only in work related meetings and workshops, but also of novels, TV programs, movies, and discussions. When I look back at my notes I often find a new angle to the subject at hands, and realize that often my notes are implying something tacit, a piece of knowledge, an idea based on the quick unconscious association.

In the beginning of interview Mr. Coppola presents his code of ethics that directs his filmmaking. I’ll find it very interesting:

  1. Write and direct original screenplays
  2. Make them with the most modern technology available, and
  3. Self-finance them.

With little bit of imagination I dare to compare this to mine and my friends’ situation as entrepreneurs. These points tickle my thinking: Firstly, for an entrepreneur it is important to have a clear vision based on your big idea, which in turn should be based on the real customer need you’ve seen, maybe based the weak-ish signals you’ve seen before others have. Anyways, your basic idea must be robust. It is your original screenplay, your starting point.

Secondly, Coppola’s request for the most modern technology: that’s an easy one. In my case it is about utilizing Cloud Computing and during the coming months I need better understanding what part Social Technology have in my business. I have no clear picture of it yet. There’s luckily a very interesting discussion on-going (in Twitter) about social business. Just search #socbiz or #e20 in Twitter, and you’ll see what I mean. Learning new things daily!

Francis Ford Coppola’s third point about financing is one of the key (worrying) issues for an entrepreneur. As both in filmmaking and for entrepreneurship, it is a question about how much independence you have. For Coppola financing must be easy nowadays, but for young entrepreneurs it is often a major pain. It takes a lot of energy and time, which temporarily can cut off some of the enthusiasm.

Learning, Risk Taking and Collaboration as Key Capabilities

All these essential issues points at learning, our capability to unlearn and learn is central. To change and to be able to see what is not visible: the tacit things, the weak signals. One sentence in Coppola’s interview shows how important learning is even with 45 years successful career, he says:

I just finished a film a few days ago, and I came home and said I learned so much today. So if I can come home from working on a little film after doing it for 45 years and say, “I learned so much today,” that shows something about the cinema. Because the cinema is very young. It’s only 100 years old.

His humble quote is very true in any business. As our business environment is in huge change, we need to see it as new every day. For an entrepreneur this means making best guesses and taking risks. Francis Ford Coppola asks a striking question to which every entrepreneur can relate to:

If you don’t take a risk then how are you going to make something really beautiful, that hasn’t been seen before?

Indeed. Further Mr. Coppola shares his idea of collaboration and his role as a director, with wise words:

You must never be the kind of director, I think maybe I was when I was 18, “No, no, no, I know best.” That’s not good. You can make the decision that you feel is best, but listen to everyone, because cinema is collaboration. I always like to say that collaboration is the sex of art because you take from everyone you’re working with.

His words remind me of Mitch Joel’s recent post ‘Market of One’, where he writes:

Just because you do something (or don’t do something) is no indication of how the market actually is and reacts.

A recommended read, you may recognize the pattern in your business environment, among partners, business angels, VCs. For an entrepreneur it is vital to listen to everyone, be curious, to truly collaborate, and not make assumptions based on your personal opinion only.

To me entrepreneurship is about learning, experimenting, collaborating, and taking risks. It is an adventure. And I feel like an adventurer.

We all have our own personal methods and tools to manage the adventure. For me it is a cocktail of many things, the base on my beloved Systems Thinking, but to name one thing that has changed my way of working: social media. After I’ve managed to find ‘my people’, especially in Twitter, social media has opened a new world of knowledge sharing and valuable, most interesting global network of smart people. Whenever I have time to participate I learn.

Another result of intense learning and studying within social media sphere is this blog. I started blogging as I felt that I need to write down the (often unstructured) ideas and thoughts, and get feedback from my network of smart people. The feedback is very valuable for the learning process: when I write I am often developing an ad hoc idea and the feedback makes me think and rethink. I do need that.

Related to this experience of making notes and blogging too, I share a wonderful old article of Hemingway in Cuba (The Atlantic, 1965) which partly inspired me to write this post. Hemingway experienced writing as inventing. Here’s a quote by him which I like very much:

Fiction-writing, Hemingway felt, was to invent out of knowledge. “To invent out of knowledge means to produce inventions that are true. Every man should have a built-in automatic crap detector operating inside him. It also should have a manual drill and a crank handle in case the machine breaks down. If you’re going to write, you have to find out what’s bad for you. Part of that you learn fast, and then you learn what’s good for you.”

That’s basically what every entrepreneur needs too: Knowledge (network) out of which to invent, and a curious, open mind with a built-in crap detector.

I believe I don’t have to explain that.


Quiet is the New Loud

Photo by me @ Lanzarote 2010

I have chosen Quiet is the New Loud as my motto for January, and for the rest of the year 2011. With that I refer to tacit knowledge and its value.

I am inspired by the idea of tacit knowledge flow, a flow that relies on trust-based relationships. In these times of huge amount of data, paradoxically it is tacit knowledge that best supports value creation.

Rich flows of tacit knowledge are needed for success:

  • Tacit knowledge plays an essential role in our learning processes.
  • Tacit knowledge flow supports creativity. There’s lots of research on how diverse working groups are more creative, less dependent on old paths, and easier makes linkages between different domains.
  • Strategic success of an organization is depending how well it manages to blend available explicit and tacit knowledge.
  • Survival in competition is more and more based on capability to create and maintain fruitful and learning relationships with colleagues, partners, competitors, and customers.

We have unforeseen number of software tools and technologies available to support these flows. Still it is primarily not about the tools and processes. Most of all it is about an attitude – an attitude of the individuals forming a team, working group, or an organization. An attitude that embraces learning, openness, and transparency.

This is not happening overnight but I do believe that Quiet will be more valuable than Shouting Out Loud.

If you haven’t read John Hagel’s latest blog post about tacit knowledge, trust-based relationships, and talent development, please do so. It is an excellent read. Here’s a snippet from it:

As we enter a new decade, the greatest wealth will be created by a new set of entrepreneurs. These entrepreneurs will understand and address the unmet needs of those who want to participate in environments that foster deep, trust-based relationships across both virtual and physical space. These environments will focus participants on the opportunity to learn faster by working together in addressing challenges that draw on the tacit knowledge of each participant.

I hope that I can live up to what John Hagel calls for: being that new kind of entrepreneur. One of the first steps for me is to apply Quiet is the New Loud Attitude.

Have a great long weekend!

PS. My headline ‘Quiet is the new loud’ is actually album name of a Norwegian indie band Kings of Convenience.


A job for a Silo Integrator?

Many of us have organized and managed our organizations and business operations with the help of a traditional family tree type organization chart. It feels familiar and sometimes it can be effective. An additional ‘benefit’ of it has been that the management has had a map for identification of who to blame when something has gone wrong.

I’ve personally experienced how poorly this model sometimes works: the complexity of the business environment is increasing and it’s often hard to either manage operations effectively or innovate.

Many of us also need to skip the illusion of full control. Better to get use to less unpredictable, more global, mobile and social business environment. The tough challenges lie in the areas of communication, coordination, learning, and leadership.

 

Suitably I found an old book from my home library, Stafford Beers “Diagnosing the System for Organizations”. Beer discusses the science of organizing effectively – Cybernetics. The book is written 1985 (!) but while browsing it, I was amazed how accurate its statements are. And I’ve always had an odd crush for the System Theory; yes, I’ve read my Schoderbek, Schoderbek & Kefalas!

Here’s an example of Stafford Beer’s thoughts on the organizational structure:

“…if the structure is dysfunctional, then no amount of financial wizardry, of insightful man-management, of business technique, will save the day. Increasingly, it seems to me, the organizational structures we inherited do not work.”

Stafford Beer has also coined a notion I like: “the purpose of a system is what it does”. Very simple and well put. Here’s in more detail what he said in one of his lectures:

“According to the cybernetician the purpose of a system is what it does. This is a basic dictum. It stands for bald fact, which makes a better starting point in seeking understanding than the familiar attributions of good intention, prejudices about expectations, moral judgment or sheer ignorance of circumstances.”

Seeking understanding, identifying the purpose, and reorganizing organizational structure to a more dynamic one with adaptive connectivity both internally and within the ecosystem they are part of. Indeed something for organizations to study.

However, strictly drawn boundaries between the functions, silo-like structures, are still flourishing. Lots of interesting research can be found on this topic. One of my favorites is Harold Jarche, a consultant and researcher I follow on Twitter. He wrote interestingly in his recent blog post:

“The big idea that is catching on and may take shape in 2011 is the integration of organizational support. Enough people are realizing that our compartmentalized approach to supporting work doesn’t help in a highly networked world. Why should HR, IT, Finance, Training, KM, OD, Marketing etc. be separate functions? It’s time to rid our organizations of Taylor’s ghost and I’m detecting a small groundswell of similar sentiments like radically different management.”

I could not agree more with him. The organizational structure, in general and for the support functions, needs fresh approach, a new mindset. Harold Jarche’s passion is in helping organizations re-integrate work and learning. The new mindset must integrate these two. A learning organization can adapt and adopt.

There is naturally a need for tools to support the transformation: social software. These tools support organizations in the creation of trusted relationships which are required for tacit knowledge sharing.  I’ve earlier blogged about the need of knowledge flows instead of knowledge stocks.

It is easy to find excellent thinking and analysis around social software, for example by Dion Hinchcliffe, R “Ray” Wang, Oscar Berg and rest of the people on my Enterprise 2.0 Twitter list.

I’ve had my share of ‘silo frustration’ and will eagerly continue to study this topic. What exactly should be done then? I’ll leave that to the professionals, but I do believe that on a personal level some of the key areas can be found in this diagram “Principles of being a Creativist” (which I found here):

Accordingly, my new year’s resolution is that I will do my best to follow these Creativist principles.

My open questions are:

  • In addition to the beloved System Integrators do we need Silo Integrators inside the organization? Is building the integration of organizational support a responsibility of the Top Management, Human Resources, or the infamous Somebody Else™? Do we need new roles for this kind of approach?
  • In IT Service Management sphere there’s  lots of talk about Business IT Alignment. Sure, but do we need Business to Business Alignment instead? And I think IT’s business is business.

I’d love to hear your point of view meanwhile I’m trying to learn more!


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