Summary : we can often hear that the path is more important than the destination and the world of enterprise 2.0 and social business is experiencing it every day. Lots of critics and deceptions these last months. There’s a reason to that : enterprises have been told where to do and had to build their path to it without being able to wonder if it was its own destination, a custom-made one. Let’s also had that everyone has his own definition of the definition in question, so everyone is getting quite lost. What if any enterprise should not reinvent its own future, regardless to what would have been build, packaged and standardized by other. If they reach the same destination, at least they will know why. Enterprise 2.0 is not a destination by itself. But, if it’s not a destination, it’s a way to define a path, to choose a way rather than another, a way to drive, a vehicle. Provided these choices are relevant with what will define one’s future, not with a dogma or a current in opinion. Enterprise 2.0 is an utopia that anyone should reinvent according to his context to make it work in the real world.
Will I surprise you if I say that more and more people, even rather positive toward enterprise 2.0, are showing more and more dissatisfaction. There are two kinds of reasons to that. Some objective, some subjective.
Let’s start with objective ones. Adoption is not as fast as expected. Not that many enterprises are really doing it and those who started still struggle at making their program global. Many are still doubtful about the result. Not because no one got tangible benefits but because these benefits still don’t look systematic. I’ve already mentioned this point in some previous posts and will continue on future ones so I wont elaborate a lot here. No structural approach, focus on learning above the flow of work and few things on organizing work, irrelevant measurement tools etc… are part of the explanation.
Subjective reasons then. At the beginning enterprise 2.0 was nothing more than a statement : some organizations managed to do some things in another way by using tools of a new kind (read Andrew McAfee first and second definition).The “why” and the “how” where out of the scope because McAfee’s angle was about “technology enabled organizations”. Tools make some things possible. Period. Now, anyone has to find his own why and how. His path. Then, with time, because of the collective reflection, things moved forward :
- is an organization that manages to implement new ways of working without using tools an enterprise 2.0 ? Regarding to the definition the answer is no. But it has become obvious that what matters is the state of mind, tools only being the ball with which we play the game. So…if one manage to play better without changing the ball, what’s the problem ? First point of difference of opinion.
- considering the above point, is enterprise 2.0 only about above-the-flow learning or can it be about “in-the-flow” ? Any of them ? Both ?
- the comes the impact of the 2.0 culture, coming from the web. Community, equality, accountability, respect, solidarity, openness. Should enterprise look like this ? Should enterprise 2.0 aim at bringing a new culture or could it focus only on operation performance ? Is culture a goal or a means ?
So there are at least three variable that give enterprise 2.0 at least tenths of faces. With or without technology ? Productive, learning or both ? Adopting democratic principles or not ?
There’s so surprise that, in the end, no one recognizes “his” enterprise 2.0, his own ideal and cherished model in what others say.
Two conclusions before going further :
• the original vision of enterprise 2.0 was rather the statement of the possibility of a tech enabled organization and quickly turned into a debate on organizational evolution in which technology has its place, but not a dominant one.
• a couple of month ago I wrote on twitter : “sorry for those that thought that 2.0 or social will solve all the problems. They only showed the disease was stronger than expected”. We have evidences of that every day : because they tried to focus on the destination, the solution, the minimal thing anyone could understand (an organization where people have conversations into communities by using a social network), enterprises failed at understanding all what has to be accomplished to get there.
Focusing on a poorly defined destination, organizations did not pay attention to the path to get there. Enterprise 2.0 is rather a statement one can make at the end of the road, not a destination one can choose before.
Let’s imagine the following discussion
- I’m thinking about the future of my company…but also about being competitive and effective right now.
- Oh. That’s easy. Let’s adopt enterprise 2.0 (or social business or…)
- Ah ? What is it about ?
- that’s an enterprise that …
- Hmmm…I don’t recognize us in this description. That’s not us. And it’s quite a vague definition. A rough idea of the final result but nothing about how it works everyday and contributes to business.
- That’s it. You need help. You need to be accompanied, to manage change…
So enterprises started with change management programs to become enterprises 2.0. And that’s the problem. If we keep in mind that the path is more important than the destination, all the energy used to copy a model and not to build one’s and move forward on the path, wherever it will lead and whatever the name of the destination.
One may say that focusing on the path has a risk : realizing, at the end, that the result is neither enterprise 2.0 or social business. And so what ? If the original idea is then enterprises will get there. If it’s not they’ll arrive elsewhere and will be happy to have not put the car before the horse and ended into a dead end. In my opinion, things will be a mix of both : well defined, strong principles applied very specifically to the needs and context of a given organization.
In short, as I recently heard : “I don’t care about becoming an enterprise 2.0, I want to become “me”, the version of me that fits my future. Give it the name you want…that’s not my problem but the problem of those who analyze what I do”.
I agree with that. But what does “adopting one’s future” means. I’d say, at least :
- have a clear understanding of the evolution of economy, markets, society, and use it understand where one’s own industry and business is going, the role (or lack of) a given enterprise should play in society.
This is more important than anything else. Organizations should identify what will make their more competitive, performant, and turn it into concrete ways of working. Vague concepts like “we’re in a connected world”, “business is complex”, “social customer is taking over”, or “Generation Y is changing the workplace” does not mean anything. Organizations need specific facts that work in their own case, arguments that are their own and not general remarks that works both for everybody and nobody, that don’t make make a given enterprise think that changing thing is a matter of life and death. Not because one shoud do it or because everybody’s doing it but because it should be done in one’s specific situation, no matter what others are doing or not.
Then deduce efficiency principles that will be applied in three dimensions :
- produce : that’s obvious but it’s better when stated. That’s about day to day organization and management : decision making, autonomy, problem solving methods etc..
- learn : that about improving individual and collective skills. How knowledge is harnessed and shared, how learning happens in and out the flow of work, the place of communities into work etc..
- act into ecosystems : no one is an island and organization play an economic and social role outside of its walls. It’s about all the “co-doing” stuff (innovation, value creation etc…) that involved both the enterprise and its stakeholders (partners, customers, society). What is the nature of these activities, their philosophy, how it works. It ranges from marketing to social entrepreneurship approaches.
In each of these dimensions, organizations will jointly work on the human side, management and technology with a result driven approach and no preconceived idea. That’s not about applying a model but finding how things should be done according to what will be key in the future.
If enterprise 2.0 is not the destination, it can help to choose the path, to prefer one road and not another, a style, a vehicle. Provided this choice is relevant with what is the future one’s business, not with a dogma.
Once done, organizations may have a clear vision on what road to take. But that’s not enough.Observing enterprise 2.0 projects in many organizations makes something obvious : no one is heading in the same direction, even inside a single enterprise. Production is done one way, learning happens in another and stakeholders are managed in a third one. Initiatives are wasted, resources used to do anything and its opposite and it causes a kind of organizational and cultural schizophrenia. This is a major cause of failure : enterprise 2.0 projects have been lead without any kind of coherence between these three dimensions (many projects competing on a single dimensions sometimes)…and even with no coherence with the global strategic project of the organization.
But enough is enough…we will discuss coherence issues in a future post
PS : in the end this has nothing to do with enterprise 2.0 but with enterprise in general ? This won’t make sure technology will be adopted ? Of course…Purposely. It’s an approach driven by sense, not by beliefs.