Summary : everybody’s talking about social and 2.0 in the workplace but, when it comes to put it at work, they often struggle at moving from a discourse in terms of philosophy and general postures to a practical implementation in everyone’s day to day life. We need to go to a more granular level to determine principles of action and organization that need to apply to any work situation. If not we’ll keep up doing social for social’s stake and there won’t be anything to expect rom it. So go beyond posture, change work principles and apply them…what can be done with or without tools.
That’s the paradox of what we call social or 2.0 solutions, either tools or usages. Nearly everyone is convinced by the potential of the approach but adopts a wait-and-see policy and stays doubtful about the value that’s actually created.
So, let’s start from the beginning ? What is social exactly ? Conversational approaches relying on networks and communities, supposed to facilitate knowledge and experience sharing first, then decision making and problem solving once the system helps to connect the right people and information at the right time.
Problem is, and we know it, that networking, communities and conversations don’t spontaneously create value. First because they must be aligned with strategic goals and operating needs. Then because the mass of knowledge that’s generated and shared is not often immediately useful. A conversation on an emerging topic can, suddenly, get an increased importance because of the launch of a new product..6 months after it took place. An information shared one day has a relative value as such but, once reused hundreds of time in the year, can have an actual value. Last, because in addition to being useful, information has to be reusable. That’s not because one identifies a new approach to a problem that he’ll have ne needed autonomy to implement it, change a process or a validated operating model.
So, even if very helpful and valuable, it does not solve everything and not totally.
Now, let’s try to step back and have a more systemic view. Forget conversations, networks and communities to identify some key principles that are, of courses, a part of the social approach but could also be applied in many other ways.
That’s a first draft, a work in progress that needs improvement but, at first sight, those principles would be :
• Visibility : that’s making things visible. We’re talking about information, people, the actions they perform (cf the concepts of “observable work”, “working out loud” I mentioned there, what Dion Hinchcliffe, or John Stepper wrote about it). Sometimes it will be asolute (something is visible by anybody) sometimes relative (restricted to some people or actions). It implies a signal is sent and received and the ability to crawl and search data and objects.
• Social objectization. Sorry for the neologism but I haven’t found anything better. What is it about ? First considering that any “thing” is an object in our information and communication system. By “thing” I means a person, a document, a message, a piece of conversation, any kind of alert or event generated by any business application, any entry (client, opportunity, step of a cycle or process). Bu that’s not enough. The object has to be social. What means that anyone who can access it can turn it into the subject of a conversation with whom he needs, share it, (co)edit it if needed…
• connectivity : the ability for people to be able to connect together (what implies they can find one another), connect to information to follow it or act upon it.
• Interactions : the ability toact with and upon any kind of object and, if needed, the ability for the object to react.
• Desintermediation : direct access to whom and what ones need. Connection can me intermediated, not the interactions that follow.
• Subsidiarity : any person can and has to deal with what is their matter regarding to his level of responsibility without having to forward it to a superior authority. If one has not the competencies to act/make a decision on his own, he’ll forward the problem to his superior if it’s a matter of delegation of power or involve peers and experts in his process if it’s a matter of expertise.
• Context : helps to rationalize the other principles. Visibility etc. depends on context. Contexts helps, at a given moment, to prioritize signals, determine the suitable level of interaction and connectivity. Most of all, it makes sense of all the rest because it often implies a goal to meet. When principles will be used when trying to close a deal, get information to make a decision or even socializing and eventually learn one or two things, they’ll apply differently in each case. Context also determines the level of priority of an action vs. another (solving a customer problem vs. educated oneself by strolling in a community).
At worse you can notice that there may lack something about participant’s state of mind to make the system work but, in my opinion, exogenous. As a matter of fact, such a system works because of the relative balance of appetite, sense and alignment. Or, in other workds, of the felt and understood benefit, the need and the appetite for something. Refusing to work on the systemic dimension made organizations focus on appetite to such an extent that is was the only thing being leveraged for adoption. Of course it matters but focusing too much on it makes people go againt the official organization of work…and they are the ones who have to pick up the pieces.
So, let’s put it all in a social or 2?0 perspective when the focus is more on communities, networks, conversations, adoption etc. We can see some slights differences but, in the end, the model works because of these principles. What does it mean ?
- to some extent, applying these principles to any organization does not always need tools or software. Rather, technology is only a catalyst that allows to go further, stronger, but what matters is operating principles. Examples ? Semco or Morning Star. The way one behaves toward others, hierarchy, information or decision is not a matter of tool.
Last point, principles are worthless if not applied to something defined, in an adapted, elaborated, contextual way. Need evidences ? Tell you staff “now let’s share, be autonomous, responsive, exchange !”…and they’ll look at you with something in their eyses saying “hey…what’s wrong with him ?”. Tell them what it means regarding to a given activity, and if possible an activity that makes sense to them and if, in addition, you implement the organization and management changes that will make these practices normal, obvious, acceptable, things will get much better.
Consequence : being social to be social, urging people to adopt a new state of mind without changing anything in day to day activities is valueless. It will only get to either nothing or sterile conversations. No intrinsic value but an extrinsic one provided we consider principles should specifically apply to something. A little bit like with a turning engine, depending on either you’re in first gear or in neutral.
In other words, socializing the organization is not a matter of praising new behaviors but practically applying the above mentioned principles to business activities and people. So we need to understand what it means, in terms of management, work routines, decision making etc… when applied to :
- internal communication
- case management
- processus modeling and execution
-…add your own focus here since the list potentially endless
Social and 2.0 are effectiveness principles to apply to day-to-day activities and process and not only a philosophy to adopt.