Agility : towards the “market enterprise”

In brief : Enterprise 2.0 and Social Business aim at a flexible and disintermediate allocation of intangible assets, according to needs, for a better organizational agility. A model that can’t be affixed on actual planned ones that are the norm, despite of the numerous adoption programs.

To explain and justify many new approaches to work and organization, many refer to the Cluetrain manifesto and the first of its these : “Markets are conversations”. Hence the need for new practices that are the cornerstones of many “social” and “2.0″ approaches.

Market are conversations. But enterprises are not markets.

Simple common sense ? I’m usually more that doubtful about this. I have no doubt the principle applies to relationships between businesses and their customers. Even if I’m unsure whether businesses are ready to draw all the possible consequences. But, after all, that’s the purpose of such manifestos : increase awareness. A first sight businesses and customers operate on a market but reality is different and the model businesses have always tried to enforce looks more like planned economy : programs and trends are created, pushed, customers agree, relay the message and buy. There are better examples of what markets are as places where offer and demand meet and are built. But it’s a priori a market by nature and businesses should draw all the necessary conclusions and act accordingly instead of keeping the illusion of the planned model they’ve managed to impose for decades.

But what’s about internal functioning ? The purpose of the above mentioned approaches is to make workplaces become markets. At least for knowledge :make owners meet seekers and, at best, keep improving it in the flow of work. But, on the other hand, enterprises are not markets and, contrary to what happens with customers, were never meant to be. Their model is made of strict planned resource allocation (time, people, budgets) what makes that the effort to make a conversational model emerge in the workplace is mostly doomed to fail. Corporate culture is often held responsible for all the blockings but, in fact, it’s an easy scapegoat.

Reality is much more simple. The resource allocation model often makes it difficult for conversations to happen and, most of times, prevents to make the most of it. Not only identifying the right resource and have a conversation with him is rather complicated but it’s nearly impossible to go further and mobilize the resource to go further, even for the smallest task.

While adoption and engagement programs do everything possible to favor conversations that fluidify markets, nothing is done do deal with the system that prevents businesses to function this way. The consequences of the problem are still handled through exhortation but nothing is done to fix the problem itself.

 

The “market enterprise” : an agility condition

That said the model of “enterprise market” is a something we should consider very seriously because it’s a key component of an agile organization. Not only for knowledge exchange but for a better allocation of any resource and cost control. As a matter of fact, if the conversational model helps to make supply meet needs in a flexible way without too much coordination, it can apply to many cases, some of them being well known, others less.

• Need for knowledge, return on practical experience

• Need for exceptional financial resources while there are allocated budgets that have not been fully used which owners are trying to find a way to use them “locally” while there are urgent needs elsewhere that can’t be funded.

• Need for a spare resource for a micro-task.

Crowdsouring, open innovation, crowdfunding. We know all these concepts but they work better outside of the organization than inside.

In the end, and despite of the crisis and the takeover it caused, there are lots of underutilized resources that can’t be identified and made available what causes additional costs (turn to external providers vs internal resources) or budgetary nonsense (a department needs a couple of thousands dollars for something very important while another is trying to find ways to spend spare budgets on non essential projects)

But don’t fool ourselves. What matters is not to build internal marketplace. They often already exist or don’t need much effort to emerge. The real stake is to reinvent resource allocation mechanisms, what will put CHROs and management control teams into cold sweats.

No flexible resource allocation in a planned model

Anyway, we’d better go beyond window dressing effects. The necessary evolution of organizations si not only a matter of collaboration, engagement and conversations. Before all it’s a very technical issue that related to resource allocation. But, obviously, incantation and adoption are still the prefered way to lead change even if leading to against nature behaviors.

A flexible allocation model of intangible assets based on exchanges and conversations will never work if organizations content themselves with transplanting it over a planned one. That’s as simple as that. Exhortation and gamification won’t fix it.