After a somber assessment of the current situation, here come not the annual predictions that seldom become reality and are more like prophecies we expect to be self-fulfilling, but perspectives for next year. They have nothing unescapable but one thing is sure : that’s the way many businesses are following and it’s sure that it will keep them ahead.
What is the assessment they made ?
1°) the more or less voluntary adoption of social technologies for cross-silos exchanges, above the flow of work is, of course beneficial. But if it helps to build a learning organisations it’s seldom enough to gather a critical mass of users and does not change the productive dimension of work.
2°) user adoption is not enough. Managers need to adopt as managers to reinvent their role and the way they organize work.
3°) nothing happens if change makes no sense. What means : tied to a vital stake, understood and shared by everyone, made acceptable in the context of work.
What used to matter was what could be seen on a screen, not in the workplace
Things should start with the last point, what’s barely been the case in the past. The reason is well known : it takes time to work on intangible things that make the rest possible while businesses want to see things happening on screens as soon as possible. No matter the nature and the impact of these “things”. But what happens on screens is nothing but the reflect of what happens in real life : hence the impressive gap that’s usually filled by community management because employees don’t use their enterprise social network for actual work and managers for management, the new practices made possible not being acceptable in the organization and people being neither ready nor prepared.
That’s a trend that’s slowly changing and that’s what we can expect to happen in 2014 : a work on sense and context.
No one should forget that, behind the most significant use cases there’s a managerial reality that comes before technology adoption.
• Companies like Morning Star or Gore are often mentioned as models for decentralized, empowering companies that make people accountable, make them autonomous and where delegation is the norm. Where’s technology ? Nowhere. There’s a management model and a corporate culture. One fits in the system or goes out. If social technologies are used, they are the second or even third level of the system because they are only the consequence of the rest.
• Vineet Nayar is praised for what he did at HCL. I agree that the system works with technologies that make things easier but technology was made useful by a higher purpose, a corporate vision and project that helped employees to make sense of technology. Without a new system that’s the consequence of a collective awareness that the company was going to die, technology would have been useless. Nayar, with his employees, redefined the business model, work practices and corporate values. A well organized, managed, collective and mandatory approach. Not something one decides to adopt or not.
• IBM is also doing interesting things. But not remembering that their enterprise social network has been developed internally to support new work practices made mandatory by a transformation plan that helped Big Blue to survive in the 90s is like refusing to see what’s essential. It’s the managerial project that lead to new practices and created the need for tools allowing to implement these practices at scale.
• As for Danone, if no one questioned the sense of the Dan 2.0 project and the arrival of en enterprise social network in 2009, it must be because the company has been rolling out a managerial project called “networking attitude” since 2003, which was something like “2.0 without technology”.
• Another project too few people mention : Support Central at GE. Thinking that an expertise-gathering and problem solving “machine” did emerge by itself would be a mistake. GE has been using a problem solving methodology since the 80s and technology only made it faster and more scalable. But nothing would have been possible without a formalized and shared practice.
Sens, context and operations
What do these companies have in common :
• A sense-based approach
• A work on the context in which their model is put at work : RH, leadership, management etc…
• A focus on operations : there’s the way to manage project, to make decisions, to delegate that are part of the internal processes, operations that embed the collaborative and social approaches others expect to emerge by miracle.
Their focus was not to know what technology to use but how work should be done. Technology won’t change the way a business work in a coherent and irrevocable way : people will, according the system in which they work. Today, businesses have the responsibility of building a new context, not exhorting people to change without making anything mandatory.
Towards digital transformation
So there’s a matter of adaptation and even transformation at stake before anything related to adoptionn. That’s a way more and and more businesses are now following, calling it “digital transformation”. The word many not be relevant because, as we read, the transformation is human and organization before all, digital being only one of its channels, but it does not matter. This dimension must prevail, comes before (or at least accompany) any adoption program that wouldn’t change the way the company works if rolled-out alone.
What is digital transformation made of ?
• An HR stream : skills to develop and acquire, new learning/training approaches, job descriptions, evaluation systems, work/life balance as technology becomes more and more ubiquitous, remote work, BYOD (that is not only about IT….)
• A management stream : digital leadership (how to be the same leader in 140 characters than in a meeting room), delegations, decision making, role of managers, trust, transparency.
• A process stream : new operation models and process to bring more flexibility, collective intelligence and on the job learning, getting rid of useless activities (validation, reporting…) that slow business down;
• An IT stream : BYOD, reinventing the digital workplace.
A lot can be added to this list. These streams have to be conducted in the perspective of a “higher purpose”, the reinvention of business and word models that’s vital, not a relooking to look nice.
Of course it takes time and it’s about working on things that are not visible at first sight. No one will see the impact when he switches his computer on..or not immediately. But experience shows that it’s the only way to an impactful, sense-driving and value-creating transformation that goes far beyond communities and conversational window-dressing.