People Centric Organizations ? Not that sure…

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One of the most common thing we can hear about enterprise 2.0 is that “it’s about people”. Even if it delivers a meaningful meassage, it brings more questions than it solves, leaving enterprises into doubt, if not in fear. I’m not even sure that everybody agree on what it means at the end. “It’s about people” is a bit like the “enterprise 2.0” word : vague enough to gather many people, not defined enough to provide a framework for action.

What businesses may undersand is “power to people”, “people matter more than organization”. At the end they see a real threat to essential concepts such as organization/objectives/discipline/work. I think it’s a huge misunderstanding : it’s not about the cult of the “individual kingé” but about optimizing the way it’s used as a resource. That does not prevent from having an human vision of business, to value and give consideration to people, to help them develop and improve. But the main objective, let’s be honnest, is to make people give their best, to be sure that no talent or expertise is left unemployed. That’s the macro level. (Those who want to know more about the “union risk” must refer to this post by Oliver Young).

At the micro level, it’s considering people as the engines of the organization. And their knowledge and social capital as the fuel. A new kind a fuel that can’t be stocked, replaced or substitutable and which combustion is uncertain. By “uncertain”, I mean that it delivers energy when it wants, and decide of its energetic power according to its current mood and state of mind. That’s a big change, considering the times when companies owned the engine or the fuel. That’s the reason why things like motivation, sense, engagement, are more important than ever. So, “it’s about people” means that people are the factor that limit any change or transformation project. More, it’s a factor no company can’t do without. Even of some understand than once things are implemented, they’ll be able to take the most of everyone, it’s also important to understand that working on the human parameter is key to achieve anything, how great and fantastic social media tools can be. Culture, that is a point that many try to dispose of because of lack of courage, remains essential.

Then comes “User Generated Content”. Many businesses fear generating monsters, that’s to say the uncontrable popularity of employees trying to overpromote their own status, what would go against the seeked efficiency. With hindsight, experience shows that people are not the entry point to new practices but are only the fuel. Except for CxOs or recognized experts, people don’t focus on other people as such but because they are relevant from a business viewpoint. And that changes many things. A good example is Google wave: it’s the subject that aggregates people, that determines who has to be involved into a wave. That’s the same of every social tool : it’s all about outputs and people only exist through their ability to contribute to a given output. This shows the limits of personal branding strategies in the workplace. Anyway, what has to be understood is that it’s not a “people vs process debate”, on the contrary it’s about taking the most of people while following processes.

People are engines, essential, and deserve all our attention. But, at the end, in a corporate 2.0 context, they are not central points round which everything revolve but only exist through their ability to bring an added value. The “It’s about people” word is not absolute but has to be contextualized according to the expected outputs.

Even powered by people more than ever, enterprises are still objective driven productive organizations. We all should remind this.

capital informationnel, capital social, engagement, Entreprise 2.0, Management, medias sociaux, motivation, people-centrism, personal branding, process, Ressources Humaines, sens, social-media, syndicats, ugc

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Head of Employee and Client Experience @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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