Enterprise 2.0’s weakness ? Decision

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Let’s assume that, through a mix a community management and socio-collaborative management, businesses manage to make information and people for identifiable and accessible in order to facilitate and accelerate workaday execution, solve problems and invent tomorow’s products and operating models. Even if that sounds seducing, there’s something wrong in the reasonning.

All these dynamics and informations don’t create any value by themselves. That’s one of the reasons why, even if the value of such things is admitted by nearly everybody, there’s still something in decision-maker’s heads that prevent them from seing the tangible value behind.

All these things, this informal, organizational, human capital etc.. create nothing but a potential. A hudge potential though, but only a potential. This brings us back to what I wrote about strategy maps. All this things does not bring anything if not reused in structured and formalized operations. There are some ways to do so :

• Social routine that brings information reuse on the flow.

• Decision : that makes possible that something new is used or started.

I’d like to focus on this last point.

The level of decision depends on the company, its culture and the level of automy it allows to employees. Sometimes, one can easily try something that has been suggested by a colleague, someone he needs his boss’ approval. It also depends on the extent of the change it brings to the normality, to the rule.

A discussion can happen and, as a result, everyone may agree that something new has to be done : improve a product, start a new one, change the way things are done. But if the person that’s in charge to say “go” does not react, nothing will happen. Many reasons to that :

– the person is not a part of the discussion

– this person is not using the platform where the discussion happened. It happens when the social media project has been put in quarantine to prevent it from harming “traditional” business.

– this person does not care about it. It happens when processes have not been aligned so the person does not understand that what happens on social platform has to be taken into account for decision-making and operations.

– this person thinks that consensus is enough and things will happen by themselves. It often happens when managers think they give more autonomy to their employees than what the latter feel they really have.

Organizations don’t act or react without decision. That’s a difference with what happens on the web, due to the responsibility that hierarchy has to assume : discussing is not deciding and reaching a consensus is not deciding either until the person that has to make a decision makes it and make people know it.

Things does not always happen by themselves without caring about them. If an organization is not ready to implement these new practices in their workaday operations (so it didn’t went further than “strict” adoption”), managers will still say “your idea is good…share it” or, “good question, ask the community” etc…people will still share informations and discussions….and nothing will happen.

This issue seems to be widely undertackled in the current enterprise 2.0 paradigm. It matters at two levels :

– practices, that are often driven to stimulate conversations without caring about the possible loss between the growing quantity of intentions and execution that never happens. Nothing is done to care about how information and conversations will be turned into real value, what implies there’s a connection between the informal and the formal spheres. And decision making is a hudge part of this connection.

– tools, that often neglect to make”call to action”, task assignment and follow up possible as the prolongation of any discussion. Or when they they don’t push the logic too far. This is the missing link between informal activities and business operations. Saying that, it’s important to notice that some tools now have such things : those who conceive social activies not as something on its own but at the way to enrich a workflow, a process, and integrated execution-related constraints in their design. Most of time they are innovation related toos and, generally speaking, those that Hutch Carpenter calls “social software 2.0”, and that, according to me, are a part of the “Activity-Specific Social Applications” field recently introduced by Gartner.In the same fashion, there are traditional process and workflow application that all will, sooner or later, have a social component. Of course Salesforce Chatter is a good example but it’s only the beginning.

If you still wonder if this issue is relevant, maybe knowing that Intellipedia, the famous project of the CIA that received many awards, is suffering from a kind of mid-life crisis because of decision-making issues, may help you change your mind.

Maybe the only limit to the value of conversation is the ability to make decisions…