Putting conversation into processes

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Summary : nowadays, people need to continuously solve problems to execute business processes. To do so they need a quick and easy assess to knowledge. But knowledge needs stimulis to be expressed, what seldom happes out of conversational logics. Traditional processes need to be enriched with a social layer. On top of that, business processes are the smallest common denominator upon which an enterprise 2.0 dynamic can start without having to deal too much with cultural issues because it brings a focus to what makes sense for anyone : solving actual issues they face while they tried to achieve what they are evaluated on.

There are many ways to deal with the articulation of enterprise 2.0 dynamics with business processes. Here’s the presentation I made at the Enterprise 2.0 Forum in Milan in June.

And here are some explainations…At the beginning it was an HR topic : how to get the most out of any organization’s human capital.

1°) Originally seen as a cost (people that are paid to produce), human capital is more and more seen as a strategic asset, a resource that can give much more than its workforce, and even more that what’s expected from it in a defined and rigid work process.

2°) The nature of work has changed. Before, knowledge and intelligence were used to design processes that could be executed by anyone without any special competency. Today, intelligence and knowledge are used by those who execute processes because proceeding from one step to another requires them to solve problems.

3°) Knowlegde is embodied (someone owns it and stores it between his two ears), can’t be stocked, is contextualized and is delivered through conversations because people needs stimulis to remind and tell what they know.

4°) So providing people with the right tool to connect, share and have conversations would be enough to solve all problems ? Unfortunately it does not work.

5°) First because organizations are not comfortable with the “gambling” side of enterprise 2.0, the vague promise that things will happen without being able to tell what, when and how.

6°) Second because there are many barriers that prevent peopel from adopting these logics : some cultures are more skeptic than positive, privacy is a key issue and people can’t link social dynamics to business issues intuitively.

7°) One possible solution : start from the smallest common denominator shared by any person even if skeptic, even if he doesn’t want to hear about unstructured work. This denominator is day to day processes and worklows that have to be enriched by a social routine built around structured work, what reassures and makes sense.

8°) One only goal : speed up process delivery by solving real problems employees actually face.

9°) One thing to keep in mind : the cost of human capital is impressive for organizations. Without such an approach that helps to go beyond limits that are inherent in the very nature of current processes and make the investment in HC (hiring, trainging, salaries…) profitable, they will get very few from what they are spending because employees won’t be enabled to deliver their full potential.

Of course it’s only one of the many possible entry points but it applies to lots of situations and often makes sense for organizations of any kind, whatever the context is.