Enterprise 2.0 does not tolerate halve measures

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Summary : many organizations have undertaken a transformation process. Each one is moving forward at its own rate, according to its ambitions and fears, to what seems possible and what they don’t want to tackle. But for what results ? As we may fear, a recent McKinsey study shows that such programs don’t tolerate half measures.. As a matter of fact, organizations that tackle organization issues and business processes make much more out of their projet than those who stay with the soft, community based and out of the flow of work approach. Even worse, the latter not only don’t progress but slowly regress as lack of sense, of alignment and coherence discourage even the more engaged zealots.

I’ve been observing many organizations on they journey to new forms of organization, no matter if it’s called enterprise 2.0 or social business, and the least I can say is that some of my early convictions are being reinforced day after day. Don’t worry, this is not about any outstanding disruptive concept or awesome discovery, but only common sense that can apply to any project. But, on the other hand, the only outstanding thing about this is the fact lots have believed and made others believe that so basic principles would not apply here for such a long time. A little but like if Boeing or Airbus started designing a new aircraft saying “for this one we’ll consider that gravity does not exist”.

In other words

1°) It’s easy to start with small shiny projects and end with a nice end result even it if means to make things more attractive that they actually are.

2°) Counting on passion and keen interest help doing this easily. But the further you’ll want to go, with a greater ambition and and wider scope, the more a rational approach focusing on operation efficiency will be needed.

3°) If we compare the progress curve with a hill to climb, a time comes when passion and interest aren’t enough. Even if they can conceal the lack of work on sense and alignment at the very beginning, adoption logics show their limits one day or the other. Something more is needed to climb the last mile.

3°) Talking about sense and alignment means making this new operating model logical, understood, coherent in the context of work. Making it structural. This can’t be done without rethinking management practices and making business processes evolve, what’s been a taboo for a long time even if things are slowly changing.

4°) Making a break in the middle of the journey is not possible. No one can say “I’m going to this point but not further…I don’t want to handle such or such kind of issues”. At this point the comparison with a hill is quite relevant : who stops on the middle of the way does not stay immobile but regresses. As a matter of fact, even the more engaged zealots are returning back on earth, tired of swimming against the current, adoption behaviors that go against the very nature of their organization and even against their own interest. So they end in letting things go.

In short, one can install any software, fall into the community illusion, thinking that making people participate in addition to their work in above the the flow communities will be enough. If nothing is done to proceed to the newt next, interest and motivation will decrease because of lack of coherence, direct benefits.

I’m even ready to bet that many of yesterday and today’s so-called successes will be only souvenirs in one or two years. When the community bubble, disconnected from the reality of operations will burst, when programs relying only one people’s willingness and passion will fail and, with them, window-dressing projects.

Guess what ? It’s more or less the conclusions of a recent McKinsey study. What does it say ?

In the study we can learn than bringing new social approaches and tools in the organization actually  generates some added value. We also learn that, will time, more and more organizations have reached this step. But we’re also told something much more important. Compared to last year’s study, the number of organizations that are well advanced in the change process has decreased.

What’s the difference between the ones and the others ? The business process side. Like it or not, it’s what structures work and align it with value creation. Anything that does not impact them ends by looking secondary, even futile.

 

Respondents expect social technologies to modify many of their organizations’ current processes. In addition, many believe that entirely new processes could arise if barriers to use—cultural obstacles, for example—fall (Exhibit 8). The respondents affiliated with fully networked organizations are the likeliest to believe that greater process change will occur in their own organizations. In larger numbers than respondents in other clusters, they think that social technologies will lead their companies to adopt entirely new processes under current conditions and to do so even more aggressively if all constraints were removed.

 

But the most valuable learning is that so one can stop half-way to avoid questioning the organization’s deepest principles and tackle sensitive areas. As a matter of fact those who don’t try to make it to the end of the road slowly step back and regress. Consequently, all the undertaken efforts will be vain because, in the end, the organization will logically get back to the starting point. What should remind us that the only person that knows what an organization can make out of such projects is the person who usually asks the question, not the ones it’s being asked to.

Another notable thing considering the discussing on whether organization should decide to face the crisis by strengthening the current structure or by changing it :

 

Companies should prepare for more substantial disruptions. Since many executives believe that significant changes will occur as (or if) constraints on social tools and technologies are lifted, companies that can create change themselves—instead of reacting to it—are likely to benefit the most.

It seems clear that rather than opposition to change or reaction, the ability to create one’s own change is what will define the survivors.

As a conclusion, we’re talking about strategies that can’t work with halve-measures. The vague stacking of communities on the top of existing organizations, the deployment of a software which use have to be found, the “I would like to change without changing anything” attitude is not enough. Without a global plan, projects are doomed to fail.