Tomorrow’s enterprise will be collaborative, today’s wont.

The future of enterprise is collaboration and, more broadly, new forms of organizations where power is more distributed, competences et knowledge more shared and structure self-reconfigurable.

But we must admit that, except some exceptions and despite of all the efforts made over the last years and even decades, businesses struggle at becoming “fully collaborative enterprises”, no matter how sophisticated is the technology they use.

One of the reasons for this is simple : the collaborative is the result of a very subtle balance of organization, technologies and human relationships. A so subtle balance that it’s highly unstable. The least thing going wrong is enough to break the collaborative dynamics. Anyone can see it everyday at a team level and it’s even more true at the enterprise level.

Why collaborate to deliver a taylorist promise ?

Another reason seems more and more obvious to me over time : it struggles to work because, paradoxically, even if they are and ideal form of work for many leaders, these forms of organizations don’t meet any need.

As we as seen over the years, employees were told to collaborate more without wondering on the meaning and tell them why. Collaborate ? Why ? Hmm…to collaborate !  Of course that’s too light. If one does not understand either the benefit for the company or for himself, there are few chances anything changes.

From a more “macro” perspective, that’s an issue related to the lack of understanding and visibility of the impact of change. The impact of “working differently” is rarely visible for employees who cant’ visualize the impact of their own change and to understand its worthiness. Especially when people are far from the customer. By getting more and more complex as they added new layers to respond to each new need/constraint, organizations made their employes lose awareness of their impact on the business, on operations. Some functions word in their own bubble, consider their mission as a goal by itself without caring about how their activity contributes to the overall performance.

I believed that digital transformation would help to go one step further. I still do so but only partially.

Digital transformation aligns employees with the promise made to the customer

From my perspective, one of the main characteristics of digital transformation is that it breaks the wall between customer and employee facing initiative, creates a relationship between internal change, the business model and customer orientation while businesses used to manage the evolution of marketing et of the organization in silos, overlooking that the first brings meaning and the second traction to change.

Today I can see this happening. Businesses fear for the future of their model and for their own survival. They think about the future of their sector, of their business model, of their value proposition for the customer and their ability to reinvent themselves. Once they come a a conclusion they realize that they won’t be able to run their new model the way they’re running the current one. “We’ll need to work differently, with new competences”. I’m not saying that internal transformation is their first concern but it’s sure that they know they won’t succeed if they don’t care about that at some point.

On the contrary the sense of urgency regarding to collaboration for the present is weaker. Collaboration will be mandatory tomorrow but today it’s only nice to have.

New business model are needed to give the collaborative enterprise a meaning

In fact most of today’s products, services and business models are designed to work with yesterday’s and today’s organizations, child of Taylor. Everything’s designed to be done regarding to the existing. A flexible and collaborative back office makes no sense when its purpose is to serve a taylorist model. It improves things but is not essential because its benefits are curbed by the rigidity of the model that would take few benefits from a different organization. But, once people think about a new model, they necessarily start thinking about how to run it.

What leads to my statement : tomorrow’s enterprise will surely be collaborative because designed to support models where collaboration is mandatory.  Today’s one sees the meaning of collaboration curbed by its business model and the way its offering is designed.

A question remains : how long will it take…?


Photo credit : future collaboration by Creativa Images via shutterstock

Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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