Envisioning and shaping the future of work and business.

Monday, November 9, 2009

This week in links - week 45, 2009

1:29:00 PM Posted by Oscar Berg , , No comments
We spoke today with Mike Gotta, an industry analyst with the Burton Group. He puts it well. For data entry and claims processing, people use other tools. The Enterprise 2.0 offerings augment their work.

"Dennis has a point," Gotta said. "These systems are not workflow driven - we already have tools to do that. "These tools augment work. They enhance it, they enrich it."
It is common knowledge that “what you can’t measure, you can’t manage”. And because knowledge is intangible by nature, it is not measurable and therefore not manageable. This argument is seated in a fundamental law of Science. Consequently, the only way to move forward is to rematerialise knowledge, which we do by transforming knowledge into information or data.

As I have maintained on many prior occasions, social computing is useful in this ‘rematerialisation’ process. Social software helps rematerialisation tacit interactions that occur around formal, corporate (computer-based) processes and workflows by capturing conversations (wikis, blog posts and comments) and references (social bookmarks, RSS feed portfolios, profiles) in organisational / group platforms. Social computing helps transform tacit knowledge into formal transferable knowledge. This is why social software fundamentally complements existing organisational information architecture, as well as provides a constructive replacement for email, which is often considered a silo because of its overtly individualistic nature.

Another difficulty we face in a knowledge economy is that most activity measurement tools date from the glorious days of the “old” physical economy. My point here is that reporting process are one key reason for organisational blindness when it comes to knowledge-related practices. As such, ‘management’ in a knowledge economy requires a serious revamping of reporting tools, metrics and processes.

Because we deal with different stuff, we need to invent metrics that are relevant to what we are trying to follow and drive. For social software, one can start with the usual web and online community metrics.
In large organizations, we have seen Enterprise 2.0 efforts face some typical roadblocks:

Free information flow vs. Chain of Command

Free info flow from the frontline to executives? Managers get suspicious when information easily skips a level or two in the hierarchy. Not that they necessarily want to keep the information under wraps. But they prefer controlling the loop – when, how, to whom the communications happens. If it’s good news, take some credit for it; if it’s bad news, let’s add some spin (explanation or blame).

One-way street of transparency

A CEO recently informed his employees that the calendaring system has been changed so that she could see everybody’s calendar – and that he may make use of that capability. While some applauded the honesty, some employees asked if they would be able to see the CEO’s calendar. Well, not really. Cultural lesson learned for the organization: transparency is less required as you get to the top. Why not practice in advance?

The Black Hole Syndrome of knowledge sharing

“Knowledge sharing feels like a black hole. You throw a lot of stuff in, and never hear about it again.” While this typical complaint was probably a good characterization of past KM approaches, many managers are still burnt by this experience. Today’s solution allow for better attribution of authorship, tracking of use, and feedback. However this signal has to get across the noise level.

Too much visibility? Never change a winning team – especially if it’s mine

Good managers spend of lot of energy on building good teams. While they enjoy the visibility into the skills and experience of employees – theirs and those of other organizations – they tend to be protective about their team. “If other managers see the quality (or capacity) I have build in my team, they are tempted to plunder. Good for the other managers’ career, but not for mine.”

Culture of “internal trade secrets”

In an insurance company, a sales manager had figured out a very effective way to sell packages to law offices and accomplished phenomenal sales growth. For quarters, that sales technique would remain the ‘secret sauce’ of her team’s success. It remained a secret because she was pitched against the other sales managers. In an effort to motivate performance, the executive team had established a stack ranking of the company’s sales regions. While collaboration between the teams was possible, the incentives were punishing it. Many reward systems have baked constrains into the culture which are deterrents to Collaboration 2.0.

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