Wednesday, June 9, 2010

There's no shortcut to the future workplace



On several occasions, on this blog and elsewhere, I've discussed why and how culture matters for Enterprise 2.0 to happen. In my most recent posts, I've specifically discussed how certain values and cultural characteristics are pre-requisites for Enterprise 2.0 to happen:


My main point is that there is no chicken or the egg situation: Sure, a culture change can be supported and accelerated by technology, but there must always be a spark somewhere - a culture or subculture (a social group that shares certain values and behaviors) - that initiates this change.

If you, like me, are interested in what makes collaboration tick and what it might take besides technologies to make Enterprise 2.0 happen, there are a few readings you should look into.

First, there's a fascinating read by Rob Paterson about the new virtual workplace at IBM. To illustrate the culture shift that is taking place at IBM, he describes how my friend Luis Suarez can control his own time and work space. Location just doesn’t matter as Luis can work from anywhere at any time -be it at an airport, at an office, or at his home in small village on the Canary Islands. This is achieved by making sure he and his fellow 200 000 coworkers at IBM can be connected to each other and any colleague at anytime from anywhere. But technology is just an enabler of the new virtual work place. The key to make the new work place happen is, as Rob puts it, to “stop measuring presence – i.e. punching the clock as at a factory – and to start measuring results and outcomes”. Such a shift requires a real change in corporate values and behaviors.

Another great read is “Enterprise 2.0 initiatives and corporate culture awareness” by Gil Yehuda in which he shares some really good examples and counter examples of supportive cultures to help him make his point:
I say, the path to Enterprise 2.0 is paved on a supportive culture. If you don’t have a supportive culture, it’s nearly impossible to find real success with any social tools (beyond small scale deployments — which may be very successful for your team, but not at the enterprise level).
If you roll it out, don’t expect “they will come”. It’s not that simple. You have to tune into the underlying culture to see if it can support Enterprise 2.0. I believe some companies have a culture unwelcoming to Enterprise 2.0 — at least now. I also believe that in time this will change as a new generation of leadership emerges in the post-recession economy.
A different but very related perspective on how culture matters is provided by Tony H in his post "Your Culture is Your Brand" which explains how companies, like it or not, are becoming more and more transparent and that their brands are shaped by the sum of all interactions customers have with anyone at the company.
The fundamental problem is that you can’t possibly anticipate every possible touchpoint that could influence the perception of your company’s brand.
At Zappos.com, we decided a long time ago that we didn’t want our brand to be just about shoes, or clothing, or even online retailing. We decided that we wanted to build our brand to be about the very best customer service and the very best customer experience. We believe that customer service shouldn’t be just a department, it should be the entire company.
So what’s a company to do if you can’t just buy your way into building the brand you want? What’s the best way to build a brand for the long term?
In a word: culture.