Envisioning and shaping the future of work and business.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Enterprise 2.0 and our tendency to think and talk in terms of efficiency

3:03:00 PM Posted by Oscar Berg 4 comments
In Mark Fidelmans recent analysis of the most influencial individuals in the Enterprise 2.0 space, he made Dennis Howlett a Enterprise 2.0 referee "because he’s never afraid to call foul. In fact, we need more referees like him that keep the industry from going out of bounds."

Friday last week, Dennis Howlett called foul at Susan Scrupskis post "Enterprise 2.0: The Next Narrative". Susan does a great job describing a number of themes for a series of Enterprise 2.0 case studies from large enterprises that The 2.0 Adoption Council and MIT’s Center for Digital Business will be co-producing. I really look forward to the case studies and personally like the list of themes, especially how they pinpoint the potential benefits that Enterprise 2.0 can bring to enterprises:
Innovation: Leveraging collaboration and social activity to spur discovery, idea generation, and breakthroughs for the organization or customers
Time-to-Market: Accelerating the time to bring products/services to market by collapsing artificial silos/boundaries and time zones
Cultural Reinvention: Using the philosophies of 2.0 to reshape the organizational DNA, embracing transparency, collaboration, trust, and authenticity
Visibility: To provide a real-time view into operations and business process by connecting people and ideas.
Cost Reduction: Substituting more agile, lightweight tools for connecting and sharing that are easier to manage and significantly reduce operational cost.
Knowledge-sharing: Harvesting institutional knowledge of the enterprise for the purposes of retaining it, exposing it and providing easy access to it.
Expertise location: Indexing and surfacing hidden and known talent in the Enterprise.
Productivity improvement: Providing socio-collaborative tools to the workforce for measurable gains in productivity.
Talent Retention: Providing tools that add to workplace satisfaction and positive employee work experience, especially germane to retaining GenX and GenY talent.
These themes really draw the map of potential business uses and benefits of Enterprise 2.0, and I've already found use of it in a business sales pitch. Still, I think Dennis Howlett has a point:
With the possible exception of innovation, you can look at all of those ideas and tick the ‘efficiency’ box. For example: improving productivity is rarely about making the business more effective but about getting more out of the business inputs.
...if topics above are indicative of what business is expecting then they’re missing the point.
...got me thinking about the importance of language and the difference a few well chosen words can make in the discussion around topics that should be helping us.
If they can change the focus to one that talks about effectiveness and less about efficiency I am willing to bet they will see truly astonishing breakthrough value. The question is - are they up for the challenge or are they prepared to continue trying what amounts to Band-Aid technology application?
Dennis reflection was partly triggered by Sigurd Rinde's excellent post "Organizational Effectiveness v Personal Efficiency":
It's all about organisational effectiveness. How fast, efficient and correct all information is disseminated, how effective hand-overs in the workflow happens, how visible and easy to understand the process is, how effective the capture and subsequent dissemination of knowledge is and how little time you spend on making the flow happen.
He also points us to Hutch Carpenter's equally excellent post "Maslow’s Hierarchy of Enterprise 2.0 ROI" where Hutch describes and arranges key potential Enterprise 2.0 business benefits in a Maslow-inspired pyramid model to indicate their inpact on organizational success as well as their measureability (the higher the impact on organizational success, the softer measurability of the benefits).

In an Enterprise 2.0 event that my company Acando arranged together with AIIM in Stockholm last fall (with NewsGator and SAP as sponsors), my friend Hanns Kohler-Kruner used Donald Marchand’s Strategic Information Alignment Framework, or SIAF, when describing the business benefits from Enterprise 2.0:

I had previously seen his collegue Bob Larrivee use the same model when explaning Enterprise Content Management (ECM):
Marchand suggests that organisations focus their attention on information in 4 key ways:
  1. Minimise risks
  2. Reduce costs
  3. Add value
  4. Create new reality
Pursuing multiple facets of Marchand’s framework AT THE SAME TIME helps keeps balance so that no single area of focus stakes all of the attention. After all, the objective is to maintain and increase revenue while in pursuing of cost cutting. It is to add value and create new realities that help sustain you today and help you grow tomorrow.
I think that all us in the Enterprise 2.0 space need to realize that we are all - like it or not - under heavy influence of Frederick TaylorHenri Fayol et al, and the dominating management paradigm that focuses almost entirely on efficiency. We need to listen to Dennis Howlett when he blows the whistle, and do our best at trying to adjust the balance so that we don't get stuck in the efficiency corner with Enterprise 2.0. I personally believe that the greatest potential business benefits from Enterprise 2.0 lies in doing things that weren't possible to do before social software, such as accessing and aggregating the expertise of every co-worker in an organization and thereby improving our decision-making, not just making it easier to find the ones formally appointed as experts.

Marchand's tool is definitely useful in this context. It is one of the tools we have at hand to fight our own bias towards efficiency when thinking about business benefits of Enterprise 2.0 or any other kind of business improvements. We also need to fight the tendency to always say things that we think other people want to hear. The real challenge that we need to take is to, bit by bit, message by message, try to change other people's efficiency-focused mindsets. To do that, we must start with trying to change our own.

A simple definition of information and knowledge

9:19:00 AM Posted by Oscar Berg 2 comments
"You can't manage knowledge. Knowledge is between two ears, and only between two ears"
Peter F Drucker.
I believe in keeping things simple, and here is my simple definition of knowledge and information:
Knowledge is what I already understand, and information is what I don’t yet understand but need to understand, to make a decision that helps me fulfill a purpose.
As a human being, I use my existing knowledge together with new information to make decisions about either performing or avoid actions, typically to achieve a purpose. In this process, I will hopefully turn any new information I receive into new knowledge. I might also share my knowledge, by creating messages that other people might be able to interpret, understand and apply to build new knowledge. The latter is very hard as it requires that I know what the recipients already know, and that I craft the message in way that connects to what they already know. This is a great challenge since I often don't know who the recipient is (like with this post).

Information is a received, interpreted and understood message, something that someone has expressed about something (maybe in writings in a Word document) and which I have received, interpreted and understood. To turn a message into information, the message must connect to some of the things (concepts) I already know about. Otherwise I won’t to be able to interpret and understand it. That is why I’m not capable of turning almost anything but the preface in my brother-in-law’s dissertation “Analysis of the RAP1 protein binding to homogeneous telomeric repeats in Saccharomyces castellii” to information. Most if it is just noise to me.

My knowledge in the eyes of others rely on any evidence that I can apply a message that I have received, interpreted and understood. Such evidence typically comes from the results of my decisions and actions, or avoidance of action, when pursuing a purpose.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Explaining Enterprise 2.0 in one minute

11:26:00 PM Posted by Oscar Berg 5 comments
If all I have is one minute to explain to someone what Enterprise 2.0 is about, this is what I would say.
“Enterprise 2.0 is all about using technology to bring brains together effectively.”
Andrew McAfee, Associate Professor Harvard Business School
The Internet and the web in particular has enabled a shift in how people communicate with each other, enabling rich and frequent two-way communication with unpreceded reach, immediacy, usability, and accessibility. In short, the costs of communication have collapsed.

Many businesses are today facing increasing competition and a rapidly changing business environment, to a large extent due to the impact of the Internet. Operational efficiency will still be important, but it won’t be enough to create competitive advantage. Instead, businesses will increasingly depend in their ability to quickly adapt to a changing environment, to innovate more and at greater speed, and to collaborate with virtually anyone across organizational, geographical and cultural borders.

Enterprise 2.0 is a term for business practices and technologies originating from the social web - such as blogs, wikis, feeds and social networking - which can be used to improve communication, findability and discovery of information, knowledge sharing, collaboration and innovation within an enterprise. Successful implementation of Web 2.0 and social technologies in an enterprise context starts with an understanding of the values, principles, culture and human behaviors that make communication, sharing and collaboration happen in a natural way across barriers such as organization, time, culture, and location. Openness, transparency, trust, dialog, recognition and participation are key principles of Enterprise 2.0.

Nothing is impossible, not anymore

10:31:00 PM Posted by Oscar Berg No comments
A couple of days ago, my 8 year old daughter brought her best friend with her home after school. The friend's mother, who is a teacher, had left earlier that day for a two week long stay in Ethiopia. As we were having dinner, we concluded that her mother must had landed in Addis Abeba by that time. Since the mother had brought her laptop with her, we decided to try to Skype her. I went and grabbed our Skype phone, searched the Skype directory for the mother's name, found her and added her as contact. A few seconds later, the phone rang. It was the mother. She had noticed that I had added her as contact in Skype, assumed that her daughter was at home with us, and immediately decided to call us. Since she was using the free Wi-Fi at the hotel, it didn't cost her anything to try. And if she was lucky, she and her daughter could talk to each other as long as they wanted.

As late as the 1990s, making a long distance call was ridiculously expensive. You would have had to make a collect call, a telephone call in which the calling party wants to place a call at the called party's expense. With such a setup, you wouldn't call anyone outside your own family, unless it was agreed upon in advance, or an absolute necessity. You would definitely not call your daughter's friend in Sweden from a hotel in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia, just to check if your daughter might have followed her friend home after school.

This might seem like a small change, but it isn't. It's enormous. There has been a collapse in costs of communication, and we can thank the Internet and the World Wide Web for that. New and innovative services using the web as platform, such as Skype and Google Talk, take advantage of this. These small applications aren't just changing the face of the Telecom industry, but they are also changing people's lives, and society as a whole. It might just not be apparent to us now, since we are always occupied with chasing down the next big thing. But if we cast an eye in the rearview mirror, we'll probably realize that we're in the middle of a great wind of change right now.

Monday, March 8, 2010

So simple, so true!

2:47:00 PM Posted by Oscar Berg No comments
Today's management tip "How to Retain Talent in a Recovery" from Harvard Business Online is so simple, yet so very true:
In an economic recovery, top talent — fed up with no bonuses and low morale — may want to jump ship as soon as the job market picks up. Here are three things you can do to keep your top talent where they are:
  1. Launch efforts to rebuild trust. One of the things that suffers most in a recession is the trust between employees and employers. Show your employees that what was done in survival mode is not the norm going forward.
  2. Adjust compensation and benefits. Keep your radar tuned to the job market and any signs that it is heating up. Adjust salaries to make up for lost bonuses and raises and to match the market.
  3. Know your top talent. You not only need to know who they are, but what they want. Communicate with them regularly about their careers and how your company can support them.
Read this together with Seth Godin's post "Losing Andrew Carnegie", and it will be pretty clear that the messages above won't stick to the minds of management in most organizations:
Carnegie apparently said, "Take away my people, but leave my factories and soon grass will grow on the factory floors......Take away my factories, but leave my people and soon we will have a new and better factory."

Is there a typical large corporation working today that still believes this?

Most organizations now have it backwards. The factory, the infrastructure, the systems, the patents, the process, the manual... that's king. In fact, shareholders demand it.

It turns out that success is coming from the atypical organizations, the ones that can get back to embracing irreplaceable people, the linchpins, the ones that make a difference. Anything else can be replicated cheaper by someone else.

The real-time enterprise requires men to learn from women

7:43:00 AM Posted by Oscar Berg No comments
When driving and looking for a certain destination, men usually wait a lot longer than women until they stop to ask someone for directions. That is a fact, I’ve read research on that (sadly I cannot re-find this research, so at one point in the future I probably have to go and ask someone). That is probably also why so many men are hooked on GPS devices – they promise to save us from having to ask other people for directions (help).

So what if women in general are better than men at deciding when it's more efficient to ask someone for an answer than it is to continue looking for an answer themselves? If that is true, then women will be the kings (or queens?) of the real-time enterprise which according to Gartner is all about “using up-to-date information, getting rid of delays, and using speed for competitive advantage”.

As a knowledge worker, I ask myself lots of questions on a daily basis. I usually spend a lot of time trying to find the answers on a web page or document somewhere (I am not alone in doing this, most research points to knowledge workers spending as much as up to 40% of their time on this). And as I possess a fairly one track mind, I continue with this task for quite a long time until I either ask someone else for help or give up. By the time I make that decision, I have probably since long passed the breaking point when it is more efficient to ask someone for an answer than to continue searching for it.

What I need to remind myself more often about is that finding the information I need is often about trying to answer a question that I have. Although a lot of the answers I am looking for probably have been documented in writings somewhere, it is feasible to assume that most of them haven’t. And even if they exist in writing, it might be more efficient to ask a person for the answer. So why do I, by default, start by looking for an answer in writings instead of just asking someone else?

I think there are two key obstacles that have “forced” me into this behavior:
  • Finding the right person who can answer my question is a hard and often time-consuming task
  • I don’t want to interrupt or waste other peoples’ time
Ok, I have to admit that there’s actually a third one: me putting too much pride in trying to find answers myself. This is what I have in common with most other men. There’s an obvious way to overcome this obstacle, although it will be neither easy nor quick to implement - men must learn from women. I obviously have to work in that one, but what can we do to overcome the two other obstacles? Here’s what I think:
  • If the person answering my question is not occupied with something else, then I won’t be wasting that person’s time in a way that will hurt business. We all have small amounts of available time every now and then during a working day. What if we could use that time to answer questions of other people?
  • If I only get questions that I actually am capable of answering and, in addition, questions I really want to answer because I am professionally interested in the subject of question, then it will not be (or seem) as much of an effort to answer the question. In fact, it will probably be joy, especially if I get a public “thank you” from the person I’m helping.
  • If I have tools available that help me find the right person by focusing on my question and trying to match it with any person who is likely to be able to answer it and has time over to answer it, I no longer have to rely on using traditional channels such as email, user directory search and phone, or limit my search to my own network.
Q&A applications, micro-blogging platforms and applications like Aardvark all help to overcome the barriers mentioned above. If the vision of the real-time enterprise is to become true, we must adopt these kinds of tools and evolve them further. But, men also need to learn from women to understand when it's time to stop fiddling with the GPS and instead ask someone for directions.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Control is waste & trust drives value creation

9:38:00 AM Posted by Oscar Berg No comments
"It's standard practice at many companies to conceal information as a way of controlling employees - a formula that's toxic to trust"

Gary Hamel
Trust is the fuel for any enterprise. Trust in your purpose, trust in your peers, trust in yourself.

Trust drives value creation.

Control is a sign of trust failure. Control does not add value. Control is waste. Control restricts value-creation. It is something management adds when they don't trust their employees to perform as expected.

Lack openness and transparency inevitably leads to trust failure, and thus lower performance. This is especially true in a large organization. The typical reaction from management when trying to deal with such a situation is to strengthen control, to add more rules and to focus on making employees comply to the rules. This typically leads to increasing overhead costs (increasing bureaucracy) and a dis-empowered workforce, which leads to even worse performance.

The greatest obstacle to creating value with Enterprise 2.0 practices and technologies is that radical changes are required to how most enterprises are being managed. If enterprises are to succeed with Enterprise 2.0, we must convince management that it is as easy to build trust in people as it is to control them. We must help management to redefine their purpose, making it about empowering colleagues instead of controlling employees.
“In the knowledge economy everyone is a volunteer, but we have trained our managers to manage conscripts."

Peter F. Drucker