Sunday, October 26, 2008

E2.0 ratings or Peer People Reviews : should companies change their development and evaluation processes ?

In a conversation launched a month ago by Andrew McAfee in this post, and continued last week through this post, there was a lot of buzz on whether it was a good idea or not to measure E2.0 participation of knowledge workers. I tend to agree with Andrew McAfee that measuring E2.0 activities would "encourage and increase participation and contributions". And I think we are looking at a major change opportunity.

I would first like to stress that E2.0 ratings should be linked to a correctly organized peer network or community (in a post last week, I pointed out that we call these Collaborative Models at the Boostzone Institute). If ratings are allowed from any employee in the company, I am worried that it will be a long time before they are taken into account by management for decision making. But within a peer network, these ratings can become a powerful tool for expertise recognition. In a interesting article from HBR, Creativity and the Role of the Leader, Diego Rodriguez, a partner from IDEO, points out that "contributing to an interdependent network is its own reward". I would go further, as Andrew McAfee does, and say that ratings can encourage friendly competition and self-improvement.

The change opportunity I am pointing at is how these E2.0 ratings could become the basis for network or comunity management.

In a very classical view of HR, how would E2.0 ratings be considered ? As the measurement of an employee's performance in using E2.0 tools ? Probably. The reality is slightly more complicated. E2.0 ratings should be used to start building Peer People Reviews (PPR).

In classic People Reviews, a particular employee is given a triple assessment of himself: her performance, her potential for evolution at her current employer, her "development needs". This triple assessment is based on a hierarchical view of the organization: people are assessed by their managers, based on performance management systems that are deployed down hierarchical lines and on skill frameworks that, more often than not, are built top-down by HR teams.

I think these People Reviews are particularly well adapted to developing managers within a hierarchical organization. Most other systems (mobility, rewards) are based on this one. As for 360° assessment and other more "democratic" assessment systems, they are still management-designed tools and are far from the peer potential of E2.0 ratings.

Peer People Reviews, that is E2.0 ratings, to my mind, would be different from classic people reviews in at least two dimensions. From a process point of view, they are continuous assessment processes, continuously evolving as network member work activity produces additional ratings. From a content point of view, the ratings are very different from performance indicators or skills description. These, in classic people reviews, are designed in advance. In Peer People Reviews, only the rating categories can be designed: the content of the ratings will continuously evolve also, based on the evolution of content development by the network. And therefore, assuming that the peer network has a clear link with value creation, the ratings become a great indicator for network performance.

In the same HBR article mentioned above, the authors say that "one doesn't manage creativity. One manages for creativity". I would use the same approach to say that an organization does not manage community or network performance: an organization can only build the environment for community or network performance.

Individual People Reviews should be used to drive individual managers development, while Peer People Reviews should become a "common way of working" within any collaborative model. Building the framework for the Peer People Review and continuously monitoring it is management work.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Centripetal web ... and centripetal networks ?

Another very good article by Nicholas Carr.

In this one, he argues that, more and more, the web is going to revolve around "large objects" (that is popular websites or blogs): "Yes, we still journey out to the far reaches of the still-expanding info-universe, but for most of us, most of the time, the World Wide Web has become a small and comfortable place".

It is a very interesting article, as, to my mind, it also points towards the web becoming a real new geography, that will therefore need some regulation (amènagement du territoire).

Think of the web as a new geography. It is good to remember that real geography also revolves around cities where most exchanges are done and value created. Other lands need the support of the state to be able to develop their economic activity (in interventionist countries) or else they may decay (as is the case for suburbs in developed or developing economies alike).

I think the web will also organize around the places where most of the exchange is done and value created. At the fringes, risk takers (with some free time), will be able to find sources of creativity, new ideas, innovation, ...

And some regulation will be needed so that blogs and websites that are not maintained are not just discarded but that they remain alive and can be explored by future explorers, and that people are able to live their virtual lives far from the center of the information-universe.

I think something similar could happen with social networks. One or two very large SN will cumulate most of the traffic, while valuable, innovative, thought-provoking SN will not emerge due to a lack of ... people!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Managing the revolution ... through HR

Again, a very good article in HBR on mass collaboration. This one, written by Scott Cook from Intuit, gives me the opportunity to explain why this "user contribution revolution" is a unique opportunity for HR departments to reinvent themselves.

In the article, Scott Cook urges companies to identify and build "user contribution systems" that allow to benefit from the contributions of people outside of corporate boundaries. His examples, now quite well known, are drawn from Hyatt, Procter & Gamble or Honda as well as Google, Amazon or Wikipedia. He understands "user contribution systems" are "methods for aggregating and leveraging people's contributions or behaviours in ways that are useful to other people".

My first reaction to the article was to say: isn't any corporation a "user contribution system" ? I know I am pushing the idea, as Scott Cook states that in a user contribution system the company doesn't stand between the input (from people) and the output (their contributions, aggregated and leveraged by an ad hoc system).

But still, the corporate model is basically intended to organize people cooperation to deliver a higher value added service or good. True, users (in this case employees) are paid for so doing. Sometimes, as in insurance and particularly mutual insurance, "user contribution systems" seem to be at the heart of the business model. Mutual companies have built systems that profit from the contributions (risk profiles) of their clients to deliver to them a very specific service (protection against the risks of life).

So, what is this "user contribution system" teaching us ? Our own idea here at Bostzone is that we are discovering and professionalizing new collaboration models, new ways of organizing and collaborating. I have seen, as Scott Cook says, how countercultural this "user contribution paradigm is". If we go deeper, countercultural only means that collaborating anyway else than through known models (hierarchy or projects), seems to challenge beliefs about the role of hierarchy and authority. And rightly so. The new collaboration models will run through other channels than hierarchy. Their funding principles will not be, as they were in the hierarchical model, command and control.

As many have already stated (Lowell Bryan in Mobilizing Minds, for instance), this is a revolution in organization. It started when the matrix model was invented and continued with reengineering, communities of practice or project modes.

This revolution will be harder to drive at the individual level. We can already see employees needing to be at the same time a manager, a member of a community of practice and a project team member. This is difficult in itself. All the more difficult if, most times, any contribution other than the hierarchical one, is not, or not well enough, taken into account.

Why did I say this was an opportunity for HR to reinvent itself ? Well, HR basic process are built to identify, attract and, above all, assess and develop people within a hierarchical organization. Hence the extreme difficulty for many HR functions to devise adapted programs for experts or transversal populations. Most HR systems are based on a "do not hold me accountable for what I can't control" view of the world. This is particularly true for most annual review processes, that have a difficult time including peer assessment or network assessment anyway else than as a "complement" to line assessment.

HR is invited to reconsider all dimensions of its people development organization:
- Competency or skill frameworks. These are oriented (towards higher hierarchy or higher expertise) and static (evolution is not built within their fabric). It is likely that such systems will not be adapted for employees that will spend their careers switching between collaboration models;
- Development and assessment systems. These have been designed based on hierarchical organizations. They are selective by nature and often result in companies having to choose between two talents (in these scarcity times!). These systems and processes will need to expand and develop new dimensions. I can already see processes that extend beyond corporate boundaries.
- Talent development skills of employees. This is to my mind the most critical aspect of the people development organization of any company. Most of the times, the talent development responsibility has rested with HR and management. It is important that it know becomes a shared and collective responsibility.

Big times ahead for the HR function.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Le web 2.0 et son impact sur l'entreprise

Le 15 mars prochain, à l'association des anciens de Sciences Po, j'aurai le plaisir d'animer avec Yann Mauchamp une séance sur le sujet de l'impact du web 2.0 sur l'entreprise, et notamment sur son organisation et sur la fonction RH.

Pour ceux d'entre vous qui comptent y participer, nous sommes preneurs, Yann et moi, de vos remarques et questions, pour inclure dans notre travail les sujets qui vous intéressent le plus.

Vous pouvez répondre à ce billet pour nous communiquer ces remarques ou, pour les membres de Boostzone, lancer les conversations que vous jugez pertinentes dans le Cercle.

Au plaisir de vous croiser le 15 !