Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Managers beware : Is there a Corporate Jasmine Revolution lurking out there?

Something is at work deep down our corporations, that pushes employees to resist and opose the ideas of those managers that wouldn't change or accept the new social reality.

I have just started witnessing something strange: employees refusing to reorganize, to follow the instructions that managers would give them when they work on aligning their organization to the new scheme. Not the majority, far from that, but an interesting trend in the making, to my mind.

At most corporations, executives periodically spend long hours (sometimes with consultants) trying to design new schemes to solve the problems their organizations face. The classic question is whether to build functional or operational silos, and then functional or operational transversalities. And more often than not, using the same command and control mindset in both. Some people argue that the only reason why corporations get reorganized so often is to renew the relationships that people develop within those silos. By changing silos, employees are exposed to other co-workers and they can still leverage the relationships that were built before. It's how its always been done.

Why would then an employee refuse to fill in the new position that has just been created for her/him ? Why would he refuse to understand the "wisdom" of the new design, and how synergies will ultimately be good for the clients, the company and for him/herself ?

I wrote in my French blog that the corporate wars were changing, that we were moving from a war of positions to world of guerrillas. I thought that people in the social business environment would choose guerrilla to push their ideas further and impose social business in their existing organizations. Well, it seems that it will be line employees engaging in guerrillas.

Social business initiatives are creating a parallel reality to the one that is based mainly in the organizational chart, old management practices and existing corporate mindset. In this reality, positions are confronted with short-term or part-time roles; management is confronted with autonomous employees, whose worldview is better adapted to new behaviours; static and closed silos are confronted with moving people-centered networks; close corporate cultures are confronted with outside trends breaking in trough the walls.

This new corporate reality gives employees options that were yesterday closed, because corporate inefficiencies are so visible. The inefficiencies of ailing organizations or designs are laid bare. The suboptimal decision making processes get publicized. Objectives that seemed impossible to reach without middle management support are now two steps away through a corporate social network. And through these networks, many employees are maturing quickly in their understanding of the organization.

Social business is giving employees the means of doing things they did not dream off some years ago. Executive management is not opposing these employees, that actually solve problems or innovate, without the support of their middle management (sometimes against it).

Middle management would do well to adapt. Such examples as I am seeing might soon be too many to be ignored, and management positions would not hold against social guerrillas.

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