Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas thoughts

I am just about to leave for holydays, and was thinking about how 2008 is finishing. It actually started out pretty well for all of us engaged in "collaboration based change management" or "enterprise 2.0" development. But then, there was the credit crunch.

Simply put, somehow along the way trust disappeared, and the whole system started contracting. It is still contracting.

The question is, why did trust disappear ? Too complex a question to adress in a post. In here, I would only say that we do not believe the economy can go on growing at what was its pace in the past few years. Or, more precisely, that it cannot continue growing if it keeps the same structure and governing principles.

Isn't then this crisis a good moment to step back and act (not think) on those governing principles ? Based on the most visible reactions (governments and big business), it certainly does not seem so.

On the government front, billions have been poured into incumbant banks, financial institutions and industrial groups. Nothing has really been done to ensure that they will learn from past mistakes.

On the business front, we are getting ready to cope with the huge layoff frenzy that goes with this type of crisis (200 000 jobs to be lost in France according to Les Echos, even the tech layoffs are happening).

At the same time, there has been a lot of buzz arond how Enterprise 2.0 (to be overly simplistic) could have a positive impact in these times. For instance, putting down IT costs (as argued by Ross Dawson here) or even reinventing our business models (as argued in this interesting conversation led by Paula Thornton here)

And yes, I have to agree that all this "collaboration-based change" will have increased productivity of work (individual and collective) as its main impact for incumbent corporations. At the same time, and as argued in the post of Paula Thornton, business based on different business model and even different founding principles will emerge.

It's time that leaders started thinking big and forgetting about old recipes. I do not think they will work. In fact, I think we have just started a period that will end with bringing down two of the idols on which we have built our economy: growth for growth and financial value.

Poursuite du cycle E2.0 de Boostzone

Suite aux deux premiers petits déjeuners sur l'entreprise 2.0 (transformation des usages et transformation de l'organisation), l'Institut organise le 9 janvier 2009 le dernier petit déjeuner de ce cycle, centré sur l'Innovation

Plus d'infos sur

Le dernier petit déjeuner, sur la transformation des organisations, avait aboutit au constat du nombre de questions encore ouvertes sur les transformations au cours. Le petit déjeuner du 9 janvier offre l'opportunité de répondre à quelques unes de ces questions sur le sujet de l'innovation.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Collaboration will push people management from execution to strategy

I was with a client yesterday, thinking about how to bring collaboration skills (and awareness) to future leaders. Several points come to my mind after this conversation:

- This particular client has broken down its HR department: HR administration, social matters and people development are really managed by very different departments and people. This is pragmatic HR innovation to my mind !

- Putting the whole collaboration affair in the People department is a great approach, but one that should be managed carefully. When looking at collaboration through classic people development lenses, we are brought to think about classic people development services (using training and development to develop new usages, skills, technology skills, ...). That's important but clearly not enough.

In this approach, it is more important to find key issues on which to collaborate (and learn to better collaborate) than to identify "collaboration skills" that would afterwards be deployed through training. I think that training can only come as a support of a wider methodology.

The best way I know is to open collaborative spaces (communities or networks) and launch these communities or networks with minimal support (ensuring only consistency accross communities and in the support given). In these "people development communities", if issues are carefully chosen, people should be oriented towards working differently (contributing rather than producing; rating rather than evaluating; ....), and should be recognized and rewarded for so doing (not financially on a first step).

Why act this way ? The whole idea, to my mind, is not to try to impose standards tools (blogs, wikis, feeds, microblogs, ...) or average skills, but to bring the employees to discover the ways that match their needs - that is, that help them solve business issues.

The people development department will not be deciding which are the key skills or competencies to develop, it will rather be building an advanced "framework for collaboration", in which employees will test and invent the new ways of working that make sense for their particular business (that match their industry, culture, processes).

Discovering how to manage the collective side of people development is one of HR paths to value creation.

Friday, December 5, 2008

After the crisis: the new or the old ?

I have been reading several posts lately about how the 2.0 (for want of a better name) could be what we need to go out of the crisis (here, here).

I think the question is even more important. By adressing the crisis wih the same state of mind and methods that we use to have, only at a bigger scale, are we not reproducing the same behaviours that took us where we are ?

By pouring money into ailing banks or carmakers what are we saving ? Jobs ? Or are we preserving a model that has proven its limits ? Time will say.

But in the corporations that are going to come out of the crisis, I think it is the leaders responsibility to innovate in management and governance, or at least to be able to recognize their limits if they are reaching them. We are probably at a paradigm change in management (and in society). For those that recognize it, it is a great opportunity.

People centered organizations

I re-read recently a couple of posts by Stowe Boyd, on his notion that "the individual is the new group" (here).

Stowe's point, as I understand it, is that the important thing for the new social tools is giving people the ability to form the groups they need at the moment they need them (Stowe says this much better and in more detail). This implies that groups (the vast majority of them) are short lived and serve a specific purpose. I think this should also be the case for networks and communities even though their purpose is often more complex and they are therefore longer-lived.

More importantly, I think this kind of thinking greatly illustrates the kind of organization that are emerging today: organizations centered on people. Organizations that give every employee the ability to organize the resources she needs, at the moment she needs them, in order to do her job (think, execute, share, solve problems, ...). And today, resources means talent resources, that is fellow employees.

And I think this goes way beyond tools (which are key):
- It means ensuring that employees have the sense of responsibility that is needed to go beyond the existing boundaries of the organization (geography, product, hierarchy, ...);
- It means ensuring that the employees that are able to break boundaries in the interest of the business are proprely recognized (I have already talked about how to reinvent assessment and development systems here),
- It means ensuring that employees have the skills and behaviors needed to be able to work in different environments (we call these collaborative models), hierarchical, community of practice, peer network, functional network, ...
- It also means ensuring that leadership at organizations recognizes the potential of these new ways of working and of organizing and that they go the whole way they need to go to adapt their own individual and leadership styles.