Archive for December, 2010
Being able to predict things, in business and elsewhere is critical. We don’t always get it right, but understanding the variables and relationships between ‘inputs’ and ‘outputs’ goes a long way to creating a positive outcome.
In terms of Enterprise 2 and related Social Business software, this point is key and is the subject of a post (and a good few comments) by Keith Swenson, entitled Social Has No Future (Yet). Here’s the opening paragraph.
This provocative title simply means: In general, social software systems record what is happening now and in the past, but for the most part completely lack any representation of the future. Enterprise Social Software, or Social Business Software, will succeed only if it has some representation of goals or other future activities.
While Keith goes on to talk about other aspects of social software, this initial point is the critical one in my mind. Without the ability to make predictions, the range of problems that can be solved is dramatically reduced.
Ross Dawson has a view of both next year and the next decade. Amongst the trends, relationships are becoming more and more significant (if they weren’t already!) and given the increased use of social media tools, this is only likely to increase.
The two relational extracts from the post;
GLOBAL TALENT. Talent is everywhere. As organizations shift to networks, transcending workplaces, success will be driven by how well they can attract the most talented, those who can choose where, how, and why they work. Real-time translation software will enable true multi-cultural teams. Wealth will flow to the talented, wherever they are.
ORGANIZATIONS TO NETWORKS. By the end of this decade close to half the workforce will be working independently, often across national boundaries. Companies will function on social networks and gaming platforms, professionals will work for many clients, and many of today’s companies will be supplanted by networks of experts.
I came across this intriguing post from Robin Dickinson, asking about people measure the quality of their relationships.
This comment really caught my eye;
Given that we are empowered to make literally 1000′s of such connections [via social media], this then begs the questions – where do we best place our limited resources. Who do we invest our time in? How do we determine who to deepen (to use Brad’s quality indicator) our relationships with? Who do we say ‘No’ to and why? As this social connectivity continues to explode exponentially, it will be interesting to see how we humans address this question of quality.
Squaring the realities of near endless choice (online) with limited time opens up something of an interesting conundrum. Where is my time and energy best spent in order to maximise the happiness/satisfaction/productivity (etc. etc.) of any particular relationship that I choose to develop?
From a commercial perspective, how can I enhance my existing relationships and even start to predict the outcomes of new relationships that I might develop (e.g. recruitment, new project teams, restructuring etc.)?
Does a better understanding of relationships improve performance, save time and help enhance decision making? We’ve found various sources of research that suggests better relationships lead to performance improvements by 20 – 40% or more.
From Four Groups’ point of view, the Visual Team Builder offers one approach that sheds light on these types of questions.
John Hagel III and John Seely Brown have an excellent post which as usual covers a wide range of perspectives and insights. While some of the points are more strategically orientated, operationally, there is some really useful stuff too.
The part that is most relevant in terms of relationships covers the balance between the formal and informal. Put another way, this is the usually large discrepancy between a formal and ‘controlled’ way of doing things and the more free flowing networks which actually get the job done.
From the post;
Compare a standard company org chart with a network analysis of the day-to-day relationships and interactions in the same company. The contrast is striking. On the one hand, clearly delineated boxes with a few set relationships driven by formal authority; on the other, a bewildering array of rapidly evolving connections. The two representations are so different that one might question whether they in fact are focused on the same organization. Such is the chasm separating two mindsets.
There are a couple of interesting things here. Firstly, the apparent trade-off between the illusion of control and the reality of emergence. Secondly, John and John then go on to talk about control itself and how it differs from a ‘propensity’ mindset.
- In a control mindset, the assumption is that we need to own resources and tightly direct them in order to achieve objectives with the minimum amount of risk.
- A propensity mindset focuses on the intrinsic development paths that characterize all resources and the dynamic relationships across resources that are continually shaping those paths. From this perspective, the best way to reduce risk is to understand these paths and find ways to leverage them.
Susan Scrupski writes about some research she’s been doing with GE and J&J, the upshot of which is that as the generational collide increases, the value placed on networks and relationships by younger employees seems to rise.
In Susan’s words;
We’re conducting a large research project right now on “Redefining Employee Computing” with 24 member corporations, many of them global– half are in the Fortune 100 (of those, 6 are in the top 50 and 3 are in the top 10). I can assure you that the generational “collide” is a high priority board room and management issue. It’s so strategic, many corporations are preemptively prepping to accommodate the new workforce and rethink their old school management processes.
Here’s a video of Greg Simpson, CTO at GE talking about some of these themes.
Jon Ingham posted a review of his predictions for 2010. You have to applaud the bravey and transparency, especially when Jon writes;
These [predictions] included this video blog suggesting that HR needs more ambition (a point that I still strongly support) and a podcast suggesting that this would be the year that things would start to change (towards a more people centred approach). Note that I did only suggest ‘start to’ – I didn’t expect to see much progress, but I don’t think I’ve even seen a start, to be frank. In general, I’d give my predictions about a 3 out of 10.
- Is it easier to measure and manage tasks and things rather than people. As its easier to manage these things, they combine to create a culture of managing the tangible over the intangible. Today, this is the dominant ‘management paradigm’ and my sense is that to really succeed, anything needs to either build on this, or distrupt it and building is easier than disrupting.
- Looking at business historically, nothing in the history of HR has hit the 5 criteria for transformation. Talent Management might feature, but I’m not convinced. Equally, Social Media may well enable more people-centric organisations, but if it does, HR is highly unlikely to get the credit, or that Social Media will be seen as a HR led initiative in any case.
- Don’t forget, some people even take the view that training doesn’t work and we’ve had two government sponsored initiatives in recent years, Accounting for People and the MacLeod Review on Engagement.
As above, until there is a scalable HR driven activity that solves (currently unsolved) problems, adds economic value and demonstrates a unique contribution, not much is going to change.
Another way for HR to make itself indispensable is through a more sophisticated and considered approach to talent management. Again, we are not talking about talent management in the traditional sense. Instead by focusing on social networks and connectivity, HR can play a key role at the very heart of the business.
The problem with the current approach is discussed in this Zielinski piece and features comments from Laszlo Bock, vice president of global people operations at Google:
“HR is still essentially doing talent reviews the same way they were done 40 years ago, and doing compensation the way it was done 20 years ago.”
A further critique of “we focus on getting the smartest people” approach is featured in a Wired article which discusses the role of individual intelligence on group performance:
“Their analysis, published Sept. 30 in Science, found several characteristics linked to group performance — and none involved individual intelligence. What mattered instead was the social sensitivity of individual members, the proportion of women (who tend to be more sensitive) in each group, and a balanced participation of conversation.”
On a similar theme, another piece of research appearing in Strategy + Business suggested that:
“hiring too many high-status employees dampened effectiveness, the authors found. Moreover, companies with high-level expertise tended to fare worse with superstars in tow than did more run-of-the-mill outfits.”
The alternative is that HR can play a key role in fostering experimentation, creating networks, identifying the key influencers, mapping change etc.
This means adopting a new and in many ways experimental approach to talent. A couple of interesting articles have tapped into this idea and present some new ideas that may hold the key to improved performance. By moving the focus away from identifying and developing talented individuals, the focal point should be on groups and networks.
For example, there is an interesting blog post from Stowe Boyd, where he discusses some recent research from Maksim Kitsak at Boston University:
“The importance of hubs may have been overstated” say Kitsak and pals.
In contrast to common belief, the most influential spreaders in a social network do not correspond to the best connected people or to the most central people”
At first glance this seems somewhat counter-intuitive but on reflection it makes perfect sense. Kitsak and co point out that there are various scenarios in which well connected hubs have little influence over the spread of information. “For example, if a hub exists at the end of a branch at the periphery of a network, it will have a minimal impact in the spreading process through the core of the network.”
“By contrast, ‘a less connected person who is strategically placed in the core of the network will have a significant effect that leads to dissemination through a large fraction of the population.’”
This is an interesting idea and has clear implications for change management, communication and collaboration. At the same time, the identification of such people who are strategically best placed in the network is not always the most straightforward challenge.
“The subtle, dark-matter mystery of social networks is that influence is oblique and not easily determined by the sorts of tools we have today.”
This entry is an extract from Four Groups’ Quarterly Update, originally posted here.
Sig has a great post on the slowly emerging theme that “Business” is nothing but “Social Networks”. Given the recent rise of numerous social software platforms and the maturity of Business Process Management, it is refreshing to read that people are starting to see that relationships and connections are of increasing importance.
From Sig’s post;
Social networks, the kind we now know so well, in the cloud networks, works the same way. Facebook started out having universities as the “Social Object”, now extended to all kind of groups, fan-of or I-like affiliations with very easy to use interfaces all making it happen. Linkedin has business connections as the “Social Object”, or purpose if you want. I would not go to Linkedin to find a cyclist keen to join a Sunday ride, for that I have other social forums.
Hence the equation, the core measure of how strong and effective a social networking offer can be:
Social network strength/growth = (“Social Object” importance) * (ease of interaction)
Now if only there was a way to model and predict these interactions?
No surprises really, but McKinsey is waving the data carrot. In their own words;
A new class of company is emerging—one that uses collaborative Web 2.0 technologies intensively to connect the internal efforts of employees and to extend the organization’s reach to customers, partners, and suppliers. We call this new kind of company the networked enterprise. Results from our analysis of proprietary survey data show that the Web 2.0 use of these companies is significantly improving their reported performance. In fact, our data show that fully networked enterprises are not only more likely to be market leaders or to be gaining market share but also use management practices that lead to margins higher than those of companies using the Web in more limited ways.
Bertrand Duperrin has a great piece on Enterprise 2 and its attempts to move from evangelism to commercial returns in 2011. This is perhaps the most compelling part of the post;
Accept to say that an enterprise is, first, here to create value and that this value will have to be shown and measured. Keep in mind these wise words from Chris Yeh: “If you can’t sell more, buy less, or fire somebody, you’re not getting real ROI.”
Its very hard to argue with the rationale put forward by Bertrand but based on my own thoughts on Transformation, I thought it would be fun to compare Enterprise 2 (as I see it) to this definition.
- Can you explain it quickly? Potentially, yes, but I’d argue that you’re relying on familiarity with existing software tools (twitter, wikis, blogs etc.). That said, the tide is turning here and I think this is good to go.
- It is repeatable and scalable? Again, in the main yes. Whether its GE’s Support Central, or Hello at Booz Allen.
- Does it change people’s day jobs? Clearly using a new piece of kit is a simple yes.
- Does it have a demonstrable ROI? This is the tricky part. There are positive and negative thoughts at the moment, but my sense is that it is here to stay.
- Does it have external validity? This is harder to tell and the best demonstration of this comes after an ROI. There is no shortage of conferences though and the 2.0 Adoption Council is a good standard bearer.
Either way, my sense is that a combination of executive teams, IT and/or other parts of the business will take credit for Enterprise 2. You can rest assured HR won’t get a scrap of credit for this one.