24 November 2008

Weaving a model for E2.0 adoption

Given the Greek heritage of thought in Western Culture, it's not surprising that we tend to struggle with managing the intangibles of business life. It's not that we can't handle them. We deal with intangibles in other parts of our life, relationships, even the quality of the wine with last night's meal.

But in the business world, where our actions need to be justified, usually with a dollar figure, it is simply easier to do. It is easier for us to have nice, orderly, process-driven business lives. There's just one problem. Businesses are full of people. Social people, imperfect people, obnoxious people, human people. People that live lives full of intangibles, and we have seen many stupendous failures and staggering success stories where intuition and social pressures played a far larger part than the logic of the situation.

Enterprise 2.0 technologies are designed to take advantage of the social nature of the people who work in our businesses. It allows them to connect, interact, and exploit the knowledge within (and sometimes without) the business in a more effective ways than could have been imagined by the promoters of scientific management 50-odd years ago at the boom of the industrial era.

We still live with the vestiges of the industrial era and in some sectors many of the lessons learnt are still relevant and valuable. However. As Drucker pointed out:
“Every knowledge worker in modern organization is an "executive" if, by virtue of his position or knowledge, he is responsible for a contribution that materially affects the capacity of the organization to perform and to obtain results.”
Source: The Effective Executive - 1966
So when implementing E2.0 solutions, the intangibles need to be taken into account. Not just in the initial justification for expenditure, but more importantly in the selection and implementation of these tools.

There are several people talking about this at the moment.
I do a lot of reading and have thoughts like those above in my head as I review my research data. That is how qualitative research works. It is immersive. Unlike sterile surveys summarised by countless statistical analysis, exploratory social research involves getting involved in the complex interplays between people and teasing out the cultural factors that are impacting their success or failure.

Matt's work on the two-domain model has been exiciting to watch and encourages me to finish my thesis so I can enjoy putting it to use by building the implementation programs and principles that Stephen Collins says are so necessary. Matt initially moved away from my focus of "Participation" and it's two forms, Mandated and Spontaneous, however in his last post he used instead the term "Interaction". I like this term. It speaks at a higher level than participation, and also includes the concept of reciprical involvement between human and technology that my data seems to indicate is going on.

Patrick suggested last night that I consider instead a layered model where the intangible and tangible domains overlap the same space. This is a nice idea and I am already thinking about how I can visualise that to better display the interactions in the data.

Finally, I discovered a new idea while writing about how the wikis were used in SMEs yesterday. I share it here in the hope I will get some feedback, either critical or helpful, I don't mind. It's a new thought for me and I want to sound it out here before expanding on it in the thesis in the hope it will be more rigorous for the exposure.

The quote looks at another possibility when implementing E2.0 tools. Often we hear the catch-cry: match the tools to the culture of the business. My question: is this entirely correct?
It should be noted that many of the uses were only successful within individual divisions of the companies, and suited the cultural constraints of those divisions. This suggests that it may be the business use itself that needs to be aligned with the local group’s culture, rather than the tool.
Please post your replies written on the back of $100 notes! I'm going to have to do something pretty special for my poor wife after all this to convince her I'm not just a part of the office furniture :-)

4 comments :

Stephen Bounds said...

Stuart,

I'm not 100% sure I know what you are trying to say. I read the quote as:

... many of the uses [of wikis] were only successful within individual divisions of the companies [where the wiki] suited the cultural constraints of those divisions. This suggests that it [is] the business use [of the wiki] that [must] be aligned with the local group’s culture, rather than [any intrinsic property of wiki software].

In other words, if a business group was documenting test results via a series of scratch pad Word documents, then setting up a Wiki to fulfil this requirement instead is likely to work.

But using the Wiki as a generic way to document 'lessons learned' probably wouldn't.

Is this what you were trying to say?

Stuart French said...

Hi Stephen,

I have been trying to think about examples I can use for this and your attempt is a pretty good one.

The key here is that the claim for compatibility is usually between 1) the organisation (or group's) culture and 2) the Collaboration tool.

However since the same tool is used in so many different ways (30 unique applications in just five businesses) it seems to me there is another compatibility that should be considered which is possibly even more important than the one above: 1) the organisation (or group's) culture and 2) the business solution or process that the tool is being used for.

Your example captures this well.

Now that doesn't mean there will not be cultural issues with the team adapting to a wiki, for example if the group was highly structured, then asking them to document the tests collaboratively would be even less successful. All I am saying is that both aspects should be considered during an implementation of Enterprise 2.0 technologies.

kdelarue said...

I like this post. I particularly like the first two paras. It is a powerful way of highlighting the basic hurdle most (traditional) organisations have to jump to start really understanding about the importance of people - and hence the tools to help them interact effectively.

James Dellow said...

I think the nice thing about wikis (and I've seen similar patterns in other tools - e.g. spreadsheets) is that their flexibility means it is possible for users to develop their own solutions for many different business problems or work processes beyond simply collaboratinve editing of a 'document'. But in a way, the wiki isn't a tool as such, rather its what the users develop in the wiki (unless of course they are using it in the most simply read/write way). Maybe the alignment you talk about is the ability of users to first visualise and then develop solutions using a wiki that meet their requirements (in the first instance, these might be real or perceived needs). However, I still think there is mix of different factors at play that will impact the overall success, particulary if we are expecting solutions to emerge rather than be designed. Of course, if we are designing a solution we then have 101 other possible technology solutions in addition to a wiki for the same problem or process.

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