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Jon Husband
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Jon Husband

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Important (no, critical) issue, and well stated.  Thanks you for this deep reflection, Eric.
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This is quite cool ...
 
Animations enhanced with 2 vertical lines for the full 3D effect

Just came across this great collection (http://bit.ly/1o2Sf8p) of animated examples on how easy it is to trick your brain to make funny connections that your eyes are not really seeing :) Very cool!

#opticalillusion   #illusion   #3deffects   #animatedgif   #3d
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Your Organization is already a wirearchy ... ?

... it just doesn't (officially) operate as one.

In order to do so, the people charged with leading and managing its activities must in all likelihood must undergo some some significant unlearning and then adoption of new mental models.  At a minimum.

The organization in which you work has probably involved everyone in using computers for at least 15 years now. People sit behind laptop or desktop screens, and increasingly are on the move or working remotely, using laptops, tablets and smartphones. Web access is growing in ubiquity, and access speeds are increasing.  The people in the organization are interconnected and exchange information with each other all day long

The productivity platforms for organization are no longer Microsoft Office and 'home-grown' patchwork information management systems but large integrated ERP systems (like SAP) and collaboration-oriented platforms like Sharepoint or IBM Connections or one of a number of other lesser-known platforms (often integrated via APIs with a number of other SaaS-based capabilities). There are many ways for employees to connect with each other, as intranet solutions become more 'social'. It's likely that the executives and managers in your organization will have been hearing and reading about this networked world of work for at least 3 or 4 years now.

We are now fully ensconced in the interconnected Knowledge Age. And there's near-unanimity amongst informed pundits that the interconnectedness and speed-of-light transmission of information will bring us growing uncertainty and turbulence as well as significant new and interesting opportunities.  But more understanding is critical.

But now how do we use a formidable array of connectedness and social computing capability to become responsive and adaptable to these new conditions ?

Given that the organization and its people are « wired », the key elements of wirearchy are already in play.

 Wirearchy – a dynamic two-way flow of power and authority based on knowledge, trust, credibility and a focus on results enabled by interconnected people and technology; knowledge, trust, credibility and a focus on results.

Connected people, connected organizations

To recap, today it's very likely that in your organization people are interconnected and are using their exchanges with each other and their participation in information flows to get work done and achieve objectives. The organization's people are already operating using knowledge, trust, credibility and a focus on achieving results .. it's just that the ways these elements are used or put into service are not often well adapted to the new more horizontal playing field.  And of course there may be significant lapses or absence of these elements.  We'll explore the issues below.

Start with "why" - why should these new capabilities be used, and what for ? The question to ask here is how well does the organization use these new capacities.  And how well has it adapted its leadership, management practices and organizational culture to be flexible and adept enough to take advantage of these real possibilities for improvement and/or innovation?

These question softer uncover ambiguity and lack of clarity.  And there is often general dissonance and resistance to the necessary adaptation(s) because more often than not people are operating in the psychological infrastructure of the traditional not-interconnected hierarchy.

A decade has gone by

By now (early 2014) almost everybody interested in the networked organization will have heard of holacracy, radical management, work hacking and a range of other initiatives aimed at bringing deep(er) change to organizations seeking to function more effectively in an environment of hyperlinked people and information.

It's been 8-plus years since the term Enterprise 2.0 was created by Andy McAfee to designate a new form factor for organizations brought about by the introduction of social computing tools and productivity platforms which support activity streams, work flows and collaborative practices. The term and related concepts have offered organizations everywhere the possibility of  rebooting or re-orienting the ways knowledge work is carried out.

Now that we have more than a decade of experience with the Web we know that users gain familiarity with social computing in the consumer arena first, followed by migration to more serious pursuits (in this case collaboration and knowledge work). The term Enterprise 2.0 generated a lot of heat and light, but arguably the adoption, implementation and significant use of social computing was examined only tentatively by most organizations.

By the time the Enterprise 2.0 caravan struck out towards the future's frontier, thanks to consumer social networks we also had a decent understanding of the latent transparency afforded by hyperlinked information, individuals and groups. Scores of blog posts and articles developed the themes associated with the potential (and eventual) impact of these new conditions on the widely-accepted classic pyramidal hierarchy.

The new environment is different indeed

The classic hierarchical model has been optimised over the past 50 years through a range of initiatives addressing continuous improvement, re-engineering, and a massive and continuing focus on execution and quality. Today at the start of the 21st Century this model dominates the organizational world. It promises control, predictability and progressive incremental quarter-over-quarter growth and constant improvement in financial performance in an era when for many executives that is all that matters.

Hyperlinked information and people seems dangerous to those charged with creating and managing the control, predictability and forward stability. The paths to effectiveness in an interconnected environment seem and feel less knowable, less controllable. People are prone to asking questions and introducing new ideas. Networked exchanges between people runs the risk of introducing disorder or mis-alignment into the ranks of the execution-and-quality-focused knowledge worker.

Yes, I am over-simplifying here. But it is not an exaggeration to state that there has been anticipatory anxiety, trepidation or indifference by the organization's C-Suite with regard to addressing the deep changes (both possible and imagined) that are generated by social computing.

After a period of initial exploration and shaking out of the concept of Enterprise 2.0, and aided by the spectacular growth of online social networks, the domain shifted or graduated to the notion of « social business » in 2008-2009. More and more organizations had begun to realize that social computing and networks were not going away. And of course the primary connections seen as necessary were the connections to the already-wired-and-connected consumer, who by now surfed the internet daily, shopped online pretty regularly and participated in one way or another in exchanges on Facebook, on Twitter, on blogs, on Instagram, etc.

Social networks and their dynamics were no longer breaking news, but either an opportunity or a bother to be dealt with somehow.

Enterprise 2.0 → Social Business

Thus, the term « social business » arrived. It was coined by members of the Dachis Group to denote business activities taking place in connected eco-systems of information. It's main contribution to the field of interest created by the concept of Enterprise 2.0 was a greater emphasis on people being part of the connected eco-system.  However, Enterprise 2.0 still tended to focus on the advent and spread of tools and platforms, whilst of course it's people who use the tools and platforms).

« Social » is a tricky term, of course. In a first instance, many people have pointed out that « business has always been social ». Secondly, there's been much debate over the past three years about the fundamental difference between the Dachis Group's notion of 'social business » and the notion of « social enterprise », a form of organization that is structured and operated so as to return profit, capital or other benefits to members, clients and communities.

Additionally, it's useful for my purposes to add here that the concept of « social business » as articulated by the Dachis Group borrowed heavily from the social science domain known as socio-technical systems theory. Interest in and research into the collision or melding of technology and sociology began in the 1960's principally as a counter-balance to the dominance of engineering and efficiency principles as applied to organizational structure and dynamics. Much of this work can be found today in the principles and practices of the field known as OD (organizational development) although it has tended to focus on people and often enough ignore technology.

Optimization or ongoing development?

The field of OD came into being in the 50's / early 60's mainly as a search for ways to counter or work around some of the less desirable aspects of rigid hierarchy, and to increase productivity though worker satisfaction.

Since then OD has coalesced mainly into a domain of activity in the organization associated with learning and development. For many leaders and managers, this makes coming to terms with networks and their dynamics and activities pretty difficult. You may have heard the phrase « the soft stuff is the hard stuff ». In a world where management « science » has grown and flourished for the same 50 years, unlearning and letting go of what made you successful as a manager and gave you social status within the organization is not an easy thing.

Both we and our organizations need an understanding of and fluency with the new technology(ies) and the realization that the dynamics of networks align very clearly with the main principles of (organizational) development and learning

Notwithstanding the practices available from socio-technical systems theory, the adoption of « social business » practices over the last 4 or 5 years has continued to encounter significant amounts of resistance to new ways of working with information and knowledge and managing people. At the same time there has been ongoing evolution of social networks, the technology that enables these networks, and the activities generated by the people in the networks.

Whither « Social Business »?

Quite recently there have been various « dust storms » of opinion  with respect to the proclamation that « social business is dead »,.  This discussion has been accompanied by the noticeable stagnation by most organizations regarding coming to grips with the wider and deeper effects of social computing and networks.

I'll admit some schadenfreude here, as I've been one of those who has stated for some time that the term « social business » helped gloss over or keep superficial the deep(er) changes … to structure, to managing both activities and talent, and to organizational culture … that organizations must deal with if they are to survive and thrive in this era of networks.  And indeed, in response to the notion of « dead » many opinions sprang up noting the contrary, that the era of networked activities is just getting started and that the major changes to business process, organizational structures, and management of people and activities are on the horizon, yet to come.

Why is this? Well, it seems clear now that the deeper changes are underway all around us. Changes are coming thicker and faster to the sources and structure(s) of knowledge and the ways in which people create both economic and social value through their work .. hence the notions of holacracy, work hacking, radical management and so on.

But .. most organizations are still structured as classic traditional hierarchies, and the well-known « command-and-control » models of management (though now often structurally 'softened' by 2 decades of continuous change) are still in operation almost everywhere. This has not gone unnoticed. Over the past two years there has been a spate of books, articles and studies suggesting that leadership and management for a networked area MUST change, and in important ways.

 The Future of Management (G. Hamel)

The Future of Work (Malone)

The Golden Age of Management Is Now (Denning)

Will Enterprise 2.0 Drive Management Innovation ? (Husband)

Flat Army (Pontefract)

.. and a large number of other similar works.

The organization's future is here; it's very unevenly distributed

What's the next stepping-off point or springboard for the networked organization?

I'd like to suggest that it is critical to recognize, explicitly, that ...

networks are here to stay,
future generations of knowledge workers accept these tools and dynamicss as a regular part of their lives
the conditions are at hand for growing flexible and responsive learning organizations comprised of engaged people, and
adaptation is fundamentally necessary; there are and will be significant payoffs from investments in social tools, collaborative platforms and engaged people
After all, your organization is no longer, in effect, a traditional hierarchy. Almost everybody in the western world who would be considered a knowledge worker works daily behind a screen (desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone) and functions to some degree or other in a range of now well-known social networks. And no doubt many of the organizations who began experimenting 6 or 5 or 4 or 3 years ago will now have some form(s) or other of functioning social networks in operation.

People are connected to each other, and critical information and knowledge are flowing daily. This fact is not in question and is not going away. More information is being created each day,  younger people who've by now grown up with things digital and social tools are entering the workforce, new tools and new information technology capabilities (semantic engineering, machine learning, work automation), etc.

Change is inevitable. The people and the information in and of your organization are already networked. Increasingly there's a mis-match between the way an organization has been structured (wherein access to information and permission and freedom to act were arranged vertically through reporting relationships) and the way(s) it can be structured to operate more effectively and more 'holistically' in ubiquitous networked conditions.

Dissonance and structural tension

Henceforth, organizations and the ways they operate as currently designed will likely be awkward in front of engaged networks. Primarily this is because hyperlinks, connectedness and information flows have a significant impact on decision-making and taking action. The dynamics of networked information flows and the exchanges by people that accompany the flows need to be addressed in the design of the jobs/roles, departments and levels, pay practices, etc.). But the changes necessary to access greater effectiveness are large and important.

What we have today is networked organizations dealing increasingly with knowledge and innovation as key differentiators whilst still structured as industrial machines in which jobs are the separate cogs, levers, nuts and bolts of those machines. However, the dynamics of networked organizations have often been compared to the dynamics of living, holistic ecosystems. It's not much of a stretch to think of things in this fashion, when we begin to consider an organization as a representation of an organism .. networks and connections being the neurons and synapses of its nervous system, its processes being the operations of the body, its relationships with key suppliers or partners its arms and legs, etc.

Decoupling work from stable employment

As we can see, there are important variables at play regarding the increasing complexity of the nature of work and the necessary changes to the structure and dynamics of the organizations in which knowledge work takes place. Many of these variables began feeling the impacts of the new conditions a decade or more ago. These impacts have not escaped the attention of workers everywhere. There seems to be ample evidence that people who work as employees are increasingly dis-engaged from authoritarian top-down decision-making paternal management styles and practices.

Additionally, in order to respond as effectively as possible to more turbulent and uncertain conditions in a globalized business environment, it has become commonplace over the past 20 years for organizations to carry out reductions-in-force (or downsizing) when it becomes necessary to reduce costs.

The cumulative effect of this approach to effectiveness has been a accelerating deconstruction of the social contract between employers and employees. Other than fear and anxiety, little prevents dis-engaged workers from leaving an organization or offering mediocre personal performance.

Thus, clued-in people everywhere are recognizing that their future is already here, even if the organization(s) in which they work are not responding to the constellation of new conditions we all face. They're operating more and more in wirearchies … in connected groups where the key enablers for effectiveness are pertinent knowledge, thresholds of trust, reliable credibility and an ongoing focus on results. We don't want to talk just to be social .. let's also make things happen, let's get things done. Often for people that means leaving an organizational environment in which they feel they cannot flourish or easily explore interesting ideas that may lead to invention and innovation of new ways of getting things done.

Increasingly, we can expect to find smart people, loosely joined in networks are there to get things done they care about or in which they have made investments of psychological and emotional energy. They may well need hierarchy to help in decision-making, but less and less as proxies for stability, control and trust. That horse has left the barn.

 And, so what?

The people in your organization are connected, whether to each other or to flows of information and knowledge. As more and more information flows about products, services, conditions, industries, local, national or international events and so on, traditional reporting relationships and decision-making permission defined by levels in the organization becomes less and less effective.

Hierarchies prescribe and dictate; networks enable, sense, and generate. When connected to clients, networks help workers follow issues and ideas coming from the market. The organization as a whole can stay in closer touch with the desires, appetites and needs of its clients, employees and other stakeholders.

But as described earlier in this essay, in so many cases they are still being tasked with operating the levers, cogs and other mechanisms of a machine that has efficiency as the non-emotional key strategic driver.

In reality the interconnected world we now live in is beginning to ask for more. It is asking for more rapid and more intelligent responses, more accessibility and more honesty, but from fewer top-down policies and rules and faster, more flexible and more effective decision-making where it matters (in front of or in exchange with a customer)

Can the transitions each and every organization must go through be made easier, more valuable, more effective?

If So, How?

It's not at all clear that organizations can change all that much, and there is a decent amount of evidence to the contrary. However, I think there are two or three clear approaches and/or tools that can be extremely useful (assuming that the organization in question has some networks operating within and or without).

The primary useful approach, I believe, is ONA (organizational network analysis) pioneered by Valdis Krebs, Rob Cross, Verna Allee, Jessical Lipnack, Patti Anklam and others. ONA is a derivative or sister concept of SNA (social network analysis) and now has established principles, practices, metrics, known challenges, etc.

In effect, carrying out ONA helps make the wirearchy (an hierarchy co-existing with networks) of a specific organization visible and more accessible. When visible and accessible, it's easier to find out why things are stuck somewhere, where talent is being mis-managed, under-utilised. It helps to uncover and clarify various types of issues and challenges related to the flows of information (and decisions) between interconnected individuals and groups.

I've been surprised that ONA has not become more widely used over the past 5 years (a colleague pointed out to me that there are actually very few social networks operating in organizations today).  If that is true, either I am deliberately provoking you, the reader, with the title of this essay or it underscores that position that while there is much interconnectedness, the activities carried out in the interconnected environment have yet to coalesce into something effective),.

That said, I believe ONA is becoming more valuable all the time. Wit the assumption that networks are not going away, that more and more people are comfortable with them and with the tools they use, we can imagine that their presence will only grow in visibility and impact.

You can't make (real) changes to culture or leadership or management practices if you don't really know what's going by whom and with whom in the networks of a given organization. But make that activity and the people visible on maps that provide analytic tools (such as centrality, betweenness, etc.) and all of a sudden there's much more tangible information with which to work in order to design, implement and execute cultural change or introduce models of management practice that recognize and address the dynamics of networked activities.

But .. your organization today is indeed a wirearchy, but a young and immature one.  It may or may or may not grow up to be an effective networked hierarchy.  But in order to survive and thrive it will need to unlearn its steady-but-less-responsive ways of operating and use ONA and other means to make its networks and the value it contains and generates visible, accessible, intelligent, empowered and in a constant state of evolution.
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Jon Husband

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A new blog post that's gotten some interesting responses.

It represents an ongoing revision of my description of and reflections on an important structural aspect of how work is still designed in today's  interconnected information-and-knowledge-work environment.

Any and all feedback welcomed.

"Knowledge, power an an historic shift in work and organizational design"

http://blog.changeagentsworldwide.com/291/
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fabulous essay. very enjoyable.
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Social Business - Rigour Mortis, Renaissance or Mistaken Identity

I've got to admit that I've long been tired or bored of most of the conversation circulating and re-cycling regarding ... 

- what 'social business' is and/or is not
- how to do it right, or in 7 easy steps, or with pizazz and ROI
- why it's changing everything (or nothing at all)

What I think is irrefutable are the following notions.

Yes, business is social.  It was so before hyperlinks and the Web came along, and it will be so 100 years from now.

Work happens mainly as a result of (and often during) social interaction.

Hierarchical organizations are social, just as much so as none-hierarchical organizations.  But in such organizations the rules of 'socializing for work' are different.

The difference in rules about socializing make a large difference in how (and often why) people work.  Looser structures that maintain focus on what is to be done tend to be more responsive and flexible, because the people doing the work are typically trusted to deliver and stay focused.

The term "social business" was mainly intended and adopted as a means of selling and implementing or integrating collaboration software into an organization's existing IT infrastructure.  In many cases, this is a cheaper version of the process of acquiring, implementing and training people to use the new system(s).  This process of training became what is understood today as 'change management".

Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy, said The Cluetrain Manifesto.

Subversion is the proper term when the hierarchy being subverted is stupid, unintelligent, unaware, unenlightened or just plain frightened.  After all, it is a large mob of (unruly) barbarians that keep knocking at the castle doors.

Hyperlinks can dis-intermediate (or more simply, cut across or through) the unnecessary or illegitimate authority in many formal structures.  Doing so can result in quicker responses, faster learning cycles (as useful information and/or knowledge is assessed and then discarded or adopted) and generally more flexible ways of responding to changes in clientele or markets or new/changed conditions.

How to design for this capability(on a continuum from more to less structured) is better known and understood today than is the process of 'unlearning' and critically examining core assumptions about work, organizational design, and management as it is still mainly practiced today.

Using hyperlinks and social tools to circulate and work with useful information and knowledge is not under debate any longer.  The tools and platforms and new methods of working are with us to stay.  They won't disappear.

Pretending that today's organization should still be structured as a "decision-making factory" (Roger Martin) will have less and less potency as hyperlinks (published and received via social tools) and information flows become the daily medium for work.

Why this will remain difficult for most organizations for some time to come has little to do with motivation and engagement and much more to do with the design of the work and the philosophy of management that underpins an organization's culture.

Social Business isn't dead.  It was never born, so to speak.  It's been the essence of business since business began.  Social of course doesn't mean just liking, and sharing useful information, or being supportive of others. It also involves lying and cheating and organizational politics and coercion and manipulation.  Everything else 'social' involves the full range of human behaviours as well.

What's important, I believe, is to recognize that the density, frequency and speed of information has been deeply affected by hyperlinks, that horizontal flows and decision-making can be quite disruptive where vertical decision-making was or is the norm, and that the dominant structures in which we carry out knowledge work still (to date) haven't changed much at all.  Nobody has yet created THE method for the optimal design of a networked organization (there's a reason for that, but you'll have to pay me for my opinion).

If you have any further interest, the article "Why E2.0 and Social Business Initiatives Are Likely To Remain Difficult" might be worthwhile to look at.
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Merci de m'avoir inviter, Claude.  Certain que je vais apprendre dans les echanges avec vous !
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On qu'on va apprendre à échanger avec toi ;-)
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Exploring the HR Management Framework for the Connected Collaborative Enterprise

The title is a dead giveaway, and I am using the term ‘framework’ loosely.

Why ?

Because I think no one really knows what the massive gradual transition to social computing and collaboration as core work activities means in practical terms for today’s (and tomorrow’s) human resources professionals and the people management processes and practices they design, implement, coach and manage.

I say that with full knowledge that over the last two decades we have seen a lot of talk and activity aimed at ‘modernizing’ human resources management practices.  There have been regular clarion calls for major change, and waves of interest and activity aimed at transforming HR professionals to become (for example):

business partners with line management
proactive change agents
coaches to managers and professionals
enablers of change, as opposed to (more traditional) gatekeeper roles
… but really, in spite of the last two decades replete with talks, books, workshops and consulting about:

learning organizations,
high-performance work environments,
knowledge-work,
or customer-service friendly organizational cultures (and so on)
the basics of human resources management goals and practices have remained little changed, philosophically and practically.

The main metaphor today’s HR professionals live in is still a machine with its designed-and-fitted parts and cogs, as opposed to the ‘living’ system of social networks in which people participate and interact.  This dominant metaphor leads to language such as optimization, alignment, productivity and control.

Let me be clear … in an enterprise setting, these are unequivocally good things to seek and realize.  However, the basic vocabulary of intention, methods and practices that can create these characteristics in a networked environment may be different.  In electronically connected networks where we “work at the speed of light” (McLuhan), different thinking and ways of working are necessary, and a new vocabulary may be very useful with respect to advancing on what we now have and use.

Talent Wars and Computers-Everywhere Meet the Era of Social Networks

The notion of purposeful social computing in and by workers (and customers) in an enterprise setting developed out of the rise and growth of what has come to be known as Web 2.0, and was termed Enterprise 2.0 about three and a half years ago.

Given that it arose from the welter of confusing-to-many activities that defined Web 2.0 (participation, interaction and sharing) I have often wondered if the term itself has been more of a hindrance than a help when making decisions about whether, why and how to put social computing and the potential of social networks into play in any given organization.

However, the dynamics are here to stay, and acquire more and more legitimacy all the time, thanks largely to the pioneering work of several thought-and-practice leaders and an excellent summary of the issues and examples to date in a new book titled Enterprise 2.0 – New Collaborative Tools for Your Enterprise’s Toughest Challenges, by Andrew McAfee (widely known as coiner of the term “Enterprise 2.0″

So … what about HR 2.0 for the Enterprise 2.0 ?

Human resources management is supposed to be about finding, attracting, engaging, motivating, and retaining (helping to grow / evolve ?) the best available talent.  In an era increasingly defined by information, knowledge and more recently participation, engagement, relationships, influence, etc., people who are talented, imaginative, creative, honest and hard-working often remain an elusive and slippery target.

Much of the foundation for modern human resources management frameworks and established practices comes directly out of the 50′s and 60′s (yes, including more recent competency analysis and modelling and self-directed work groups, etc.) and is firmly grounded in mainstream management models.  Two major waves that sought to review and revise the established practices came with the debate (70′s and early 80′s) over Theory X and Theory Y management philosophies, and the basic steps taken in the 90′s and 2000′s to recognize that the enterprise’s future involves different kinds of knowledge workers than those who dominated over the past40 years.

In my opinion, the issues have become more complex over the past five years.  Many of the established HR methods and practices depend upon the foundations of traditional management science, and plain and simply did not foresee the rise of pervasive and ubiquitous socially-connected workplaces.

Let’s look at each of the main areas of HR, and make some educated guesses as to how the interconnected 2.0 context may affect HR methods and practices.

Recruitment

Recruitment is about attracting, finding, wooing and checking out talent – it’s the courtship before the relationship begins.

This area of HR felt the dramatic impact of the Web early, in the form of job boards.  Job boards and template-based resumes became the norm pretty quickly, given the efficiencies introduced for busy HR people concerned with the first steps of recruitment.

There were and are disadvantages, however.  Keyword-constrained templates and functionality of most job boards ensured two things; 1) that some interesting and potentially very valuable candidates would be screened out because the match wasn’t precise enough, and 2) many people would be screened in (by using appropriate keywords) who did not really belong in the given recruitment process.

As web use and the presence and population of social networking platforms has grown, new dynamics have appeared in recruitment.  LinkedIn is a source of much activity, as is the more ‘organic’ word-of-mouth recommendation of people by people who know them.  This latter dynamic is, in my opinion, the really important one here.  It’s how people operate, and networking to find new work or a more interesting job, or just to make a change, was well underway long before Web 2.0 came around.  The Web has just made it … easier, faster and more effective.

I expect before long that people will offer potential employers as many references from people they know and have worked / interacted with on the Web as they will from former employers and colleagues.

Employee Orientation

Employee orientation is all about helping new employees “get their feet under the desk”. Supplementing job descriptions and the expectations agreed to upon hiring, an early response to the challenge was the use of an enterprise intranet, with which to support all the information new employees needed to know.

However, the real work of getting ones’ feet under the desk requires participation, interaction and ‘learning the ropes’, and here it’s clear that joining into the flow(s) operating in social networks inside an enterprise can be very useful with respect to a new employee’s more rapid and more effective orientation.  Many (all ?) of the collaboration / social computing platforms offer features such as profiles, personal tag clouds, and other contextual information that is crucial to effective orientation.

Work Design (Job descriptions)

Here’s an area that I suspect will come under a fair degree of scrutiny as the adoption and traction of Enterprise 2.0 continues to grow.  Job descriptions have a bad rep, and yet are essential in modern organizations, even if they are short and sweet.

The issue?  If they are short and sweet, they tend (in my experience) to be found in organizations that are already by and large nimble, adaptive and probably pretty well suited to operating in today’s networked environment.  They are an (but not THE) indicator of less bureaucratic organizations.  A current example of the needed scrutiny is a growing interest in forms of agreements or commitments, to do what one has said one will do, in a given context.

However, in many more structured or more bureaucratic organizations, they have become an input and an emblem of power and status, in the sense that their main purpose is often to help peg a job’s position in the organizational hierarchy and the salary, benefits and other perquisites obtained by the job.

As jobs in the modern world change rapidly and pretty regularly, there’s been growing (but often slow) interest in what I call role profiles.  As an aside, I was just last night reading a lecture delivered in 1974 by Marshall McLuhan (mentioned above) in which he noted that the notion of ‘job’ in an electronic era was a relic of a bygone era; in the more rapid electronic environment, he said, we are more clearly engaged in role-playing than we are in carrying out the task of a ‘job’.  1974 !!

A well-crafted role profile need be no longer than one page (landscape) and can include all of the essential information (including competencies and learning objectives) related to a given role.

Job descriptions are likely to remain an issue in many organizations getting involved with Enterpise 2.0 initiatives, as it will take some learning and experience to know what will be the effect on the concept of a ‘job’ from people operating constantly in a socially-networked environment

Employee Performance

Performance management has been a hot-button issue in most enterprises for a long time.  At its best, a well-designed and disciplined approach to performance management can potentially play a positive and constructive role in delivering sustained high performance, and can be central to creating a performance oriented culture in the enterprise.

All too often, however, performance management schemes serve to remind us that too many workplaces are the adult version of grade school, with report cards and a parent-like boss who has unwanted power over employee’s future and fate.

360-degree feedback processes (soliciting input on performance from subordinates, colleagues, superiors and even external customers and liaisons) have been around long enough now to have most of the kinks worked out, and are probably a decent pre-cursor to forms of ‘crowdsourcing’ input on employees’ performance.  Many (most ?) of the social computing / collaboration platforms out there have features and functionality designed to offer support to gathering and processing information about peoples’ performance.  However, they often have glitches that make them much less effective than they could be.  More recently, there have been rumblings about real-time annotation of performance around events.

The culture of an enterprise is an all-important aspect of why and how performance management is used.  I expect that this aspect will become more important as social computing and collaboration continues to grow and spread.

Training & Development

This is really too big a subject area to deal effectively with here.  Suffice it to say that this is an area that over the past five years or so has  generated a wholesale review of T & D philosophies and activities.  Much of the discussion is aimed at assessing how effective formal learning / T & D has been, and why and how informal, or social, learning is so pervasive and so important.

This issue gets at the heart of why social computing and collaboration is a big deal, and is (probably) changing the nature of knowledge work in today’s interconnected environment.

It’s important to note here that there will (IMO) always be an important role for structured formal training & development / learning focused on specific aspects of the kinds of information and knowledge needed by workers.  It’s also probably the case that much or all of that type of learning will be available online, and offered in various hybrid combinations of virtual and F2F learning environments.

For a concise yet comprehensive summary of the core issues and why the impact of the Web is so important in this area, see my colleague and fellow Change Agent Harold Jarche’s “Social Learning in the Enterprise“.

Reward & Remuneration

Where to start ?

In many of my writings about social computing, collaboration, Enterprise 2.0, hierarchy and wirearchy, I have stated that the enterprise-driven process of job evaluation is a real and ever-present challenge to the effectiveness of Enterprise 2.0 adoption and effectiveness.

In a vast general sense, levels of remuneration for many types of jobs are determined by job evaluation, a process of ‘measuring’ the amount of knowledge, problem-solving and accountability contained in a job.  There are of course other influences like union contracts on specific industries, ‘hot’ (or currently-in-demand) skills, local and regional issues, and so on … but there is clearly stratification in the levels of pay and compensation depending upon the type(s) of work.

Not only that, there is important legislation in many of the developed countries governing the issue(s) of Equal Pay for Work of Equal Value that specifies in general terms how the worth of a job is measured and what the issues are for setting remuneration levels for types of work

Remuneration is a subject area that is too vast (and too arcane) to get into here, but it’s one that I expect will experience more and more change as the era of social computing and social networks in the workplace really gets going.

I have some ideas on the evolution of this area of HR, mainly gleaned from work I have done in the past on 1) competency-based pay and 2) contribution-based pay. And, to revive a term I have not heard much of for the past 15 years or so, might Enterprise 2.0 help rejuvenate the concept of gainsharing ?

Administrative

Most administrative issues and practices in the HR field were automated in HRIS systems at least a decade ago, if not longer.  I am not aware of how Enterprise 2.0 would visit any change to this area of HR management.

This is already a too-long post.  And, I have not even touched on the ways HR professionals need to change what and how they deliver to meet the challenges posed by Enterprise 2.0.

As noted at the beginning of this piece, I am not aware of significant work in the general area of changes to mainstream HR practices as a result of embarking on the path towards Enterprise 2.0.  I will be delighted to learn from any of you of examples and / or issues I may have missed or glossed over.
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Jon Husband

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<<  The best innovations in social collaboration are when entire traditional processes disappear because a newly engaged workforce finds a better way. >> a key and central point, very clearly articulated Simon.
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+Jon Husband I must be looking in the wrong place.
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Hacking As Purposeful Organizational Change

For the past several years we've heard lots about BarCamps, WordCamps, BookCamps, GovJams, Unconferences, Hackathons and various forms of collaborative spaces, etc. All of these represent forms of organization in which people come together and group around a purpose with the objective of carrying out some practical experiments. Typically today such groupings are invited, planned and often facilitated by people connected online to other people because of affinities of purpose, interest, values or skills.

The aim is to see what can get done when a bunch of people with passion, similar interests and diverse skills come together and get started at seeing what the results of focused collaboration might be.

Why can't that be done by larger organizations, and become seen as a 'strategic business process', a form of crowd-solving. Why not hack onerous and out-dated HR processes and policies ? Or ask people to tackle other problematic areas of an organization's operations ?

I believe there are some early examples in (for example) IBM's large-scale and sometimes global jams. But it seems to me evident that grouping people around issues and problems that they care about will make useful things happen much more quickly and efficiently than might otherwise be the case.

Wirearchy in action ?
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I liked data.gov's process of data paloozas to catalyze new opportunities.  http://www.data.gov/
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Well done, Chuck. And I'm sure you know I share your perspectives on the future of work.
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[Learning at the Speed of Links and Conversations]


We all learn … every day. It’s an essential capability, which has brought us rapid advancement as a species over the past several thousand years. Learning is even more important in today’s hyper-linked, inter-connected world wherein pertinent flows of information are accelerating.

In this context and set of conditions it’s critical that we learn continuously and effectively in order to adapt, and become more flexible and develop resiliency for a world of perpetual turbulence. As an analogy, think of a fast-flowing river with a lot of whitewater rapids. We now inhabit a world of permanent whitewater (for more on this, see Peter Vaill’s Learning As A Way of Being: Strategies For Survival in a World of Permanent Whitewater).

Most of us over the age of 20 have grown up and matured in an education-and-work system that offered us structured learning in the form of primary, secondary, and post-secondary education. This experience is/was followed by entry and integration into a highly structured hierarchical setting—our workplace(s). In both settings usually we had time to absorb, reflect, and be guided by more knowledgeable and/or more experienced people—teachers, supervisors, bosses, and occasionally mentors.

These conditions, which allowed us time to reflect, integrate and put to use what we learn, are now very rapidly changing in the era of the interconnected web. The use of search engines, databases, platforms, and spaces for collaborative exploration and exchange has exploded into our personal and collective world. Both real-time and asynchronous connection combined with effective technologies for compressing the bits that drive/carry audio and video have enabled inexpensive and effective telepresence. We’re transitioning into an era of “conversations” from which we extract useful information and knowledge, whilst time and space are being altered in front of our faces.

Arguably the capabilities offered by these new tools and the conditions they generate are having deep impact upon how, why, where, and when we learn. I think it’s “how” we learn that is the most important focus or issue for these early days of a new set of conditions rapidly becoming ubiquitous.

The flows of information enabled by interconnected technology and people typically involve exchanges of interest and pertinence to the activity at hand. However, in contrast to yesteryear, quite often the time available to learn has been affected in important ways. Does this help or hinder how we learn? Is it an obstacle, or just a condition to which we must systematically adapt through awareness and a shift in our frame of reference about learning?

In the context offered by the digitally enabled workplace, as in the past, we are often hired for what we have already learned. Today this is still a major factor, but increasingly just as important is being able to demonstrate that we have learned how to learn. In the interconnected workplace full of continuous information flows, of course we bring what we have learned (bodies of knowledge, specific skills, familiarity with a discipline, a market or an industry, etc.). But we often face a need to learn quickly. We need to be able to assess the context and issue(s) in near real time, instantly tap into what we already know or connect with someone whom we know knows what to do, and then interact and exchange with others also focused on the issue.

Even without hyperlinks and screens clearly some kinds of learning still take time, reflection, and discipline. An example: I just spent a couple of hours with a friend who had a stroke 18 months ago. He has had to re-learn how to speak, which has taken, time, discipline and support from others. Other examples could include learning how to work on an engine, master a craft, and so on.

So, how do we do both? Learn rapidly in near real time, and take the time, reflection, and practice to learn something useful that is unlearnable in real time?

In order to be able to do this effectively, we must become more adept at making clear and conscious distinctions about when and how to engage in:

- Responding quickly by tapping into known and existing pertinent knowledge we can call up with a click or two (databases, other people or other points of reference)

- Identifying and signalling (to others) that some time is need to stop, think, and figure things out

- Clarifying that something underway or in discussion needs to be “moved to the side” for further discussion and deeper learning before being pulled into the discussion or resolution of an issue

Over and above these decisions any individual must make, a core skill is the ability to ask good questions in non-intimidating ways, listen effectively, and always seek to be helpful and of use. It’s also critically important to know and understand how one learns and how to employ filters to help decide when and how to learn. The emerging field of digital literacy combined with PKM (personal knowledge management) are very useful enablers of more effective personal learning strategies and tactics.

In the information-and-hyperlink saturated workplace social networks we now inhabit, clarification, confirmation, and collaboration are but a click or two away. It’s mission-critical for individuals, groups, and organizations to be able to discern what kind(s) of personal learning strategies are necessary to survive and thrive in our new world of permanent information whitewater.

There just isn’t any choice other than continuous learning because ongoing change —permanent whitewater— is our only remaining constant.
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Thanks, Deborah Gabriel.
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Thanks, Marc, for the invitation.  It's a privilege to be able to get involved with this.
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