Last week we went to the Enterprise 2.0 Summit in Paris, I posted up my notes from the case studies earlier (Day 1 and Day 2 here), but I’ve been letting the overall lessons from the conference percolate and gel in my mind. Also, I’ve had the opportunity to read a lot of other people’s thoughts over the last few days. I believe that what is emerging in the arena is the following:
- The “first wave” of the E2.0/Social Business movement is coming to an end, the consolidation of Dachis and Sprinklr, new directions from PostShift, the entrance of major consulting players like McKinsey and Deloitte, and the emergence of (or purchase of) social business tools by major software players, plus the increasing calls for integrated systems, all signal major shifts in a young industry.
- The increasing number of emerging case studies are starting to make it clear what works, and what does not. We are also starting to see which of the “patchwork elephant” array of social business concepts and theories that have been around for the last decade or so are looking valid, and which are looking more fanciful (or more kindly, are still before their time).
- We all noticed a split between what I call the “humanist” and “technical” approaches to Social Business apparent at the conference, and to an extent this article reflects a concern that 2 camps emerge in what should be a holistic ecosystem..
To an extent point 1 is a given, any successful trend has a number of predictable phases in its lifecycle, and what we are seeing in my opinion is the shift from early adopter to the early mass market phase, as the ecosystem changes case studies are starting to show what sort of Social Business is making it over the Chasm first. This is not to say that other models will not follow as the sector matures, but we are seeing the first phase emerging.
Point 2 I will talk about in a later post when I’ve done a full analysis of all the case studies, but I’ve summarised some emerging clear lessons over here. I was intrigued by the emergence of so many ideas about organising businesses (with wry interest I note that there are a lot of echoes of theories of 30 – 40 years ago) but it is emerging as a major area that needs addressing. This is hardly new news in Social Business either, Adriana Lukas reflected on this issue in the first Patchwork Elephant conference we ran in 2010, and was looking at Heterarchical and Holon approaches even then based on her client experience. As I wrote in my piece on the many Dunbar numbers, business copied its structures from the military structures of yesteryear, the military has changed hugely since WW2 but its not clear that business has changed so much. There is clearly a well overdue time for change.
On the point of multiple Dunbar numbers, Dunbar is quite clear that different sizes of human network structure have very different requirements on the human relationship dynamic, this is often forgotten in a world that thinks everyone you link to on a social network is a “friend”. To an extent technology can help (there was some fascinating hints on how social business tools can overturn the Allen curve from the case studies exploring Proximity) but it is extremely unlikely in my view that the way one can organise and run a 5 person cell will ever be the same as running a 15 or 50 person operation, never mind a 150 or 500 person one.
However, what this post is about is point 3, the apparent difference between “technical” and “humanist” approaches to social business and the damage such a split could cause. My view is that they are two halves of the same elephant, a necessary yin and yang if you like. The model I believe best expresses this in a useful way for business is the McKinsey 7S model (another oldie but goodie), so much so that I see it as the “7 Social” model. The model was designed as a strategic vision for groups, to include businesses, business units, and teams. The model is based on the theory that, for an organization to perform well, these seven elements need to be aligned and mutually reinforcing.
The diagram of the model is at the top of this post, and we have a more detailed breakdown over here, but in essence it says there are 2 sides to Social Business, the “Hard” requirements – systems, strategy and structure – and the “Soft” requirements – staff, skills and style, and the whole system has at its hub the Shared Values of the enterprise.
In a bit more detail – the “Hard” (or Technical) requirements are:
Strategy – What the organisation is seeking to accomplish, and how the organisation plans to use its resources and capabilities to deliver that. This would include what Social business systems are to be used, and what they are to achievers.
Structure – How is the organisation structured? What are the reporting and working relationships? How are decisions made? How is information shared (formal and informal channels) across the organisation? This is an area where there is a lot of thinking around how Social Businesses are to be structured, but many ideas are still conjectural and “what works” is still in very early days.
Systems – the primary business and technical systems that drive the organisation. This is about the technology used, but although technology is important, it is only 1 of 7 areas to be considered.
The Soft (or Humanist) requirements:
Style – the management/leadership style. Are there real teams functioning within the organisation or are they just nominal groups? What behaviours, tasks and deliverables does the management/leadership reward vs what they desire?
Staff – What is the size of the organization? Are there gaps in required capabilities or resources? What is the plan to address those needs?
Skills – the skills the organisation requires to deliver the core products and(or) services. If there are any changes required in the skills the organisation needs, are the new skills sufficiently present and available? How are skills monitored, assessed, and improved?
- There are “hard” benefits behind engagement, from length of employee service to reduced absenteeism and more general employee efficiency.
- Shared values help to synchronise decisions, ensure that everything is “pointing in the same direction”/”on the same page” – i.e. they improve operating efficiency
- To attract and retain the best talent, a business either needs to pay top dollar in a global market, or needs to be seen as being more than just a profit machine, it needs to stand for something bigger
- People feel more motivated and inspired if there is a bigger purpose to their work than the 9-5 drudge
- People like to feel they “belong” to something worth belonging to, it gives work purpose
- Research we did of companies with strong founding cultures (eg in the Great Depression) was that these can last a long time, even several generations in a business
In short, the model demands that equal weight is placed on the technical and humanist considerations, and the overall system is anchored on a unifying “big picture” vision of the business. The 6 components are important, no one area is an answer in and of itself. And it’s the shared values that really gives the edge. You can see it in any area of human endeavour – a well trained team, working with passion in a common endeavour, can beat the odds, the masses and the all-stars.
In conclusion, in my view that the most effective approaches for Social Business going forward will be those that best integrate the Technical (hard) and Humanist (soft) requirements, behind fully engaging the employees.