I have been reflecting lately on how Enterprise 2.0’s experimentations could be introduced in a big organization environment. There is a lot of “change management” thinking there for sure: start small, pick quick wins, build a community of supporters,… But it seems that there is also more profound forces involved as well: Enterprise 2.0 represents a real paradigm shift for process oriented organizations.
I hate to use the term “paradigm shift”, because it has been used so many times, and for quite common situations. But in this case, I’m starting to wonder if there is not indeed a very distinctive approach between the two modes that would require organization to adopt very different ways to think about their internal dynamics.
Let me first give a bit more background on what I mean by process oriented. It is obvious that many big organizations, if not all of them, conceive their production of value (be it an actual product or a service) as a succession of tasks performed by different individual in specific roles. In this approach, the actual individual fulfilling a role is quite irrelevant as long as he or she has the capacity to perform the corresponding operations. The greatness of such a design is that it tends to make production fairly predictable. The downside is that you can not use the complete value of every individual in your organization because you ask them first to fulfill roles and you miss everything they can do outside of this specific role. Plus there is also a natural tendency to accumulate slack: if you use 100% of the time of an individual in a particular role, you create a bigger uncertainty than if you ask him to operate at 70%, plus or minus a couple of percents; and thus, you become less predictable.
On the contrary, if you loosely define Enterprise 2.0 as the adoption in a production context of collaboration modes as found on the Web, you end up with a very different picture. The individuals and their abilities are at the center of this picture. People freely decide to which project they will contribute and on which part. The whole dynamic is anything but predictable. It is on the contrary very efficient to perform many projects at the same time but with no coordination of a central authority that would ex ante define which one are really worth pursuing. Projects happen not because they are dimmed important by a couple of executive roles, but because the necessary skills aggregate through the desire of each participant of contributing. You trade predictibility for an incredible speed of implementation.
Now imagine a big organization that has been defining and refining its internal processes for the past decades. That has established its recruitment and dismissal processes to constantly have a sufficient stock of resources to fill the different roles. Imagine that you ask it to conceive itself as an internal market where resources can freely recombine to pursue emerging projects. That you promote the notion that you will, through this, greatly augment the output by loosing control on the nature of this output. Did I mention the term “paradigm shift”?