Enterprises both large and small are psychologically complex places. Industrial and organizational psychologists are full of fascinating anecdotes about the ways the individual people that make up an enterprise organize themselves to hinder, help, block or share with one another.
A common term in Hollywood is ‘Frenemies’ : “a portmanteau of friend and enemy which can refer to either an enemy disguised as a friend or to a partner that is simultaneously a competitor.”
These uneasy alliances between people, teams and sometimes even multinational silos betray a truth often overlooked during this period of tremendous technological advances being made in the enterprise 2.0 space.
For all the sophistication of interconnected online technologies to facilitate communication and collaboration, the reality is that the goal of implementing these tools is simply to facilitate people in the business world working together.
However, collaboration in the enterprise is a complex thing: shifting alliances, allegiance and levels of trust have always had a huge impact, as any project manager in the trenches will tell you.
There’s nothing new here. The 1853-56 Crimean War – the first ‘modern’ military conflict – is an interesting comparison. The notorious incompetence and rivalries between commanding officers of the various allies on each side are widely considered a text book example of how not to run military campaigns, with many lives lost due to poor planning and communication.
In our globally interconnected business world we are centuries away from that conflict, yet the more things change, the more they remain the same.
As mentioned earlier, companies of all sizes are riven by rivalries: interpersonal, interdepartmental, inter silo and even intercontinental! Sometimes these hostilities are not apparent to executive management, but they play a major part in the effectiveness or otherwise of business tactics.
One of the key challenges in planning an enterprise collaboration strategy is outflanking these powerful undercurrents. Modern ‘knowledge work’ is becoming as volatile as the Hollywood media industry, with rapid seismic shifts in project size, direction and duration.
Executive management now have the power to use 2.0 tools to break down silos and manage people, while increasing efficiency of communication, with appropriate strategy and tactics when they plan their online environment.
Without this, ad hoc adoption of these same tools at a departmental level can result in offline rivalries becoming entrenched online, and as the collaborative content builds up online this can be very hard to reorganize or remedy later.
Providing a level playing field for business units to collaborate effectively, and ensuring the leadership and management of that collaboration environment is agnostic in its relationship with the ‘frenemies’ that use it will enable it to become the trusted backbone of the company.