Resistance to change: The real Enterprise 2.0 barrier

Summary:Large organizations continue to embrace Enterprise 2.0 as a viable addition to their business process toolbox, however resistance to change remains a challenge.

Large organizations continue to embrace Enterprise 2.0 as a viable addition to the corporate business process toolbox. As evidence, look no farther than the rapid growth of The 2.0 Adoption Council, which was founded this past June and currently boasts more than 100 member organizations, each of which has more than 10,000 employees.

Despite clear interest from the enterprise, discussion persists around obstacles to large-scale adoption of Enterprise 2.0 approaches, tools, and methods.

ZDNet's Joe McKendrick summarized key obstacles in blog post at Fast Forward:

Resistance to change 52%
Difficulty in measuring ROI 42%
Integrating with existing technologies 41%
Security concerns 32%
Budget 25%
Product knowledge 23%
Tools not enterprise ready 22%

It should not surprise us that the top issue is resistance to change. Readers of this blog know that business projects of every kind suffer from issues related to poor communication, conflicting agendas across information silos, and related organizational causes of failure.

A recent study from The 2.0 Adoption Council also describes resistance to change as the significant barrier. This compelling slide clearly summarizes that message:

In a fascinating blog post, independent analyst, Gil Yehuda, describes reluctance to share information inside German organizations:

The union leaders are not so keen on having E2.0 tools since it can result in eroding their power and give more power to the workers that the union represents. Managers in small companies can also form owner-councils. This can help them negotiate with the workers’ councils — and may also be threatened by the shift in power too. In other words — there are decision makers on both sides that are threatened by E2.0.

In a related post, Gil states that German adoption of Enterprise 2.0 is high, despite this resistance. He quotes ZDNet blogger (and my colleague in the Pragmatic Enterprise 2.0 initiative), Dion Hinchcliffe, as saying: "Germany is the #2 marketplace for E2.0."

I asked Dion to clarify this assertion:

Germany is one of the top countries actively engaging in Enterprise 2.0 and appears to be 2nd after the U.S. based on some early data points such as informal sampling of top social software vendors."

MIT professor Andrew McAfee, who coined the phrase Enterprise 2.0, addresses the resistance issue from a different perspective. He discusses organizational resistance to change in a blog post on prediction markets (which offer a method for aggregating intelligence based on wisdom of crowds theories). Andy questions why companies sometimes resist adopting prediction markets:

So what is the real stumbling block? Is it that companies don’t really want the most accurate information about future events to come out and be widely known?

On the surface, the answer seems obvious: "Of course, everyone wants accurate information."

Digging deeper, we come across an interesting paradox. In theory, most folks applaud information sharing and transparency as worthy goals. In practice, however, some people are reluctant to release information, feeling that doing so may threaten their own personal standing or advantage.

I asked The 2.0 Adoption Council's founder, Susan Scrupski, to comment on the statistics quoted above. I also requested her thoughts on the notion that fear is the real inhibitor to Enterprise 2.0 adoption:

Fear has an irrational connotation when we discuss it in business terms. Relative to 2.0 adoption, it seems there is a more rational emphasis on Uncertainty and Doubt. Those in power are reluctant to change because they've learned to master the devil they know. Those without power (and now discovering new freedom in having a voice) are cautious because it's not clear what the career ramifications of their assertiveness will yield.

Separately, it's worth noting a recent meme that questioned the legitimacy of Enterprise 2.0 as a basic value proposition, labeling the whole thing a "crock." That's just not a question we need to take seriously at this stage. If you are interested, Andy McAfee describes a half-dozen valuable use cases in a blog post.

THE PROJECT FAILURES ANALYSIS

The 2.0 Adoption Council's growth makes clear that Enterprise 2.0 has evolved from an amorphous set of activities and goals into a valuable corporate focus point. Despite enthusiasm, however, we must recognize that Enterprise 2.0 adoption is subject to the same issues and obstacles as any other business transformation initiative.

The fundamental challenge to rapid diffusion of Enterprise 2.0 in large companies and the government is fear of change. As with all business activities, the human element remains a basic driver of success and failure. Enterprise 2.0 practitioners, consultants, early adopters, and observers should recognize the reality of these obstacles and plan accordingly.

In general, fighting human nature is an uphill battle that eventually results in failure. Instead, work gently with stakeholders to help them experience first-hand the benefits of Enterprise 2.0. Success is the most powerful form of organizational transformation and evolution.

Topics: Enterprise 2.0

About

Michael Krigsman is recognized internationally as an analyst, strategy advisor, enterprise advocate, and blogger. For CIOs and IT leadership, he addresses issues such as innovation, business transformation, project-related business objectives and strategy, and vendor planning. For enterprise software vendors and venture-funded star... Full Bio

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