Connecting with traditional business language and conventions

John Hagel believes exploiting process exceptions is the way to find value in social initiatives; the challenge is often finding a common language with the business world
Written by Oliver Marks, Contributor

John Hagel, who I've recorded conversations with for this blog previously, says some sensible things in a piece by executive editor of 'MIT Sloan Management Review' magazine's 'Innovation Hubs' section David Kiron.

John essentially adds some comments around exceptions to update a report Deloitte put out mid last year titled 'Social Software for Business Performance - The missing link in social software: Measurable business performance improvements' , which echoed the gestalt of those of us thinking about how to accelerate business performance with social and collaborative software back then.

From my perspective academia has tended to obscure the reality that early 2.0 use of shadow IT was effectively knowledge workers informal 'blue collar' ingenious 'git r done' reactions to the rigid process bound enterprise software tools that made completing their tasks time consuming and difficult. They found quicker ways to get things done with more agile, informal tools.

 Fast forward from that Web 2.0 era six or so years ago and now everyone and his brother has appended free interaction tool features onto rigid process enterprise software, aiming to act as a social lubricant to enable transfer of tacit knowledge and contextual group workflow dialog around the work at hand.

 I recall discussing Hagel - whose work I respect - with an exec at a large company where I was consulting around three years ago, who told me that at an event he attended back then, the audience were streaming for the exits when Hagel came on stage. This was not because of any major disrespect for Hagel - although some dislike the Hagel, Brown and Davison's  'Big Shift' 'Return on Assets' economic performance ideas - but because he wasn't speaking the classical language of bean counters and business processes, the focus of the rest of the conference.

 Meanwhile, according to CNBC today

The United States has slipped further down a global ranking of the world's most competitive economies, according to a World Economic Forum (WEF) survey released on Wednesday.

 The world's largest economy, which was placed 5th last year, fell two positions to the 7th spot - marking its fourth year of decline.

 ….The survey, which has been conducted annually for over three decades, ranks the competitiveness of 144 countries based on 12 key indicators including infrastructure, macroeconomic environment, labor market efficiency and innovation.

 Despite declining in the overall ranking, the forum highlighted that the U.S. remains one of the world's top innovators - supported by an "excellent" university system - and continues to offer vast opportunities because of the sheer size of its domestic economy.

 David Kiron's  MIT Sloan Management Review discussion with Hagel, titled 'How Finding Exceptions Can Jump Start Your Social Initiative' takes another stab at defining value propositions that could appeal to process and bean counter logic - Hagel believes that

 ...about 60 percent to 70 percent of the headcount time in most functions within an enterprise are consumed by handling “exceptions,” things that get thrown out of automated processes. It’s an exception when it doesn’t comply with policies or the rules of the process — an individual has to go and resolve it, typically by scrambling around because they can’t resolve it on their own. They need to get a number of other people engaged to help. That is a hugely inefficient process today.

 Hagel goes on to discuss how analyzing the data patterns made visible by these activities is of high value (ideas which are being amplified by SAP's Hana and IBM's Watson by their respective marketing machines), culminating in dangling the idea of dashboards of useful process and financial data under exec's noses. 'Metrics that Matter' is Deloitte's line...

 It's a good piece and well worth reading, and it's always great to see material being circulated which isn't going to be immediately dismissed as no value fluff by execs.

 A couple of realities are that large enterprises often don't know how the fingers of one hand are interacting, let alone left hand, right hand whole body analogies…many execs are striving to make a profit and loss silo they are running make sense, and that's what they are being judged on. The risk/reward of being more holistic is typically both questionable and potentially stepping on other execs toes, unless of course that's their remit.

 Most of the US innovation the World Economic Forum refers to is typically being performed by fresh new entities inside older institutions, or by disruptive new firms.

 Getting people engaged to help each other, 'a hugely inefficient process today', can have major political issues in some corporate cultures. It's doable, but understanding how to navigate the 'what's in it for me to share' traps is arguably far more important than what enabling technologies you chose to use. Execs are typically very canny political animals and have strong intuition about threats, success factors and promise/reward propositions.

 What's slowly shifting is the very fabric of how we interact around processes, and ironically what is taught and amplified by academia in business schools is in some cases slowing this maturation down - and meanwhile the global economy in our current climate rewards those who are most agile...


Image: The Rosetta Stone

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