Enterprise 2.0: efficiency, effectiveness, blame and responsibility

Earlier today, @Sig pointed to a blog post where he resurrects one of his favorite themes: Organizational Effectiveness v Personal Efficiency. He says:Wherever you turn you'll find that Enterprise Software is on a never ending quest to increase your personal efficiency.
Written by Dennis Howlett, Contributor

Earlier today, @Sig pointed to a blog post where he resurrects one of his favorite themes: Organizational Effectiveness v Personal Efficiency. He says:

Wherever you turn you'll find that Enterprise Software is on a never ending quest to increase your personal efficiency.

It says so on the vendor's site, it seeps through in discussion about User Interfaces, one is constantly reminded how good that is for your company.

Ask those who has had the fortune of becoming more efficient. Ask those who has all their tools in an easy-to-navigate interface. Ask those who has learned to read and skim reports faster. Are they under less stress now? Did that help to increase the company profit?

Not much of that is what I hear from within large organisations...

Your rowing stroke gets stronger and faster, but so what unless the whole crew falls into same pace?

Here's the thing:

It's all about organisational effectiveness. How fast, efficient and correct all information is disseminated, how effective hand-overs in the workflow happens, how visible and easy to understand the process is, how effective the capture and subsequent dissemination of knowledge is and how little time you spend on making the flow happen.

Now contrast with this list from Enterprise 2.0 - the Next Narrative where the author is talking about themes that Enterprise 2.0 people believe are important in the case studies they plan to release:

  • Innovation:  Leveraging collaboration and social activity to spur discovery, idea generation, and breakthroughs for the organization or customers
  • Time-to-Market: Accelerating the time to bring products/services to market by collapsing artificial silos/boundaries and time zones
  • Cultural Reinvention: Using the philosophies of 2.0 to reshape the organizational DNA, embracing transparency, collaboration, trust, and authenticity
  • Visibility: To provide a real-time view into operations and business process by connecting people and ideas.
  • Cost Reduction: Substituting more agile, lightweight tools for connecting and sharing that are easier to manage and significantly reduce operational cost.
  • Knowledge-sharing: Harvesting institutional knowledge of the enterprise for the purposes of retaining it, exposing it and providing easy access to it.
  • Expertise location: Indexing and surfacing hidden and known talent in the Enterprise.
  • Productivity improvement: Providing socio-collaborative tools to the workforce for measurable gains in productivity.
  • Talent Retention: Providing tools that add to workplace satisfaction and positive employee work experience, especially germane to retaining GenX and GenY talent.

See the problem? With the possible exception of innovation, you can look at all of those ideas and tick the 'efficiency' box. For example: improving productivity is rarely about making the business more effective but about getting more out of the business inputs. Cost reduction speaks for itself as does time-to-market and talent retention. In all honesty, these are not stretch goals but representative of the risk from losing golden opportunities.

While I have been highly critical of Enterprise 2.0, I see the potential in delivering breakthrough value. But if topics above are indicative of what business is expecting then they're missing the point. Sig's example is spot on and speaks to the breaking down of organizational silos. I'd go further and say that's Step One. Reading the two things side by side got me thinking about the importance of language and the difference a few well chosen words can make in the discussion around topics that should be helping us.

Mike Krigsman's Project Failures is a case in point. While he identifies causes of issue they're nearly always couched in the language of blame. He often asks the question: 'Who's to blame?' I remember a long time ago when I was undertaking some social scientific training a person telling me something that stuck with me: 'No one's to blame but EVERYONE is responsible.' It dramatically changed the way I see problems.

When things go wrong, we all go through the finger pointing exercise. It's a conditioned protective response. But once you're done with that, what next? Unless it is possible to move those conversations forward to exercises in understanding and accepting responsibility then nothing changes. Anyone who has tried this knows how liberating and game changing that idea can be. It's not easy because it demands we all play the same game. Finger pointing doesn't. Instead, it reinforces our individual sense of 'rightness' to the exclusion of all other thought streams. When examined carefully, blame mongering is wholly destructive.

Wind back to what I was saying about Enterprise 2.0. If they can change the focus to one that talks about effectiveness and less about efficiency I am willing to bet they will see truly astonishing breakthrough value. The question is - are they up for the challenge or are they prepared to continue trying what amounts to Band-Aid technology application?

Hutch Carpenter is on the right track but needs to underpin what's being said with some fundamental mindset changes. Blame, efficiency: OUT. Responsibility, effectiveness: IN.

Editorial standards