Published by Luc Galoppin, on 25/03/2012
This manifesto is aimed at any organizational leader or citizen interested in promoting change. In this manifesto I argue that the digital economy has shifted the point of gravity from control to co-creation. As a consequence, the laws of nature that determine the dynamics of change management have shifted as well.
Successful organizations are those who are aware of that shift and tap into the new literacy of collaboration that social media has brought us. The result is a new balance between hierarchy and community that is called social architecture.
In fact, this manifesto tries to fix a hole in the system that we have come to accept over time: the fact that 70% of the changes fails. Let’s get out of the analysis paralysis and focus on what we leave behind at the end of a project. The thing that teaches people how to fish so they can eat forever. The new Organizational Change Management is called Social Architecture.
Here are the key take-aways from this manifesto:
-The digital economy has shifted the balance between control and co-creation;
– Collaboration is the new literacy and we need to tap into it;
– Social architecture is the new balance between hierarchy and community;
– Getting there is a three-step challenge: 1. expertise, 2. relationship management, 3. social architecture;
– We need to fundamentally change the way we approach organizational change management;
– The maturity of middle management is at stake – they need to become social architects;
– It’s a matter of discovering, honoring the community through social validation;
– Finally there are 5 domino blocks that are essential in order to kick-start the social architecture of your organization.
In short: control is no longer the shortest path to productivity. (“It’s the digital economy, stupid!”)
Traditional Economy Trade-Offs
As we are witnessing the end of the Industrial Revolution, we discover that leadership and workplace dynamics are no longer hierarchical. That game is over. The way we run our companies and projects today was inspired by the logic of a 120 years old Scientific Management. Command-and-control was the slogan that would create economic growth. And it did. Without any doubt, our economy, our society and our well-being would not have progressed to the current levels of prosperity without compliance and obedience. Creative concepts such as empowerment and co-creation were fun in theory, but they didn’t bring home the bacon. This trade-off of the traditional economy is demonstrated below:
Digital Economy Trade-Offs
But the good old economy isn’t what it used to be. It is sputtering and it seems to be more than just an innocent cough. Compliance is no longer the shortest path to productivity. When the world changes, the rules change. And if you insist on playing today’s games by yesterday’s rules, you’re stuck. The truth is that relationships are no longer hierarchical, they have become tribal.
In a world where information is no longer scarce, productivity is about connecting customers and employees in a different way. Like it or not, the internet has shifted the ownership of your brand to the customers. Customers own your brand by advocating or disliking it. Here is the thing: when consumers own your brand, productivity depends on your ability to include customers into the story of your product. The same goes for projects: ownership demands for inclusion of employees into the creative process. Have a look at how the power laws of the digital economy have changed:
Get Dumber, Not S.M.A.R.T.er!
S.M.A.R.T. top-down controlled organizations with diligent employees are in trouble. They functioned well in an environment where the amount of information was fixed. The manager receives the information, interprets and processes it and then hands out the instructions. In fact, this has been the secret of growth in our economy over the past decades.
But there is an enormous downside: learned helplessness. And now a shift is happening: since the rise of the internet the amount of information that is available to us is overwhelming. Most people, teams and companies are paralyzed by the flood of information. The result for SMART corporate decision-making is painful: No matter how hard you try, you will always be too late in the new information-driven economy.
The advice for leaders is clear:
In short: we need to look at our organizations in a different way and start looking for a new kind of leader among the troops: the social architect.
So here we are: brand ownership is shifting from producers to consumers, and control is no longer the shortest path to productivity. In this reversed world it looks as if the people at the top are the ones having difficulties with change. People on the shop floor seem to be doing just fine. Why is that so? My contention is that the latter have evolved already to a higher level of literacy, i.e.: the level of collaboration.
Like it or not, the internet has rewired our brains to function differently. We process information differently and we have a shorter … uhm what was I writing? Attention span! The simplest way to look at this is through the lenses of literacy. In our narrow view of the world literacy involves only text, images and moving screens.
The new literacy, triggered by the internet, is one of information navigation. But hang on, because currently the layer of Navigation is being topped by yet another literacy: Collaboration.
Collaboration intelligence is exactly the skill that is stimulated by digital games on the one hand , and social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter on the other hand.
Now bear with me, because with a re-wired brain that is tuned for collaboration instead of control, new things become possible. It just requires us to look differently at our organizations (as in: looking at an optical illusion and suddenly discovering that the old man is in fact an elegant young lady).
It’s Not What You See, It’s What You Get!
Our tendency to ignore the invisible parts of an organization chart can lead us to the wrong conclusions about what success really is. What You See When I ask customers to give an overview of the way things are done in their organization, they typically end up showing me their organization chart. Instantly, the most logical question to ask seems to be: ‘Which position is most important in order to get things done over here?‘
There are three types of answers:
What You Get
The truth is that there is no telling which position on an organization chart is most important in order to get things done. That is because the question is a trick question. The real question is: ’Without looking at that chart, what are the ingredients for success?’. The most successful projects in the history of any organization are those where the project manager could gather a team of competent and complementary talents who were working in a relationship of trust. It turns out that the most important part of the organization chart is not the positions (‘the boxes’) or the reporting lines. It is the white space between them.
It is not the number of degrees of a project manager that determines the success of a project. Rather, it is the extent to which this person is able to recruit a network of people from the hierarchy and put them in a social fabric that fosters a community for co-creation. In other words: successful project managers are social architects. They provide a platform on top of the hierarchy, allowing the community of ambassadors to realize the objectives of the project. A Social Architect is someone who makes conscious use of the white space on an organization chart.
It’s about Balance
Make no mistake about it: communities are not replacing hierarchy. We still need hierarchy and control to get things done. The only difference with the old days is that control will only get you half-way. The Industrial Revolution is over. Today, getting things done requires an extra layer on top of hierarchy. We need to re-wire our organizations and tap into the potential of communities, tribes, movements, problems and solutions. Each of these communities wants to be hosted. And you need those communities to get results in today’s economy.
Don’t start a Community
It’s tempting to think that you need to create a community for the thing you want to kick-off. Here’s the secret: you don’t. That community already exists. If you would like to know how to recognize an existing community, here’s a hint: communities typically gather around business processes and solutions that are transversal. A hierarchy with silos can’t cater for that.
So instead of creating the community you should be ‘listening for’ the community. Chances are that it is right there below your feet and that you’ve been standing on it all the time. Search for the business process owners, project leaders or other people that have been fighting for a good cause without a hierarchy to back them up. They are the layer on top of hierarchy and the only fuel they can count on is their own passion.
People need an architecture that helps them to connect and share their knowledge. Give them a platform. After a while, if you are lucky, they declare this as their platform. This is influence without authority.
For any organizational leader or citizen interested in promoting change, lacking safety shoes is symptomatic for not being in touch with the reality of things. There is no chance for your expertise to get used as long as you stay inside the boardroom. Getting your expertise used – and the change to last – means raising the bar in two steps: relationship management and social architecture. But the times they are a changin’! Not only are the laws of gravity inversed by the digital economy, the profession of organizational change management is changing as well. And it is going in the right direction: clients no longer accept that 70% of the changes fails. And neither should you.
Level One: Your Expertise
Let’s face it: the days of boardroom consulting are over. Reality is no longer restricted to the 150 slides of your PowerPoint-Conference-Room-Pilot-Presentation. Slowly but surely clients are starting to understand that the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and that we should put our beautiful models to the test on the shop floor. The moral of the safety boots is that you need to ‘go local’ in order to make a connection. If you really want to practice organizational change management you need to step out of your project cocoon, right into the field. You need to sit on the handrail with the people who will eventually execute your bright ideas.
Also, you need to sit through the long (and often very technical) discussions of problem solving. Be there when they share war stories and tinker with a solution until it fits. That’s really tough, because 99% of the time you will be the dummy in the group. To most organizational leaders or citizen interested in promoting change being the dummy – by definition: not the source of knowledge – is total agony. You are no longer the expert once you are on the shop floor. Get over it and get down to it.
Level Two: The Relationship
The first thing you need to be aware of is that you start as a foreign element, so pushing your expertise down the throats of people will not amount to great things. Moods of all colors and sizes are popping up: disbelief, denial, emotional numbness. No matter how up-to-date your knowledge is; no matter how state-of-the- art your model is; you should always remember that implementation is the last 99%. Implementation is a relationship thing. But make no mistake about it: it’s only the second level of a three-level game. Relationship is not the final destination of our work.
Level Three: Social Architecture
Ask yourself: What will people be creating when you leave? This third level is about building a platform in order to sustain the change. It will require you to get out of the way and to allow a community or a club of people to take over. Building such a community is not easy because it is not done with the pressure of authority. Rather, it is done with the gradual and consistent work of going local, being there, and connecting (the previous level: relationship management). Typical examples of a platform include:
The Stakes are High for Middle Management!
So here is a double challenge:
The End of Middle Management?
A few months ago Harvard professor Lynda Gratton announced the end of middle management. According to her the technological revolution will make the need for middle management obsolete. There are four main reasons for her to believe that the disappearance is on the cards:
When the Dust has Settled
Those of us who have been around long enough may react by saying that we are in the middle of yet another trend. We have seen entire industries shift towards TQM (Total Quality Management), BPR (Business Process Reengineering), CRM (Customer Relationship Management), etc. and every time the dust settles we see that the good old laws of gravity still apply: work hard to get things done.
But what will remain once the dust has settled over social networks? It is still too early to say, but I suspect that some things will have changed. Here is what I suspect that will happen:
A Call to Action
So middle managers have no fear, your job will not disappear. To the contrary, you should rejoice at the protagonist role of social architect you will be getting and therefore it is time to let go of your fear of social networks. Also: stop telling your colleagues that social networks are a danger for productivity, because they are becoming tools of productivity as we speak. Just remember that productivity is no longer solely defined by compliance (this has become the lower threshold) but by co-creation (the carpet has now become the ceiling).
The Clash of Authority and Influence
In a new study, researchers at USC, Stanford Graduate School of Business, and the Kellogg School of Management have found that individuals in roles that possess power but lack status have a tendency to engage in activities that demean others. According to the study, “The Destructive Nature of Power Without Status,” the combination of some authority and little perceived status can be a toxic combination.
The researchers predicted that when people have a role that gives them power but lacks status then it can lead to demeaning behaviors. In their own words:
“Put simply, it feels bad to be in a low-status position and the power that goes with that role gives them a way to take action on those negative feelings.”
Apparently this is one of the first studies that focuses on the relationship between power and status – two elements that have typically been looked at in isolation. To quote the researchers:
“The idea that power always corrupts may not be entirely true. Just because someone has power or, alternatively, is in a low status role does not mean they will mistreat others. Rather, power and status interact to produce effects that cannot be fully explained by studying only one or the other basis of hierarchy.”
To summarize, this may just be why you boss is so grumpy all day: feeling unimportant and unrespected in a powerful position. A hug may help – or a ‘poke’ on Facebook maybe?
Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.
So now you know why your poor boss is so grumpy – high in authority, but low in influence – it’s time to make that grin disappear from your face. The bad news is that things will only get worse with the rise of social media. My prediction is that the gap between influencers (high in status) who are low in rank (low in power) on the one hand, and command-and-control bosses (low in status and high in power) will get bigger. Have a look at the image below:
be very afraid
You may still think that social media are only changing the marketing and sales part of our organizations, but it goes deeper than that. The digital economy is rewiring our brains for collaboration at Warp speed. And as it is the case in a lot of Science-Fiction movies, it’s not a race forward, but one that goes ‘Back to the Future’. The relationships and bonding that happens in so-called communities is tribal (based on co-creation), rather than hierarchical (based on compliance). We go back to the relationships we had before the Industrial Revolution kicked in.
Connecting Some Dots
Reading through these studies and jumping to premature conclusions is an excellent way for me to connect some dots. The point is that middle management will be the first to suffer from this clash. Of all functions in an organization theirs is the most structured, defined and driven by command-and-control.
So the next question for these freshly appointed social architects is: ‘how’? The answer lies in tribal leadership.
Honoring the Tribe
When the rubber of program success hits the road, we see that tribal leadership is the mechanism that makes a social architecture tick. And this urges us to strike a balance between compliance and co-creation. In his 2009 book Tribes, Seth Godin notes that a group only needs two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate. The shift from hierarchical leadership to tribal leadership makes it clear that social architectures don’t need control; they need trust. The power of a tribe lies in two simple things:
Unfortunately we often find that middle managers lack the maturity to lead their tribe. Maturity in this case is the ability to say “I don’t know and therefore I need the help of my tribe of people involved in the project.” This requires the tribe leader to be vulnerable and mature. The paradox for the tribe leader is the following: the more you are ready to admit that you don’t know and that need help – to the same extent you will be honoring your tribe.Knowledge that Matters
Question: Where does the knowledge of the tribe reside?
Answer: In the community.
Question: How do you tap into it?
Answer: By honoring / challenging the community: trust them to solve a problem. Praise them for a problem well solved.
The knowledge that is needed to determine whether a problem is bad or a whether a solution will work resides in the community. Not in the head of an individual, but in the relationships. It is the tribe that is being built as a result of the change program that will determine whether a new change or enhancement is relevant. That is: if you are brave enough to trust your tribe with this assignment. Knowledge is in the co-creation, the problem solving and the sense making process of a tribe – only to the extent that they are trusted by their leader.
Looking for Communities
Here is the thing: it is a common mistake of managers to think they need to start the communities. This is wasted effort because most communities already exist and do not require additional inventor. What they do need instead is support. The first step is to discover the places in your organization where communities have formed around an initiative, an issue or problem. Then you offer them a platform, for example the administrative support of a company-wide program. Another example is a communication platform or a forum to gain recognition within your organization.
You will soon discover the tribal mechanism that underpins the rules and rituals of these communities. The job of a social architect is to discover local tribes, build alliances with tribal leaders and develop influence without authority.
Once you have created a social architecture you need to maintain and develop it even further – NOT by the classic control-based rewards, benefits and allowances but by something that works far better. It is called social validation.
Social validation is the way to value ambassadors and heroes who work hard for a goal. Social validation is done from several directions at the same time: employees, supervisors, colleagues and even competitors. Most important, it happens in real time and according to the dynamics of the new literacy of collaboration.
Until now there was no way to record appreciation in a formal way; but recently the Facebook generation has made us familiar with the “I like” button. Platforms like Yammer and Rypple are well equipped to support social validation with thanks, objectives, medals and formal feedback. But first you will need to provide some structure. This happens in several steps:
Pimp your Employee Data
From my experience it is very easy to build a system that visualizes the social architecture of your organization. I have been doing this by means of databases for every major ERP roll-out I have been involved in the past 10 years. In short, here are some essential things to remember:
It gets even more interesting once you integrate the social feedback:
Before you start inventing badges or a Foursquare-like system to promote or motivate people to be less controlling and more co-creating, consider the following insights of Nilofer Merchant. In a recent article she lists eight reasons why ‘collaboration’ is dangerous. Like it or not, collaboration means that the result of your work is no longer within your immediate control.
While you are raising the bar with relationship management and social architecture, expect some new types of resistance to surface. For example, the free flow of information may be threatening to some, conflicting priorities may come to the surface and the perception may occur that it all comes on top of the daily work.
Merchant concludes: “we can’t manage collaboration well until we acknowledge that it’s fundamentally dangerous.” This sheds a light on the new types of resistance we can expect when implementing collaboration models such as Social Architecture and reminds us that it is always better to start small (for example with a pilot project).
So the final question becomes: how will we deal with these new types of resistance? There are five domino blocks that need to fall over before you can kick-off a large-scale organizational change program. What’s more: there is a specific order and distance that works best.
The Order Matters
There is a logical order these domino blocks should be placed in. This is the order in which the first domino block will push against the second. The third block will be pushed by the combined energy of the first and the second, and so on.
The Distance Matters
In order to create momentum for your program, these domino blocks need to stand close to one another. This means that the distance between each block should be a maximum of weeks, not months! Else a domino block will fall over and create no effect on the next one. Timing does matter: compression will generate energy from one block to the next.
The ebook Social Architecture ebook on Slideshare that I published in 2011 contains a lot of insights into how social architecture applies on large scale ERP programs and how it caters for more effective organizational learning.
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