Walking the Talk on the Search for the Social Business Excellence

It’s been a while that I have published some content in this place – and it’s hard to find into blogging-mode again after weeks of not contributing. After all many contributions about the outcomes of the E20 SUMMIT have already been made (and put together in this wiki system by Jim Worth). Therefore to add something on top to the wise words that already have been said is not that easy! Anyhow – I certainly have my own ideas and opinions on the discussions that I am happy to share with you.

The orientation on social business activities has reached a strategic importance

The overall conclusion of E20 SUMMIT for me is that the projects in this field are finally receiving the strategic importance and awareness that is needed. Both the more mature projects of the early leaders of the pack like BASF, Alcatel-Lucent, LdE as well as of the frog-leaping late adopters are being sponsored from the management support. And they are not at all technology-driven, but most of the times cultural-driven.

But while some management support is already given a lot of projects are still challenged to gather the sufficient momentum for having a substantial impact to the model of the enterprise. Furthermore in many cases an important “ingredient” to the transformative nature of these projects is also missing – as a lot of HR managers are still not or too less involved into those projects! For this second issue it is just a question of refocusing the discussions from the E20 adoption and project management level towards the design of the future model of the enterprise. Though planned differently the discussions at E20 SUMMIT also turned again around the first part of the equation – therefore we definitely have to focus on the second part (on the foundational pillars of the social enterprise) more strongly in next year’s conference.

Therefore wrapping up this year’s conference is mainly focused on the “keys to the E20 project excellence” which I will elaborate in the following. But also to some extent to the discussion of the foundational pillars that I will give an outlook to subsequently.

What are the keys to the E20 project excellence?

As planned the discussion on how to drive the excellence for the E20 project management was still the main part of the conference. The discussion always tends to be not very much distinctive between how to run the adoption and transformation process and how to design the future model after the transition as both parts are very much interdependent. But I think we have extracted some explicit ideas on the first issue at the conference.

Furthermore we have to conclude that there is not one modelized approach to the E20 project management as the adoption and transformation is also dependent on the starting situation. A medium-sized company with a strong leadership and less bureaucratic structures can start differently than a large multi-national and diversified corporation. Besides size and structure the industry and the cultural background are further distinguishing factors.

So this said – in the following discussion I leave out the cultural part. For me a more open and collaborative culture is part of the target dimensions of the E20 initiative as well as a situational factor from where the project is starting. The same is with the often as needed proclaimed “management support”. Yes – “management support” makes the project live easier and is needed at the point where the initiative should be expanded to an enterprise-wide approach or enters the transformative stage but it is –for me – not a factor of doing the E20 project management right.

Therefore discussing the keys to the E20 project excellence is to find some common grounds for all kinds of project that have to be considered. In the following I want to try and list some of the important discussion points from the E20 SUMMIT 2012. The action items are structured along the idea of a maturity / evolution process as discussed in our N:Sight E20 Practice group and practical applied and presented by Cordelia Krooß at the E20 SUMMIT. Within this concept the project starts off with pilot and ends with an implemented “organization 2.0”:

  1. Start off with a strong focus of solving business problems
    A key to a successful project is to align to the objective of solving real business problems. Adopting to social changes for the purpose of doing “social” is not the way that leads to success. But solving small but meaningful business problems with social initiatives helps to bring people in line for the project and creates “better practice” stories.
  2. Ignite small and meaningful initiatives
    To start the social game (internally as externally) what counts is not the large scale but the successfully fulfillment of the project promise. And this is more reliable achieved on a small scale – therefore the old call for “start small and move fast” is still valid. At E20 SUMMIT the discussions have extracted some more detailed aspects on this:

    1. Start in small but multiple parallel projects, move fast and support social learning between the groups
    2. Get the right people involved from the beginning; the right people are a mix of digital natives as well as process-focused and digital sceptics
    3. Provide social skill training to help people to leverage the positive network effects from social technology fast
    4. Focus on helping solving the business problem (it might not be solved on its own!)
  3. Spread the story of the good practice and make it visible
    As the socially and collaboratively enhanced work differs from Tayloristic process-aligned and individualized way of working and as the effects of the new way of working is not directly measurable at the beginning storytelling is an effective way to extend the adoption in a later state of the adoption. The following advices has been brought up in the discussions at E20 SUMMIT:

    1. Convince with best practice stories and build up advocates and evangelists within the organization
    2. Build up mentorship relations between new projects and advanced projects (install a social learning approach)
    3. Play the “gardener” (cultivating the collaboratively collected ressources e.g. wiki pages, established folksonomies or not tagged but valuable content objects like status updates) and focus on content curation (making sense and sharing of the content that others are creating)
    4. Expand the social skill training also to people not directly involved into the E20 initatives
    5. Integrate work council along the evolution of the way of working
  4. Drive actively the transformation process
    This is the action that cannot be done without the support or at least the acknowledge of the top management. As the adoption of social technology has taken place the advancement for the project go along with the transition of the concept of work and even further with the transformation of the concept of creating value. This step goes beyond the initial scope of most of the E20 projects (“solving some business problems with social enhancements”) the detailed action items are consequently turning around the design of the foundational pillars (see below!) for the future model of the enterprise:

    1. Get a strong sponsor from the management board to support the further steps
    2. Find allies within departments that are in charge for the organizational and cultural development
    3. Call for a steering committee and get support for the change management
    4. Do further storytelling and support the social learning process
  5. Track project performance & effects
    Tracking the progress of the adoption and practice of collaborative way of working is a very challenging but also important task for the successful E20 project management. At E20 SUMMIT we started the discussion on the dimensions of social business analytics that I will elaborate in a further post soon.

What are the foundational pillars of the Social Enterprise?

Regarding the question on how to design the future model of the social enterprise the discussions at E20 SUMMIT have been only rudimentarily. In order to set a framework for the further discussion I like to mix in my following discourse the outcomes of the conferences with some extended ideas.

The future model of the enterprise – named here in relation to the enhancements of social technologies as social enterprise – must be seen as evolutionary step towards the process-aligned model. It is not a fallback to adhocracy and chaos but a step forward to a more agile and fluid design of the organization.

In the book “Future of Human Resource Management” by Losey/Meisinger/Ulrich I found a very nice description of the guiding principle to the fluid organization:

Define organization design as an action verb, not a noun – as what everyone does, not a place where they all do it. Minimize hierarchy; create a huge hierarchical vacuum to force leadership to emerge when and where it is needed. Instill a mental model of emergence, of employees constantly creating, pursuing, and abandoning ventures (products, services, business models) by organizing and reorganizing teams and temporary alliances (in evolving networks of firms). Resist all temptations to dray static organization charts.

This describes also very nicely what the E20 and Social Business movement is up to. So wrapping up the conference discussion in alignment with the ideas of the HR people I came to the following foundational pillars for the design of the next enterprise model that I also want to discuss in a further post soon:

  • Culture of Openness & Collaboration
    A wide spread acceptance of the added value in sharing knowledge and intellectual property in order to gain and enhance the business value creation.
  • Leadership 2.0
    Role of a forward looking, risk taking and opportunity driven “mover and shaker”
  • Customer-Centricity & Customer Value-based Market Approaches
    A strong focus on the customer value & satisfaction within the market approach and interaction
  • Installation of a Digital & Social Workplace
    Implementation of a work environment that provides a transparent view on the business activities and supports a collaborative work whenever and wherever it is needed.
  • Fluid Organizational Design
    Establishment of a mental model of emergence with a strong technology driven backend that matches competencies with business process requirements.
  • Socially extended Business Processes
    Social BPM vision by Rawn Shah
    Structured business processes enhanced with a social layer on top for solving adhoc process issues (by finding answers in the collectively documented business process wisdom, by finding competencies to solve the issue or by working collaboratively together with others to solve the issue)


So – now I have put together my thoughts and drawbacks from the E20 SUMMIT and even have defined some more work for me to do. Now it’s up to you to join in the discussion and add or comment on my ideas.

  • Isabelle Ayel

    Good exercise finding a path in between “solid pragmatism” and “radical split to unknown territories”. My takeaway from your very well structured opinions about E20 Summit discussions is : ” Define organization design as an action verb, not a noun – as what everyone does, not a place where they all do it. Minimize hierarchy; create a huge hierarchical vacuum to force leadership to emerge when and where it is needed.” Yes “action!”, the future is bright, be confident, we will find the momentum while we are moving.

  • Cordelia Krooß

    This is not only a very helpful summary of the most valuable insights of the Enterprise 2.0 Summit, but also some great thought leadership for the path ahead.

    I suggest one small change: involving the work council should move right into the first step, because – at least in Germany – you want to do this as early as possible.

    I very much agree that – for step 4: actively driving the transformation process – you need commitment not only from top management, but also from the main drivers of organizational development within your company. It can be very tricky to achieve this backing: if you positioned your Enterprise 2.0 project as an innovative way to increase efficiency, suddenly asking for “green light” to transform the whole organization can come out as a “hidden agenda”. Not everyone will be delighted by this “surprise”.
    On the other hand, it can be a bad idea to position your project as a major contributor to change right from the beginning. People don’t care for change, they care for solutions of their problems.

    I know of an Enterprise 2.0 initiative that is just about to start where the contribution to organizational development was an important part right from the beginning. Will be interesting to watch how they thrive. It would also be great to learn from other experiences: when and how did you address the effect on organizational development?