How Digital Disrupts “Business as Usual”

Compressing Processes

In November 2012, we delivered a presentation at Ovum Analysts’ Business Process Management event: ‘Compressing processes – How productivity is going social and mobile’. It was a short keynote using case studies to show how the big four digital trends – social media, mobile devices, big data, and cloud computing – are disrupting ‘business as usual’ by speeding up decisions and actions. To be effective in this environment, businesses need to compress their processes to match their customers / competitors / alternatives…

A version of the presentation is embedded below. It’s been formatted for Slideshare (in the original, each example was an animated build to help with telling the story). And is followed by some additional notes.

Additional notes

The four trends should not be a surprise: social media, Internet-connected mobile devices, massive amounts of data being updated in real-time and cloud computing hosting the content and communications on a global basis. Combined, they enable conversations, analysis, decisions and actions at a speed and scale that simply did not happen before.

Example #1: September 11th changed intelligence procedures

September 11th, 2001 was possibly the first major event that felt the impact of the Internet and mobile devices. Studies later found that as many as 2,500 lives were saved by people ignoring expert advice. With landlines disconnected, many stuck in the towers were able to gather information via mobile phones, chose to ignore official procedures (stay put, don’t use the lifts) and managed to get out in time.

But there was another lesson to be learned. The 2005 paper: The Wiki and the Blog, published by the CIA noted that all the necessary intelligence of such an attack was known independently, but not connected. Confidentiality protocols prevented departments from sharing information – information was accessed on a ‘need to know’ basis, and decision hierarchies meant the journey from gathering intelligence, interpreting and analysing, making a decision and then acting on it was taking far too long. Research highlighted the trends that are impacting many industries.

The circumstances to which we respond develop more quickly. These rapidly changing circumstances take on lives of their own, which are difficult or impossible to anticipate or predict.

The solution: flatten hierarchies, open up information stores and communication channels, make more connections between different sources of data. Use tools, such as wikis and blogs, that make it easier to quickly share, discuss and update information. Shorten the cycle of receiving intelligence, deciding what to do, and acting on that decision

Example #2: A/B testing enables real-time decisions based on feedback

A somewhat less dramatic example but reinforcing the message. A/B testing is simply putting up two versions of the same web page and analysing behaviours (time spent on the page, what elements are clicked or interacted with) and then choosing the most successful version. Rinse and repeat. In short – it uses feedback to decide the design rather than expert opinions.

Sounds easy but sometimes it can be hard to accept when the feedback doesn’t align with expectations. People are great at ignoring or dismissing data that doesn’t fit our own viewpoint. IGN gaming network discovered that crisp clear prose was outperforming hyped-up buzzwords on certain parts of their home page. Previously, the opposite had been true. Why the change? After much ‘head scratching’ they finally realised it simply didn’t matter. Just make the change. If the results shift, make the change again…

[The latest trend] in A/B testing is to automate the whole process… so that the software, when it finds statistical significance, simply diverts all traffic to the better performing option.

Example #3: Given the opportunity, people will learn and mentor

The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative, headed by Nicholas Negroponte, handed out tablet devices to children in a remote village in Africa. The children had no formal education, no access to the Internet or digital technologies and had never heard English. The tablets were running the Android operating system, pre-loaded with over 1,000 apps – a mix of audio books, sub-titled cartoons, and number games.

The original expectation was that there would be more interest in the cardboard boxes than the tablets inside. There were no instructions given, no guidance or help. Just regular observation and analysis of log files recording all interactions.


It took 4 minutes to power up the first tablet. Within 5 days they were averaging 47 apps per child per day. Within 2 weeks they were singing ABC songs in the village. Within 3 months they had mastered the basic sounds of the English alphabet. At 5 months they had managed to activate the built-in camera and were taking pictures (the camera had been accidentally disabled during set-up).

Whilst many will debate the ethics of the study, the results are fascinating. A group consisting of mixed ages and abilities working and learning together without any formal rules or instructions. The older and faster learners helping the others. Lessons that can be applied to business – perhaps be a little less prescriptive with activities, let people self-organise and discover possibilities, encourage mentoring.

Example #4: The Internet of Things means now everything is connected

Another quite recent example. The CIO at Toyota North America has been outsourcing all standard IT services such as email, file storage and device management. Re-focusing the IT department on supporting the business purpose and investing more roles in R&D activities. Great to see the IT role shifting back to being an enabler. I don’t know whether it’s an automotive industry trend, but the European CIO at BMW shared a very similar philosophy during a keynote at another analyst event in 2012 – Gartner’s annual CIO symposium. At BMW, 45% of the IT budget is spent on ‘keeping the lights on’ activities. The average is 60%. BMW is also focusing IT on R&D activities to help the business innovate.

And the automotive industry is demonstrating another big trend – sensors integrated into devices, automatically sending real-time updates over the Internet. A/B testing is about tracking what people do. Sensors do the same for machines – the ‘Internet of things’.

sensory adjustments

In this example, we have car. And a driver. The steering wheel monitors the driver’s vital signs – heart beat, blood pressure, sugar levels. That data can be automatically updated to online services for analysis. Yikes, the outlook is not good! Alert the driver to pullover and wait for the ambulance. Or… when the self-driving car goes fully into production, sit back and let the car take you straight to the hospital.

Example #5: Those with a stake in the outcome want to be involved

The fifth trend – less about technology, more about sociology. I’m not a fan of the word ‘Gamification’ but it describes a simple concept: applying game dynamics in non-gaming environments to motivate a change in behaviour. The simplest form that has appeared thanks to other technology trends is the use of badges and scoreboards. They can be great for getting people to complete tasks they otherwise wouldn’t bother to do. But the uses are limited – they are essentially about manipulation and benefits may only last in the short term.

Another side to game dynamics is role-playing and simulations. Arguably, games have been part of certain industries for decades – such as flight simulators used to train pilots without risking expensive airplanes or human lives. Massive multi-player online games such as World of Warcraft have demonstrated how engaged people become when immersed in something they want to do. The quests that are central to the game require team work, planning, regular communications, adapting in real-time when conditions change and ongoing skills development to face quests with increasing difficulty. Most organisations would benefit from enhancing those abilities in the modern office…

So how does a disengaged office worker suddenly become such an engaged and active participant in a virtual quest? First, they have a stake in the outcome. They are in control of their destiny. They aren’t being told to do something ‘just because…’ Second, they enjoy the activity. Who said work can’t be fun? Of course, much of work has to be taken seriously. But create an environment that fosters a sense of fun and you’re likely increase participation. Third, everyone is involved and has a role to play. There is no resentment that some people aren’t pulling their weight. The guild survives and thrives as a team. And that includes sharing the rewards… everybody gains from winning a quest.

Self-organising, highly engaged, working as a team, adapting in real-time to unpredictable circumstances – the definition of a modern business process, occurring in a game…

Role-playing games tap into essential human desires – to be in control and to be appreciated – that formal processes too often fail to take into account. Has the workplace become inhuman?

Closing summary

This was a short story-telling talk using real examples to highlight how digital, social and economic trends are impacting processes. It doesn’t mean the end of traditional process management and improvement but rather recognising that different approaches suit different environments. Standardised routines are all about managed, controlled, predictable outcomes – concentrating on stability, consistency and efficiency.  Predictable outcomes do not guarantee good results, particularly if facing uncertainty and change. Many industries are beginning to see the need for and benefits of more personalised and agile processes – more open access to data, more connected people, shorter decision cycles, being able to adapt in real-time and making continuous incremental adjustments based on feedback.


Decrease of Interest in Enterprise Social Software Signals a Shift from Tool to Behavior

Recent news stories say fewer customers are buying and vendors are less interested in enterprise social software today. Why?

Data from the recent report The Digital Workplace in the Connected Organization 2014 tell the story: Early Adopters have bought. They are now focused on learning to work in new ways. The Majority are in “wait and see” mode.

The Quick Read: Industry reports say that fewer customers are buying enterprise social software and that venture capitalists are less interested in ESN startups than in past years. Some people are surprised; others may conclude it is because social collaboration (or “social business” as some may call it) is dying.

I disagree with this analysis. Data shows that social collaboration is increasing in organizations, specifically in Early Adopters who have made their purchases and are now tackling the tough challenge of how to change the way they work. On the other hand, the Majority of companies are in “wait and see” mode, some playing with pilots, but most observing what others are doing.

The risk the Majority are taking is that when they decide to move, they will have a lot of catching up to do. Going collaborative, however you do it, is a long journey and threatens traditional roles and ways of working in Lorganizations. The business-value tipping point comes when business and business support functions get involved. And that’s exactly what’s happening in Early Adopters today.
(Data from 2013 Q3 from 314 organizations worldwide: The Digital Workplace in the Connected Organization.)

Let’s start with two recent news stories….

“Customers aren’t as interested in social software for the enterprise as it seemed a few years ago.” Continue reading Decrease of Interest in Enterprise Social Software Signals a Shift from Tool to Behavior

Change the Conversation

Ravens in Conversation

A large part of the history of our technology has been the effort to use technology to control human behaviour. Technology transformation is often sold on the potential to better make humans do things that they should be doing. The failure of so many transformational technology programs is proof that human behavioural changes are a subtler and more elusive challenge. Changing the conversation is as important as changing the process.

The Business Case for Technology Transformation

Leadership mindsets from the industrial era often lead to the management question:

“What can we do to make people do the right thing?’.

Technology transformation is sold on a promise of offering the answer. Too commonly management will choose a new technology system or process as delivering a way to make people ‘do better’. For example:

  • Customer Relationship Management systems will deliver better conversations with customers and better sales force productivity
  • Human resources systems will deliver better talent, engagement and performance conversations and better compliance with required processes
  • Business Process Management systems will enable better and more granular control of the processes that people use to do the work
  • Enterprise collaboration tools will make an organisation more collaborative
  • Knowledge management tools will make organisations better informed
  • Better analytical tools using big data will deliver better decisions in organisations

However, these technologies are usually only an infrastructure to support new behaviours and new conversations. Their capabilities underpin human behaviour. New processes will encourage change. New data capture and reporting may help measure activity. Without a willingness to change to new behaviours from users, the systems alone cannot make change without risk of major disruption or disengagement.

Technology rarely can require a new behaviour or a new conversation. Human creativity enables remarkable ways to cling to old ways in the face of new technology. Even to the extent that these technologies deliver better measurement of human activity, organisations are often frustrated to discover that the ability to measure and target activity simply generates activities to solely meet the measures, not behavioural change. Quantities are achieved as the cost of both productivity and quality.

Change the Conversation 

Changing the leadership question can have a dramatic impact on how an organisation makes decisions. Here’s a different question for management to ask about a transformation of technology:

‘What do our people need to better deliver our goals?’

There are a number of advantages that flow from changing the conversation around change and transformation in this way:

  • Engaging your users: Instead of assuming management or a technology vendor has the answers, the question opens up a conversations for people who do the work to contribute and learn. Treat your employees as skilled knowledge workers and respect their creativity and opinions. These people will have the best context on what is causing the issues and what support they need.  Engaging their input will be the most powerful element of change in performance. At the end of the day, the behaviours that need to change are theirs.
  • Change the leadership conversation: Shifting from a control mindset to one that is about realising the potential of the team is a powerful change in an organisational conversation. A transformation can be a key way to help accelerate this change in mindset. If employees feel trusted and are free to share, many people will highlight the way that the leaders themselves may need to change as part of that transformation too.  The best change begins with those seeking to drive change.
  • You may not need new tools or a new process: How many systems have been implemented to solve issues which were simply a lack of clarity of purpose or objectives of work? Do people need new skills or capabilities instead of new systems? Do people need new freedoms, approaches & leadership support to respond in an agile way to market needs? Consider alternatives and additional elements to enable the behaviour changes that arise.
  • Inconsistent demands on people:  Engaging your people in change will highlight areas where you are being inconsistent. In a siloed organisation systems often work at cross purposes. Are you sure that all the other elements of your systems & culture reinforce the right goals? For example, it is common for people in sales and service roles to experience that their time is used up with low value compliance tasks. As a result high value customer tasks will get pushed from the system. Forcing additional compliance will only make that worse. If performance management systems and the real leadership conversations in your organisation work against your new system, it is dead before it is even deployed.
  • Engaging outside the organisation: Do your customers want to give you the data that you need for your new CRM or analytics system? Does the change in sales approach or work process improve their experience as well? Will great talent be rewarded by working in your performance management system? Are you sure you can articulate the value of these changes to external stakeholders? Your people will need to do so. Your people’s reluctance to do your view of ‘the right thing’ might be saving you from broader issues with customers or other stakeholders.
  • Pace of change: Changing systems takes time. When will the system need to change again to adapt to a rapidly changing market? Are your people holding back because they can see the next change coming? Are you better to focus on your ability to change behaviours in more agile ways than through changing technology systems?

Technology transformation can be a powerful enabler of organisational change. However, it is merely an enabler. Changing the leadership conversation is often the critical element to ensuring the success of a transformational change.

This post has been cross-posted from

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Employee Engagement: Beyond Workplace Psychosis 2.0

I always have been an ardent supporter of true qualitative research. Yet, data IS interesting, specially when, considered under the right angle, it helps shedding a light on otherwise unnoticed facts and behaviors.

A number is a number is a number
Emanuele Quintarelli, when presenting the results of the Social Collaboration Survey he recently conducted among 300 Italian companies, exposed such numbers, which curiously were barely commented, during the recent Enterprise 2.0 Summit (you can have a look to his presentation here). He, and his colleague Stefano Besana, found out that middle management is not the problem we all thought it was. On average, it represents a problem for less than 20 percent of companies having undergone a social business initiative. Wow… A fast and dirty interpretation of this finding would be to correlate it with the now (in)famous prediction from the Gartner Group saying that 80 percent of social business efforts will fail, and to assert that old thinking — introducing social with a project mindset, something easily understandable and actionable at middle management level — fails in reshaping businesses to adapt to our new hyper connected reality.

While intellectually flattering, as it nurtures our believing in the necessity for a cultural and behavioral change, making such a correlation would be a fraud. 80 percent of middle managers seing value in social means that part of them are adopting new leadership traits in their behavior (Emanuele’s survey in fact shows that half of companies, on average, think that their culture fits social initiatives). If so, how may we interpret the dreadful level of disengagement (63 per cent worldwide) among employees reported by Gallup?

When structure trumps culture

More than culture, organizational structure imposes constraints on our behaviors. Going even further, organizational culture might be defined as the set of behaviors which develop over time along the interplay of these constraints. As John Wenger insightfully pointed out:

“I’m often fascinated by how people, when they walk through the door of their workplaces, adopt behaviors akin to the symptoms of Stockholm Syndrome. Despite knowing in our hearts and in our guts that much of how workplaces operate is nonsensical and even anti-human, we maintain the charade that it’s the best way of doing things. As Alan Moore points out in No Straight Lines, industrial systems were not designed with human needs at their heart, yet we still organise workplaces along such lines. We go along with the deceit that doing things in a mechanistic, command-and-control way is the right way to do things.”

In many cases, the “victimization” of unengaged employees isn’t caused by, or targeted toward colleagues and managers, but toward the system itself, which structure embodies a deterministic set of constraints. Restoring goodwill requires much more than changing management’s mindset, it calls for a reweaving of the formal structure of organizations. Structure and culture are intimately linked, and at the end of the day, they all relate to relationships between people. As Dan Pontefract wrote in Flat Army:

“… organizational culture is defined by one criterion, and one only: an organization’s culture is defined by the manner in which employees are treated by their direct leader.”

I won’t discuss here the superiority of networks over industrial era hierarchies as organizational model, many others have brilliantly discussed it, you can for example read these recent posts by Jon Husband or Oskar Berg. Yet, a crucial question remains: does a networked organizational structure intrinsically trigger employee engagement?

Sadly, the answer seems negative. There are still few plausible case studies of companies exhibiting —and living— this kind of structure: GoreValveAutomatic, and some others, but they all share a common attitude toward employee engagement: they hire individuals who fit their internal culture, and are particularly cautious about the personality and mindset of new hires. When setting up the right structure, they tend more to protect the corresponding culture than to assimilate dissent elements. Indirectly, they all prove that, if a network-based structure enables engagement and collaboration by leveraging trusted relationships, it doesn’t help that much in restoring motivation from disengaged employees.

Workplace psychosis 2.0

Companies’ culture is evolving; in some cases, their structure is beginning — albeit slowly — to change, but the level of disengagement keeps on increasing. To counter this inexorable trend, some companies are beginning to adopt new behaviors: ROWE human resources approach, BYOD policies, better work-life balance,… but is there any tangible evidence that those are really enhancing engagement?

In a parallel to the rise of industrialization, in our Western societies, the XIXth century has seen our lives being more and more tightly structured and partitioned: work, family, religion, leisure, have grown into social and behavioral “boxes” which, for many people, were largely disconnected one from another. This social, moral, and ontological evolution even reflected itself in the thinking of the time. For example, in Ancient SocietyLewis Henry Morgan, one of the founders of anthropology, described social evolution as a set of patterns belonging different domains: technology, subsistence, marriage, family and political organization.

Today, all, but one, of these personal, social and political boxes which prevailed in the XIXth century have disappeared, in a global transformative movement, accelerated by the internet and the rise of networks. Technology is now pervasive, and affordable to anyone. Family is no more the infrangible nucleus it was hundred years ago, and marriage is no more the reference point of human lives. Political minorities take now their own voice, whichever it is, and the class struggle is merely memories in hedonistic and individualistic societies. Work, instead, has remained the last “reserved” domain, in which people still think and behave differently than in any other situation of a life characterized by social and cultural continuous hybridation. This fracture is less physical, as telework and freelance contracting develops, than psychological, as work codes greatly differ from the ones from our private life, as the nature of work moves away from its outcomes, and gets more and more abstract.

This situation sheds a new light on the lack of engagement, in organizations attempting to adopt more flexible internal rules and to entice employees to bring more of their personality and creativity into the workplace. Being a more complete self in a disconnected, self-contained, workplace, while living a more and more demanding and connected life externally, exhibits all the traits of a split personality disorder. In other words, organizations trying to socialize processes tailored (Taylored) to an industrial-era operational mentality, or to add a social layer to an otherwise closed system, are, slowly but steadily, growing workplace psychosis 2.0.

The nature of the firm, redux

Isn’t there any hope left, beside a radical erase-and-redesign move? Yes, there is. Beside culture and structure, and even beyond them, organizations have to rethink about their nature. I have previously written that the dominant transactional purpose of organizations, famously explained by Ronald Coase, is becoming an economic nonsense. For more than a century, they have grown on top of our society, draining tangible and intangible resources for their own sake, up to the point they have become totally closed systems, subject to growing entropy.

Instead of fighting for a shrinking piece of profit, organizations have to learn how to be useful again to the society which nurtures them, beyond shareholders’ interests, and to become the thriving engines of a global circular economy. To regain sustainability in the new world we see emerging, companies must rethink their own purpose, and will have to switch from an onward, quasi parasitic, to an outward, symbiotic, attitude. The schizophrenia route is definitely a no go. Instead of requiring even more from employees, they are urged to open the doors, and to show them that they care about the world, the society, the city, the life in which they operate.

For sure, most people want to get their work done the best they can, but this only if this work gives sense to their life, and if they are able to feel that this sense is shared among coworkers. Instead of trying to weave socializing behaviors with obsolete business mechanisms, let your employees know you care about your customers, and give them tools to support this. Let them know you care about broader, deeper issues, and help them getting involved in resolving the problems they tackle in their real, external, life. This was the lesson that my friend and colleague from Change Agents Worldwide Céline Schillinger brilliantly gave us during the Enterprise 2.0 Summit: her “Women in Sanofi Pasteur” internal movement grew on the premise of helping to solve the gender balance issue at work, a problem which isn’t limited to the internal corporate world, and the initiative flourished through external recognition. Her success shows that, in order to get more from their employees and contractors, in order to re-engage them, organizations must, simply, give them more. Not as employees, but as human beings. Not in the workplace, but in their life. Let us open the doors of the confined world of work, it needs fresh air. Right now.

The Future of Work is The Future of Leadership

An insight about the future of work dropped this morning as I discussed leadership in the network era with Harold Jarche and Jon Husband, my colleagues in Change Agents Worldwide.



The Future of Work is the Future of Leadership

The future belongs not to the leadership of technology. The future belongs to the technology of leadership.

Our opportunity is not incremental improvement in the leadership of change to implement network technologies. Our opportunity is a much more important transformation of the critical human technology of leadership for the network era. Only new leadership capabilities & concepts will enable us to realise the potential of the future of work

Realising Human Potential is What Matters

If you are one of the thought leaders, consultants or vendors working to bring about the adoption of social collaboration technology, you know there is a raging debate about what changes in social and network technology means for organisations. However, there is much that is unclear in the debate about the future of work.  Social Business is deadnot dead or even not enough. The biggest challenge is adoption, lack of executive buy-in, return on investment or even organisation’s success. You need a collaboration layer, you need purposeful collaboration or you need cooperation instead.

If you are a manager in an organisation trying to achieve outcomes in a rapidly changing business climate, you most likely missed this entire conversation. The debate about the impact of social collaboration technology is not even on your radar (unless a consultant or vendor has caused you to reflect on it for a moment before you returned to the daily challenge of running your business).

What matters most to managers is more effective human collaboration – collaboration that improves the performance of your business for your customers and delivering better work experience for your people. Managers everywhere wish there were better ways to tap the talents, innovation and engagement of their people to help deliver better outcomes. That is at the heart of the discussion of employee engagement in our organisations.

The technology that engages people and realises potential is called leadership. That’s why so many investments are made by organisations in leadership development and in a push for leadership in every role. Leadership is the most effective technology to solve for the management wish.

Network Era Leadership Realises Human Potential

Work is a human task. Leadership is the work of mobilising others to action. Leadership is how we help people to realise their human potential. Much of our network and collaboration technology is just an infrastructure for the work and leadership required. The network can magnify the culture of the organisation, but we need the right leadership models for managers to realise the potential of a network era of work.

Traditional management & leadership approaches inherit many of their concepts from process models borrowed from the industrial era. In this mindset human potential is measured in productivity terms.  The command and control culture focuses on using the right processes to drive human productivity and align that productivity with the right tasks. The engines of human potential (engagement, knowledge creation, experimentation, innovation & enablement) are driven out as sources of volatility & waste. What many call leadership is better described as a process of command of people with an efficiency mindset. That is not leadership at all.

These traditional management concepts also get baked into organisational systems. We have built much technology to explicitly or implicitly reflect these industrial models of management and work. Look inside any organisation and you will find plenty of systems designed from the top-down that reinforce hierarchical command and control. Pull out your system process maps and look for your employee’s ability to do exception handling. In many cases there is no exception process. Exceptions are handled in hacks.

Transparency, responsiveness, the ability to work across silos and effectiveness are often surrendered to tight control of process, narrow measurement of process outcomes, compliance and efficiency. Critical systems in customer management and human resources systems offer some of the most striking examples of these constraints and are widely copied from organisation to organisation. To the frustration of everyone, managers and people must work around these systems to collaborate and cooperate effectively while managing waves of top down change management to bring them back to compliance with process.

The disruption of the networked era is evidence of the scale of change that networks are bringing to our lives. ‘Kodak Moment’ has an entirely new meaning today. This pace of change focuses our attention on a need for change in the concepts of leadership & organisation to support a changing world of work.

We need not focus much on the threats of this era. The opportunities of new models of work and leadership are greater. New network technologies give a glimpse of the potential for leaders to better leverage the people of organisations for work and innovation.  However, realising the potential of human collaborative and cooperative knowledge work in networks demands new leadership models.

We Know How to Start Leading in the Network Era

Each new era brings social changes and requires new more effective concepts. We updated the concepts of leadership and management at the birth of the industrial era, leveraging existing concepts from the military and other spheres of human life. Now people need to work to develop new models to leverage the infrastructure delivered by networks and collaboration technology.

The good news is that many of these concepts are already clear and have been developed by practitioners to the point where they are capable of application in everyday work. These practices now work highly effectively and can be taught. Managers now need to pick these up and build the capability in their people to lead in new ways, using:

  • Deeper self-awareness and understanding of human behaviour and drivers of high performance
  • A greater focus on systems and a wider view of outcomes and stakeholders
  • Purpose & Trust to enable leadership & followership in every role
  • Experimentation & Adaptation
  • Collaboration & Cooperation
  • Network models of work organisation like Wirearchy, Pods and Swarms
  • Social work and learning, such as personal knowledge managementworking out loud.

However, we cannot expect managers do to all the work alone. We will need to support them with learning, coaching and the opportunity to practice the new skills and mindsets.  We need to change the organisational systems and processes that hold back this opportunity to better leverage human potential.

Making these changes is the great challenge of leadership is in the new network era. It is the work I will be focused on with my colleagues in Change Agents Worldwide as we help others to navigate these changes.

The future of work is the future of leadership for everyone in organisations. Building a better more effective model of leadership will help realise the human potential of this future. Join the effort in your organisation to build a new technology of leadership to make this possible.

Who Advises Change Agents Worldwide?

original birthdayToday marks our official birthdate as recognized by the great State of Texas.   From the beginning, we’ve had a small circle of advisors to help us with fundamental business decisions.

On our AngelList profile, you will see Esther Dyson, (needs no introduction), Marshall Kirkpatrick, CEO and CoFounder of Little Bird, and our most recent advisor, Jan Ryan, who is heading up the amazing Women@Austin program here in Austin, and is foremost an accomplished executive in the Enterprise and Social Software sector.

Each one of our advisors has helped us with a thorny issue, or has been a source of encouragement and support.  We are very thankful for the time they’ve given us, as well as their wise counsel.

As we turn into our second year of business, we’ll be adding more strategic advisors to help us with specific guidance on legal and financial matters, customer service, and software partnerships.  We’ve been lucky to grow organically this year, but we could be interested in investment as we continue down our path.  As we’re learning more about our opportunity to execute on our progressive model, capital could help us scale a little faster.  But, for today, we’re still testing and refining our business model with customers.  So far, so good!


Press Clip: The New Visionaries Q&A

TEDxMidAtlantic 2011 - Stowe Boyd

Interview with GigaOm’s Stowe Boyd featuring Change Agents Worldwide‘s origins and mission.

“The group’s vision is squarely centered on helping large companies transition from old world models established in the industrial era to modern network-based, agile models that improve not only the work experience for the workforce, but lead to top-line gains in innovation and growth. We are a small cadre of professionals from various disciplines (HR/learning, IT, Marketing, R&D, OD, KM, Innovation) who share the same vision and values, and we run our company in the way we’re advocating by putting these principles in practice.”


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New e-Book from Change Agents Worldwide

We’re pleased to release this collection of essays from a variety of our Change Agents who are changing the world of work. Whether they’re independent (Solo Change Agents) or working as part of a large organization (Enterprise Change Agents), 21 of our network members have provided their unique wisdom on what organizations can do to increase productivity, engagement, and provide richer workforce experiences in order to foster greater innovation and growth.

You can now download the e-Book for free.  Simply request a free copy and it will be immediately available to you.  

If you’d like to read the book on your Amazon Kindle, you can order it here for $1.99.

This is our first published piece.  We learned a lot in the process, and we have plans to write more books.  Stay tuned for announcements on future works and events from our Change Agents.  An easy way to do that is to sign up to receive our newsletter which will be coming out regularly starting this Friday.


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You Can’t Add a Collaboration Layer

Human to Human

Collaboration is human-to-human interaction. We are rich, creative and diverse, given the chance. You can’t add a collaboration layer to your existing processes.

Collaboration is not something that helps with the work. Collaboration is not something you integrate into your existing systems. Collaboration requires a fundamental rethink of the way work gets done. Collaboration is not a layer because it changes the whole system. Great collaboration goes the whole way through.

The phrase ‘collaboration layer’ is common. The idea of a collaboration layer most likely has its origins in information technology architecture. Collaboration systems are often represented as a different layer of the system stack, similarly to the user interface. As a result vendors and others talking to an IT audience will often promote the need to add a collaboration layer to existing processes. After all adding a collaboration layer sounds relatively painless – all the benefits of collaboration without the change.

As the application of the phrase shifts from systems architecture to the business conversation on how work gets done, something gets lots in translation. Success in the application of social collaboration systems does not come from integrating one more piece of technology into the stack. Collaboration is not an integration challenge. Collaboration is not about machine-to-machine or even machine-to-human interaction. Collaboration is human-to-human.

Collaboration can’t just be layered in on top of everything else. Collaboration requires a rethink of the entire process to foster the best of human interactions. Networks are required for collaboration. However, great communication requires more than a network. Great collaboration requires a community. The highest value collaboration goes beyond a community and builds a change movement.

To bring community to life you need to do more than add a layer of machine-to-human and human-to-human communication over the top of your Taylorist processes. The goal of social collaboration is not to make dumb workers better informed. The goal is to leverage their collective knowledge, intelligence and creativity. Allowing workers to share purpose, connect and create new and better ways of working together comes from giving them the opportunity to connect deeply and to rethink the processes and entire systems that they use to do their work. The best innovations in social collaboration are when entire traditional processes disappear because a newly engaged workforce finds a better way.

People will not stay long in a conversation where machines send them status updates. There is much less value in collaboration, little community and no change if the process is the process and can’t be rethought. This is one of the reasons so many enterprise social networks struggle. Without the prospect of creating a sense of community and the ability to change things, what is the point of participating?

If you want the benefits of rich collaboration, growing community and powerful change driven by your people, then you will need to move beyond a collaboration layer on existing processes. Letting your people use collaboration to change the whole system for the better has to be possible. Collaborative humans will demand it.

Simon Terry  @simongterry

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