Tuesday, 27 May 2008

The Disruptive Ideas Project

For those following this blog, this is an invitation to re-write/up-write/second-write my (just about to be published) book Disruptive Ideas: 10+10+10=1000; the maths of Viral Change that transform organisations. This is the disruptive ideas concept in a nutshell: all you need is a combination of very few of them and you are in business. in the business of change and transformation. What exactly are these disruptive (management) ideas? Go to the site! Any contributions left as comments in each lof the pages of the book will be acknowledge. Its second edition will include any suitable contribution and your name will be acknowledged!

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Net-work, not more teamwork (and 3)

Following upon my previoous 2 posts in on my 'disruptive ideas' ( from the book of the same title), here is an idea summary........

  • Measure people’s net-work wealth by the number of their connections (weak or strong) with others, inside and outside the boundaries of the company

  • Measure your own net-work wealth by the number of people you could call for help in the middle of the night …

  • Make social connectivity (outside teams) a key feature of the culture.

  • Everybody should routinely cross the border of their divisions, groups or teams in pursuit of answers or to deliver input.

  • Ask the following performance management questions routinely: how many people outside this (team, division, company) have you talked to in the last month? How many pieces of input have you given to people outside your department?

Net-work, not more teamwork (2)

Following form the previous post, what can one do? For starters, don’t oppose people spending some time networking inside the firm. If you have a formal IT system for that, you are well advanced. Many organisations are just beginning to come to terms with the idea that people are connecting and will continue to connect routinely outside the boundaries of the division, team or department. But is this not something that even traditional management wanted to do?
Promote the idea that people should go ‘outside’ for questions and answers. ‘Outside’ may just mean inside the company, but in another division or affiliate. People should pick up the phone and be able to ask a colleague miles away, perhaps somebody they have never even met, how they solved problem A. Going beyond the natural boundaries should be the norm, not the exception. These are not behaviours reserved for one-off situations or annual internal company conventions, where so-called Best Practices are shared. This is not enough. We need real time sharing of those best practices or best ideas.
We simply need the ability for somebody in sales in the South of the country to be able to shout, “Houston, we have a problem” and then get help/an answer almost on the spot, because he is reaching an entire network of potential experts for solving the problem. Not just his peers, not just his immediate team, not just his boss. And frankly, if you think this can be done via email, forget it.
You need to accept that it is much messier than organisation chart management and a command-and-control style of leadership, but you can no longer afford people on the payroll who are only good at the internal dynamics of the team. Chances are you have lots of those already. You need net-working as a routine process and this is different from the standard networking: something that usually has the emphasis on the net, not the work.
Teams are predictable structures. They are very good for operational delivery, but not so good for strategy or innovation. A certain degree of ‘groupthink’ is always present. Putting the net-work before the teamwork ensures the continuous flow of new ideas. If the old saying “If you have two people who think the same, fire one of them!” were to be applied to teams, the world population of teams would shrink by 50%.

Net-work, not more teamwork (1)

This is the title of one of the chapters of my new book DISRUPTIVE IDEAS which builds upon Viral Change. Disruptive ideas will be available by the end of this month, May 2008. Organisations have become proficient in team management and teams have become the natural structure for collaboration, the default position. But in these days of inter-dependence between roles and jobs, many collaboration solutions can be found in informal networks, not in designed, cohesive teams. Let me inject another contrarian idea: you don’t need any more teams. I know, I know, teamocracies rule the waves. We all talk about teams and how to make them stronger, more effective, etc. Teams are at the centre of organisational development and somehow we have equated them to ‘collaboration’ or people working together. Teams are here to stay and I’m not going to waste any more space justifying their existence. But what we really need to do is not to refine the team machinery, but to exploit the net-work one. The organisation is composed of a number of collaborative spaces. Some of them are relatively rigid and designed - teams, task forces - while others are composed of looser connections between individuals, with different degrees and nuances of the word ‘looser’. Some communities (of practice or interest) are semi-loose, with a more or less defined membership. There are other networks of connections of a much looser nature, represented by people who sometimes know very little about each other and/or only communicate from time to time. There is a wide spectrum of connections available, but traditional management has only focused on one end; the one where structures are designed and borders given: the teams. In recent years, people of different disciplines interested in organisational life have begun to suspect that the structure of teams may not be as universally desirable as we first thought, particularly when the organisation needs to tap into intellectual capital wherever it is. We need more and more people who are able to navigate, to ride the looser informal connections where many answers to innovation lie. Teams are too predictable in their capability to answer questions such as, “is there a different way?” Even if the answer is yes, chances are ‘that way’ is to be found within the confines of the team. We need to favour looser network structures, even if we won’t have the same command and control capacity as we do with teams and taskforces. This is the price to pay. It is from those sometimes un-structured conversations that true innovation originates; it is there that many answers to questions can be found. What can you do? Next post!