E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

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Transforming the Workplace with Radical Management by Steve Denning

Gran Canaria - Roque Nublo in the SpringOver the course of the last few weeks and months you may have noticed how there seems to be a growing trend of concern with regards to where the world of social networking and the Social Web, in general, is heading and how the original premise of wanting to change the world for the better seems to have now been forgotten, or neglected, by almost everyone, specially, those very same social networking sites (And I know I am using that term rather loosely nowadays) that once claimed to be changing the world according to those terms and make it a better place for all of us. But in reality what we are seeing is how platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, etc. etc. are showing what they were really after in the first place from day one: our own personal data for free to then make business, their business, with it at our very own expense without asking, nor giving, anything in return. 

Yes, indeed, the good old mantra of “If a service is free, you are the product“. Well, now more than ever, we are seeing that taking place and on a far too frequent basis helping diminish our own perception of how wonderful social networking tools for business can well be. And if you look into recent examples of wrong-doings by Facebook, Twitter or even LinkedIn that we have seen all over the place we may be starting to think that we are all in big trouble. Plenty of folks have been talking about the consumerisation of IT and the corporate world for that matter, and yet what we are seeing, more and more often, is the industrialisation of what we once knew as social networking (sites). Now, this on its own would be rather problematic, specially, in the context of Social Computing and Social Business, and even more so if the focus would have been, all along, on technology itself, because, indeed, I would tend to agree that we would all be doomed and big time seeing how those platforms are starting to show their real intentions as to what they would want to do with our data. 

Yet, social networking has never, ever, been about the technology, nor the social tools themselves. All along, and from the very beginning, over 18 years ago, they have been just that, enablers, allowing us to do the job, but never meant to be the end-goal  or the end-result. Their main advantage being that they have made our jobs a lot easier by empowering us into working smarter, but not necessarily harder. But again, they are enablers, not what our business goals should be. So, what’s social networking been all about then, you may be wondering, right?

Well, it’s been, all along, about culture, corporate culture, about organizational change, about change management (i.e. How do you manage change in today’s more complex than ever business world), about all of those soft competency skills and abilities to facilitate a much more open, public, transparent and agile business, where hierarchies themselves no longer rule alone, but initially merged and blended with wirearchy, and all in all with the main aim of improving overall business performance, and sustainable growth by delighting your customers. 

Thus Social Business has never been about technology, i.e. all of these social tools we have been making use of over the course of the years, but about delighting your customers by providing them with excellent products and a superior customer experience. And if there is anything to add about that is that we still have got plenty of ground to cover. We are only getting started, but it’s also true that we should not lose the focus and the purpose of why we have started this journey to become successful social businesses. And this is where I just couldn’t help thinking about the Social Business Forum event that I attended in Milan, in early June, where I had the great pleasure of seeing live (And talked briefly, too!) Steve Denning giving one of the most inspiring keynotes from the entire conference event, and perhaps the whole year so far under a rather interesting and thought provoking title: “Transforming the Workplace with Radical Management“:

Transforming the workplace with radical management – Steve Denning from SocialBizForum on Vimeo.

On that 23 minute long presentation (See the video recording above) Steve shared with us lots of very insightful thoughts and ideas as to what makes companies successful and not so successful nowadays. The main key differentiator, apparently, and I couldn’t have agreed more with him, is whether businesses are prepared to delight their customers or not. If they are, they will succeed, if they aren’t, they would be struggling. In both cases he shared a good number of firms that have walked either way, and it surely was interesting to see as well how he sees the world of Social impacting that vision of improving customer experiences as perhaps one of the most powerful methods. 

Yet, he also talked about how fragile Social is, specially, from the perspective of what we have got today, in terms of both technology and corporate culture issues that seem to stop us from achieving that goal of going the extra mile for our customers. Mainly because of two of the three basic modes of human interaction that permeate throughout the corporate world. To name Authority and Money. The third one is Social and as you can imagine, and according to Steve, I couldn’t have agreed more with him, indeed, Social is allergic to both of them in equal terms. 

And this is where it gets really fascinating, because he continues to postulate something that I also read a little while ago on his highly recommended book on “The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management: Reinventing the Workplace of the 21st Century“, as well as the good number of conversations that we both carried out online a while ago on the topic of Leadership for WE-Magazine and that folks can access over here, thanks to the wonderful Ulrike Reinhard: that 20th century management has always been based on both money and authority, whereas 21st century management would embrace more the model of Social and Social Flows. To the point where he gets to describe two completely different ecosystems that would go as follows: 

The Ecosystem of Traditional Management

 And, of course, the one on Radical Management:

Radical Management

His description of both types of management, specially, the latter one on Radical Management is priceless, more than anything, because through a good number of examples and a thorough description of traits and corporate values he gets to describe, and quite nicely, too!, what a Social Business would be like moving beyond that particular focus on technology alone and tackle the key issues to become such a successful social enterprise. To name: 

  • New Goal: Delight your customer(s) where you need to ensure you provide a new role for managers, one that we have talked about over here a couple of times already, by the way, that is, Servant Leaders, along with new coordination mechanisms, a crucial and rather critical shift from value to values and, of course, a new way to communicate, and collaborate altogether.
  • New Manager Role: From controller to enabler, specially, from the perspective of being capable of acting as a servant leader, enabling that opportunity of creating self-organising teams instead of continuing to live through that command-and-control micro-management mentality. 
  • Coordination: From bureaucracy to dynamic linking, where, as I manager, you understand and fully embrace that you are part of the flow, even the information and knowledge flows, no longer protecting and hoarding the existence of silos of information, but also with one single unique goal: delight your customer. 
  • From value to values: Radical Transparency, where you, as a manager, make the successful transition from preoccupying yourself with efficiency and cutting costs into inspiring human values that build trust, specially, transparency, because that’s what’s going to be at the heart of the matter when interacting directly with your employees, as well as with your customers and business partners. 
  • Interactive Communication: Conversation, where you eventually come to terms with the fact that you are no longer in control of the message, nor the corporate brand, not your employees ability to communicate and share their knowledge. Where you transition from a top-down driven set of interactions to what human beings are really good at: conversations. 

All in all resulting on a very similar formula that we have seen already in the past, but that we were not executing all of the various different elements all at once as one of his final slides suggests brilliantly and rather accurately, too!: 

Radical Management II

Thus, as you can see from his rather inspiring presentation, there is a lot of work that still needs to get done with regards to help provoke that transformation into becoming successful social businesses; and we may have well noticed how some of the social networking tools available out there may have gone ashtray on their ways and have started to show us what they were really going after, disappointingly, in the first place. Yet, our mission and aim should be higher. We cannot afford losing track, focus, meaning and purpose from our core initial mission: embarking on that journey to become Socially Integrated Enterprises.

And for that, as Steve himself mentioned during his keynote we need to “be the strategy” (not support the strategy), we need to “master leadership storytelling” (As I have mentioned as well over here not so long ago with “Once Upon a Time … the Power of Storytelling for Business“), we need to educate our bosses (This is, certainly, going to be toughest one ever! But, hey, who doesn’t like having a good challenge ahead that will take months, if not years, to master and resolve?), we need to join with others, thinking that we cannot longer do it alone, so building strong personal business relationships and partnerships with other change agents and social business evangelists is going to be critical, to then, eventually, do what I think is the main reason why we have all embarked on this fascinating journey to shift and change the workplace of the future to face a new reality: our reality. That one where we “take charge of our future“. 

And that, folks, is why the opportunity for Social Business is still intact and why I feel that not only are we just getting started, but that we have got a lot still to accomplish that wouldn’t have much to do with social technologies, but with changing the way we do business, because as Steve quoted another Steve wonderfully: 

“Your time is limited: don’t waste it living someone else’s life” – Steve Jobs


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