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« Executive Blogs Don't Need to be Difficult | Main | Do Enterprises Have the Patience to Develop Communities? »

June 17, 2008

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Gordon Taylor

At Enterprise 2.0 last week, It became really clear to me how useful the 'backchannel' - inline comments and ideas published in real time from a live conference can be. Turns out you can definitely get a lot more out of an audience than just polite applause at the end.

Wow - Imagine what the twitter backchannel in congress would be like.... :)

Rachel Happe

Now *that* is an interesting idea...a Twitter back channel for Congress!

John Johansen

I mostly agree. I'm trying to lay out an argument that makes sense but I'm having trouble piecing it all together.

Here are the elements that I see causing problems with the vision you've outlined.

1. Additional voices means more fracturing of opinion even if the discussion tools are transparent

2. Authority for decisions (in business) cannot reside in the group because that diminishes accountability (you can't fire everyone).

3. Decisions made by core group, or individual, will disenfranchise some participants.

4. Those people may stop participating in official discussion channels and move politics offline.

That's a worst-case scenario that brings us back full-circle. I'd hate to state that this is a definite (or even probable) scenario but at the least it should be considered.

What do you think?

Rachel Happe

John - you bring up some excellent points. And I think you are right, you can't abnegate all (or even most) decision responsibility to the crowd but I think as an enterprise you can get to a structure whereby you can harness the intelligence and power of the individuals in the organization to help make better decisions - if you let them through more transparent forums.

But, I think you are right, at the end of the day there needs to be individuals who take all of that input and make the final call.

And - you are also right in that the worst case scenario would be that those who control decisions simply go around the community (in which case I would imagine much of that community would opt out...but maybe not).

I didn't mean to suggest in my post that corporations should be set up like a big committee - we do need governance/decision-making structure. But I don't think we need as much layering as we tend to have now.

Tough questions and ultimately it will depend on the culture and personalities involved of each company. Each one will likely choose a slightly different model - some staying much more rigid than others.

Personally, I am fascinated by how it plays out in different organizations.

Thanks for the great comments!

Terry Fernandez

Rachel,
Great post, We will see social software adoption increase as more folks like you engage in this discussion.

What we are asking for is a cultural change and any cultural change in an organization comes through a series of changes and in time. In corporations, they say a cultural change requires multiple CEO's reign's, but it all has to start somewhere. Until then, the idea has to fostered using stealth KM and constant reminders of the benefits of Social software.

What I find encouraging: A lot of our political leaders are starting to understand the power of micro blogging and similar social software tools. I see, Obama, Hillary, Mccain on twitter, so it wont be long before we see a slew of others joining the adoption bandwagon. So it is moving in this right direction.

In the mean time. Keep chugging, its the only way to get there.

Thank you for raising the awareness.

Rachel Happe

Thanks Terry - you are right that this is all about corporate culture and that can change very slowly. I do think that social media has the potential to connect and draw together the isolated people and business units in a large company that are interested in innovating around the way they do work - and that is powerful in its own right even if social media is not embraced whole heartedly by the entire organization.

As shifts go, social media has been a barn stormer but there is still a long way to go.

Jeff De Cagna

Rachel, I'm having a little bit of difficulty figuring out where you're going with this post, so let me offer three observations:

1. I can't say that I'm comfortable with the phrase "management by committee" not only because it carries so much baggage, but because I don't think of it as an accurate reflection of where we are. I would describe it more as "stewardship by community," a truly collaborative effort by groups to make wise decisions on the basis of shared purpose, principles and point of view.

2. As a consultant to non-profit membership associations, and a former staff member in those organizations, I been on every side of the committee experience. After years of doing that, I have a mantra on the subject: no more committees. I believe we can organize ourselves in more effective ways to accomplish our desired outcomes, whatever they may be, and I agree that social technologies make it easier for us to do that.

3. The most fundamental point is that we need a new mental model for what I now call "governing digitally and socially." The work of those who govern today is irrevocably altered by the affordances and implications of the Web and the social technologies it supports. I am currently working on a blog post on this topic that I will be publishing in the next few days.

Jay Deragon

Excellent post and ironically I just posted 5 Factors for Social Business here http://linktosocialutions.com/?p=86

Rachel Happe

Hi Jeff - Thanks for your comments. I'm not necessarily suggesting we bring back the term 'management by committee' but my point was that, in an era of one to one communications, committees were the best way we had to incorporate more voices. It was much less than ideal but it was the only option. Technology has completely changed that and actually made input and collaborative vetting of issues possible and much, much easier.

The term I like to use for organizations that govern collaboratively - and the title of this blog - is The Social Organization.

Jay - I like your model for thinking about this - particularly the 'entice' portion because a lot of people rush to participate but I think a bigger group is a bit hesitant so getting this engaged is critical.

Jay Deragon

Hey Rachel:

Good thread and thank for the feedback and your comments on my post.

Gap analysis could be conducted via a survey tool but it is probably safe to say "gaps" exist everywhere within an organization. I think the critical factors to start with are empowerment and engagement thus enabling people to do their jobs without constraints.


In my younger days when engaged in organizational assessment I found the best survey process was simply walking around talking randomly to people.

Existing customer feedback data would likely show caps within the five areas if the data is framed accordingly. One could do a sample of the customer base to identify the norms.

The primary issue is one of culture and leadership. Without adjustments to either or both one could assume a failure rate on all five factors.

In terms of enticement, the primary means is via conversations and undertanding needs and related value proposition an organization has to offer.

\As usual, enjoy the exchange and appreciate your thinking.

Clear as mud huh?

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