"Management by Committee" has a lousy image. It connotes trying to herd cats - convincing one person, than another, than another - only to have to re-convince the first person later because they caucused with the other side while you were lobbying everyone else. That process is time consuming, fraught with risk, and often hard to really get at what people want. In Washington D.C. where Congress is the best example of Management by Committee the process often turns into something more about power and politics than about solving the problem at hand. It has a lot of negative side affects - it is time consuming, concentrates power in the hands of a few by necessity, lends itself to bargaining, and is very opaque. This is not how we want to manage our corporations - and it's probably not really how we want to manage government either but it is, or has been, the only way to democratically run government so we put up with it.
Social software changes this paradigm:
- All conversations and buy-in from individuals can be transparent
- A much broader group can participate in the debate
- Polling can be done regularly and almost instantly
- Conversational persistence allows for asynchronous participation
- Low barrier to participation - some people can argue and write original commentary while others can organize supporting information and others can rate or comment - making participation in the conversation open to more voices and personalities
All of these qualities allow a broader group to participate in decision-making without making it exponentially more difficult. The challenge is that it will change the equilibrium of who has power and who controls information. Existing power structures are not likely to give in to the new model unless they feel passionately that ceding control in favor of including more voices is the right thing to do. And thus the challenge of deploying social software in organizations - regardless of how narrow the effort, it changes the balance of power which can be very exciting but also very unsettling.
Now if we could only show Congress how to more effectively include everyone in their debates....
Photo credit: Library of Congress via pingnews