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November 21, 2008

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Larry Irons

Rachael,

Your question: "When are formal processes appropriate and when are more informal processes needed?" gets to the key issue in my opinion.

In a recent post at Skilful Minds I discussed the overemphasis given to "goals" by many of the vendors selling into the collaboration technology market. My post was mostly focused on Ross Mayfield, but I think equally applies to many of the people selling collaboration technology solutions, and here I'm thinking of Wikis in particular. Vendors too often tend to focus on how their product brings formal process and informal practice together. I tend to think the promise of collaboration is subtler. I hope you dont' mind, but I thought I'd quickly paste several key points from that post which seem to complement your observations.

"...the distinction Ross makes, following Mike Gotta, about the difference between processes (how work is supposed to get done) and practices (how work actually gets done) really indicates a need to keep in focus the range of connections and interactions that social software enables...

Social software offers the prospect of diminishing, though by no means eliminating, the gulf between formal organizational processes and informal employee practices. The key fact is that social software is a way of cultivating shared experience rather than a mere means to an end, or goal, alone. Ross believes 'there is no such thing as collaboration without a goal.'

To use an old CSCW metaphor that is now a cliché in discussions of social software, employees don't only gather around the water cooler or coffee pot to get a drink. They often use getting a drink of water, or a cup of coffee, as a pretext for taking a break, and information sharing happens incidentally as they interact in that informal process, sometimes playfully, with their peers and, in exceptional organizations, their managers. How many people believe those conversations would occur with the same quality of shared experience and information if employees knew the company records the interaction?"

working girl

Another issue that isn't address is the mix of professional and private relationships within one social media platform.

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