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« Social Media Algorithms, Context, & Decision Making | Main | Heading to the Enterprise 2.0 Conference: Why You Should Too »

May 11, 2011


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Hi Rachel-

indeed I do love this vision, especially the ways that you've extended out some specifics from the general (generic?) claims about what social work tools might make possible.

This vision (so far) focuses on how to get work done, by explicitly considering members' compensation, scheduling, work limits/thresholds, content focus, and careers. I appreciate that you've taken the individual members' standpoint to look at what changes would be desirable, and not stayed stuck in what's in it for executives, for investors, for the bottom line.

And, in terms of the tech systems that would be utilized first, the emphasis would be on (what Stowe Boyd likes to call) systems of work -- knowledge work & worker management.

An element yet to develop (which you know is a concern of mine) is the role that social organizational systems/networked communications will play in creating collective meaning, individual meaning, the experience of contribution over the experience of extraction, and more democratic power distribution. But, I think that these more socio-political elements can emerge from a well-executed work-focused systems implementation.

This is all very exciting. Thanks so much for pushing the envelope with this conversation (exclam pt). cv

I've been giving this topic a lot of thought lately Rachel. Would love to convene a "roundtable" topic around this idea on site in Boston, perhaps?

Moving to a more flat, self-organizing, fluid operating model for the largest organizations (not modeled on billable hours income), is more dream than vision today, sadly. Although, I LOVE the vision, don't misunderstand me. I was reminded of this recently when I read the Wired piece on Steve Jobs and the Apple culture. The parental model works really well, unfortunately. I will say, on behalf of the Council members, they're working really hard to introduce these changes. But it will be slow and quite possibly painful. Great post, though. Love it.


Great post! That is all. Hope you are well.



By far the best part is that customers can be team members. As with most companies, employees don't want to see how 'messed up' they are - but ask anyone, the customer know you aren't perfect and including them in your improvement does more for business and collaboration than imaginable!


Great post, Rachel. Among the many thoughts it will make me ponder were:

- How does this framework interact with the notion of employees vs. contractors/partners? With the fluid nature of what you describe, what is the benefit to the business of having anyone be an actual employee, as opposed to a contractor (or employee of a sourcing partner) that is only connected for the course of the project they signed up for?

- What, if any, is the appropriate role for restricted access to information (proprietary, IP, secret sauce...) within this framework?

- How is performance to corporate goals effected by a more "contractor-like" existence by all/most employees?

I could go on. Needless to say, it's a thought-provoking post...thanks!


Excellent post! Most reading managers might get scared on the thoughts this post sparks. Needless to say how scared they might get if they don't face it!
For regions under serious trouble, this could mean a quantum leap! For the very accustomed to parental (fine tuned and indulgent) organizations this might look a bit naïve...

Very good food-for-thought!
I would love to translate it to spanish, may I?


A lot of organizations already operate with some of the things you've outlined. "project based" or matrixed organization that have 60% fulltime and 40% contractors. I'm not sure this is a vision for an organization to be "social". Being social is more about community building and the ability to manage and capture relationships, conversations, and business activities....which are generally informal, undocumented, via email, in-person, over the phone. I am writing a series of related blog posts on AIIM:


Wow - great comments. Apparently I shouldn't post and dive into a big project :)

I realize that this construct leaves a lot yet to think about so thank you all for adding those things that struck you and Susan, to your point, I also don't know if many organizations can make a transition from very hierarchical to somewhat flat. The cultural barriers may just be too big.

@David I think that organizations need some easy/guaranteed/verified 'employees' and on the opposite side, employees want some commitment as well. So hence the something between employee and contractor. That relationship would also cover proprietary IP. But you are right, the details would need to be sorted out on how that works in various contexts.

@Neira - Please feel free to translate and thank you for asking.

@Rich I see employee flexibility and control as the logical conclusion of an organization being more conversational. If you are really going to listen and hear what employees need, they need more flexibility and control over their jobs. So... in my mind they are very closely related, all part of a much more fluid set of relationships, as you speak to in your post.


Hi Rachel. Great post and im dropping you a line, would love to talk more. Couple of points i would raise though:

1) Its not Nirvana! We only think it is against a backdrop of decades of command and control org structures which, given we are almost in the worlds deepest financial mess, raises questions about the validity of this model we hold so dear.

2) You say "The overhead of organizing in this way has been too high in the past, particularly for very large organizations." I disagree! Are you familiar with Semco in Brazil? They have many elements of this model, and more. Ricardo Semler was way ahead of his time and continues, today, to be ridiculed for his approach. Yet he has transformed that organisation and achieved consistent success and growth for nearly 20 years in one of the worlds most challenged and corrupt economies.

Technology is an enabler for sure, but attitudes are the barrier. Glad i found you and look forward to more of your posts.

Great post - has got me thinking about how some of these ideas can translate into the public and not for profit sectors where we really need to get social to overcome the many historic bureaucratic hurdles we face to do our job.

In that context one thing I'm not so sure about is project review committees. While some mechanism to vet projects is needed, creating new committees is always risky in the public sector in that it can introduce new forms to fill and hoops to jump through, and often the decisions are more political (in the office rather than party sense) that they are based on true priorities.

I really like the idea of "customers" or in our case "beneficiaries" being project team members though - we really need to find good ways to do more of this.

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