Managing in a networked world

In 2009, Anthony Poncier wrote a good post (in French) that covered the eight challenges of management in the virtual era; loosely translated as:

  1. Being concurrently nomadic and collaborative.
  2. Renewing the workplace social contract.
  3. Creating new modes of leadership.
  4. Creating value, not just revenue.
  5. The production of collective knowledge.
  6. Managing with both IQ and EQ (emotional quotient).
  7. A diverse community rather than a disciplined unity.
  8. Learning about the reality of the virtual.

1. Being concurrently nomadic and collaborative is becoming the norm in both large corporations and in small start-ups. The Internet Time Alliance is spread across eight time zones and we understand these challenges. One key to ensuring collaboration is through the narration of work. This fosters transparency and is something to be modelled by management.

2. Transparency becomes a catalyst in renewing the workplace social contract. Empowered workers have more responsibilities and power must be shared. This of course is a major challenge but many companies are already dealing with it, as the WorldBlu list of most democratic workplaces shows.

3. New and radical leadership models are coming forward as alternatives to more traditional, military-style command and control frameworks.

4. Creating long-term value is becoming more obvious in the business world. Dave Pollard’s Finding the Sweet Spot offers a simple guide to responsible, sustainable, joyful work:

  1. Find the sweet spot: Identify your Gift, passion, and purpose
  2. Find the right partners
  3. Research unmet needs
  4. Imagine and innovate solutions
  5. Continuously improvise
  6. Act responsibly on principle

5. I’ve said before that personal knowledge management (PKM) is our part of the social learning contract. Collective knowledge only becomes a reality when individuals engage in meaningful conversations to share their tacit knowledge. Collective knowledge is much more than databases of information.

6. The social, human side of business relationships is finally getting the attention it deserves. Once again, look at Rachel Happe’s vision for the social organization, with some of these attributes:

  • Employment as a mix of commitment/free-agency
  • Managers focused on developing people or managing projects, not on pieces of turf
  • Workers manage their own schedules
  • Each worker has a unique “competency model”
  • Customers participate in projects

7. The challenge of balancing diversity & unity is complex and requires new perspectives. Monika Hardy made this comment on my post, Emergent Value:

all levels are needed in any large organization…
isn’t that what we can do now.. seamlessly. gyrating from the vertical to the horizontal at whim, sophisticated zooming in and out, we’re in the system, we’re out of the system, we’re large, we’re small.
and without us even thinking it’s work, or that we’re doing it, or forcing it.
it’s like our reward for listening to what tech wants is that we can just be. and the freedom from just being, the extra time/money/energy from letting tech work the chaos, is allowing us to notice things we’ve been blinded to – for all the order we thought we craved. we were missing mindfulness.
emergent value and life in perpetual beta.. how lucky are we?

8. Virtual relationships are real and have significant impact on organizations. A song on the Net can drop stock values and a dispersed group of individual activists with networked computers can embarrass nation states and corporations. Virtual relationships can create significant business value (to which I can attest on many occasions). Separating relationships by medium is rather fruitless, so managers need to understand the virtual very well.

Thanks again to Anthony for eight good points, still pertinent today.

4 Responses to “Managing in a networked world”

  1. Keith Lyons

    Harold, what a great example of found in translation rather than lost in translation. Thanks for the post … a delightful start to the day here in Australia.


  2. Jon Husband

    I’ve re-read Anthony’s 8 challenges several times and keep wondering in which of those challenges *relational proximity* or *virtual distance* belongs as a continuous management challenge.

    If we accept that learning is the work, that it’s social, and that much knowledge work is carried out in conditions that are social-and-seeking-effective-collaboration, then I think that in purposeful networks the proximity/distance concept will always be at play in/with the relationships and dynamics of the collaborative work.


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