shifting control

In The Learning Workplace [dead link], Anne Marie McEwan describes “four profiles of learning workplaces according to structure, global reach, knowledge type, workstyle and social complexity”: Traditional, Emergent, Networked & Hyper-networked.

Many, if not most, companies today face the challenge of moving from a Traditional profile to what I would call “more networked” or somewhere between profiles 2, 3 & 4. This “shift to the right” includes:

  • Developing work structures that are less hierarchical, allow for more individual autonomy and some level of networked responsibility.
  • Expanding reach to be more global, as the Internet seeps into all aspects of business.
  • Incorporating ways of sharing increasingly complex knowledge.
  • Shifting away from a focus on place of work and number of hours worked toward more virtual and mobile connections with workers.
  • Enabling complex social interactions to develop trusted relationships across distances.

These shifts are corroborated by much of the current literature on social business. The big question is: how do we get there? While an even more pressing question may be: how do we get started?

Look at what is common across all these factors – control.

I was chatting today with a friend of mine who works for a large multinational corporation. His main frustration is the level of control throughout the company. Many days he spends most of his time dealing with one support department or another, which has control across the company. Each time an exception occurs, the control measures are inadequate to deal with it and the central authority lacks any local contextual knowledge. My friend gets frustrated, as this is often at the expense of the client. He also says that these exceptions are steadily becoming the norm.

First Step: An initial audit of control measures that no longer make sense would be a good place to start the voyage from a traditional to a networked workplace. Just ask those who do the work where less control would help get the job done.

  1. What authorizations (budget, vacation, time off, travel, etc.) require more time than they are worth?
  2. How can we make it easier to connect with co-workers who are not at your workplace?
  3. How can we make it easier to share and access know-how?
  4. When and where would you prefer to work to be more productive?
  5. Who do you need to get to know better to enhance your work? (customer, supplier, co-worker, etc.)

Second Step: Now take that information and start doing something about it.

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