Elsewhere

Socialogy: An End Of Year Round-Up

Socialogy: Interview with Dave Gray

Distribute control to adapt

johntropea:

One of the most difficult challenges companies face today is how to be more flexible and adaptive in a dynamic, volatile business environment. How do you build a company that can identify and capitalize on opportunities, navigate around risks and other challenges, and respond quickly to changes in the environment? How do you embed that kind of agility into the DNA of your company?

The answer is to distribute control in such a way that decisions can be made as quickly and as close to customers as possible. There is no way for people to respond and adapt quickly if they have to get permission before they can do anything.

If you want an adaptive company, you will need to unleash the creative forces in your organization, so people have the freedom to deliver value to customers and respond to their needs more dynamically. One way to do this is by enabling small, autonomous units that can act and react quickly and easily, without fear of disrupting other business activities – pods.

A pod is a small, autonomous unit that is enabled and empowered to deliver the things that customers value.

- Dave Gray

Pods – also known as self-directed work teams – have been around for more than 20 years. Pods are 30% to 50% more effective than their traditional counterparts. A survey of senior line managers offers some of the benefits derived from implementing self-directed teams:

  • Improved quality, productivity and service.
  • Greater flexibility.
  • Reduced operating costs.
  • Faster response to technological change.
  • Fewer, simpler job classifications.
  • Better response to workers’ values.
  • Increased employee commitment to the organization.
  • Ability to attract and retain the best people.

Podular design is a concept that focuses on modularizing work: making units more independent, adaptive, linkable, and swappable. But the environment that surrounds the pods is equally critical to the success or failure of a podular system. Modular components are a critical element of a connected company. But to take advantage of pods you also need a business that is designed to support them

- Dave Gray

Related

Involve front-line people in decisions

Knowledge worker 2.0

How to get employees to act as if they own the business

The future of work is to freelance within an organisation - choose your task, assemble to work, then dissolve

I am speaking on a SxSW panel with Dave Gray and other innovators this spring, on the topic of The Connected Company.

SXSW 2012 - The connected company: an inventory of the possible

I am happy to say that the SxSWi panel that Dave Gray asked me to join is available for your reveiw (and vote!) on the SxSW PanelPicker here.

I think the panel is phenomenal. I’ve known Dave only a few years, but he is a big picture thinker, now at Dachis but the founder of XPLANE, the visual thinking company. Thomas is an old dear friend, the man who concocted ‘folksonomy’. I’ve known JP Rangaswami for at least seven years, since a great Supernova panel session. He’s now the chief scientist at Salesforce.com. The conversation I had in the trade show at Enterprise 2.0 this summer was the high point of the conference for me. And it also led to me speaking at the Social Intranet Summit in September, that Gordon is organizing. And then there’s me. If you are reading this you probably know about me.

Event Interactive 2012 

Format Panel

Organizer Dave Gray Dachis Group

Speakers

  1. Thomas Vander Wal InfoCloud Solutions
  2. Gordon Ross ThoughtFarmer
  3. Stowe Boyd Stowe Boyd
  4. JP Ragaswami Salesforce.com

Description

French historian Fernand Braudel once said that a great city is an inventory of the possible. For thousands of years, cities have perfected the art of enabling complex social interactions at scale. A city is a social network, and so is a company. But there is a difference. As companies grow in size and complexity, they become less productive per capita. But as cities grow, they become more productive, by almost every measure. Why? It’s getting more and more difficult for companies to handle complexity: increasing customer demands for more customization, more convenience, lower costs and faster innovation. At some point the machine breaks down and companies just can’t handle it. The 21st-century company will have the same kinds of dense, dynamic, and complex properties of well-designed cities: fast pace, high energy, rapid innovation and high productivity. And some companies are doing this today. In our panel we will talk about who those companies are, what they are doing, why they are doing it, and how it works. We will show you how you can use the same principles to organize your company for a complex, networked, rapidly-changing global marketplace.

Questions Answered

  1. What can companies learn from successful cities?
  2. How can companies be more successful by operating as social networks?
  3. What is a connected company?
  4. What are some examples of successful connected companies?
  5. What makes these companies successful?

Level Intermediate

Supporting Material

The Connected Company is an upcoming book from O’Reilly by Dave Gray, with Thomas Vander Wal. The connected company blog can be found at http://connectedco.com There is also an upcoming book by Stowe Boyd entitled “A city not a machine; a liquid not a solid.”

Correction: the work is entitled ‘A Liquid, Not A Solid: A City, Not A Machine’, but I may have said the opposite. I was experimenting for a few weeks, going back and forth. The shorthand for the book is ‘Liquid City’.

(You’ll see more about the book after I get back from the beach in a few weeks.)

His blog can be found at http://stoweboyd.com Gordon Ross blogs at http://thoughtfarmer.com/blog Thomas Vander Wal blogs at http://www.vanderwal.net/random/

Category Social Media / Social Networks

Tags enterprise 2.0, social business, Social Networks

(via underpaidgenius)

A Liquid, Not A Solid: A City, Not A Machine

Dave Gray is onto something with his Connected Company project (with Thomas Vander Wal), which is ostensibly looking at the way companies are changing as they move away from statically designed hierarchies and processes to dynamically self-organized networks:

Dave Gray, The Future Is Podular

One of the most difficult challenges companies face today is how to be more flexible and adaptive in a dynamic, volatile business environment. How do you build a company that can identify and capitalize on opportunities, navigate around risks and other challenges, and respond quickly to changes in the environment? How do you embed that kind of agility into the DNA of your company?

The answer is to distribute control in such a way that decisions can be made as quickly and as close to customers as possible. There is no way for people to respond and adapt quickly if they have to get permission before they can do anything.

If you want an adaptive company, you will need to unleash the creative forces in your organization, so people have the freedom to deliver value to customers and respond to their needs more dynamically. One way to do this is by enabling small, autonomous units that can act and react quickly and easily, without fear of disrupting other business activities – pods.

A pod is a small, autonomous unit that is enabled and empowered to deliver the things that customers value.

Let me rephrase:

The world is increasingly more dynamic: we are inventing our ways of working in almost real time. We can’t wait for a business process to be designed, and it might be out of date almost immediately, anyway.

We need to operate under new principles, where individuals can take independent action and spontaneously form on-the-fly groupings — individuals connected through personal relationships, rather than membership in company designated departments — whose reason for existence is to create and deliver value in a potentially innovative way.

Gray goes on to make a compelling case for the decline of business processes and the increasing ‘podularization’ of business, which is a synonym for the shift to social networks. I wrote a longish piece on this topic not too long ago:

Stowe Boyd, The Rise Of Networks, The End Of Process

From a social viewpoint, the architecture of business seems all wrong. People aren’t really designed to do one thing, like a cog in a watch. They have various relationships with other people, and through these relationships they have influence on the work going on all around them. They are not alone, like a moth in a bell jar. We are not alone, in our work. Even the most repetitive of work — screwing bolts on an assembly line, or delivering the mail — happens in the context of other people, and is made more valuable by their exertions.

Increasingly, people’s work is being viewed as a shared aspect of social relations. Time is a shared space, where we cooperate toward shared ends.

One casualty of this large-scale shift in business doctrine may be the hallowed business process. The notion of a process — a defined series of steps in the production of goods or the delivery of services — subordinates individuals to the their roles in the process.

For decades, business planners have made a distinction between repetitive, lock-step processes, where very little variability is involved (think pharmacy), and more free-form, unstructured processes where a higher degree of variability is expected (think emergency room). Taking the abstraction of a process out of the world of chemistry, manufacturing, and logistics, and treating the people involved as so many chemicals, gears, or trucks seemed like a good idea in the past, but is not going to be workable, going forward.

We will have to devise a new, richer way to think about people’s interactions — via social networks — and our connection to mechanical processes and devices. In effect, we will need to model work with two layers, one where people are communicating with each other in a very fluid and flexible way, and machinery communicates with us and other machinery in less fluid ways. Some of these communication paths will be very limited, like a copier blinking to represent it is out of paper. But increasingly, even machinery is becoming much more communication-rich, and the way that machines respond to the world is surprisingly humanlike: coke machines that signal their internal state, like temperature, and the fact that there are only two Sprites left, or cars that will automatically start to brake if they sense no hands on the steering wheel.

More importantly, the customers in the emerging social world will have new expectations about their role in business ‘processes’ and may be significantly less willing to be treated like pigeons pecking at levers in exchange for pellets.

One way to think about the business of the future — where these learnings are taken to heart, and have profoundly influenced the contours of work — is that in the future business will be more like a city than a machine, more of a liquid than a solid.

The boundaries of businesses will be more diffused: it will be hard to say exactly where a business ends, because of loose and shifting integration with other groups, freelancers, and customers. And internally, businesses will seem like marketplaces, with people cooperating and competing for resources, making deals and agreements, exchanging goods and services, building up and tearing things down, and lots of comings and goings. The edge of businesses will be where value is created and delivered.

And bigger businesses can scale from these activities, a fractal sort of scaling, where the same sorts of organizational principles are at work in the large and in the small, Which is how most bottom-up things work.

As in an city,

professional reputation will be more important than titles, connections more important than rank, and authority will be derived from connections not control.

I have written a great deal recently about these trends (see Liquid: The Mobile, Social, Connected, Webbed World) and I will be writing a series of long form essays on the media, business, and social implications of this tectonic shift.

Register here for more information on this project.

The connected company - Dave Gray

http://communicationnation.blogspot.com/2011/02/connected-company.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+blogspot%2FKhZb+%28Communication+Nation%29

A great post about the necessity for management to give up on industrial, top-down metaphorical thinking about business, and to give in to biological and networked conceptualizing.

(pointer by @petervan)

Social Business Design is design for companies that are made out of people

How is it that I missed this post? Dave Gray is the founder of Xplane and now a partner of the Dachis Group:

Dave Gray, The Connected Company

Although we tend to design companies like machines, we instinctively and intuitively understand that, in the end, companies are not made of cogs, levers and gears. In the end they are made out of people. For top management, it would be wonderful if we could put our business strategy into the machine, push a button and wait for the results. But it doesn’t work that way. You have to put your strategy into people.

And today, thanks to social technologies, we finally have the tools to manage companies like the complex organisms they are. Social Business Design is design for companies that are made out of people. It’s design for complexity, for productivity, and for longevity. It’s not design by division but design by connection.

To design the connected company we must focus on the company as a complex ecosystem, a set of connections and potential connections, a decentralized organism that has eyes and ears everywhere that people touch the company, whether they are employees, partners, customers or suppliers.

Social Business Design is a new discipline but some basic rules are already emerging. And these emerging rules have less in common with traditional business design and more in common with urban design and city planning.

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