It strikes me that every day across the world’s organisations, numerous documents, thoughts and ideas are generated, collaborated-on and then lost, only transiently visible to the limited number of people that the originator knew at the time.
As an example, recently I was talking with a senior geologist at an Oil & Gas organisation, he shared a great story with me – it turned out that it was only because of chance meeting over a coffee with a colleague from another part of the business that it became apparent that a report was about to be commissioned that he had commissioned himself two years previously. As it turned out he had kept a copy on his computer and had sent it over to his colleague. In that moment that chance meeting saved his organisation just short of a million dollars.
So with often thousands of people across an organisation, staff can only know the interests and expertise of the people that they’ve come into contact with, or have been recommended by others, sadly this is the dis-economies of scale in so many of the world’s finest organisations.
In a similar way, it is only possible for a person to collaborate on ideas and efforts that they are aware of. So we have, at the same time both duplication of efforts and ideas being developed in ignorance of each other and gaps in our knowledge base created by the person who has the knowledge not knowing that it is needed somewhere else.
In summary, despite the claims made by many organisations, a person’s network is much smaller than the whole of the company – if pushed to step outside our networks, finding the right person is for many, difficult, frustrating and time consuming. But despite it being difficult, most people within organisation’s always seem to have a clear sense of the need to be able to tap into their company’s network, either from their own team or from across the company’s geographies, to find out who is doing what, knows about or is connected to as well as building their own internal professional network.
So what’s the problem with this? Shouldn’t everyone should be able to have the same experience as the geologist I mentioned earlier?
Of course they should! Furthermore if companies are going to try to recruit the best people and develop them to build relationships and to work collaboratively, utilising the full potential reach of all of their employees to deliver to their customers, but also to bring home every dollar, then it stands to reason that organisation’s should give their people the most appropriate training, encouragement and technology tools to do this.
Focusing on the technology, in many company’s there have been a number of pilots around this area and often there appears to be strong support for the concept of social technology but it seems that very few companies have actually documented their requirements – sadly it appears all too often that technology departments have invested heavily in off the shelf technology (or custom built their own technology) and are now looking around for a business problem that it could solve, or in some cases actually redefining the problem to suit the limitation of the technology they have – amazing!
So without any order, biases or elegance – it seems to me that the following seem to a fairly typical set of observations on doing work within many of the world’s organisation’s and companies could do worse than explore using the following as a set of ‘as is’ assessment requirements:
- Information overload is just what happens for some many employees, being inundated with irrelevant information (particularly email) is what we do.
- Employees seem to accept that email is the wrong medium for majority of interactions, but as there is no alternative people use it as a one-size-fits-all communications medium resulting in others drowning in a sort of “occupational spam”.
- Finding materials and information is hard. Searching for materials in the current applications doesn’t return results that are useful – often returning completely irrelevant results, which is as much related to the quality of content as the technology itself.
- The organisation’s internal systems do not match up to expectations, particularly the knowledge sharing tools and mobile applications infrastructure. Although it’s not just the technology, the content is what lets it down.
- There is no incentive to share or participate, or indeed a requirement/leadership expectation to do so.
- Employees keep year’s of work on their local hardrives and create their own personal file storage systems in their email box using complex folder structures.
- Many conversations and interactions which happen in private could benefit from being made more public.
- The organisation’s culture is very e-mail centric, although for quick conversations, instant messaging and the instant nature of its use are well liked.
- There is a heavy reliance on people’s personal’s networks to find the right people and content, but the company has a strong and healthy “will help” culture – if you ask someone for help (even from outside your team) then people will help you, but the problem is finding the right person to ask.
Would be interested to know what others think, does this sound familiar in your organisation – have I got it about right?