Organizational Capabilities & Knowledge Flows

I came across this interesting document on organizational capabilities and have been thinking about how Enterprise 2.o could affect some of them. Specifically, understanding the implications of informal communities in helping organizations identify, build and expand organizational capabilities is an interesting area.

Some of the capabilities mentioned in the document are more foundational than others – some of them are necessary for other capabilities to be in place. For instance, collaboration and learning have a huge impact on other capabilities like speed, customer responsiveness, efficiency etc., Building institutional capability leveraging formal organizational structures and frameworks has never been easy.

Part of the problem is that formal structures and process frameworks like P-CMM try to force fit a solution to this problem with  linear models while completely ignoring the existence of the informal organization. Informal communities of practitioners play a significant role in keeping the knowledge flows going in the informal organization. The interplay between these communities and more formal structures responsible for institutionalizing organizational capabilities is becoming increasingly important. Orchestrating this coordination is an area where Enterprise 2.0 can play a key role.

Informal communities tend to have a greater sense of emerging opportunities given that they bring practitioners across multiple formal business units together. They usually send out signals that may be of importance to strategists. For instance, in the organization I work for, I am seeing a new community – about 10-15 people speaking a lot about functional programming over the past 6 months – Having mechanisms to detect these conversations and helping the community scale [ with the help of an associated formal business unit/practice ] if there is a business driver is a key capability for organizations. So how can Enterprise 2.0 help? By helping organizations orchestrate knowledge flows between informal communities and formal organizational structures – Not that this was not possible in the pre-E2.0 era, but just that it has become all the more easier from a technology stand point. Many a time, informal communities may not have the time and space to take ideas to a logical end whereas formal units may have the time and space but not the ideas. By setting up/identifying the right knowledge flows and having mechanisms that allow people to be part of these flows and creating a culture where managers keep their ears to the ground, you have the opportunity to accelerate the institutionalization of key capabilities that matter to your organization. I believe, orchestrating knowledge flows inside the enterprise and across the value chain will be a key organizational capability. The complexity that is inherent in these extended networks is likely to be a key competitive differentiator in the coming years and the Enterprise 2.o mindset will be at the heart of this.

What organizational capabilities do you see E2.0 impacting in the coming years?


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Enterprise 2.0 With Google Apps And Google App Engine

This is a short post on my experience with Google Apps and GAE in trying to execute an E2.0 strategy. While there are a host of advantages of going the Google way, there are a bunch of limitations as well:

  • The lack of a road map for enterprise customers – As a technology strategist you have no clue into whats going to get switched on in the stack tomorrow, in a weeks time or the next three months. So one day there is no support for groups [ Google Groups ] – the next day groups get switched on. This presents new complexities for strategists on the best ways to fill in gaps in the Google stack while waiting for them to do so.
  • No central profiles as yet – There is no enterprise equivalent of Google Profiles and APIs to extend that – Currently profile information gets scattered across multiple apps like Google Groups, contacts etc.,
  • No unified activity stream -There is no “workstream” – a sort of a unified feed for an individual’s activity on the Google Apps stack – This is a space startups like Socialwok address to an extent
  • Limitations of the GAE – To add to this, the current state of the GAE with it’s limitations on multiple fronts pose additional challenges to fix the gaps in the Google Apps stack.

What has been your experience with Google Apps/GAE in the E2.0 space?

E2.0 Impact On People Practices

I have been trying to make sense out of some stuff I have been reading and explore how some of these ideas could redefine people practices in organizations. Innovation and collaboration are two areas where the impact of E2.0 has been significant and a lot has been written about these. There are three other interesting ideas that are important to HR/OD/OB professionals which can be augmented using E2.0:

Identifying Natural Leaders & Experts

There was this fantastic post in WSJ about Natural leaders sometime back. Quoting from the post : [ emphasis mine ]

Natural leaders today have the means to challenge ossified and change-resistant power structures. Thanks to the reach of the Web, a lowly but brilliantly effective leader can mobilize followers across a global organization and beyond—by writing an influential blog, by using that notoriety to get a platform at industry events, by hosting a Web-based discussion on a hot topic, by building an online coalition of similarly-minded individuals, by disseminating a provocative position paper to hundreds or thousands of fellow employees, and by using email to ensure that supporters show up at key meetings. The same technology that allowed Barack Obama to challenge the old guard in the Democratic party can help natural leaders in your organization outflank the bunglers and the obstructionists.

This in my view is a potential game changer for many organizations – Cisco’s council/board management model together with it’s adoption of social software is a great example of enabling this. There needs to be an openness though from senior management to “let” this happen. Continuous apathy from decision makers can still stifle potential leaders. The biggest take away is that “identifying and allowing natural leaders to emerge” has to be part of any E2.0 strategy. And this goes beyond just throwing in technology – you need to align your people practices to the possibilities  that these technologies bring to the table.

Talent Relationship Management

I bookmarked this post on Talent Relationship management from Gartner sometime last year. Quoting from the post: [ Emphasis mine ]

What do I mean by talent relationship lifecycle?  It is the relationship an organization has with a person over time.  I might be a student at a university and I schedule an interview on campus (become a candidate). I might then apply for a specific job, get hired, work for the company, decide to work part-time, leave the company (become an alumni), work as a contractor for the company,  maybe get re-hired by the company, and retire.  This is just an example.  The reality may be even more complicated for an individual as they might have as many 20 jobs before he/she retires.  The dynamics of the relationship between the organization and individual changes as the relationship changes.  When I am a passive candidate for a job, a company may use social networking as a way to find me (referral), interest me in the job (help me connect with like-minded and interested people in the organization), and ultimately, sell me on the job.  This is one way to do candidate relationship management.  It also might use me as a referral source.  When I am hired, an organization might want to foster a collaborative work environment leveraging social networking as a way to make connections between workers (internally and externally – customers, partners, vendors, etc.).  Relationships also play a role in movement within the company (think promotions, transfers, development, mentoring, etc.).  This is classic talent management territory.  When I leave the company, hopefully on good terms, the company may still want to continue the relationship with me as an alumni because I might come back as a part-time and/or contingent worker or I might end up working for a customer, partner, vendor, or even competitor.  The nature of the relationship changes over time.  Even after the employment relationship ends, the relationship still has considerable potential value.”

Gautam Ghosh of 2020Social calls this – Social Employee Relationship Management – which I think is an interesting name.

Let me go slightly tangential. I believe a more subtler thing that happens when you manage talent the right way is employee engagement. Social software gives HR/OD/OB professionals the leverage to impact major people practices that directly impact employee engagement – mentoring is one such area. One of the biggest challenges in scaling mentoring in large organizations has been time – time mentors can spend with mentees. This has largely been a limitation of the need to meet face to face always. With E2.0 it now becomes possible for a mentee to shadow the mentor virtually – A simple example is the mentee following the mentor on Yammer with the mentor posting stuff on what he is thinking about/reading/major things he needs answers for etc., I think E2.0 gives HR pros the opportunity to think about mentoring as a far more organic process rather than a formal program of some sort.

Fostering Trust

There are two forms of trust that are important in knowledge sharing scenarios – benevolence based trust and competence based trust – See paper here . When the seeker believes that the source will not harm him/her intentionally, that is benevolence based trust [ for instance trusting that someone will not hold back knowledge when I ask for it ] and when the seeker believes that the source has the necessary knowledge and skills to answer to help him/her, that is competance based trust. For effective knowledge sharing to happen, both forms of trust are necessary. And trust is also influenced by demography, age, shared context etc. E2.0 gives us the opportunity to make competence based trust explicit by showing a reputation score/badge against each name.  Benevolence based trust implicity surfaces by virtue of a person participating in a social system and leaving digital trails – comments, ratings, answers, questions etc., Huge opportunity for HR/OD/OB pros to scale and make trust a more tangible element within organizations.

What do you think? What are the other people practices that are likely to benefit from E2.0 and social software?

Eric Hoffer And Knowledge Managers

In times of change, learners inherit the Earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists” – Eric Hoffer

As I read this, I get a eerie feeling that this is exactly what will happen to the traditional “knowledge manager” community. I really think this role has to quickly morph into one that moves away from “managing” knowledge to enabling knowledge flows and facilitating conversations within and across organizational boundaries.

I’m seeing a disconnect between Gen X/Gen Y employees and knowledge managers and their strategies. This is very similar to the gap between students and faculty when it comes to the use of social media.

KM as we know it is a world that no longer exists !!

Hiring Knowledge Manager

ThoughtWorks – http://www.thoughtworks.com – is looking for a Knowledge Manager to be based out of India.

Global Knowledge Manager JD:

Position to be based out of India.

The “Global Knowledge Manager” will be responsible for the following

  • Work closely with the Delivery Principals of multiple projects in ThoughtWorks to ensure that relevant knowledge assets that come out of various stages of the project go into KM system.
  • Will support sales and delivery knowledge requests from Global Management and Business Development Teams
  • Will play an active evangelical role in creating awareness about KM and ensure that success stories are disseminated to all at ThoughtWorks
  • Will actively work with community leads to ensure that communities thrive
  • Will work with global and local marketing teams to ensure that the repositories reflect latest marketing collateral
  • Will also assist marketing with writing external facing case studies and other related material
  • Help increase awareness of KM by creating and maintaining Knowledge Training materials that can be used by consultants within the region
  • Publish periodic K-newsletters targeted at different stakeholders inside TW
  • Manage existing sources of external content like Forrestor & Gartner and respond to queries for these reports
  • Provide knowledge related metrics to relevant stakeholders
  • Keeps track of changing internal and external knowledge needs and drives necessary process changes going forward

Competencies

  • Passionate about technology
  • Exceptional communication Skills (Oral, Written & Presentation
  • Good understanding of emerging knowledge management principles and paradigms
  • Good understanding of the implications of Web 2.0 & Enterprise 2.0
  • Excellent networking and relationship-building skills
  • Good research skills
  • Ability to collect and assimilate ideas and content from multiple sources internal and external
  • Deeply self motivated and independent
  • Comfortable managing multiple high-priority knowledge requests simultaneously
  • Excellent organizational skills and attention to details
Education: MBA or Master’s degree with a good technology background – This is flexible – Passion for driving change is a more serious requirement

Experience Profile

  • Overall experience of atleast 4-5 years
  • 2+ years of experience in Knowledge managment/Collaboration/Web 2.0/Enterprise 2.0 or allied areas

Email me if you are interested : dinesht at thoughtworks.com

P.S: This role is more about facilitating conversations rather than “managing” knowledge in the traditional sense.