Philip Sheldrake

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Tag: complexity (page 1 of 2)

Google on collaboration – a new study

Google collaboration report June 2015
First published to Gigaom Research.


Our customers often tell us that encouraging and enabling collaboration has dramatically improved their business. We decided to dig a little deeper by conducting some original cross-industry research that measures the power of workplace collaboration in concrete terms.

This is how Google introduces the findings of its recent survey of senior staff and C-suite executives at 258 North American companies across a wide range of business sectors and sizes. (PDF of full report.) The primary conclusion is presented up front:

… collaboration has a significant impact on business innovation, performance, culture and even the bottom line.

This is quite right and quite wrong. Collaboration is at once driven and the driver; it is both a cause and an effect. As is culture come to that. Effectively, Google must grapple with two distinct appreciations of business among its customers and prospects.

Simply complex

If there’s one thing that differentiates organization this century from the last it’s that we may now acknowledge complexity and do something about it. We increasingly have the technologies to help navigate complexity. Choosing to do so offers competitive advantage for the time being; there will soon come a time when failing to do so renders an organization unresponsive, fragile and, consequently, bust. (Note that complexity and complication are different things.) Read more

Talking garbage and the purpose of business

garbage

The third in a series on the topic of the purpose of business. Follows:

  1. What, exactly, is the purpose of business? An answer post-Drucker
  2. Debating the purpose of business

Business exists to establish and drive mutual value creation. Steve Denning challenged this statement, preferring Drucker's assertion that the purpose of business is to create and keep a customer. I responded, and he has challenged my response:

we may be talking about different things: theoretical purpose of a firm and how to run it

"satisfying all the stakeholders" isn't a viable heuristic to run a firm. See Making Management as Simple as Frisbee

“satisfying all the stakeholders” was tried in mid20thC. It led to Garbage Can firms.

[tweet tweet tweet]

Garbage

Steve refers to "garbage can firms" in his Forbes article, Is The Tyranny Of Shareholder Value Finally Ending?, an eloquent take down of prioritizing the pursuit of shareholder value. When it comes to garbage it quotes a trio of academics – Cohen, March and Olsen – who in 1972 explained: Read more

Debating the purpose of business

Hogwarts potions

The second in a series on the topic of the purpose of business:

  1. What, exactly, is the purpose of business? An answer post-Drucker
  2. Debating the purpose of business
  3. Talking garbage and the purpose of business

Steve Denning published an article to the Drucker Forum last week, How The Internet Is Forcing The Humanization Of Work, an argument founded on Drucker's assertion that the purpose of business is to create and keep a customer.

Steve found my post on the purpose of business post-Drucker via a thread with Kenneth Mikkelsen and tweeted his comments. His first quotes my re-definition of the purpose of business:

[The] Problem with "establish and drive mutual value creation" is that it doesn't tell me what anyone has to do.

and then:

"Delight customers" as the goal is crystal clear as to what everyone has to do.

and lastly:

Since power has shifted from seller to buyer, "delighting customers" sets priorities right, for firm to survive

I share Steve's optimism that we may be on the cusp of the potential to possibly humanize work (can my optimism be more tentative?!), but I cannot subscribe to his rationale. Read more

What, exactly, is the purpose of business? An answer post-Drucker

Paternoster Square

The first post in what turned out to be a series of three on the topic of the purpose of business:

  1. What, exactly, is the purpose of business? An answer post-Drucker
  2. Debating the purpose of business
  3. Talking garbage and the purpose of business

 

Peter Drucker asserted that the purpose of business is to create and keep a customer. He was right at the time in offering previously inward-looking firms a more appropriate beacon. His dictum is, however, wrong for our time.

The assertion is insufficient in sustainability terms; ie, being concerned with the health and resilience of living systems such as organizations, society and the environment. A customer-centric outlook is too simplistic, simply failing to recognise complexity, and therefore at threat from business that has progressed beyond Drucker's heuristic. Read more

An open letter to Paul Polman, Unilever – from Enterprise 2.0 Summit, London

Enterprise 2 Summit - British Academy London

I'm at the Enterprise 2.0 Summit at the British Academy in London today, courtesy of Kongress Media and Agile Elephant. In conversation with Lee Bryant, Matt Partovi, David Terrar, Damian CorbetCéline Schillinger, Johan Lange, Janet Parkinson and Anne McCrossan, a common theme is emerging – we need such events as this, and the deep and wide potential of Enterprise 2.0, to extend beyond the inevitable echo chamber of today's eager community.

With this in mind, I have penned an open letter to Paul Polman and everyone with an interest in Unilever's success, if only because I love the company's vision, believe it is important in our world, and feel that the stuff we champion in the e2.0 / socbiz / futureofwork communities will be critical in its pursuit.

The letter is embedded below and it's also available as a PDF: Open letter to Paul Polman, Unilever.

[Photo credit: British Academy Facebook page.]

More questions of influence – size and complexity

https://www.flickr.com/photos/martinlatter/5576004597/ BY-SA
Phillip Casey, post-graduate student at Newcastle University, follows up our earlier Q&A with a couple more questions.

Is influence harder to manage as an organisation grows in size?

As before, beware the idea that influence can be managed per se. I'll assume you're referring to the considered design and monitoring of process, culture and operations more widely, to increase the likelihood that stakeholders are influenced and appropriate reciprocation is encouraged, in ways more conducive than otherwise to the organization achieving its goals and living up to its purpose.

Complexity of the influence system does tend to increase with organization size from my observations, and possibly by definition. But I'd caveat that by asserting that such observation should demand a response in organization design terms. Read more

Deliberate and emergent, by design

crab sand

I've been trying to reconcile the apparent tensions between the deliberate and emergent strategy schools of thought. After all, it's a fundamental question at the heart of organizational life today.

Defining deliberate and emergent strategy

The deliberate strategy process is the one with which most people are most familiar if only because it dominated 20th Century organizational life and still does. A senior team reviews the market, the trends, the SWOT, the fruits of R&D, etc., and formulates strategy – where to play and how to win – that the wider organization is then charged with executing. And based on nothing more than atavistic agricultural habits that are now largely irrelevant, we exhibit a predilection for going through this process with a calendar based drumbeat.

Emergent strategy adherents on the other hand insist that such practice is pure fancy. It's divination beyond the realm of even the most cogent, gifted and able senior leadership team. The deliberate strategy process supports C-title egos and little else. Rather, we're better off making the organization sensitive to even the slightest changes, the weakest of signals, and developing an organizational fabric with the agility to react appropriately, to exploit opportunity and close down risk. Read more

The Future of Organization – a video presentation on the major themes and some new provocations

Office building in New York

There's a lot to think about when it comes to the future of organization, and plenty to be optimistic about. Saying that, like any and all topics worth grappling with, it takes a bit of time to get up to speed on the depth and breadth of things. As a member of the advisory council for the Future of Work community, and part of the steering group for The Responsive Organization community, I know I'm not the only one looking to communicate these ideas effectively.

Mike Grafham and I talked about compiling a three-minute explanatory video, and I failed woefully at such brevity. This 42-minute video presentation aims to provide a relatively speedy immersion in some of the main themes, spanning human rights, complexity science, the death of heuristics, the six influence flows, personal knowledge mastery, social physics, trust, the digital nervous system, Web 3.0, performance and learning, public relations, collective intelligence, sociocracy, Holacracy, podularity, wirearchy, emergent civilzation, self-organization, organized self, socioveillance, the middleware corporate, Bread incorporated, distributed autonomous corporates, and the Mozilla manifesto.

Read more

Stowe Boyd’s manifesto and The People’s Front

The People's Front

Stowe Boyd recently published "A Manifesto For A Third Way Of Work" (although the title will change). The manifesto forms the basis of the book Stowe plans to write throughout 2014, crystallizing the perspectives and insight he has forged and assembled over the years. And if you've read Attenzi – a social business story then you'll know Stowe and I think alike on many matters.

[Update 20th March 2014: the title changed to A Manifesto For A New Way of Work.]

Here are the major theses, and I have identified with an asterisk the four I have chosen to argue below.

_____

Dissensus (versus Consensus)

— active and directed dissent is a better way to counter the cognitive biases of groups and individuals, and to sidestep groupthink; essential to increased innovation and creativity truly driving business

Cooperative (versus Collaborative)

— sidesteps the politics and collectivism of consensus-based decision-making, and shifts to looser, laissez-faire cooperative work patterns

Creativity (versus Tradition)

— new solutions to problems are needed, and traditional approaches may not only be broken but dangerous

Autonomy (versus Heteronomy)

— paradoxically, as we come into a time when we acknowledge that we are more connected to each other than ever before, a great degree of autonomy will become the norm; old demands to subordinate all personal interests to those of the collective will be displaced by a personal re-engagement in our own work and a commitment to a deeper work culture that transcends any one company’s corporate culture Read more

You have to deal with both complication and complexity, so you’d better know the difference

The Economist, Schumpeter, Complicated, 23 Nov 13

The Schumpeter column in The Economist got it wrong: "It's complicated. Management thinkers disagree on how to manage complexity." The column comments on the recent 5th Global Drucker Forum – Managing Complexity and describes organizations as having two choices, deal with complexity or simplify.

Those that deal with complexity "may look complex and unwieldy but they have an inner logic and powers of self-organisation." In contrast, "the second, rival solution to dealing with complexity is to impose simplicity."

But to present the situation as 'either / or' is simply misleading, and I think it comes down to a failure to appreciate the critical difference between complexity and complication, a difference that must be well understood when redesigning the way your organisation works. Read more