Enterprise 2.0 : less control and more leadership

Bertrand Duperrin (a main inspiration of Hypertextual …) makes an interesting analogy in his post Will Adam Smith drive business in the future ? His take :

(…) Opposing a top-down and directive model an emerging relying on the existence of an “ invisible hand” that, in the same way as  Adam’s Smith theory in economics, would make people personal actions and choices contribute to a collective purpose without the need of organizing anything.

I guess the difference between the enterprise and the market is that within the former, people (ideally) are working with the clear goal of collectively creating value and making the company richer. While in the latter the goal is to individually create value to make oneself richer.

Bertrand then sets a table comparing Enterprise 1.0 (strict), 2.0 (anarchy) and Rationalized 2.0 (ideal organisation).

My take : Bertrand’s Rationalized 2.0 is Enterprise 2.0 with a strong and clear leadership. The invisible hand in Adam Smith Enterprise is the leadership.

Leadership is doing the right thing while management is doing the things right (Peter Drucker).

Usual suspects 2.0

Offering more organisational freedom to employees is suicidal if it’ not carried out under a strong leadership. Looking at the usual suspects in terms of leading bottom up organisations these companies have strong principles.

Whole Foods Market have strong purposes and causes that are underlined by Gary Hamel essay The Future of Management.

Cisco‘s CEO John Chambers has completely revamped Cisco to build the whole organisation around collaboration as main core value. This transformation has been carried out based on five pillars, first of which being change of leadership style.

WL Gore Terri Kelly CEO on her company organisation :

WL Gore has guiding principles : freedom, fairness, commitment and waterline. this creates engagement, empowers team et voila : business results. People are leaders in our company only if there are people to follow them. (…) Leaders at WL Gore are not bosses. They earn their leadership, they have followers, they live the culture, and they explain rationale behind their decision.

37Signals is another great example of an amazingly successful company with strong principles. No-nonsense, get things done, technology alignment on objectives, think small, do less but do better, financial independence, etc … Strong principles are so pervasive in the company culture that they even infuse the web development framework (RubyOnRails) they have created : Convention over Configuration is the motto behind the whole framework.

Agree on what to do

These guiding principles act as clear boundaries and define the frame within which employees are given freedom to organise their activity. They provide visibility and guidance.

Since the foundations of the collaboration the enterprise and the employees agreed on upfront are principles on what to do rather than processes on how to do, they naturally give more freedom to employees and are a bedrock for trust.

Organise and Control Vs Lead and Engage

Thinking about it, this is probably what scares the most leaders out of enterprise 2.0. It is not possible to hide : they need to show a strong and clear leadership to frame the collaborative work. There is no workaround if they want to fully benefit from bottom-up organisation that empowers employees.

Leadership is not granted. As Terri Kelly reminds us : it is earned. Organising control is dead easy. Leading to engage people is not.

This brings us to the first questions an organisation should ask itself on its way to 2.0 : do we have a strong and clear leadership ? What are the principles and purposes on top of which we want to build our whole collaborative environment ? Are these clear and strong enough for our employees to take ownership ?

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