#e20s : Social Business Vs Social Status

Yet again, Enterprise 2.0 Summit 2013 has been a great opportunity to touch base with the #socbiz evangelists community and to get a clear idea of the status of the 21st century organization evolution.

Beyond the actual conference, I actually feel frustrated about a few questions I had that has not been properly answered, or at least in an actionable manner.

Here’s one : we’re talking about Social Business, Social Customer Relationship, Social Learning, Social Revolution, Social Talent Management, Social YouNameIt etc … Still, there is one thing that is not addressed : Social Status. Believe it or not, this is something people are far more interested in than any of the other social xxx mentioned above. I’m just as sad as every Enterprise 2.0 evangelist about his but, hey : this is the tough reality and we don’t want to BS ourselves away from reality, do we ?

The 2 in Enterprise 2.0

In my view, the major shift (the why of the 2.0 in Enterprise 2.0 if you will) while implementing social collaborative software behind and over the firewall, is the transformation from a mere hierarchical/vertical organization into more of a networked one. This causes a massive change of power dynamics : we move from granted power (status given by the hierarchy and the job description) to acquired power (status given by influence, leadership and contribution).

Or more precisely, we move from sole granted power to a mix of granted power AND acquired power : as Jon Husband mentioned in his keynote, we are not getting rid of hierarchies while implementing Enterprise 2.0, we mix both hierarchical and networked structures. Which happens to be a very virtuous and Druckerian shift if you ask me. Yet, don’t expect some people to be keen in engaging in a change that questions their power. And, Yes : I’m talking about middle managers. No wonder why Sandy Carter reported in her keynote that only 22% of this population is prepared to use social technology in their work.

Disappointing Answers

So where do we go from here ? Well, I have asked this question a few times throughout the conference and I’m afraid I haven’t got any satisfactory answer. Prof. Richard Collin recommended to talk with these people to explain them what we will get out of this networked organization. I did. Maaaaaaaany times. Doesn’t work but it could well be I haven’t found the right words. However, discussing with some colleagues activists it didn’t look like it worked out for them either.

Luis Suarez has a more radical approach, quite Gandhiesque : ignore them and they will eventually join when they see the change is actually moving forward. I don’t buy into that either. The reason : you’ll end up with teams torn between executives vision (“become social”) and managers governance (“don’t mess-up my well-oiled processes with you latest 2.0 fad”). Some people call this paradoxical injunction and this is one of the main cause of disengagement. I’m not sure you want your teams to get into these swampy waters while getting familiar with this new collaborative way of solving problems.

A Leadership + Management Change Management Program

If you want to make your managers comfortable with this new power model, you will have to see this project as a Leadership and Management Change Management project. This is what Hans-Juergen Sturm and Elodie Kolasniewski from Amadeus reminded us : Enterprise 2.0 projects are 20% IT and 80% Change Management.

Which echoes what Jason Falls wrote in his controversy post “Social Business is Bullshit” :

What “social business” really is, is the digital-first world’s version of change management. (…) You’re transitioning from the way marketing and communications did work, to the way it works better now.

Loss and Compensation

William Bridges told us that prior to actually implement a change management program you first have to identify the loss people will have to go through while leaving the former system, and help them to go through the Letting Go, this phase during which they acknowledge their loss. And the one we are talking about here is a big one : a perceived Social Status based on control and authority. So my recommendation would be to take managers on board, think about the types of compensation you can offer them while they’re getting ready to a more networked organization.

In all fairness, I don’t believe in the manager-free enterprise fad. Probably my Lean culture where managers are of paramount importance. There are still many responsibilities for the manager in the 21st century organisation. Remove obstacles, develop and grow people, coach them, keep people in line with the vision and provide them with a system perspective to prevent sub-optimization, offer listening space to relieve change induced anxiety, put people in the best context for them to perform etc …

This is the compensation to discuss with managers and this is how we can help them letting go the pure hierarchical role and status. Make the destination a sexy place where their role is still critical. It is just that their objective has drifted away from pure control and have moved toward more leadership, servant leadership.

How do you think we should deal with middle managers to help them integrate social collaborative tools and transition to the 21st century networked organization ?


  1. Hi Dan, thanks very much for your comment, appreciated. You are right we probably need to find a new name to make clear there are new expectations around this role in 21st century organizations.

  2. An interesting debate and nice post. Just come across this site after researching more of David Rock’s work.

    I’m more on the side of managerless than you are. I believe management and the tole of manager (as we understand it today) is a throw back to the ways of Taylorism and our largely hierarchical industrial history.

    We fear the networked/peer to peer organisation yet more and more examples of these organisations are springing up and their success is clear. There was much scoffing when Ricardo Semler first hit the scene in the early 90’s with his radical approach to management and he was widely derided for his approach. Yet a lot of his thinking is only now gaining credit.

    The moment we talk about the role of the ‘new’ or future manager being to ‘keep people in line’ we fail to understand the requirements of people management of the future. But thats just my view obviously 😉

  3. Hi Gareth, many thanks for your comment. I understand your point. Semler, WLGore etc … proved that manager free companies were viable. This is quite an achievement.

    I think that what we need in a first step is a boss-free organisation with good manager in charge of teaching and developing the teams. The examples abound with all companies that succeed in implementing the Toyota Way (not talking about Lean 6 Sigma here).

    Good luck while trying to sell the manager-free organisation to managers !

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