Here’s Peter Kim’s post that inspired the (off the cuff, stream of consciousness) riff below.
I was most interested by the content in the We need to set our sights on a bigger goal section in the post where Peter talks about transforming the way we live and work, as well as how we connect with co-workers, customers, suppliers & other system participants. I’ve been working on projects dedicated to transforming the way we work inside the company, so I’m going to focus on that. The customers/suppliers/other system participant parts are just as important, but I’m slow and need more time to wrap my head around those issues.
The type of organization that is being described in Peter’s vision (or at least what I’ve interpreted it to be) is what I’ve been calling an Edge Organization (not sure if this is the first time this term has been used or not). I’ve taken this particular concept of the edge from David S. Alberts & Richard E. Hayes’ Power to the Edge. This is a technology-agnostic must read for anyone interested interested in the transformation of organizations in the information age. Just read through the table of contents and you’ll see what I mean.
The best way to summarize the theme of the book is: Organizations in the information age need to move beyond hierarchy and command and control to become more agile and interoperable. This is achieved by diffusing information to the edge and enabling those who are on the edge to process & act upon that information.
So, what does this translate to in the office? A couple of things come to mind:
- Expert location (as in the ability to locate SME’s) – many companies don’t know what they know, and even when they do they struggle with who knows it.
- Content identification & location – the same thing that applies to locating experts (as in people) applies to documents and data.
- Reuse – Chances are someone in Engineering is working on a project that has at least one component that’s been designed and developed before in some other part of the company. They’re not starting from scratch, whether they know it or not – but that’s the trick, isn’t it? Do they know it? Which gets back to the first two bullet points.
The bullets above are end goals supported by different whateverwe’recallingit2.0 tools. The problem isn’t the tool, the problem is what an Edge Organization imiplies – a flattening of the organization and a shift of power. In an Edge Organizaiton the employees on the front lines have to be informed (situational awareness) and enabled (trust) to maked decisions on-the-fly. An Edge Organization means that THEY can make decisions without running it up the chain of command for approval. It’s a culture shift that scares a lot of people, especially those who currently hold the ‘power’ and they can be big obstacles to the edge (see Power to the Edge’s section on The Demise of the Super Star…it’s awesome).
Once the edge becomes enabled within the company I think we can then start to focus on how companies interact with one another edge to edge. But as I said earlier, I still need some time to wrap my head around that one.