Social Enterprise: Riffing on Peter Kim’s 1.13.2009 Post

January 13, 2009 — 7 Comments

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.


7 responses to Social Enterprise: Riffing on Peter Kim’s 1.13.2009 Post


    Hi Dave – I like the term “edge organization.” I think Stowe Boyd would like it too. Tools are certainly not enough…we need changes in structure and culture to match. For this era of business transformation to work, we need IT to work with marketing and prioritize change on the agenda. As you know from the trenches, it’s not an easy road ahead.



    I think you’re going about this the right way, but I might take it back even a step further. The critical three questions are:

    1. What problems does your company need to eliminate/What opportunities do they need to sieze?
    2. What do they need to do differently to do so?
    3. What tools will help or enable them to do so?

    Your Edge Organization, and Peter Kim’s “we need to transform the organization” starts at 2. 1 has to be agreed to before we can possibly answer whether we need to transform the organization, and more importantly, if so, how.

    Only in this order do we make the right decisions.

    Otherwise we just become enamored with the buzzwords or hot new shiny gadget of the moment – which all too often these days is social media.


    James – certainly agreed. Those are definitely 3 questions organizations need to answer before setting out – they’re part of the business case. And if they’re not answered you end up getting exactly what you’re talking about: buzz words and shiny tools with no purpose.

    I think organizations will have a moderately easy time answering the questions or at least, giving them lip service. I see two potential areas for problems: 1-when you start thinking about what the answer(s) to your 2nd question implies. We’re talking about diffusing the centrality of power in the organization. Those who have the power aren’t going to like that. 2 – Implementation. The changes we’re talking about are cultural & fundamental to the way people are used to doing business. They’re only SUPPORTED by the technology/tools. In my experience, I’ve noticed a propensity for organizations to place too much emphasis on the importance of the tool and not enough on the change management piece; all my after-action reviews and related 6-sigma projects point to that as a root cause problem.

    So, to sum up, you’re absolutely right. The questions you list, at a minimum, need to be answered in order to define purpose and direction. However, because the changes Peter and I are talking about are so massive (I’m not sure how many people actually understand the scope of what’s involved here) there has to be a absolute commitment to them. Additionally, companies willing to to commit to these transformations have to be ready to deal with dissenters that pose a significant roadblock to this progress. And, no doubt, there will be some.


    Very Interesting post! Thank you for such interesting resource!
    PS: Sorry for my bad english, I’v just started to learn this language 😉
    See you!
    Your, Raiul Baztepo


    Hello !! ^_^
    I am Piter Kokoniz. Just want to tell, that I’v found your blog very interesting
    And want to ask you: will you continue to post in this blog in future?
    Sorry for my bad english:)
    Thank you:)
    Piter Kokoniz, from Latvia

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

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