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Enterprise 2.0 in the mainstream: beating Taylor at his own game

Neil Ward-Dutton

Friday, November 18, 2011 by

This post was written with additional insights from Angela Ashenden, MWD’s lead Collaboration analyst – thanks Angela!

Yesterday I came across this really thorough post on the Enterprise 2.0 blog by Cecil Dijoux, trying to pick apart the current state of play regarding the adoption of Enterprise 2.0 concepts and see what can be learned from Agile and Lean advocate communities in service of overcoming what he sees as a persistent and pervasive corporate attachment to Taylorism (and not in a good way ;-)).

This section struck me particularly:

Reason #4 : Taylorism prevails because Agile / Enterprise 2.0 don’t provide enough credibility and factual data regarding what they’re bringing in terms of operational benefits.

Action #4 : Do not (only) rely on ‘rah rah’ rhetoric to sell the case of Agile/Enterprise 2.0. Provide regular scientifically measured set of data proving the value of these methodologies as Lean has been doing ever since it appeared. Besides, encourage any institutional initiative that will improve credibility of these approaches as per corporate culture.”

Make sure you click on that ‘rhetoric’ link – it’s to another of Cecil’s posts that deals really nicely with the issue of selling the value of social software.

As this area matures, it’s not going to be enough to try to sell tools and platforms on the basis that (a) they make people feel better about themselves or (b) they enable firms to hire post-millenial Bright Young Things who won’t join companies which offer Software That Sucks.

For Enterprise 2.0 concepts and tools to really hit their mainstream stride, there needs to be dialogue – and some trustable evidence – that these approaches really do drive valuable business outcomes. What we need to look for are things like:

  • Reductions in staff turnover (and therefore decreased spending on hiring and training)
  • More effective knowledge sharing (and therefore faster decision making, shorter work cycle times, more efficient delivery of outcomes)
  • Reduced employee travel (with the obvious implications on cost)

and so on.

What we need, in short, is a body of effort that seeks to achieve the goals of Taylorism – or Scientific Management, if you prefer – but with fundamentally different methods. After all Taylor’s goal was improved labour productivity; and at a high level his view was this relied on an empirical approach to management.

Restricting a Taylorist operational management approach to only the work domains where it’s truly warranted is a worthy goal for modern enterprises, and the tools and platforms that the Enterprise 2.0 advocates promote can be an important part of the landscape everywhere. But as we try to rebalance mainstream industry thinking and get managers out of the Taylorist comfort zone, we have to avoid throwing out the measurement baby out with the mass production bathwater.

A big part of the challenge here is that the disruptive force of social software is not so much to do with the details of the new tools that have emerged; but the fact that they’ve opened up mainstream industry eyes to a new – or at least alternative – way of viewing how businesses can work. The problem is that many E2.0 advocates tend to focus on demonstrating this through the emerging technologies, and this diverts business’ attention away from the more challenging implications around organisational change (and building concrete business cases to try and counter inertia around that change) and towards the more tangible “silver bullet” temptation of social technologies.

What’s your take?

Posted in Collaboration, Process

2 Responses to Enterprise 2.0 in the mainstream: beating Taylor at his own game

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