Today, we came across this question on Quora: “In a large organization, consisting of over 10,000 people, what department is most appropriate to own/drive social business strategy and implementation? Why?” http://www.quora.com/Business-Strategy/In-a-large-organization-consisting-of-over-10-000-people-what-department-is-most-appropriate-to-own-drive-social-business-strategy-and-implementation-Why
We fear that this is not the right question. Social business is not about the implementation of some “social” tools or the assignment of a number of community managers. Social business is about fundamentally rethinking the mission, organisation and structure of the company and that, by definition, is a task for top management.
This, of course, is an unlikely scenario in most 10,000 people companies today. Unfortunately, there is no other option. Any other initiative, driven by whatever department, is heading for failure.
On the other hand, in the unlikely scenario that top management really wants to engage in this, then the choice of the right department is irrelevant. Social business will grow organically without driver or owner.
Today, we came across this question on Quora: “What typical problems employees encounter today at their workplace?” http://www.quora.com/Future-of-Work/What-typical-problems-employees-encounter-today-at-their-workplace. The question was posted in the category “Future of Work”.
It is of course a valid question. However, we should not think about our future of work in terms of “solving the problems that exist today”.
For various reasons, what we perceive as problems in the workplace today are only the logical outcomes of the structures and the systems that were chosen in the past to build the enterprise. You cannot create a future of work without questioning and then replacing these structures and systems and then, the rest will follow.
As we have written so many times in the past: “Evolution is not an interconnected network that allows you to choose paths as you wish. Evolution is a tree and you climb the branches”. Turning back is not really an option since we cannot go back in time. So, whenever we have to find out that we’re stuck on the wrong branch, our only option is to jump.
Last week, while commuting by train, we couldn’t avoid overhearing a discussion between two women. The discussion was about working conditions. For one of them, there had been new arrangements that allowed her now to work two days per week from home.
Well, that was a nice improvement, we thought. But it wasn’t. It was a big problem. Because two days working from home meant two days that she was unable to “make hours”.
And then, we understood.
OK, this might be somewhat specific for Belgium or for Europe, so we’ll explain. Over here, we have an official working week of 36 hours. In most organisations, there are no fixed working hours. Usually, there is some time window, e.g. between 9am and 4pm that you are supposed to be in the office, but for the rest you can choose your arrival and departure times.
In some organisations (especially in government), this is controlled via a time registration system. You check in when you arrive and check out when you leave. The system calculates how long you worked.
Whatever, the advantages or the disadvantages of such system, it has one major advantage for the employees. If, for whatever reason, you build up so much extra working time that it exceeds a day, you are allowed to compensate this by an extra day off.
Now, that is of course interesting. Working some extra time during a couple of days and getting an extra day off? Yes, indeed! And often, it’s even more convenient to do so. For instance, for someone who is commuting by train, it might be more convenient to wait an extra 15 minutes in the office because otherwise he/she doesn’t have a connection anyway. Better spending that time in the office instead of in the waiting hall of the train station and 15 minutes a day easily give you 7 extra days off a year.
And so it became a culture and we called it “making hours”.
Therefore, working from home is indeed a big problem, because making hours is the real essence of work.
Well, the unfortunate answer to this question is: you can’t.
This might seem weird, but it isn’t. The same reasons that make that your E2.0 initiative is likely to fail are the reasons that make that your “readiness assessment” will be incorrect.
The promise of E2.0 is to improve find-ability of information and experts, to improve knowledge sharing and learning, etc. And, oh yes, a bit of serendipity. Now, the fundamental question an organisation should ask -and answer- is: why don’t we have (enough of) these capabilities today?
And, apart from a few exceptions, the answer to this question is not that they don’t have the right tools. Globalisation, hierarchies and silo mentality are most often the real culprits. No E2.0 solution will be able to address this. However, even worse, such organisations will also be unable to detect/accept their own weaknesses. Hence, they will be unable to assess their “E2.0 readiness” correctly and frankly, nobody else can do that for them.
On the other hand, a company that is really able to make such assessment in a correct way and comes to the conclusion that they don’t really need E2.0 because everything already runs fine, such company will reap the greatest benefits from it. Opportunities always grow in the right environment, even if you don’t expect anything special to happen.
Well, not too fantastic, I fear. Likely in search of another job.
Given the fact that Apple products are representing an increasingly larger share of the volume of presents shipped, rumors are that in 2013 workshop operations will be outsourced to Foxconn in Shenzhen.
In addition, it will be extremely difficult to find a suitable job alternative. The only one that comes close is the COO position at Saint Nicholas, a smaller European competitor, who has his workshop operations in Spain. However, given the ongoing financial crisis over there, economic conditions are extremely poor and salaries have plunged.
It will be a gloomy Christmas for the COO this year.
Ever since the human race has started using numbers, they have been used to quantify things. Numbers don’t carry emotion, they are factual. However, in reality, most numbers are not really facts but merely create perceptions.
Yesterday, we read this post by Robert H. Schaffer on the HBR blog: ‘To Change the Culture, Stop Trying to Change the Culture’
In his post, Schaffer argues that far too many consulting companies have a lucrative business by defining and implementing various kinds of programs that aim at changing the ‘organisational culture’ of companies.
And in order to underscore his statements, he writes that ‘A Google search on the term “organizational culture change programs” yields 273,000,000 entries’.
OK, numbers like these are no exact figures, they can vary each time you do the query. When we did the test today, we only got 95M. However, what is important to understand js that you only get such large numbers when you enter above search term -without- the double quotes. In such case, you get the count of all pages in Google’s index that somewhere contain these four words, irrespective of their place and order in the text.
That implies that many of these pages have nothing to do with ‘organizational culture’ or with ‘ change programs’, as you will clearly see when you do the following query (this time including the quotes): “organizational culture” “change programs”, which searches for all pages that contain these two exact strings of two words.
For us, the count dropped to 14.800. Still a lot of pages, but nowhere near the millions of Schaffer’s search.
And when you search for the exact string “organizational culture change programs” (again with the quotes), we got down to 32, one of them Schafer’s own post and another one mentioning parts of his post.
Reality is that none of these numbers has any real meaning in the context of his post. They tell you something about what is stored in Google’s index, but they don’t give you any idea of the number of consulting companies that are doing this work, or the number of programs that have been done or the number of companies that ask for this. Depending upon the type of query you do, your perception of this ‘market potential’ will be that it is huge or almost non-existing.
Numbers are always a great basis for decision-making.
In management literature there is this very popular thing, called the case study. The concept is simple. Solution ‘X’ is a current hype, so you look how successful company ‘Y’ is using it, a so-called “best practice”. A variant of this is where you examine a number of successful companies and you look for what they have in common, a so-called “driver for success”.
The problem with approaches like these is that they look at the relationship between business success and a single dimension of the business activity. In addition, such approach also suggests that there is a causal link between that single dimension and the business success.
That can be so in the context of that specific company, but it is not guaranteed to be so in your own company’s context.
Reality is that successful companies never are successful just because they are excellent in just this single aspect of their business. They are successful because they are excellent in nearly every aspects of their business activity.
Therefore, on average, adopting a best practice can indeed be a ‘good practice’ for your company. However, you have to understand the dependencies that make that such best practice indeed is workable and delivers results in these other companies that were the basis for the definition of it. If some of these dependencies are in conflict with the reality of your own organisation, then you might be on the road to trouble.
Customers don’t want customer service
Recently, the following question was posted on Quora: Why can’t customers think of one best company for customer service? http://www.quora.com/Customer-Service/Why-can%E2%80%99t-customers-think-of-one-best-company-for-customer-service
The question was triggered by a post on the CEB blog ‘The Best Company for Service? The Answer will Surprise You’ that discussed the results of a study that asked customers for their opinion about the company with the best customer service.
And the surprising outcome was that most of them couldn’t really give a soecific name.
However, is this really a surprise?
Well, we don’t think so. The reason for that is that “customer service” is essentially a business concern and not something that is on the customer’s mind.
Now, most likely, this requires some clarification. So, let us take the example of Amazon. Amazon has indeed an excellent ordering and order fulfilment process. However, for the customer, this is not “customer service”; it is just Amazon’s product, their deliverable, that’s what they do. You don’t buy a book at Amazon; you buy a book-ordering-and-delivery service.
For customers, “customer service” is the thing that starts when things go wrong, when you have to call because the product does not work, the item doesn’t arrive as scheduled or your bill is incorrect. Now, even when this is handled perfectly by the company, there still is little reason for the customer to experience this as “great”. After all, the thing didn’t work in the first place, so why be enthusiastic about their “customer service”?
The thinking that we need great customer service is flawed. We simply need to deliver great products in the first place (in the sense as we described for Amazon). For the customer, customer service is always the thing that should not have happened.
Our answer to this question onQuora http://www.quora.com/Customer-Service/Can-Bad-Service-Be-Good-Business
Well, the answer to this depends upon your interpretation of the expression “bad service”.
If you view this as “an inferior level of service compared to the offerings of competitors”, then such approach can definitely make sense. Typical examples are the low-budget airline carriers, such as Ryanair, here in Europe. Their business model is based upon this “delivering the basic product/service at the lowest possible cost”. And it works.
In their case, the basic product/service is moving you from one place to another via air transportation. And that’s about it. If everything goes well, you get to your destination at an extremely low cost, but don’t expect much more and, if things go wrong, bad luck.
A second category of cases where “bad service” is perfectly possible is where you want to differentiate products/services within your own portfolio of offerings. Bertil Hatt already gave here an example of such case.
And a third category of cases are the situations where the service level provided by the company itself is lower than the accepted business practice, yet this is replaced/compensated for by various forms of self-service.
Important in all these scenarios is that the service level must always be as (or higher than) expected. If, in the case of Ryanair, the service is very basic, it must not be lower than very basic. And in the category of self-service, acceptance of this or engagement for this will only come after the service really was OK previously. Unfortunately, it does not work the other way around.
Today, we accidentally stumbled upon this older TED talk by Jason Fried: ‘Why work doesn’t happen at work’ http://www.ted.com/talks/jason_fried_why_work_doesn_t_happen_at_work.html
As you will see, it is a very inspiring speech and we assume that most of you will fully agree with Fried’s argumentation, especially when he talks about the “M&M” or “Managers and Meetings” syndrome. However, there is also something else in this speech that we should think about.
As Fried says, there is nothing wrong with the use of social networks such as Twitter or Facebook at work. They can be substitutes for the traditional cigarette or coffee breaks.
Still, as he says, in order to do some really meaningful work, you really need “long stretches of uninterrupted time”.
OK, nobody can do really meaningful work eight hours in a row, so yes, we need the coffee or cigarette breaks or the modern social networks substitutes. However, where does this need for “long stretches of uninterrupted time to do meaningful work” fit with today’s frenzy for everything mobile, always on, everywhere and anytime, live tweeting, instagrams and other nonsense?
Apparently, today, “M&M” no longer stands for “Managers and Meetings”, but rather for “Me and Myself” and, as before, the work doesn’t happen at work, but neither everywhere and anytime.