December 13, 2009

It’s Culture, Leadership and E2.0 … or fail

Over the last several months, at the job that actually pays me, I’ve been on somewhat of a soapbox speaking, writing, blogging, yammering about the link between culture, leadership philosophy and Enterprise 2.0 technologies.

In summary, as we shift to a new decade replete with Moore’s Law in abundance, we need to recognize that yesterday’s way of leading needs to be improved but it cannot do so unless Enterprise 2.0 technologies become part of that new philosophy. One without the other will cause either confusion or ambivalence.

Today, many companies have leadership development training and programs. But, do those companies have an actual leadership philosophy that speaks to everyone in the organization, in a society that is shifting towards ‘cultivate and coordinate’ from ‘command and control’? Are those leadership development programs including a new attitude, a new DNA, a new bedrock that starts first with the notion that everyone at the company is in fact a leader?

Does it start with the principle tenet that we need to open our doors, tear down the cubicles, and invite the entire organization to the table before making decisions or inventing the next new shiny object?

Does it flatten the organization? (with certain situational hierarchy aspects upheld, such as performance management practices, hiring approvals, budget setting, M&A, etc.)

And in doing so, that is by developing a leadership philosophy that is open, connected, network-based and inclusive to all, we marry the new-found hope of Enterprise 2.0 technologies.Social computing inside of the enterprise is changing the game. It is breaking down silos, opening up doors, building relationships … and … eventually, improving productivity, efficiencies and ideally revenues/profits.

The general bucket of Enterprise 2.0 tools, applications and ideas is in fact a critical piece to the new leadership philosophy of tomorrow. If, however, an organization doesn’t either include the technologies into the leadership philosophy or (worse yet) thinks an organization can prosper by merely implementing disparate E 2.0 technologies across the organization, the new leadership philosophy will stagger in an ecosphere of misunderstanding.

The two must marry if an organization wishes to be successful in the culture of tomorrow.

Hewitt Associates conducted a Cost Reduction and Engagement Survey in April 2009 with 518 US based companies. There are two tell-tale points that resonated with me:

  • 47% of companies surveyed reported a decline in employee trust as a result of the way in which they have managed their cost reductions in 2009
  • Top investment actions currently being undertaken during the difficult economic times of 2008 and 2009 include leadership development (47%) and manager capability training (35%)

 Almost half of the organizations recognize that employee trust is declining due to the cost reduction measures put in place. But imagine if there were a leadership philosophy in place that allowed everyone to more fully understand what was happening, why, and ultimately being involved in the ‘idea generation’ of solving some of the problems? That would be powerful.

And secondly, I find it ironic that the top investment actions undertaken included leadership development and manager capability training. They really should have started developing not formal training programs, but an updated leadership philosophy AND enterprise 2.0 strategy so that when the next economic meltdown occurs, organizations will be prepared to handle issues better and engagement/trust would not take a beating.

The fine folks over at Redcatco, I think, said it best:

The traditional IT and management paradigm is that we are a collection of individuals using IT tools. That frame misses the most powerful forces that business leaders have at their fingertips. A business is a community, and sometimes multiple communities, that communicate and interact with each other (both intra- and inter-). That interaction is increasingly dominated by technology-mediated communication, and that communication (or collaboration) technology is less neutral than people think. It can be culture forming.

6 Replies to “It’s Culture, Leadership and E2.0 … or fail”

  1. I agree that trust is a key element, and I also think that one of the best quotes explaining any people engagement is “People learn in response to need. When people cannot see the need for what’s being taught, they ignore it, reject it, or fail to assimilate it in any meaningful way.”

  2. Our website is under construction and will not be online until January 4, 2010. But, your discussion of a corporate “leadership philosophy” is foundational to any leadership development initiative. Even in the competency based models the areas of leadership development must connect to the culture of the company (its values) and the strategic business priorities. In the context of corporate life there is no generic leadership agenda. It must be tied to the DNA of each company.
    Dr. Dick Daniels
    President, The Leadership Development Group

  3. Hi Dan – couldn’t agree with you more – I think that there are a couple of things I would add to your post, although maybe you have defined this in other enterprise 2.0 posts?
    1. organizations are still operating in an old paradigm of full time employment, for knowledge workers especially, and this is an expensive approach which isn’t sustainable and leads to the cost reductions. I think a new definition of work would really help – not everyone wants it and yet many orgs deal with alternative work arrangements through HR policies, not thinking critically about organizational needs. It also gives an application of the web 2.0 tools which I think are vastly underutilized in many orgs.
    2. as cynical as it sounds, buying leadership development training is comfortable and easy (plus there are all those high powered firms who sell it so well). It is easier as an org. to point to the fact that you are doing something tangible.(i.e. training ppl), than revamping your leadership philosophy.
    Keep up the great posts, I enjoy your POV!

  4. Dan, agreed! If we’re going to try to leverage collective intelligence, it’s not just the infrastructure, but a culture of support that includes providing the vision/mission, and assisting folks in figuring out how to bring it about, modeling and scaffolding good behaviors, and more. There’re definitely new leadership skills that may be like what has been preached in leadership, but isn’t well-exhibited in practice. At core, I reckon it’s new values, which is actually a much harder change. Fingers crossed!

  5. Hi Dan,
    Thanks for directing me to your blog. It was helpful as you said it would be.
    Let me start by saying that I totally agree with your comments and your thinking. A challenge that I am constantly confronting in the ‘leadership development’ realm is moving people from the mindset of ‘employee’ to ‘leader’ and moving people from ‘getting it’ in principle to actually putting the principles into practice on a daily basis. This can be a leadership philosophy, corporate values, core beliefs that all drive key leadership behaviors, to Enterprise 2.0 technologies implementation etc. In my experience when I am able to help individuals self discover, why, if they agree in principle to a concept, value, or philosophy that when the pressure of the day to day comes they behave in ways contrary to that principle, then we are getting somewhere. This contradiction, ‘what I agree to in principle I don’t always implement’, requires a deeper look at the conflicting beliefs that we have that drive our behaviors. As you know it also requires accountability and HR systems that are aligned to support the key behaviors.
    I am sure you have seen, as I have, individuals come to agreement on a specific value, behavior or even philosophy and yet act in contrary ways in the organization. We have both heard the comments from others about the necessity of all people walking the talk and the fallout that occurs when they don’t. The impact on trust, credibility, integrity and on the future of any successful implementation of any program, philosophy, cost reduction measure etc is significant to say the least.
    So Dan, I am in your corner. Keep at it because people like you are the ones that do make a difference, and your influence gives others courage to get on the same bus.

  6. They really should have started developing not formal training programs, but an updated leadership philosophy AND enterprise 2.0 strategy so that when the next economic meltdown occurs, organizations will be prepared to handle issues better and engagement/trust would not take a beating.

    I’ve often said that beginning to use social computing in real and substantive ways, and thus having to come to terms with greater degrees of transparency, greater involvement of the rank-and-file with decisions and communications, etc., would be one of the fastest AND most practical ways of implementing and practicing what is taught (mostly as intellectual concepts) in management and leadership development courses.

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