The Grail Quest for Social Organization

Posted on: December 6, 2011 by Hubert Tardieu

Social organization, the other name for Enterprise 2.0, is now on every CEO and CIO’s agenda. Early November in Barcelona, Gartner decided that time has come to recommend putting communities at the center of new enterprise management “to tap the collective genius of your customers and employees” We all have in mind the WSJ disruptive article of Gary Hamel: “The Facebook generation vs the Fortune 500”.In the 12 principles proposed to characterize the new management we find all the ingredients of what makes a community active and effective. After two years of successful cooperation in our Atos Scientific Community we have a pretty good view of best practices in a 90 members strong community .

Fotography - H. Koppdelaney The Holy Grail

The “Social Organization” by Anthony Bradley and Mark Mc Donald is going one step further in proposing an approach to prepare enterprises for “mass collaboration” by addressing two key issues : (1) how to make sure that the purpose of a community is in line with the objectives of the company, (2) what level of sponsorship a given community needs to survive if it is not a “grass root community”(the own interest of members is enough to keep the community alive)

The buzz created by the announcement of Thierry Breton early February 2011 is also a symptom in the same direction. Restated this week in WSJ the intention is to eradicate mails in Atos in the next 18 months. Spending more than 20 hours each week on mails, having your priorities dictated by your Inbox is not the way forward. Mail deluge is like body temperature, 40 ° Celsius means you are sick, returning to 37° Celsius means you are not sick anymore but plunging in a cold bath is not the right way to diminish fever, you better cure the disease.

Now addressing the crunch point: it is a fact that Facebook fans (more than 800 million) do not use anymore the mail because most of their messages are exchanged within their communities.

The assumptions of the Social Organization are then around two key principles:

1. Communication will be done more and more within communities (which could be either grass roots or company sponsored and less through hierarchical line)

2. Each employee will belong to several communities some of them on a voluntary basis some of them because of his/her function or skills

Creating the appropriate communities within the enterprise is the prerequisite for a social organization to happen but the difficulty to choose the right ones.

These communities will resuscitate a very ancient practice which has been theorized by an anthropologist as Marcel Mauss in his book  “The Gift” who  explained ” the way that the exchange of objects between groups builds relationships between humans”. In the Social Organization, people are not any more exchanging objects but informations through the cooperation mechanism: the community can only work if the members are giving information to each others expecting a reciprocal exchange which is by definition not monetized’ In his book “Give and take the cooperation in enterprise” (not yet translated in English) the sociologist Norbert Alter inspired by Marcel Mauss explains that cooperation is vital for companies to make sure that people working with defined processes can deal with local failures or temporary objective misalignment.

If we want that the majority of employees be passionate about their job, Norbert Alter is suggesting that management shall visibly support cooperation.

This is ultimately the “Holy Grail” for the Social Organization.

Thanks to H. Koppdelaney for sharing the photograph.

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About Hubert Tardieu

Advisor of Atos CEO, leader of the Atos Scientific Community
After 27 years in Sema then SchlumbergerSema then Atos in various positions including Global Telecom, Global Finance, Global Systems Integration and Global Consulting, I am today the advisor of Atos CEO helping him to form the vision of what will be our world in 5 years from now. To help me in this task we have formed the Scientific Community in June 2009. This global community comprises now 160 of the top scientists, engineers and forward thinkers from across the Group, with a rich mix of skills and backgrounds. Their latest main publication, a future vision report, is entitled “Journey 2024 - Redefining Enterprise Purpose”. They also produce other publications including whitepapers and blogs and participate in innovation workshops and proof-of-concepts. 

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