A few weeks ago I wrote about a “window of opportunity” that organizational leaders have now. In short, “social business” (integrating social tools and principles into the way you lead and manage organizations) is not fully here yet, but it’s coming, so now is the time to get set up. I argue that the smart organizations will take advantage of this window and start changing the way they do things.
One of the first areas where we will see the new leaders making a move is in “internal collaboration.” Today’s environment requires speed, which, in turn, requires the people and departments in your organization to collaborate effectively. Friction there slows everything down. We put up with that in the past and did okay, but the same won’t be true moving forward for a real social business. So I think as leaders start paying attention to what “social business” means, they will start to employ tools that enable better collaboration, both inside and outside the organization.
But I have a prediction: they will over-rely on technology to solve this problem. Don’t get me wrong–the technology options we have now are awesome. I know it’s a small example, but I was on a conference call the other day on with three colleagues who are collaborating on a white paper, and just having the google doc up at the same time, watching each of us make edits simultaneously…I know I’m a nerd, but how cool is that!? That’s faster than sixteen emails of a word doc with track changes on it. And google docs is just the very tip of the iceberg when it comes to online collaboration software. The tools are becoming increasingly sophisticated and easy to use.
So by all means, jump into those tools, but also recognize this: online tools won’t solve your silo issue. Collaboration software alone is not going to resolve conflict. And if your culture has deeper trust or transparency issues, your collaboration software may go unused, or at least under-utilized. Internal collaboration is critical for social businesses, and it’s typically more of a sore spot than a strength in organizations today. But tools alone can’t fix this. You have to get people in the room together to redesign the way they work, including actual meetings in the office. You have to face the conflicts head on and deal with them, rather than avoid them or, worse, try to resolve them by email. If you want to build trust, then you need a process-based “architecture” for transparency that ensures information flows more freely.