Wednesday, 6 June 2018

#EntDigi #EDS18 Categorising social / digital technologies

The above tweets were triggered by Dion Hinchcliffe's keynote this morning which I still want to post on. But I also think the issue they describe provides an interesting issue in its own right.

I agree the technology isn't vitally important. The behaviour is. But the right technology will make it more likely you will get the right behaviour and a good level of adoption.

And 'right' has to be about a relative fit for purpose in your own organisation, not just an absolute perspective on quality.

There are two key inputs to this decision. The first is your organisation principles. The second is an understanding of what outcomes you want to achieve. And the third is your approach to do this, eg what type of behaviour you trying to encourage.

This third question can be answered by identifying the right category of technology to fit your needs. And this requires some sort of categorisation of technologies.

I liked this graphic from the Bank of England that also shows the complex technological environment in many firms.

I've also been interested in Isabel De Clercq's emerging graphic on synchronous / asynchronous collaborative technologies.

The comments on Isabel's article point to some of the difficulties in doing this, eg people consider S and A in different ways, and most tools can do some of both depending on how you use them.

Collaboration is even more difficult - there are very different views about what we mean by this and alternative names for different types of communication. And also once again, there's a lot of overlap between them.

However, I do think most models make the mistake of defining the territory from the perspective of the tools and what it can do rather than how people are going to use it.

My own model comes from this last perspective, looking at the groups working in an organisation and the type of technology which can best enable the type of work they need to do:
  • If you're focused more on tasks than on people, and on your own internal activities, eg in a simple, functional (Isabel's hierarchical) environment, you may want to use traditional / social intranets eg Sharepoint
  • If you're focused on tasks but more externally focused, eg in a customer focused, cross-functional team and need to be able to chat (synchronous) and collaborate, you'd probably be best of with Slack or Microsoft Teams, etc
  • If you're more interested on the people doing the work, eg you're operating in broader networks spanning across the organisation you'll need something like Jive
  • And if you want to provide people a home, you'll need a community system like Telligent, or at least one in which people find it very natural to form communities like Workplace by Facebook.

You'll probably notice my definition of collaboration is different to Isabel's but aligns with eg the one provided by Mike Blair at Charles Taylor this afternoon: "Two or more people working on the same task to the same outcomes". 

I also talk about many of the above points in my book launch interview conducted with Workplace. And you can find out more in The Social Organization.

Also see my other post from #EntDigi: Organisation principles for a Gig Mindset

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#EntDigi #EDS18 Organisation Principles for a Gig Mindset

The first keynote this morning at the Enterprise Digital Workplace Summit in London is from Jane McConnell who runs the annual Organisation in the Digital World survey and is on organisational principles for the 'gig mentality age'.

This isn't about gig workers (though I think that would be interesting to think about too)but salaried employees who are self managing, have the freedom to disagree and challenge ideas; and an entrepreneurial spirit with the freedom to experiment:
"The gig mindset will be the real competitive advantage in the digital age"

Jane suggests eight key differences between the behaviours of these gig mentality workers and employees with a traditional mindset, including being goal oriented, flexible to work in different types of teams and work dynrmaics, creative, willing to challenge ideas and highly aware of the external world.

Organisations need to be more able to adapt because their people will be more adaptable, and also resilient in that they won't get taken down when a disruptive event takes place.  They need to be able to learn and work out loud.

Jane suggests this adaptability requires more focus on skills rather than roles, and that when you do this you fracture hierarchy - which is no bad thing. We also need to redefine leadership as influence rather than hierarchy. And pay more attention to teams, processes, openness, decision making and our vision for how works get done.

I really like this early attempt at rethinking the principles we need in the new digital age and though they're still draft, prefer the direction that they're going to, eg those in Bruce Daisley's manifesto. I also like the fact that they're reasonably succint, eg in contrast to Ray Dalio's TL;DR tome.

There's also another good list from Esko Kilpi here.

They real key though is developing a set of principles for your own organisation, making sure they are aligned with your own particular vision, and are clear enough that they'll influence your actions.

I'll be returning to the theme of principles and organsiation design in my own Enterprise Digital keynote in November.

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Tuesday, 5 June 2018

#HRCongress18 Dave Ulrich on Digital HR at the CHRO Virtual Summit

I was working on client and other things at home last week but did manage to catch the HR Congress' virtual CHRO summit. It's the first virtual conference I've been to for quite a while and whilst I found it as socially unsatisfying as last time I did one - which may just have been because I was working at home (but my suggestion: linked Twitter / Slack chat embedded in the system rather than text based chat page) I thought the content was really good.

Given my current interests and project work I was particularly interested in Dave Ulrich's perspectives on digital. I also agree with his perspectives that it's useful to focus on both HR's support for digital business, and how digital changes HR itself (as above).

On our support for digital business, I like Dave's focus on helping the business get its act together around its intent, plans and resources to become digital. Particularly as one of the major challenges any business faces in doing digital is managing the people changes associated with this (eg see this article from McKinsey).

I do however think that there is more. Much more. Changing the nature of the people employed (more contingent), the way they are organised (more networked), and the skills they possess (more digital) are all key tasks for HR to take on. And which are all absolutely core, not just tangentially related, to digital business.

(In fact I would really argue that there are three things HR needs to focus on for digital which are the business, the people / organisation, and how it does HR itself. Eg in my Digital HR course for Symposium I focus on all these three or four things.)

In terms of HR's own digital agenda, I like Dave's model (below), though I still prefer my own! (I guess I would). Mine suggests the three levels are about efficiency, effectiveness and engagement / collaboration, which is also similar to Josh Bersin's split into systems of record, talent management systems, systems of engagement and systems of productivity from his 2018 Technology Disruptions report (he just splits engagement and productivity whilst I think they're the same level of value, just focused on individuals and groups respectively.)

You can find out more about my model in this post from 2015, or this one from 2011, or even my fist book from 2007 - published more than 10 year's ahead of Bersin's report (although my credibility as a futurist is rather tarnished by my rather bizarre claim from 2011 that social media wouldn't support any new business models - sorry Facebook!).

The key thing in all these other models is that information isn't a stage, it's a complementary aspect of all three levels (efficiency, effectiveness and experience), linked to value for money, added value and created value in the value triangle.

For example, The Social Organization I write about social and other digital technologies, the way they produce exhaust data and how this can be used to inform analytics and the generation os new insight. But it's generally not the main purpose for using the social / digital technologies.

Given my current focus on The Social Organization, I'm also pleased to see connection and teams / networks at the top of both Dave's and Josh's models.

Dave noted that social isolation is the main cause of mortality and that if we want to be happy and healthy we need to ensure we have good relationships.

All true. But the key point in terms of digital business is that once you've implemented digital, including robots, AI, contingent working, etc, the only remaining differentiator for your core workforce is their social relationships. So it's not just a human / creating value thing to do, but a central requirement for digital business success.

And why is suppose it's so critical for virtual learning platforms to take social connection seriously too.

If you're interested in the proper HR Congress (which was a really social event last time I went) you may also be interested in these posts from that event in 2016.

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Thursday, 31 May 2018

#EntDigi Enterprise Digital Workplace Summit 2018

I'm also looking forward to attending the Enterprise Digital conference on the digital workplace and employee experience in London again next week, and especially to catching up with David Terrar, Jame McConnell, Dion Hinchcliffe, Wedge Black and others.

I'll be blogging from the event so look out for more then. (I was supposed to be posting last time I attended but didn't manage to do so as my book got in the way, so I want to be particularly productive this time around.)

And I'll be speaking on The Social Organization at the follow-up conference on the digital workplace and the future of work in November, and again look forward to catching up with more people then, including Emanuele Quinarelli and others.

Do come to one or both events if you can..

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Friday, 25 May 2018

#DWX18 Digital Workplace Experience

I'll be speaking at CMSWire / Digital Workplace Group's Digital Workplace Experience conference in Chicago next month (19-20 June, 2018):
Creating Digital Workplace Via Organization Design

The digital workplace needs to be deeply integrated with other organizational enablers if its full potential impact is to be achieved. Businesses need to approach digital projects as organization design. Articulate the required digital capabilities and desired cultural outcomes, using these to guide changes in the organization structure, people, leadership, processes, technologies and other enablers. A key requirement is to define the most important type of organizational group, so that the digital workplace can deliver a quality experience to these, as well as to individual employees and contingent workers.

It'll great to be back in Chicago where I've not been since SHRM13 (oh, and SHRM18's going to be on there at the same time).

Looking forward to seeing you if you're at #SHRM18, #DWX18, or otherwise around!

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Thursday, 24 May 2018

Employee Experience

There are some great insights and quite a bit of unhelpful froth relating to employee experience around these days. Here are my thoughts, trying to put a bit more focus around some of this. You may well disagree, in which case it'd be great to hear from you. This is a new area and I know I'm not always right about things. I just suspect I'm right about these -

1.   Employee Experience isn't more important than Engagement

Experience is important but it's still only an attribute of activity ie it's about the things which happen to someone. But it's not as useful as an outcome which is about the state or quality of the person receiving the experience. Engagement is the main outcome which experience is designed to increase. So we still need to focus, and focus more, on engagement.

If you don't do this, the liklihood is that you'll improve the experience but you won't necessarily achieve a benefit for engagement, or another outcome, eg retention, or the quality of your employer brand that informs your ability to attract, etc.

Some people do criticise engagement for being all about bells and whistles - office slides and fussball tables etc. But that's just a gross mis-representation of the employee engagement agenda. Engagement has always been about doing the right things to deliver this. What experience gives us is a new angle and insight into doing so.

(By the way, I'm not a great supported of the engagement term, as I find this tends to be quite disengaging. But that's a need to find a better outcome, not to switch focus to the activity.)

2.   Employee Experience isn't the secret to Customer Experience

Yes, they're linked but claims that you can't have a good customer experience without a good employee experience are wildly simplistic. Engagement leads to customer experience, and employee experience leads to engagement. But:

-   Lots of other things inform employee engagement too, including the organisation, the manager, etc. Note this isn't just the experience of the manager but the decisions they make about their people too.
-   Lots of other things cause customer experience too, particularly the firm's products / services and its customer processes, as well as the capabilities and behaviours of its employees.

A good employee experience is unlikely to do any harm, but it's probably not the most direct or important thing to focus on to increase customer experience.

3.   Experience isn't about Experiences

The London Employee Experience conference today has been talking quite a bit about experientialism. I agree this is a thing, though I don't think it's a new thing, or a millennial thing. I resisted owning a house, or really very much at all until I got married in my 30s, on the basis that I wanted to own as little as I could. I prided myself for a long time on only having one key on my keyring. (I've made up for lost time since.) But these days we're definitely reaching peak stuff, and more people are turning away from material goods.

But this has nothing to do with employee experience. Experience isn't about providing experiences, it's just about helping people do their work effectively and in a positive, satisfying way. And I shouldn't really say 'just' - there's going a lot of work involved in that for most firms.

If you can provide 'experiences' on top, that's great, but that's more about total rewards than it is employee experience.

4.   Experience does include Work

Yes, experience includes technology, the workplace, culture, leadership, community, and so on. But actually more than anything else, it's driven by the work. What people do is always going to be a more central aspect of experience than how they do it and the way they are supported.

If a firm's processes and jobs are designed poorly, nothing else is going to provide a positive experience.

See, for example, my post on Bullshit Jobs.

And a strong Agreement

There is one thing I do strongly agree with which is that experience is important, and we do need to focus on it more. Particularly in the digital age where so much of what we do is now integrated, meaning that it is the whole experience which is important. It may be less important than engagement, and it may not have much direct impact on customer experience, but it can do a lot of other things.

In fact, this is the main opportunity for me. By focusing on people, and their experience, we can create value for our businesses by making work simpler or just plain better.  Which hasn't necessarily got anything to do with employee engagement or customer experience at all!

If you want to know more, this is the Employee Experience course I'm running for Symposium. Maybe see you there?

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Thursday, 17 May 2018

Bullshit Jobs

It's been years since I've live blogged. But I'm at a session at the RSA with anthropologist David Graeber speaking about  Bullshit Jobs. So here goes:

People are often apologetic about what they do for a living - often because they're literally doing nothing. That's why you get people playing games and watching cat videos while they're working.

Robots have bee taking our work for 100 years or so but instead of redistributing work we've made unnecessary stuff up. This includes whole industries, things like corporate lawyers which don't really need to exist. The appropach is perpetuated by those in power buying loyalty of structurally unemployed by giving them false management positions. Clerical, administration and supervisory positions often seem to be the worst affected.

YouGov did a survey on this - 37% of people in the UK don't think they make a useful contribution to society. Note this is almost certain to be an under estimation of the true figure for the proportion of useless jobs.

It is an important issue for the economy and humanity - bullshit jobs make people miserable, leading to stree, anxiety and depression.

Graeber  suggests we need to rethink our assumptions around human nature. You would image someone paid well to do a bullshit job would be pleased with their income and free time. However they are often extra miserable because they know they are happy but think they should be.


I've been reflecting on my own experience of this and although I've never had a bullshit job, have had some bullshit experiences over the years:
  •  A bullshit student sponsorship assignment where it was difficult to get much done due to lack of interest from the sponsor
  • A bullshit working my notice when I was asked to go into the office even though I had no work to do there
  • One bullshit consultancy project very early on in my career designing an organisation for a new group to develop services to support other people helping employees delivering for their customers, which I just thought was so far removed from the firm's customers to be largely pointless (and cost countless millions of pounds) 
  • And another which for a short period involved working late into the evening writing a report we all knew nobody would ever read (the firm didn't pay overtime so my assignment partner didn't care)
  • A more recent bullshit consultancy project in a dysfunctional client who didn't want to listen to advice about their problems but wanted me to keep going to the end of the contract (and offered too high a day rate to turn down).

That's quite a long list and I found I started to think of more as I started to describe them. In fact I could possibly go on, but really don't feel like I want to.

And yes, these were all fairly miserable experiences.

I suspect and regret that I've also had a temp working for me in a bullshit job where we needed cover for peak activities but where there was not much to do for most of the time.

So although I thought many of Graeber 's points were over exaggerated, bullshit does happen. And I think his fundamental point is sound - we can do more and better. Job design (including the way that people are managed and supported) needs to be seen as more fundamental aspect of organisation design that it often is.

I also recommend David Bolchover's book which I think potentially provides a more balanced summary of the situation.

Interested in the agenda? Come to this training on Job Design for Good Work and Increased Productivity that I'm delivering with Symposium later in the year (or I could deliver in house). I promise no bullshit!

And if it's appropriate, note that I consult on Good Work with the Work Foundation as well as independently.

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Thursday, 10 May 2018

#HRSummit2018 Rethink the Way you Work

I've really enjoyed being out in Singapore for this year's HR Summit. Actually I always enjoy being in Singapore. But I think another reason is that the conference has retained a focus on big, strategic issues, mostly related to HR in the 4th industrial revolution (being badged here as HR 4.0), more effectively than most conferences I've been to over the past few years. (I find most of these events have had peaks and troughs but this one has generally managed to keep at the peak level.)

I also enjoyed speaking both days at the event. I didn't really plan it this way but in hindsight, my inputs have focused quite tightly on the main conference theme and hashtag of 'rethinking the way you work'. For me this is about alignment - working out what we need to achieve, which will probably be different to what we've achieved in the past, then what qualities / outcomes we need to create in our people and organisation to do this, then what HR activities we need to use or change to make this happen.

In my first session I suggested all things 4.0 are moving people towards greater specialisation but that increasing complexity requires these specialists to be brought together in teams, other groups and networks. This makes these groups, and the relationships between people working in these groups, more important, and potentially more important than the individuals themselves. We need to focus on social capital rather than human capital.

Conference attendees seemed to agree with me - 90% suggested the way their people work together is more important than the quality of the individual employees.

This means that we should be developing our HR processes to produce these outcomes rather than the ones we used to need, ie they now need to support and enable groups and relationships rather than individuals.

But they don't do they? What do we measure, manage, develop and reward? 65% of my session attendees suggested their processes still focus on individuals, not teams and other groups. (And this is the most highly aligned set of scores across all the sessions I've asked people these two sets of questions.)

I also suggested that the way we support groups needs to change depending of the nature of the group. My best example of doing this came from Titansoft and the development of their non-conventional HR practices to support the company's agile IT teams.

Similarly to the examples I described in my own session, I thought these were some great, and even better, greatly aligned, HR practices for the type of groups (horizontal teams) used by this company.  Ie for me, it's not the non-conventional practices themselves which I'd suggest you use, it's the selection of the practices to fit the need of the type of group, and the focus on group vs individual (eg team vs individual based performance management).

In my second session  I argued that groups are so important we need to do more than align HR processes with the type of group, we also need to incorporate the highest priority type into our organisational structure.  When these groups are communities and networks we need to do this very carefully. We can't tell people in a community what to do, and as soon as we try, we've no longer got a community. But I also think these groups, which most people see as informal, are today often too important not to be formalised as part of the structure.

My suggestion, to continue the alignment, is that structure, and hence form of the organisation, should be based upon the main elements in my organisation model, the Organisation Prioritisation Model (OPM).

I asked my session attendees which of the element are most important in their organisation. Perhaps not too surprisingly, in this audience, although actually still quite surprisingly, 90% suggested the most important element are people, with the others responding the connections and relationships between the people. Ie we need to invest in our people, and their relationships, in order to achieve quality processes and business excellence, in order to deliver work and support customers. Customer results are a result of looking after our people, not the main aim itself.

For me, the type of group(s) we structure around should link to the priorities of the above elements. Work focused organisations should use horizontal project teams. Infrastructure based organisations should use simple groupings (functions). People companies should use communities (I loved Tanvi Gautam's suggestion that digital is all about human and a core human need is community.) Connection organisations should use distributed networks.

Yet again that doesn't seem to be what we do. Most (42%) of attendees' companies are still organised based on functions, though communities do come second, on 29%.

That's actually really high! - I don't generally suggest companies just use communities but introduce communities to support their functions or project teams. And it's also not represented by the case studies in the conference.

So we've had loads of examples of horizontal project teams: Siemens, Amazon, Netflix, Titansoft (above).

We've not heard much about communities. Really just Lo & Behold Group. This is from their website: "We operate like one big close-knit, wacky family that works really hard but plays even harder as one. We take the time to get to know our people as individuals in order to tailor career paths based on their personality, interests and strengths. We have a deep faith in our people, so we arm them with the necessary know-how and create opportunities that stretch them, making their years with us not only fun, but also incredibly fulfilling. We term this a 'LAB-er's stretch potential.' "

I don't know if the people in their establishments work as communities, but I suspect so. And if people really are the most important element of our organisations, I'd like to see more of our companies operating a bit more like this too. 

And I don't think we've had any case studies on networks at all. And actually given that so much of what we've been talking about is concerned with digital technology, we should have done.

I was particularly concerned that in an otherwise excellent presentation on the use of digital technology, the HRD from Singtel suggested that digital was so important, they'd set up a department for it. Departments / functions may be the traditional and fall-back solution, but they're generally not the best fit solution for digital. A network would probably be a better idea.

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#HRSummit2018 - Strategic Organisation Design for the Digital Future of Work

And today at the HR Summit in Singapore I presented on the opportunities for strategic organisation design within the context of the digital future of work:

As the pace of change increases, the need to keep organisations aligned with business needs becomes all the more important.

However, we also need to think about organisations in new ways. Digital businesses require new roles, skills, and ways of working, and the employees undertaking this work need to be organised differently too.

Doing this right requires deeper, more strategic thinking, than many organisation design models and best practices suggest. The future of work is not as simple as moving from hierarchies to networks.

One of the main requirements is to align the choice of organisation form with the types of group which will be the highest priority for the business (including horizontal teams, communities, networks and platforms).

  • Why digital transformation is best seen as an organisation design challenge, and how organisation forms are changing
  • Practical guidance on how businesses can be more deliberate in building the types of organisations they need without getting lost in vague notions around culture or in out-of-date or non-strategic models, tools and approaches
  • How physical workplaces and digital workspaces need to be seen as elements within organisation design - HR needs to establish closer relationships with colleagues in Property and IT
  • To ensure that HR processes can be aligned with the types of group selected as the 'highest priority' and used as the main basis for organisation design, creating alignment with key business needs as well as new design opportunities

I hope you enjoyed the session if you were there.

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