Technology can help companies adapt to today's fast-changing landscape, but digital strategist Oscar Berg says firms also must develop a "communication culture" throughout the organization.
Berg, who works with the Avega Group, a consultancy in Malmö, Sweden, discussed the need for greater collaboration during a one-hour CMSWire webinar last week. He explained why businesses should change, how they can change and the technologies that can help them.
Why? Because factors including new consumer behaviors and rising global competition are making business unpredictable. "This means organizations can't do long, detailed planning. Instead they have to be prepared for change, to quickly adapt to new conditions and situation," he said. "This is quite a challenge."
Promoting Natural Collaboration
For smaller, more nimble companies, fast changes come more naturally, like a sailboat turning in the wind. For large corporations, it's more like turning an ocean liner. Both large and small organizations are becoming more dependent on creative, self-directed workers. Gone are the carved-in-stone processes designed to boost efficiencies a generation ago.
"That's a challenge, given that most companies are structured to work with predictable routines to maximize efficiency," Berg noted. Not surprisingly, as companies struggle to evolve, employee morale is eroding, frustrated workers are leaving the workforce and it's getting harder to recruit and retain the right people.
The key to achieve this change, he said, is to embrace collaborative strategies and tools that reduce the constraints on employees, making it possible for them to engage with anyone at any location at any time. That creates agile work groups that can act quickly, even inside the largest companies.
"Collaboration happens more naturally, more freely in small organizations," he said. In a large, distributed organization, collaboration rarely happens beyond the borders of groups, departments or geographic locations "because these have turned into silos."
The Collaboration Pyramid
To illustrate the situation, Berg has created what he calls the Collaboration Pyramid. At the top are "team collaboration" tactics: team formation, coordination and action. Below that are the low visibility "social collaboration" tactics that are essential to success in today's economy — things like sharing knowledge, connecting with others and participating in solutions. The latter group is extremely hard to develop in far-flung organizations where more than half the employees may work remotely.
"As soon as people are located more than 50 feet apart, the likelihood that people will meet and have these conversations drops dramatically, and so does the likelihood collaboration activities will happen," said Berg.
Technologies can help to reconnect those people, essentially neutralizing many of the disadvantages created by distance. "The basis here is to connect creative, talented and self-propelled people with each other, to connect them with a shared purpose, and to connect them with the knowledge and information they want and need."
This requires developing the aforementioned "communication culture," with buy-in from senior executives, managers and knowledge workers throughout the organizations. Both tools and a can-do mindset are required.
How can you calculate the return on investment on social technologies and social business initiatives? "One way is to measure frequently occurring tasks that rely on these capabilities and then to estimate the increased efficiency and effectiveness at the task level if these capabilities are improved," Berg said. "If we aren't able to change the communication culture in our organizations, people will eventually abandon the tools we give them or at best they will use them in the way they used their old tools."
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