The Collaborative Organization: Control The Center

In this excerpt from The Collaborative Organization, Jacob Morgan explains how to organize for Enterprise 2.0 collaboration.

Jacob Morgan, Contributor

July 5, 2012

6 Min Read

Update Seekers and Advisors

This group of employees just wants to know what's going on with the initiative. The group can be large or small, and typically it receives updates via alerts, emails, newsletters, or perhaps briefings. Sometimes certain executives like to be the update seekers; they want to get enough information to know what's going on and that things are going well.

Keep in mind that we are describing nothing more than involvement. This doesn't have anything to with seniority, the size of a group, or importance. It's possible that someone senior will be part of the implementing group and an entry-level employee will be part of the update seekers group. How involved employees are can depend on all sorts of things, such as how much interest they have in the project and whether they have the time to contribute. Also, these types of involvement groups are not mutually exclusive or permanent. Employees can be a part of more than one group and can also move between groups; for example, an employee who may start getting updates and information about the project and then realize this is something he or she wants to be part of. This isn't meant to be a rigid bucket of employees; it's merely an overview of how employees are typically involved. It is something you can easily adapt and modify so that it fits your organization.

This whole group might be called the Emergent Collaboration Task Force or whatever other fun or creative name you come up with. Some companies have one core team that handles all the functions necessary, and other companies have multiple teams for separate functions. For example, you might want to have a task force as well as a governance committee or an oversight team that meets less frequently and addresses broader issues of emergent collaboration such as mandating the use of tools, changing employee incentive programs to include collaboration, permissions and policies, and other broader topical issues that help the company govern emergent collaboration. In either scenario you want to make sure to have a senior-level executive (or a few) involved.

Organizations also typically organize their teams in one of two ways. This isn't to say that one is better or more effective than the other; I believe it’s situational.

Permanent Teams

Organizations with permanent enterprise collaboration teams have either hired new employees or transitioned existing employees to a new role. This is something I have typically seen in larger or more complex organizations. Permanent teams always focus on continuous ways to improve collaboration within the organization and deal with many complexities of managing robust collaboration solutions. Integrations, vendor transitions, and infrastructure changes or requirements are all handled on an ongoing basis by permanent employees. Content organization and structure also plays a crucial role here as often the larger the company is, the more content that company has and is producing. This doesn't mean that smaller companies don't have permanent teams; they often do.

When This Makes Sense

This form of organization makes sense in the following situations:

-- Larger organizations in which a lot of content and information is being shared regularly.

-- Organizations that are just getting started with emergent collaboration initiatives and need to hire full-time employees.

-- Organizations that are continuously incorporating employee feedback into systems.

-- Dynamic organizations in which things are usually changing.

-- Organizations that deploy solutions that require dedicated IT staff to manage or in which vendor changes and infrastructure changes might happen.

Ad Hoc Teams

These teams come together for this initiative, but the employees retain their day jobs and positions. The team meets regularly to discuss ideas and solve problems, but its members are not strictly devoted to enterprise collaboration on a full-time basis. Typically, organizations with ad hoc teams are not as large as those with permanent teams. In some large companies I have also seen one or two full-time employees remain on the team.

When This Makes Sense

This form of organization makes sense in the following situations:

-- Established organizations that have already deployed these systems and are now in sustaining mode.

-- Organizations in which a lot of documentation and content is not created and/or shared, perhaps a small team in which everyone is in the same office.

-- Large companies that seek to assign distributed responsibility to a large group of employees.

-- Smaller companies that don't have the resources to dedicate permanent teams.

Once teams are developed, it's important to maintain regular communication and meetings to discuss and address things that may arise during the course of the emergent collaboration initiative, such as brainstorming additional ways or ideas to get employees to use the platform. Large organizations with a presence in multiple countries usually have representatives from various geographies or local offices that are part of the team. There is no formula for how big or small an emergent collaboration team should be; in fact, the more evangelists and supporters you can get, the better. However, the core team will have to remain a manageable size.

Summary and Action Items

Emergent collaboration should be a joint effort between IT and business units. In fact, the research that Chess Media Group put together shows that this is the case for many organizations. Emergent collaboration teams can be composed of a diverse set of employees, and not every company will have the same kind of team involved. Your organization needs to understand what the team should be like and who should be involved. Make sure to include those who resist during the discussions; their concerns should be heard. Finally, make sure the team understands how involved the employees are going to be and how they will receive the information they need:

-- Select the people you want to be part of the team; you don't need to limit this to a closed group. You may ask around and share the news of a new collaborative project to see who steps forward.

-- Outline how involved each of the participants is going to be.

-- Discuss whether you think this should be an ad hoc team or a permanent team.

-- Address where budget can come from and come up with a few options.

-- Arrange for regular meetings with the team.

Adapted from Chapter 5 of The Collaborative Organization by Jacob Morgan, Copyright 2012, McGraw-Hill Professional; reprinted with permission of the publisher.

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About the Author(s)

Jacob Morgan


Jacob Morgan is the author of the newly released book, The Future of Work: Attract New Talent, Build Better Leaders, and Create a Competitive Organization. He is also the principal and co-founder of the consulting firm Chess Media Group and the FOW Community, an invitation-only membership community dedicated to the future of work and collaboration.

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