Reposted from E2.OH – Investigations into Enterprise 2.0
post by Nate Nash
The results of the dank, humidly oppressive heat outside and the icy breeze incessantly wheezing at full tilt from the vent over my cube is an appropriate metaphor for many things here. The two extremes combine into a somewhat temperate, moderately sticky existence that takes every opportunity to remind me my wool suit is a far from informed fashion statement. I have become the mildly disappointing middle-ground between immovable environment and the best laid apparel plans. A pitiful melange of attempted professional grandeur, slogging sweatily through a rain forest.
Awesome. Let’s implement some E2…
I suppose I am built for cooler climates, but alas I find myself in a tropical metropolis. It is not technically that hot. However, it is extremely technical when it comes to atmosphere. The humidity, smog, and millions of people everywhere fit like a moist, size too small glove, squeezing you into anonymous exhaustion. On this particular day Jay and I are presenting our progress on a new portal and KM prototype. The majority of the presentation was your usual schnauzer and quarter horse, but I found a specific snippet of dialog worthy to resurrect this rustbucket of a blog.
I loudly clear my throat, hoping to startle open the drooping eyelids of the unlucky meeting attendees. I bat .500 on the try, but figure it is better than a wholly unconscious audience.
“After interviewing stakeholders from across your organization, a single, shining beacon of a requirement has emerged. That beacon my friends, is the guiding principle by which we have developed your prototypes. From the most senior director down to the interns, your organization’s needs can be summed up in a single phrase…. ”
I pause for effect as fluttering eyelids and the squeaking of uncomfortable people adjusting uncomfortable chairs creates the desired climatic precipice. (In case it isn’t already blatantly apparent, I tend toward the dramatic. Come on…anybody can do PowerPoint. Let’s cook with jet fuel for once.)
“Nobody can find anything. Ever.”
A full room of vigorously nodding heads confirms the statement. A man leans forward from a particularly rickety chair in the back of the room and slightly raises his left hand. I acknowledge his question as he unknowingly blasphemes, “We need a logical structure! Just like my hard drive. Is this what you have created for us?”
I now have 2 reasons to sweat. The aforementioned climate and my answer to this question.
“You don’t need organization. You need transparency. Your guiding requirement is not a new place to put things. It is a new way to do things. The effectiveness of this organization is stifled through the corralling of people, process, and technology into utterly unusable pockets of opacity. We propose transparency as the guiding principle for change, affecting all aspects of the organization, technological or otherwise. Your complete organization states the inability to quickly find information as a chief concern. This is not caused by ineffective execution. This is caused by ineffective dogma.”
Glasses, ties, papers, feet, eyebrows are adjusting. The room is exploding with minor adjustments. Everyone in simultaneously slightly adjusting something. I am wondering whether I should adjust my flight home to account for the looming stage hook. Slowly the lesser vibrations cease and the same man speaks again.
“But my department needs control. My department has very sensitive information that can’t be shared. I need to be able to find information from the other departments, but our documents are confidential.”
The nodding quickly reaches a fever pitch, heads bobbing like chop after a summer squall. I launch into a pointless rant about what actually makes information confidential but it is relatively clear to me the stage has been set. No matter where we go from here, this implementation will be about air-conditioning in the tropics. You see no matter the intent or design of air-conditioning, there is always a lingering wisp of the natural environment. Sometimes it is barely noticeable, other times it is overwhelming. I am confident that the “guiding principle of transparency” will not be watered down to a “suggestion of translucency”, but there is a long road ahead. In order for complete success to occur, there must be an organic change in the environment, not a temporary, man-made attempt at cooling things off. Without the underlying shift in the organizational climate surrounding transparency, there will be rooms that are too cold or too hot, depending upon your perspective and location. Change is difficult indeed. However, addressing the root cause will make for much longer lasting results. Dropping a wiki on a group of people without first seeking to alter their method for work is like wearing a suit in the rainforest. Looks decent from afar but is completely uncomfortable up close.
Luckily, the organization is committed to the concept (at least), and starting to warm up (pun intended) to the prospect of change. We are committed as well, but should probably look into procuring a few linen suits.