No employee is an island. Everyone is surrounded by relationships and the need to share goals, context, information and skills. Focus on the community.
Collaboration is Human not Technological
Dion Hinchcliffe made an important point about #wolweek in his list of key events in the evolution of collaboration. Dion pointed out that #wolweek celebrates collaboration agnostic of the choice of technology. Working out loud can work as well on post-it notes as it does on an enterprise social network. Working out loud works when it enables an individual to find ways to engage a community.
The rise of Slack has fostered a debate as to whether the answer is small scale collaboration or enterprise collaboration. This debate confuses the technology with the community. Vibrant communities require both small and large scale collaboration. There is no such thing as a Slack community. Slack simply connects (The same is true of an enterprise social network or any other tool). People form the community. That community comes from the users and reflects their connections across the whole of their lives. The community may well, and probably should, reach far beyond the walls of the organisation.
If small scale collaboration doesn’t reach enough people or share widely enough, then people will add tools to achieve the necessary community. That may not always be the efficient way to work. However, we can trust a community to find the effective way to work.
Community is also fractal. Any large scale community is made up of smaller groups working around shared challenges. Don’t force the scale or the groupings for your communities. Allow people to find and shape the scale that works for them. Community management and social network analysis tools can assist communities to connect where there are gaps but they cannot make people into communities.
A vibrant community will use the tools that it takes to collaborate. Members of Change Agents Worldwide collaborate across a bewildering range of tools, as expert users. The collaborate from face to face conversations over coffee (often tagged as Change Agents in the Wild!) through an enterprise social network, through messaging applications, in other networks whereever we come together and in various forms of collaborative document tools. I can never predict where the next useful message will appear but I know it will come from my community. We collaborate where we need to go to bring the benefits of the community to the work.
Build Collaborative Communities
The work I do with clients using the Value Maturity Model approach is about helping clients to identify and understand the communities that are a part of their work. For many organisations this is the first time they have started to look at the real human interactions, rather than the formal hierarchies and process charts.
When organisations foster and support these communities across all channels, they discover the exponential potential of their people. Instead of managing people for efficiency like machines, they see that connected people, sharing purpose and working out loud can be dramatically more effective. The value creation through revenue, cost and risk benefits are clear. The added benefit is building an organisation that is more human, learns better, is more trusting and more connected as a community.
There are now so many ways to connect that the issue is not whether you can bring the communities in your organisation together. Most organisations are struggling to keep up with the new ways that their employees have to connect. You can be sure your competitors are currently seeking these benefits by learning the new ways to bring their communities together.
The key questions are what you are doing that stops your people benefiting from new and effective ways of working and what could you be doing to enable more communities. How are you enabling your people to achieve the benefits of community in their work?