In a post earlier in the year (it is amazing that we are almost 2 months into 2008 !!!), I raised the matter of the impact of communities (Café Innovation – The Community Effect). The discussion was about businesses seeking to attain agility and the role that communities could play in this. I stated that it was important for companies to consider building communities as an important aspect of driving and eventually succeeding in any endeavor that is innovation-focused.
I was thrilled to hear from a like-minded person (Laura Coogan) who agreed with the premise of the post and added that collaborative communities can “add to the acceleration of transformation.” Going further, she asked the questions, “is it still so hard for us to change? Why are we so afraid of it?” This brought forth a whole new chain of thoughts. Lately, I have been exchanging ideas with some Organizational Change Management (OCM) folks who have varying theories, but largely agree that culture has to be one of the more significant factors. And, in this context it is not only the culture of the enterprise that matters, but also the overall cultural impacts of the industry and corporate environment that the enterprise must exist in.
This begs the question, what can an enterprise do to impact the culture within it? One school of thought suggests starting with ensuring that cross-functional collaboration is rewarded, thus enabling individuals to become more comfortable with colleagues from the “other” side. In my article, IT and Business: A Positive Relationship Equals SOA Success (SAP NetWeaver Magazine, Fall 2007; online at: http://www.netweavermagazine.com/archive/Volume_03_(2007)/Issue_04_(Fall)/v3i4a04.cfm?session), I discussed the concept of regenerative energy flow between IT and business. (By “regenerative,” I mean the ability to construct positive, value-yielding dynamics between groups despite natural friction between them.) It is important to unleash this energy within the enterprise for it will lead to increasingly close ties between individuals from different groups. This will be an important step before a movement can begin within the enterprise. To accomplish this, a well-timed push from senior management requiring demonstrably more collaboration between individuals from different groups will be needed. As the barriers come down, fear of each other and the fear of failure are ikely to recede. More importantly, fear of losing control, and the fear of losing the ability to secure exclusive credit for success will likely be rendered less effective.
In a future publication, I will discuss this point in somewhat greater detail (…I will be sure to raise it in this forum as well). In the meantime, I invite you to join the discussion with your views on how do we grow a culture that overcomes fear and is ready for change that takes advantage of collaborative communities.