Unblock Access – ‘Social’ is Key to Improving Performance

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The issue of whether an organisation blocks or bans access to social media platforms has always been an interesting area. When speaking to colleagues in other councils who are not able to access, a common reason why access is blocked is due to a perceived fear that staff will simply waste time “messing about” or “chatting online”. It has been a personal desire to look for an approach which directly links the success of an organisation to the use of or at least access to social tools.

Without having any direct evidence – I’ve had to look to theoretical models and frameworks which help to explain the relationships between an organisations performance and the ability of staff to use and engage with social software, social media, enterprise 2.0, social business or whatever the current trend is for naming the variety of tools available.

Last week however a key part of the puzzle presented itself, in the form of a set of slides which I linked to in my previous post by Richard Veryard.

This is my current view is the all public sectors organisations need to unblock access to all social tools (external), and promote the use of social tools (internally) otherwise they restrict and reduce the chance for the organisation to improve its performance.

Given the current financial and organisational pressures facing the whole public sector, improving performance would be a key priority. The very least we would all agree that reducing barriers to improving performance should be a priority. This is where I now firmly believe that Social is the key to improving organisational performance.

I’ll try to give some context to my thinking by referring to some of the slides that Richard posted. I apologise in advance for some of the complexity in the following paragraphs  – believe me I have tried to keep it as simple as possible without losing the meaning :)

In “Modelling Intelligence in Complex Organizations”, my observations and interpretation of some of his slides are as follows:

Slide 5 – Cognition only makes sense for individuals
As individuals we seek out data/information, in doing this activity we essentially bring a meaning to that data/information and in turn provide the interpretation  and therefore we create and often share an understanding.
Organisations can not perform the same tasks, as organisations can only aggregates the collective view of all people within the organisation by bringing together  – perception, knowledge, learning and intelligence. This in the past has been restricted either to formal systems which require facts and statistics and would not include people’s views and opinions. The social element to an organisation would be in the informal social networks facilitated by water coolers and coffee machines.

Slide 7 – The illusion of individual performance
Individuals perform tasks which are supported by a variety of systems, the slide highlights 3 examples, but in a public sector context, this is even more relevant. For example an individual local government officer has a complex system environment, which could include Peers, Press and Media, local demographic, local political influence, national political influence, training, policy framework etc.

Essentially an individuals performance is the result of the ‘systems’ own restrictions and ability to achieve and facilitate outcomes.

So what I’m thinking in relation to this is that when an organisation restricts the “social” element within it, it actually restricts the ability of the system and the individual to achieve better outcomes. By providing “social” tools the organisation gains access to a greater organisational intelligence. I believe that the Knowledge Hub would in fact allow the public sector organisational intelligence to grow and in turn help facilitate better outcomes across the whole sector.

Slide 20 – Intelligence Strategy
In my post Move aside Intranet, here comes the super powered Extranet I share the vision for my authorities intranet/extranet and considering this new viewpoint, what that is contributing to is in fact the organisations Intelligence Strategy. The main benefit of integrating the Knowledge Hub into the core infrastructure of the council is the increased connections that it provides for each individual member of staff. It will provide them with a larger organisational intelligence system and my conclusion would be that this contributes directly to better outcomes for citizens and improved services.

In the second set of slides “How Can IT Fix the Problems of Stupid Organizations?” – I have thought about the wider linkages to a range of core business activities and capabilities which are and will become more critical in public sector environments even if they choose to adopt a commissioning agenda.

Slide 23 – Tools for organisational intelligence
The key challenge for publica sector organisations are not related to individual issues such as business intelligence, social networking, knowledge management and even customer relationship management (CRM), but are in fact how you plan and architect the links between these kinds of tools to achieve and facilitate organisational intelligence.

So the main takeaway for me is that ICT can directly improve the performance and intelligence of an organisation – however an organisations architecture needs to be designed with this outcome in mind otherwise you will fail to deliver the benefits.

Conclusion

I would recommend that any public sector organisation who is blocking access rethink that decision and consider how there organisation facilitates organisational intelligence and improved performance.

On a practical level, staff who abuse access should still be subject to existing policies around employee code of conduct – but the potential for a whole organisation to improve its performance and increase its intelligence far outweighs the risk of one individual mis-using an internet connection, which they can also do via their personal mobile phone.

2 thoughts on “Unblock Access – ‘Social’ is Key to Improving Performance

  1. Thanks for this Carl.

    To clarify my slide 5: The statement that “Cognition only makes sense for individuals” is a reductionist view that I don’t myself share. I prefer the holistic view presented in my following slide: that cognition makes sense for socially-embedded systems – not just people but also communities. I personally don’t have any problem talking about how an organization perceives and decides and remembers and learns – not just as a metaphor but as a literal account of what is going on. However, I have had many arguments about this with people who are uncomfortable with applying any notion of cognition to artificial or social entities.

    In practice, reductionists are usually willing to talk about non-human cognition, but they think this is only properly meaningful if this can ultimately be defined in terms of human cognition. There may well be a mapping between non-human cognition and human cognition, but it is probably very complicated and it’s not something I’m particularly interested to work out.

    Interestingly, some people who object to the notion of an organization having a collective memory don’t seem bothered by the notion of an organization making a collective decision. Perhaps that has to do with the fact that collective decisions can often be understood as the result of a semi-democratic process in which individuals have a weighted voice/vote depending on their status in the organization. Although in practice, collective decisions never quite work like that, and it is perfectly possible for an organization to arrive at a collective decision that nobody is happy with.

    This then links to the point you pick up from my slide 7 – the illusion of individual performance. In my book on Organizational Intelligence (now available on LeanPub, thanks for asking), I talk about the Talent Myth that was one of the things that did for Enron – the idea that all you have to do to build a brilliant company is recruit a bunch of brilliant individuals. Thinking about organizational intelligence doesn’t diminish the talents and efforts of individuals, but we have to understand how these individuals can collaborate intelligently, using a wide range of sociotechnical mechanisms, to achieve greater results.

    http://leanpub.com/orgintelligence

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