The act of participating, not the process of managing participation

I was reading an interesting post earlier today ( A Better Way to Manage Knowledge – John Hagel III and John Seely Brown – Harvard Business Review) and it triggered a number of thoughts in my head. Perhaps the act of participating is far more important to get right then the process of managing that participation?

My recent post titled The Governance Ladder attempted to align an organisations view of participation to their governance approaches, well I am now thinking that this is more and more the case.

I don’t think i need to add much more to the quote below really other than to say i think it is fundamental to Governance frameworks that you understand the difference between the “management of people and processes” and “the organisational itself that allows for effective decision making, participation, collaboration and knowledge sharing”

Knowledge management traditionally has focused on capturing knowledge that already exists within the firm — its systems rarely extend beyond the boundaries of the enterprise. Creation spaces instead focus on mobilizing and focusing participants across all institutional boundaries. Sure, there are lots of smart people within your enterprise, but imagine the power of connecting with and engaging a more diverse collection of smart people beyond your enterprise. That is another source of the increasing returns in creation spaces — participation is not limited by the boundaries of the enterprise.

via A Better Way to Manage Knowledge – John Hagel III and John Seely Brown – Harvard Business Review.

How i see this linking is that a traditional view of Governance focuses on managing the people and processes much like knowledge management focused on capturing the knowledge, but that in itself made the process disengaging and often caused the failure of Knowledge Management Projects. I accept that governance does have to do this but it also needs to recognise the act of participating in Governance itself is much like participating in anything else, you need tend to think about “what’s in it for me”. If the process is all about the people and processes and not actually about delivering the right results and priorities then surely it is failing. The creation space aspect for me is about the culture of governance that exists within your Organisation or Enterprise. If this supports an open participative culture then i suspect that your Governance approach would be far less intensive and more Emergent and based on the people within the governance process.  I also posted my thoughts around Emergent Governance on the Devon Enterprise Architects Blog.

They also say in their post:

But for the most part the repositories and directories remained fragmentary and the resources didn’t get used. The folks with the knowledge were often reluctant to put what they knew into the database. The folks seeking the knowledge often had trouble finding what they needed.

I guess i see this as being an analogy to the coordinated Governance approaches that are required across large Enterprises.My thinking is still evolving in this area and the more i read the more fascinated i get as the direct link between participation and governance grows.

Effective Risk Management is the driver for Social Software adoption

Updated: to include link to “Are you risk adverse

I hear a lot of conversation about the barriers around social software, social media and similar tools. The most common ones i hear apart from “we can’t access the stuff” are “Risk”, “Information Security” and “FOI”.

All of these are critical views to take on board when looking into social software whether you are looking at an internal implementation of an external implementation.

However my belief is that instead of these views being considered as barriers to progress, in fact they should be seen as critical in supporting the adoption of social software platforms and projects.

Why and How?

Well let me explain my viewpoint and please feel free to comment, contribute or propose a different view.

First lets look at Risk – Most views or comments i hear around Risk are in fact not about the management of Risk but are always about the avoidance of risk. This approach is counter-productive. If you take a proactive approach and engage your risk managers effectively and ensure that you focus on “mitigation” and “management” of risk you will in my opinion end up concluding that the best option is to in fact provide corporately supported solutions or make recommendations on policy and guidance around the usage etc.

I’ll explain a little further – When identifying risks within a local government context you will more than likely pick out some along the lines of “impact on reputation”, “information in public spaces” and impact on FOI requests”. You should however also include the risks of not doing it which might include “likelihood of staff creating spaces for collaboration anyway”, “lack of information management processes”, “difficulty of finding information in private email pst files” and “impact on reputation if left un-managed and un-guided.

Taking the above approach, i would conclude that on balance the better management of Risk would be to:

  1. open access and provide appropriate policy and guidance to all staff/members (building on existing policies such as code of conduct etc).
  2. provide a platform or identify appropriate platforms for use by staff for collaboration and conversation.
  3. reduce the use of email for internal communications and promote the use of social software solutions to enable better indexing and findability of information.

It would be safer in terms of information security to understand where and what systems your information is being held in and then ensure appropriate security is in place to mitigate the loss of information. From an FOI perspective information which is easy to find and easy to access is better and more productive.

The point to remember about Risk is that risks should only be classified once you have determined the mitigation steps and not before the mitigation is identified. The idea around mitigation is to reduce the risk.

Here is a link to a Martin Howitts blog post on “Are you Risk Adverse“, which is useful in terms of explanation of Risk

I was asked to summarise my views on camera at last Saturday UK Government Barcamp event at Google HQ in London by Nick Booth (aka podnosh).

NB: I make no apologies for the way i look in this video, i was very tired and my brain was on overload.

The Governance Ladder

NB: This is just my thoughts at this stage and i have no evidence to support any of what i write. If you can contribute, challenge or even support what i say i would be grateful.

I have recently been fascinated by what on face value can be seen as a boring subject – Governance. I am particularly interested in IT, Organisational and Corporate Governance now, but no doubt will read on other aspects as my understanding and thinking develops.

There are literally thousands of results on google around governance and most do focus at a national level and there were a significant amount of results of “Governance of Financial Institutions” and rightly so :o).

There has also been a number of posts around “Guidance over Governance” which are worth a read. I have also read a wide range of traditional governance websites, blog etc. However i will mention a few that i have read recently which helped clarify or contributed to my thinking – (this does not represent the full list of sites i have read – a simply search on google will provide you with that list):

OK so what am i referring to in the title of this post “The Governance Ladder” – i and starting to believe that there maybe a connection between the “Ladder of Citizen Participation developed by Sherry R Arnstein” and effective Governance in organisations.

Let me try and explain how i came to think about this connection. The participation ladder outlines 8 aspects of participation, starting at the bottom with Manipulation moving up the ladder to Therapy – Informing – Consultation – Placation – Partnership – Delegated Power and finally at the top is Citizen Control.

So my theory so far is i suspect that organisations that are operating in Participation Terms nearer the bottom of the ladder are more likely to adopt more formal governance structures and models where there are clear rules and the management are operating in a linear task model. This would pretty much be a command and control environment.

I also suspect that if an organisation is operating nearer the top of the Participation ladder then it would more likely see value in the engagement of people and therefore, understand that decision making requires clear communication, education and information. This approach is likely to spawn a “guidance – governance approach” where governance exists but it is less formal, supported by strong leadership and clear direction.

It is worth stating now that i don’t think it is a simple ass moving up the ladder and staying there, but it is about knowing which for of governance is appropriate for the circumstances. For example in a crisis or an emergency situation, you would more than likely value the rules and linear management styles. However if you were in an innovation space or even the whole discussion and debate around the use of social media, we would need a style of governance that supported joint exploration and sharing, where there are no rules as they organically develop and people share and collaborate on ideas and republish them.

The key thing for me in thinking this way is that i don’t believe that Governance should be seen as something which is rigid and fixed in an organisation. I believe that we need to start adapting our Governance to the circumstances and providing a greater level of education, awareness and information so that people (not the processes) can make better decisions in the first place.

So based on this idea and theory i have come up with a very rough starting point for discussion “Ladder of Governance”.

I know it needs work and more thought but i need to share it before i can move on.

8 – Joint Exploration – New ground, based on trust between people, we share what we find in order to develop and grow – no definable rules as they are organically developed
7 – Influence – Strong leadership and trust providing a clear direction and articulating a shared and common direction for decision makers to align to
6 – Guidance – Partnerships and collaboration, working together in a shared agenda but there are boundaries and basic rules
5 – Networks – Coming together for collective action and decision making. Being driven by what we know is right and shared direction of travel across organisation
4 – Encouragement – relinquishing some aspect of control to enable people to make decisions within flexible frameworks and principles
3 – Education – providing information for people to start to understand the consequences of their actions as opposed to be alienated from this in the previous steps
2 – Rules – the fear of breaking rules for some is enough to keep them on track and stay within the defined parameters
1 – Control – Command and Control, very top down and too much process and linear task driven management.