Creating the New Org

Social business platforms are attracting a lot of attention — and rightly so. Things such as Facebook, twitter and FourSquare, on the consumer level,  and Sharepoint, Alfresco and Jive, on the corporate level are all the rage.

While it may be true that some of the technology platforms will ultimately be little more than the flavor of the month, I believe firmly that the concept of social business is here to stay. From a pure survival perspective, business leaders have no choice but to accept this fact and personally begin learning what this means for the future of their businesses.

I recently read an item on twitter that advocated firing the marketing department and going all in on social media. What a crock! I’ve heard others say that the trend toward social completely changes everything in business. I don’t believe it for one minute. I do believe it can — and should — dramatically enhance everything a business strives to do. This is why I believe it is essential to understand just what it is we’re talking about.

Three terms are often mistakenly used interchangeably: Social Media, Social Networking and Social Business. Bear with me while I offer these brief definitions for distinction:

Social media: Media for social interaction, using highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques. Social media uses web-based technologies to turn communication into interactive dialogues. (Source: Wikipedia) These arethe tools that are used to communicate. Before the internet, people this through “old fashioned things” like newsletters, bulletin boards, letters to the editor, and telephones.

Social network(ing): A social structure made up of individuals or organizations connected by one or more specific types of interdependency, such as friendship, kinship, common interest, financial exchange, beliefs, knowledge or prestige. (Source: Wikipedia) This is the process that people use to interact with each other by using the new social media tools to connect and interact even when not seeing each other face-to-face. Before the Internet, people interacted primarily through networking events, social occasions,

Social business: Applying social media and social networking strategies to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of your enterprise. This is the strategy that answers  “how” and “why,” and guides the implementation of social to take your business to a higher level.

One of the other annoying things I have heard about new social tools and approaches is that it makes traditional organizational structures and practices irrelevant. I have to call BS on that! It may change org structure and practice, but as long as we’re going to have people working together we need some form of structure and practice.

Let’s take a look at how the New Org might be viewed in the Social Business Age. I believe that every organization today needs to understand itself from three perspectives: The Functional Foundation, Process Management, and Social Interactivity.

Functional Foundation: First, as long as a business is going to operate, it is going to need a base operating structure — departments, accountabilities, policies and procedures, a mission, governance and all the other essentials we can think of that have been traditionally required for business success. I would also include in this table-stake items such as computer systems, financial management, human resources management and the like. These are sometimes referred to as core business functions, but I believe we are better served by thinking of them as a platform upon which other aspects of the business must rest.

Process Management: Second, my experience working with GE’s six sigma methodology of the ’90s has left an indelible impression on me that a strong grasp of process management across an organization will always be essential for successful operations. I believe it is vital for people running a business to understand the interconnections of the supply chain, functional teams, project management, inputs, outputs, measurement, defects, improvement projects, customer requirements, etc., so that ultimately the fully satisfied customer will pay for products and services that are produced in a profitable and acceptable manner. While some may debate the precise nomenclature and philosophy around process, every business must understand what it does to create value and how to manage that throughout the organization.

Social Interactivity: Third, I believe we have now entered the age of social interactivity where people inside and outside of an organization are being both empowered and enabled to share information in free consumer markets and information-rich workplaces. We are moving toward — but for practical purposes will never fully achieve — the completely free interchange of ideas that will enhanced efficiency, value creation, value recognition, consumer satisfaction and better organizational performance.

In and of themselves, each one of these three levels of organizational understanding — the functional foundation, process management and social interactivity — can be mired in nearly insurmountable complexity. And yet, for senior executives in today’s tumultuous organizational climate, it is essential to simultaneously understand each level, influence performance in each, and master the dynamics of interaction among the three realms. This is a task that is Herculean, Sisyphusian, or perhaps just downright impossible. But it is another challenge of leadership.

Fortunately, the domain of Organizational Dynamics offers a framework to manage imprecise interactions intrinsic in real world human organizations. This interdisciplinary perspective draws wisdom and insight from from business practices, political theory, the social sciences, hard sciences, arts, systems theory, humanities and real world experience to help us navigate the complexities of our evolving organizations.

Ultimately, we are embarking on quest to create “the new org” every day in business. So let’s move forward exploring what this means now that “social” has added a new layer of complexity — and opportunity — for today’s business leaders.

Previously published at

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