And we’ve been talking about collaboration in the Organizational Developmental world for about 20 years, anyway, 25 – 30 years, self-directed work teams, socio-technical works systems and so on. So, I would say that collaboration as a generality, we’ve probably often talked about this or imagined it, will continue to soften, make flexible and/or break down existing structures. And that’s what I’ll come to later here, or that I’m leading into now is that, apart from the customer service and customer response and supplier response work, which are classified as external, we’re going into internal collaboration… The place where that’s important, I think, is in what we call ‘knowledge work’. And I would say that that’s work that either synthesizes or creates or evolves things.
Fair enough? And there, there are I think three big issues. There’s the existence of the analogue to business processes in terms of the way any given company works, which is an interplay of its organizational structure plus the existing social networks that we know a lot about from social network analysis, and hubs, and gatekeepers, and mavens and all that kind of things. But one of the big issues is the existing business processes and their relation to the work structure.
The second big issue in terms of that internal knowledge work and it’s shifting more towards collaboration is the whole job description (pay, performance management and HR stuff), which is absolutely geared to the previous structures and mindsets as a large generality; I mean, that’s just formed on different assumptions.
And the third, and I think probably the most important, is where both the business process or information flow architecture, and the job definitions and understandings of it, of people that hold the jobs, come to play in collaborational change, decision making and execution, in that type of work – that’s synthesis and creation. And that then touches on power, influence, your clout in an organization; then you can have great discussions and if you can’t make anything happen or can’t get new idea started then people pretty quickly say, “What’s the point of collaborating?” and so on and so forth.
So, that’s where I suspect you get into the hierarchy to wirearchy thing, is you have to look at the decision making processes, you have to look at the places where influence matters and makes something happen and can change things. And I think the ways that collaboration will change that, is that a lot of more information about a company, its customers and its workings, should become public inside the organization and maybe some outside the organization. What also should always be public, I think, is the purpose, the objectives, the timelines, all that kind of stuff that a self-directed team would need to direct itself, manage itself. And when I brought up history before is, I think that there are forces that are taking us towards the point where what we are talking about generally as a collaboration is becoming more understood as this is just the way people do things. But that has to infuse, adapt and, I guess, erode the existing structures.