In a book by Rob Cross and Robert Thomas entitled “Driving Results Through Social Networks”, I thought the following challenge epitomizes what the government must address regarding social networking software.
Work and innovation are inherently collaborative endeavors, but as the need for collaboration increases, the demands of people’s time rises. The answer is not more and more layers of a matrix structure or yet another collaborative technology. Rather, what’s required is a more nuanced and strategic view of collaboration on the part of leaders as designers of their organization. Instead of mandating collaboration or assuming that more connectivity is better, leaders need to focus on the core network components that will deliver value and on the high-leverage organizational design variables that will support these networks. Leaders must recognize that networks take different forms and require different support depending on the goals of a given business, mission, or entire organization.
The authors’ propose four steps for aligning networks and strategy. These may have some value for government networks and discovering mission impacts of social networks:
-Define core value proposition of a network either as a product of oww it supports strategic objectives or through the network’s abiligy to enable the organization to sense and respond to issues and events.
-Identify the critical relationships that must exist for the network to support strategic objectives.
-Conduct an organizational network analysis to assess existing collaborations and alignment between the current networks and the ideal network needed to support strategic objectives. Comparing as-is and the ideal network defines targeted investments that leaders must make to reduce excess connectivity that reduces inefficiency and build collaborations at targeted junctures where integration of expertise can improve performance and innovation.
-Put in place an organizational context that enables the right networks to flourish and develop over time.
Designing networks that are aligned to strategy helps to solve ambiguous problems as well as established problems.
However, do social networks need to be designed or enabled? In the context of situational awareness and infomration sharing, the process above may be helpful in focusing how the workforce uses the social networking tools to add value to the mission, specifically, how do blogs, wikis, and social networks support the organizational strategies, and information priorities.
Strategic decisions can be supported through improved structure, work management, training, technology, culture, and leadership of value-based networks created using social networks. Aligning the networks to mission, mission impacts, and time management is the challenge and opportunity for real transformation, information integration, situational awareness, and collaboration to occur and have value.
Wasn’t the telephone one of the earliest social networking tools? How do you measure the value of a tool that allows you to do your job, communicate, collaborate, share information, etc. Social networks provide more tools to do your job. They enable the workforce to grow their networks, find experts, share ideas, innovate, collaborate, communicate, and exchange information. Would we consider creating offices without telephones?
So where am I going? If we agree that “work and innovation are inherently collaborative endeavors” and that “leaders need to focus on the core network components that will deliver value”, we should leverage social networking tools and present them as the enablers to mission success and achievement of strategic goals. Social networks and the associated technology that enables them are key elements of 21st century organizations and are as necessary as telephones and computers for working.