I’ve been reading some interesting new research on collaboration from membership research firm I4CP and network researcher Rob Cross - Purposeful Collaboration: The Essential Components of Collaborative Cultures.
The research refers to some of the disadvantages associated with traditional, functional ways of organizing. I agree these problems exist though I also think it’s important to realize that functional organizations (organization chart models) don’t have to be hierarchal, linear, siloed, disintegrated, focused on position and power, with knowledge hoarded for the purpose of seeking an individual reward. If you’re experiencing these problems, I’d suggest you may just need a better designed functional organization or HR architecture.
However, becoming what I4CP refer to as a high performance organization (based on self- reported multi-year customer and financial performance) will often require paying more attention to collaborative structures and behaviors, and especially to performance on teams or in networks. As Rob Cross suggests, only about 50% of top collaborative contributors in an organization tend to be deemed top performers. Further, roughly 20% of these organizational ‘stars’ don’t collaborate - "they hit their numbers (and earn kudos for it) but don't amplify the success of their colleagues".
Based upon their analysis of high vs low performance organizations, I4CP conclude that firms need to create healthy collaboration - which is focused, strategic and purposeful - by focusing on business outcomes and the customer. “The best organizations use collaboration as a means to achieve a specific mission or strategic intent, rather than an end in itself to be nice and collaborative."
Purposeful collaboration is based on trust - which is why I’m a little unsure about the cog in the machine metaphor used in the research report’s cover. Collaboration does need people to work together efficiently but getting them to do this depends on treating people as people, not as cogs.
It is also supported by culture, leadership, talent practices and work management. For example, only about a quarter of organizations design their performance management processes around collaboration. But employees, leaders and teams in high performance organizations are 5.5x more likely to be set performance goals that demonstrate or reinforce the importance of collaboration.
I4CP suggest that the most common and powerful barrier to effective collaboration is the lack of incentives and rewards organizations assign to it - most compensation systems are focused on individual performance, not team contributions. "Leaders are hoping for A (collaboration) while rewarding B (individual achievement). They must instead learn how to spot and reward people who do both.”
Yet the research suggests that finding ways to recognize and reward employees who regularly engage in collaborative behaviors that make their colleagues more effective can pay off in a big way. I like the case study on Patagonia where their VPHR comments: “If we hit the numbers we’ve set, everyone gets a bonus. If we don’t, no one does. We’re all working toward the same thing, and everyone is clear about what that is.” (Though note it is still important to balance individual and team reward to avoid social loafing.)
It is also interesting that the research did not find better collaboration was due to better systems and technology - "In a way, you can’t buy your way into high-performance collaboration with technology alone."
I think I4CP have produced some important new research and I am pleased to see that it generally supports my conclusions in ‘The Social Organization’ too. However, as I4CP note, these conclusions are based on research, not just their thoughts or a "popular book out there”. This gives the conclusions extra weight and make them difficult to challenge.
However I will still posit one of the major recommendations in my own book that collaboration also depends heavily on organization design. The very best next practice leadership, workplace and talent practices are much less likely to lead to effective and purposeful collaboration if we’ve organized people to work in a badly designed or the wrong type of group.
We would like to thank for Robert Jeffery for his People Management review of The Social Organization:
There might not be an I in team but, as the overwhelming and ongoing focus on leadership in the business world demonstrates, work is still all about the individual. And yet, as society becomes more inter-reliant and technology connects us all more closely, that’s counterintuitive. It’s time, says notable HR blogger Jon Ingham, to focus on social capital rather than human capital.
“In many organisations,” he writes, “I find excellent work being undertaken in HR, property, IT and other disciplines, but these areas are often not talking to each other… or, even if they are, do not have a common perspective on what they are trying to achieve.” Ingham sees HR as the unlocker of organisational social capital – the idea that the less formal links between people, and the knowledge they share, are more important than the structures in place around them.
The profession, he argues, should be generating its own business outcomes, not seeing itself as a support function, and should stringently measure its social achievements. And he also knows how: by experimenting seriously with decentralisation, reducing harmful internal competition, using technology to create meaningful relationships through tools such as hacks, harnessing social data technologies and removing the vestiges of status (goodbye guaranteed parking spaces), to name just a few.
HR has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, says Ingham, to create new structures (for example, matrix or networked organisations) and he looks in depth at the likes of Morningstar and Spotify, which have tried just that.
The result is a complex, serious book brimming with ideas that challenge HR convention, such as reward structures or the concept of organisational values, with genuine panache. While the case studies could have been more surprising (and more UK-focused), the sum of the parts is an important, realistic and frequently inspirational book that implores HR to do things differently – and isn’t afraid to show it how.
We would like to thank Harald Schirmer, Manager Digital Transformation and Change at Continental for his endorsement:
We see more and more books coming out form all kind of authors – evangelists, regular authors making money, just a few people actually being in the process of re-organization (they are typically quite busy right now ;-). Jon’s book is different.
When I first cross-read through the chapters, it felt like a very substantial glossary of today’s knowledge about organizational design. This includes structured development of what ‘social’ is, where it comes from and why it can (and should) make all the difference. The ‘digital’ influence is laid out and connected with the way we work today.
As I have seen his #OPM – Organization Prioritization Model – already in his blog, I was curious to see it embedded in the full story and … it all makes so much sense. It is all about understanding the relevance of people focus and how their enablement can work.
All this is investigated with great love for ‘HR’ and its future opportunities. I would love to see our HR decision makers reading Jon’s great food for thought – rooted in many very relevant case studies and references. There is plenty of proof for his arguments and conclusions, so even the typical doubters should be able to follow Jon’s proposals.
It is lacking the typical ‘tomorrow the world will look like this’ buzz-sentences. Jon’s analytic approach, staying close to the facts and studies, makes this book a trustful base for his conclusions – it is mind opening on the basis of great observations.
After reading, I felt empowered and engaged to drive my own social/digital/organizational transformation.
Harald Schirmer, Manager Digital Transformation and Change, Continental
We would like to thank David Frost, Organisational Development Director, Total Produce and Sue Evans, Former Head of HR and Organisational Development, Warwickshire County Council and President 2016-2017, Public Sector People Managers Association (PPMA) for their endorsements of The Social Organization.
This is a fantastic book for all strategic organisation development practitioners. It provides best practice guidance supported by robust underlying principles and excellent case studies. The reader will be challenged to reconsider their own assumptions and attitudes towards organisation development and this makes the book particularly valuable.
David Frost, Organisational Development Director, Total Produce
I have been following Jon on Social Media for some time. I like what he says mainly because it is straightforward and sensible. Tweeting and blogging require you to be succinct and to hit the mark in a few words. He does this with skill and good humour. So in this book you are getting an extended version of his useful contributions and very accessible set of ideas, tools, frameworks and thoughts, presented carefully to help HR get better. Above all, we all want HR to be the very best it can be because we know the good HR helps develop and sustain organisations and the people in them. In the public sector, HR, and increasingly OD, has had to step up quickly to changing demands and, whilst working in a tight financial spot, make a difference to our workforce and to improve our own approach and practices. This book is a must for public sector HR professionals. It captures the essence of good practice, is full of creative but sensible thinking and opens up the mind to what is possible. It is a compendium of good ideas. Our people are not just assets, they are a precious resource and implementing even a fraction of what is in here will make a difference to them and to your business.
Sue Evans, Former Head of HR and Organisational Development, Warwickshire County Council and President 2016-2017, Public Sector People Managers Association (PPMA)
We would like to thank David Gurteen, Director, Gurteen Knowledge, Nicolas Rolland, Head of Engie University and Philippe Bonnet, Vice-President, Human Resources, Global Head Learning & Development, Essilor International SA for their endorsements of The Social Organization.
In the Social Organization, Jon Ingham takes an insightful look at organizations from a social perspective. He reminds us what we already know but tend to forget - that organizations are social communities of people and that to understand and manage them well we need to pay attention to human disciplines such as psychology, sociology, anthropology and neuroscience.
David Gurteen, Director, Gurteen Knowledge
This book is the guide to understand the social organization with a cross-disciplinary point of view focusing on how it creates value. Ingham brings a model to make this happen. He provides readers with new and relevant perspectives on people and organization development approaches and how these create important outcomes
Nicolas Rolland, Head of Engie University, Engie
Through a very complete and engaging journey in the “The Social Organization” dimension, Jon is shifting our focus out of the traditional boundaries and usual management approaches. He is helping us to discover, to design and to manage what will be the future and how to get the best of our people capabilities by creating a unique successful organizational and social system dynamic.
Philippe Bonnet, Vice-President, Human Resources, Global Head Learning & Development, Essilor International SA
This book is about organizations. How they create value. How they help the individual to take real advantage of their own skills. How they create personal well-being. How network organizations make companies more successful and help people to be personally effective.
It is a compendium of concepts and thoughts to understand the evolution and the functioning of organizations.
It combines theoretical background with practical examples from leading companies. What makes it particularly interesting to read is the combination of different viewpoints, through the eyes of many different disciplines. I enjoyed reading and learning.
Dr. Hans-Juergen Sturm, Head of Collaboration, Content & Portals, Amadeus IT Group
The building blocks of how people deliver value have changed fundamentally with advent of social technologies. Jon brings his years of experience and offers a treasure trove of useful insights to build social capital within organizations and weave an ecosystem of high performance.
Tanmay Vora, Country Head and Director (R&D), Basware, Author and Blogger
We would like to thank Lesley Giles, Director, The Work Foundation; Bjarte Bogsnes, Vice President Performance Management Development, Statoil and Chairman, Beyond Budgeting Roundtable and Céline Schillinger, Head, Quality Innovation & Engagement, Sanofi Pasteur for their endorsements of The Social Organization.
Jon provides an important contribution to ensuring that in future we develop more successful organisations, which make the most of people, not only individually but in how they work effectively together through teams, networks and communities. This is something at the Work Foundation we think is important to securing “good work”. Over recent decades we have seen huge changes driven by powerful forces such as technology and globalisation, which are radically disrupting traditional business models and ways of working. Dramatic headlines, capturing widespread media coverage, paint bleak and gloomy futures for many, with ideas of machines replacing people and the spread of precarious work, as employment opportunities polarise and businesses cut costs. But, in this technologically-driven, information age, it is now more important than ever that we do not lose sight of the importance of the human contribution at work. Good Work calls for more people centred practices, where work is meaningful, employees are happier, more motivated and can make significant contributions to business success. In this regard Jon’s thoughts on how to unlock the real value of human beings in organisations individually and collectively is a really welcome addition to current debates. Jon provides some powerful insights, interpreting the latest evidence through his extensive practical, business experience. A must read for helping to ensure the future of Good Work for many and not just a privileged few.
Lesley Giles, Director, The Work Foundation
Jon Ingham draws on his rich experience as both HR Director and consultant, providing key insights from academia matched with great case stories. He extracts the essentials of what must be addressed for an organisation to perform to its full potential. Highly readable and highly recommendable.
Bjarte Bogsnes, Vice President Performance Management Development, Statoil and Chairman, Beyond Budgeting Roundtable
This is the book that was missing to social enterprise practitioners of any function – HR, IT, Operations or... Quality. Bringing together input from multiple disciplines, Jon describes a meaningful and practical way for organizations to thrive in the 21st Century. While “social capital” remains too often a blind spot for leadership and corporate processes, Jon offers hope that this can change. Illustrated by numerous case studies and supported by an impressive list of references, Jon’s book provides compelling insights about “how to make an organization greater than the sum of its parts”. A must read.
Céline Schillinger, Head, Quality Innovation & Engagement, Sanofi Pasteur
We would like to thank Paul Sparrow, Emeritus Professor of International HRM, Lancaster University Management School; James Cullens, Executive Director, Group HR & Marcomms, W S Atkins plc; Geoff Lloyd, Group Human Resource Director, Serco and James Purvis, HR Department Head, CERN for their endorsements of A Social Organization.
If you are going to take networks seriously – and after reading this book you would understand why you must – then you need to learn how to better manage them. Taking an organization development perspective, The Social Organization shows how social capital helps organizations create value, compete and collaborate. Having made a persuasive argument, it goes on to explain how HR managers should think about recruitment, develop groups, and hone their social technologies and analytics. It is replete with useful models and frameworks, and moves our understanding on from an intellectual acceptance of the ideas into practical ways of working.
Paul Sparrow, Emeritus Professor of International HRM, Lancaster University Management School
This book is a must read for anyone responsible for driving the performance and culture of an organization, whether CEO or HR practitioner. Grounded in theory and practice, it takes the reader on a journey of how to evolve their people strategy, with rich, illustrative case studies from a variety of industry sectors. These lead to a diagnostic tool and robust organizational prioritization model, or OPM. A book that unlocks tremendous value for academic, HR practitioner and business leader like.
James Cullens, Executive Director, Group HR & Marcomms, W S Atkins plc
I found the concepts Jon outlines extremely helpful in bridging the gap between traditional HR models and new ways of thinking about how sustainable value can be created through organisation. The ideas he takes the reader through are both stimulating and challenging, which in turn makes them invaluable to anyone grappling with some of the most pressing issues that confront organisations today.
Geoff Lloyd, Group Human Resource Director, Serco
How can organizations master and harness the power of collaboration? It’s indisputable that we are better as a team than as a collection of individuals. Collaboration is at the heart of most successes. Yet traditional HR has often led to organisations which suppress, or at best ignore, rather than nurture this key asset. Work and the workplace today is dramatically different from the turn of the millennium and in a competitive knowledge-based economy being successful requires an HR agile HR with a new focus. This book offers precisely that.
Don’t get the title wrong – this book is not about socialising, nor the ubiquitous use of social media, nor about having play-rooms adjacent to the offices (although workplace design can be a key factor). It’s about comprehensively reviewing existing frameworks & theories, analysing case-studies, producing insights and deriving a new model for viewing the Organization. This book will not present you with a silver bullet nor a ‘best practice’ solution – but it will certainly equip you with the ideas and inspiration for you to develop a ‘best fit’ approach to drive success in your particular organisation.
At CERN collaboration is at the heart of success – many of the insights in the book ring true and offer ways of formalising practices I have observed here. As with physics – theories are better explained when we use a model, and in this book - with OPM - Jon presents us with such a model.
James Purvis, HR Department Head, CERN
Although I'll be continuing to blog more generally at Strategic HCM and to share broader advice at JonIngham.com, I'm also going to be providing ongoing updates which build upon the ideas in The Social Organization on this site.
If you're particularly interested in finding out more about the Social Organization you can also find some of my earlier thoughts at another blog site I had previously contributed to - Social Advantage (which itself replaced an earlier blog, The New Social Business, which I started in November 2007).
For example, it's interesting to take a look at my first post on The New Social Business in which I explained:
"I've been blogging about human capital management (HCM) for a few months now.
However, I actually believe that there are three main intangibles in an organisation, which are human, organisation and social capital. And out of these, I think it is social capital that provides the greatest opportunity for business competitiveness. This is partly because of the new possibilities provided by social media, and the new expectations of the millennial generation. It's also because it's becoming increasingly apparent that the traditional way of managing organisations isn't working very well.
This is an area that I don't think many people know much about, and I will admit to feeling fairly unknowledgeable about it myself. So whereas in my other blog, I feel able to comment as an expert about human capital, I have set up this one to support a personal journey of learning. But I hope that readers will want to take this journey with me as well."