I've had this article on the social organisation published in the CIPD's Work journal: "It's not just about the quality of individuals, but the relationships between them."
In the article I also refer to the area I'm increasingly focused on, which extends slightly beyond the content of the book itself:
"We need to be able to navigate the complexities of these different types of group. How, for example, do we manage employee performance and reward people appropriately when they make different contributions - and have different levels of engagement and performance - within the four types of group (hierarchical functions, horizontal project teams, communities and networks)?"
If you have any thoughts or experiences on this I'd love to hear from you.
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