Dennis Howlett has once again started a useful and important debate, this time with his Irregular Enterprise blog post entitled Enterprise 2.0: what a crock. While I am sympathetic to some of the thinking he expressed, I felt the need to address one point Dennis raised and a question he asked.
I very much agree with this statement by Dennis:
“Like it or not, large enterprises – the big name brands – have to work in structures and hierarchies…”
However, I strongly disagree with his related contention (“the Big Lie” as he terms it) that:
“Enterprise 2.0 pre-supposes that you can upend hierarchies for the benefit of all.“
Dennis also posed a question that probably echoes what many business leaders are asking:
“In the meantime, can someone explain to me the problem Enterprise 2.0 is trying to solve?“
Below is the comment that I left on Dennis’ blog. It begins to answer the final question he asked and address my disagreement with his contention that Enterprise 2.0 advocates seek to create anarchy. Is my vision for the co-existence of structured and recombinant organizational and work models clear and understandable? Reasonable and viable? If not, I will expand my thoughts in a future post. Please let me know what you think.
Enterprise 2.0 is trying to solve a couple levels of problems.
From a technology standpoint, E2.0 is addressing the failure of existing enterprise systems to provide users with a way to work through exceptions in defined business processes during their execution. E2.0 technology does this by helping the user identify and communicate with those who can help deal with the issue; it also creates a discoverable record of the solution for someone facing a similar issue in the future.
From a organizational and cultural perspective, E2.0 is defining a way of operating for companies that reflects the way work is actually accomplished — by peer-to-peer interaction, not through command and control hierarchy. Contrary to your view, E2.0 does not pre-suppose the destruction of hierarchy. Correctly implemented (philosophy and technology), E2.0 provides management a view of the company that is complementary to the organization chart.
Addendum: See this previous post for more of my perspective on the relationship of structured and ad hoc methods of working.