As you may have already observed, the debate about what label to attach to the renewed focus on people in the business world has been rekindled this week, in conjunction with the Enterprise 2.0 Conference. While I will address the label question here, I do not intend to get mired in the debate. Instead, I will focus on whether or not the” people matter” movement should be described with tool talk or addressed in a more holistic fashion.
First, the label. I do not care if you call this renewed focus on people and the connections between them in the business world “Enterprise 2.0” (E2.0), “Social Business”, or anything else. The value to be gained from connecting people within and between organizations is to be found in what’s accomplished as a result of doing so, not in what the notion is called. Sure, it is helpful for the movement to have a lingua franca with which to “sell” the vision to business leaders. However, a consensus label is not necessary. A clearly articulated, holistic approach and value proposition are required.
So forget the label. Instead, focus on the substance of what we (those who believe that people matter in business) are presenting to organizational leaders that are more concerned about traditional issues like process efficiency and financial performance.
Now, on to the real debate. In his latest blog post, Andrew McAfee continues to insist that the message needs to be tool-centric. He says that we should address executives in phrases such as,
“There are some important new (social) technologies available now, and they’ll help you address longstanding and vexing challenges you have”
The movement is not just about tools. In fact, the tool-centric focus to-date of E2.0 is a primary reason why the movement’s core message that people matter has not reached the C-suite, much less sway their thinking. To suggest to a senior executive that the only way to better their organization’s performance is through the application of technology is simply, well, simplistic. We need to discuss all of the levers that they can pull to change the way their organizations consider, enable, incent, and interact with customers, employees, and partners.
To succeed in transforming an organization, leaders must change and communicate what is valued and how people are rewarded for applying those values while attaining stated goals and objectives. We must show those leaders that modifying organizational values to include (or increase) the importance of people to the business can lead to tangible increases in revenue and decreases in operating cost. The benefits statement does not need to be presented as an ROI analysis; anecdotal evidence from efforts within the organization, or from other entities, should suffice. And, yes, technology should be presented as an enabler of both the change effort itself and the new value system guiding the organization.
And one more thing. This movement, however we choose to label and describe it, is NOT a revolution. Senior leaders fear and shun revolutions. So avoid using that word when selling the vision. We are not advocating the overthrow of existing enterprise organizational or IT systems. Instead, we seek to convincingly demonstrate that augmenting the existing ways of conducting and managing business with a complementary, people-centric approach can yield substantial benefits to those organizations who do so. Do not preach revolution; instead, suggest specific actions that leaders can take to better connect people in and outside of their organization and show them the kinds of results that doing so can produce.