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28 February 2008

Finding the right person to help with a problem

Here is a basic but hugely rewarding problem to resolve: “Finding and contacting the right person (or group) within an organization to help with a problem”. The problem can be anything that can benefit from the input of someone with a relevant expertise. How do you do this in an Enterprise 1.0 environment (in other words, in most organizations today)? Well, all too often you simply don’t bother trying! Why? Because you know it’s likely to cost you more resources (usually time) than you are prepared to invest, and where there is no certainty to succeed (in finding a useful soul). Furthermore, even if you did take the trouble to search and eventually find someone, there is then no guarantee this person will have the time to help you quickly enough ) or even want to help you!). So it is often easier to instead choose one of the following 3 alternatives:
  • Work out the solution to your problem yourself with the people you already know and work with. In other words, you probably will reinvent the wheel.
  • Seek external help and usually have to pay for it. Might be faster and more effective than doing it yourself but will probably be more expensive.
  • Leave the problem unresolved and maybe find a (less efficient/effective) way around it (trust me, this option is chosen more often than you would think).

Why is it typically so difficult and taking too long to find someone with specific knowledge within an organization? For at least these 5 reasons:

  • Knowledge-sharing is not part of the corporate culture, so people are not expected and not expecting to help outside their “normal” job/responsibilities (see my list of traits of a culture not conducive to knowledge-sharing here and here)
  • Lack of adapted collaboration tools (Web 2.0)
  • Lack of “Who has done what” or “Who knows what” repositories (and not just “who’s who”).
  • The larger the company, the more difficult it is.
  • The more geographically dispersed the company, the more difficult it is.

Now, this should mean that if you deal with the first 3 points above, you’re on your way to solve the problem. Yes, this is the way forward and this is what Enterprise 2.0 initiatives are supposed to do. HOWEVER, the most important point is undoubltedly the first one. If people don’t want to share/help (for different reasons) it won’t matter what bleading-edge tools you will give them access to, they won’t use them at all or not for the reasons you would like them to (of they use them because they are told to do so, you won’t get the ROI intended).

So I am suggesting that Enterprise 2.0 = Web 2.0 + a cultural change.

Also, I now think this cultural change must be initiated from the grassroots, from the people on the front lines in the organization, and not directed by the top-management. My position on this has somewhat evolved since my first post on PKM . Instead of stating that traditional KM (management-lead) must come first and then allow PKM to support it, I now believe that the opposite has more chance of success. You should encourage PKM (user-lead initiatives) and then formalize at a company level the most popular solutions (my reading of “The Mashup Corporation” book on SOA has something to do with it). This is also Google’s successful business model to focus on satisfying the user, as opposed to Microsoft that focuses on satisfying the Management. In the long run, Google’s model will win it and Microsoft will need to adapt or die.

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