Monday 26 July 2010

Generations, Social and Enterprise: adopt vs adapt

[Never mind the Dutch text please, it's the only picture I could find apt enough]

Today I read the words adopt, social and enterprise and tweeted:
You can't adopt Social to the Enterprise, you have to adapt the Enterprise to Social
That led to a small storm of ReTweets by various other people; apparently I wasn't the only one thinking this

It's been the issue for a small period of time now, and I've contemplated the idea in a few blog posts: I really think this is the end of us throwing technical 'solutions' at a business or organisational 'problem' - and that we will all agree that E2.0 and Social are about humans, people, change management, radical organisation change, and, in the end, about tools

And, on the field of Integration, the theme of adopt versus adapt has always played the most significant role in my working life. Do we adapt to our suppliers? Do we adopt the industry standards? Oh my the implications involved, the political consequence, the loss of face - versus money saved, gained, invested and ROI-ed. The eternal sandwich in between Business and IT - I just love it

I've mentioned John Hagel more than a few times, and decided to show what I find to be his core table here:

Push ProgramsPull Platforms
Demand can be anticipatedDemand is highly uncertain
Top down designEmergent design
Centralized controlDecentralized initiative
Tightly coupledLoosely coupled
Resource centricPeople centric
Participation restrictedParticipation open
Few participantsMany diverse participants
Efficiency focusInnovation focus
Limited number of major re-engineering effortsRapid incremental innovation
Zero sum rewardsPositive sum rewards
Extrinsic rewards dominateIntrinsic rewards dominate

Right in the middle of this Luis Suarez released his latest blog post as a reaction to Andrew McAfee's latest one. Gawd it seems like we release our energy en masse during Summer and Autumn / Fall

Luis prepared his post a while ago but got positively kicked in the chins by my other Tweet:
Todays enterprises are employed by Millennials and GenX, and run by BabyBoomers - and the gap will widen even more
So, once again, it all comes together. I will just name Intimacy versus Anonymity and Proximity versus Distance, and point to the meaning of Change versus Growth. It's all too much for a simple blog post, even if it's this long

There we have all the forces in place:
  1. Enterprises are run by Boomers
  2. Enterprises are populated by GenX and Millennials
  3. Outside the door there is #E20 or #Social media or whatever you want to call it
  4. Millennials live in Social, GenX is quite good at picking it up
  5. Boomers are used to Push, Millennials to Pull, GenX is torn in between
Now the question is: adopt or adapt?

Enterprises do everything top-down. Have been doing so for ages. Ye good olde chain-o'-command. And believe me, that method is starting to crack. I'm leaving my 100,000+ employee enterprise after 13 years because it's suffocating me, and I'm only 40 years old. I'm not leaving it for the next best enterprise (I firmly believe there is none anyway), I'm starting my own business

Enterprises aren't used to adapting. They adapt their environment to themselves. If their environment doesn't adapt, they adopt their environment: slash and burn them into a subsidiary, a third, fourth or fifth leg. If I name Oracle, will you finish the endless row of take-overs and what that's lead to? Likewise IBM, and others.

Employees aren't used to adopting. They feel they have to adapt to their company - and rightfully so. Of course they (should) add value to their company, but it's not their company - they only (want and need to) belong to it

Social is a Pull movement. It brings to the Enterprise everything there is in John Hagels' right column. And that stands for everything the Enterprise has always subdued, ignored, denied and persecuted

Picture old-fashioned managers, the Boomers, sitting behind their spreadsheets in their old boys networks - can you see them? Can you hear them? Sending one-way emails to their subordinates, creating Innovation Programmes in perfect isolation, populating those with their next-of-kin, preaching New Ways but practicing Old Ways, adding and adding to the already abundant overhead, suffocating any margin there is. Nepotism like in the old Roman days just before the collapse of the Empire

Will they adopt? Why would they, what's in it for them? Only less control, less power, less certainty, less visibility, less predictability, less image, less prestige. Why would they change? Can they change, even? Heck no

Can they adapt? Heck no, either. Not willing to adopt, unable to adapt. Destined to die. So who will, want, or can?
The Millennials for sure. It's in their blood, they don't know any better. And looking at Twitter and Facebook demographics, GenX isn't doing that bad either

In my last post I picture what Social is really going to do to the Enterprise: blow everything wide open and crush the existing relationships. Whereas currently management is the one single point of entry in the one-to-many relationship between company and customer, Social will flood the enterprise with many-to-many relationships and call for horizontal management in stead. Peer management. Where management comes from the Latin 'manus agere' (lead / guide hands) we'll need collaboration in stead: 'com laborare' (work together)

I don't see a need for management there, do you?

To a certain degree I understand what Andrew's saying, but I think the future will prove him wrong. Yes he has a point about how the young always whine about the old, but now we can just compare it all out there in the open. I used to never see my ex-colleagues again as a rule, but now they still stay in my LinkedIn network, my Twitter network, everywhere.
The only thing that is really ending these days, is employer-employee ties. The employee-employee networks persist

Luis is more positive towards the future but still uncertain - then again IBM has 400,000 employees so I presume I know where he's coming from. He has a very valid point around Knowledge; knowledge is what makes and breaks old-boys-networks, and thus the Boomers. The natural sharing of knowledge and information we all are used to out here in our social networks, big or small, combined with our lack of fear of using new tools and platforms, will eliminate our dependency on them.
But if Sales, Delivery and Staffing are continuing the old ways too, the Enterprise will simply end up making itself extinct - and the Social Employees still in it will leave and find a job elsewhere within a minute

Enterprises will have to adapt to Social via the Millennials and GenX employees they have.
They will need to do so to be able to handle the changed customer:company relationships and take on the Power of Pull, and answer to the need for Intimacy and Proximity of the Social Employee.
They will need to Grow before it's too late and Change is the only option left - next to Extinction

What will the Boomers (have left to) do?

12 reacties:

Luis Suarez said...

Hi Martijn, what a wonderful write-up! So many good points to comment on! Perhaps I may well expand further on a lengthier blog post, but since you were asking what the Boomers have left to do I will just stick to it, since it also fits in quite nicely with the overall theme from your blog post.

Boomers, in my opinion, will have two different choices:

1. Adapt and adopt a new kind of leadership skills and become the leaders of tomorrow, of the 21st century, helping prepare the next generation of leaders, the ones you have nicely mentioned above, as well as my team colleague Rawn Shah put it so nicely a few weeks back in that Forbes article.

2. Or, just simply retire. They will eventually move on, at some point in time, to leave their space to others. Just like with dinosaurs, they will eventually become "extinct" from the corporate world.

Now, dinosaurs didn't have a choice not to adopt, nor adapt, new ways of living back then; with boomers it is a different game; they have got a choice and, lucky enough for us all, most of them are taking that opportunity to leave an unforgettable legacy behind them helping prepare those new generations of leaders.

Then again, the ones who "are not that interested", would be the ones that no-one would remember 10 to 15 years down the line. Yes, life is all about choices, and they would have to make their own ... ;-)

PS. Oh, btw, w.r.t. to me being a bit uncertain; not a all, my friend, it's just that with a number coming closer of nearly 40,000 managers it takes time to help them all adapt, so one has got to learn to be a bit more patient. One at a time, but going after all of them! :-D

Anonymous said...

To repeat what I said in response to Andrew's blog post you mention, "Where to begin"? There's just too much here to address in one comment, so I'll focus on a minor issue I think needs a bit of elaboration.

I am 63 years old; two years away from what is considered the traditional retirement age in the United States. There are a few Baby Boomers (if you use the normal demographic of those born between the years of 1946 and 1964) who are older than me, but not very many. That means there is still a huge cohort of Boomers out there in the workplace. All of them are not, by any stretch of the imagination, managers and executives. That means the vast majority of them are employees (and I'm assuming that's what you really meant in your second tweet; i.e. not that "Todays enterprises are employed by Millennials and GenX", but that they are employees of today's enterprises).

My point is that a huge number of today's employees are also Boomers, and that will remain so for at least another 10 years, after which they will be a smaller number, but still a large minority.

As for other issues, I hope they continue being discussed by Luis, Andy, Rawn, and yourself, as well as others. I've been so busy responding to the current posts (and looking for ways to make a living, since I took an early retirement package from my place of employment a couple of months ago) others have been putting up on the subject, I haven't taken the time to author my own blog post on the subject. Besides, others are more widely read than mine, so there's no hurry there.

Martijn Linssen said...

Thank you very much Luis and Rick!

I agree with your points Luis, and some of the Boomers are indeed coming towards the turn. Customers are valued much higher than employees so where they Pull the old ones listen - and not helping forbid Social Tools being used by employees is a start but I don't see any movement in organisational structure and working ways.
On the contrary, to save money in this crisis the strings are pulled again and the employer-employee relationship is marginalised once again, together with a greater pressure on making more hours because the rates are down. No, certainly no adaptation there...

By the way, if IBM has 1 manager per 9 employees, that's actually a pretty good start for a hiveminded organisation!

Rick, there is some disagreement about the years for all the generations but I used 1960 and 1980 as markers for the end of the baby boom and the start of the Millennials: that makes anyone over 50 a boomer, and indeed there are a lot of them. Thanks for the correction to the tweet, the enterprises are employeed ;-) by Millennials and GenX, sometimes my English gets stuck a bit
To give you an idea of Capgemini's demographics: 57% is 20-35, 39% is 35-55 and 4% is older than 55. So, not huge really, but definitely they're in the top. And if I look at the Board of Directors, no one's under 55...

I hope you'll find time to work and write Rick!

Luis Suarez said...

Hi Martijn, finally, have a chance to follow up with your additional comments; thanks for those! Yes, I agree with you about how employee to employee relationship may be marginalised, once more, but then again it's not happening in isolation; meaning that most knowledge workers have now got an opportunity to connect, even if things are incredibly tight! I'm seeing that myself inside IBM, where people *still make time* to work on those personal business relationships, because they see the value in them for the near future.

I have seen a few other bumpy situations in the past and that urge to connect wasn't there; it's the social networks that are provoking it nowadays, more and more, specially when people need to move around, or find experts quicker or that piece of info that no-one else seems to find.

Yes, it's a slow change, but it is happening nevertheless. I'm seeing it as a business transformational effort that would help some businesses transition into knowledge based biz, more than labour-based ones. We shall see how things develop further, but somehow I've got the feeling it'll happen. Time will tell...

W.r.t. the comment on the ratio of managers by employees, don't forget that figure was full time employees, you would need to add contractors and the like and that ration is a lot larger ;-)

(My team though is 1 to 7 hehe)

Spiro said...

I think adopt and adapt may come handy if used together, though we can't really show any evidence yet of an adoptive model with what you so delightfully presented in this modern age, but we can surely adapt once we understand what's really going on.

Like yourself, many others "get it" and it's not that we can't explain it, but rather you have to show it.

Using an analogy of riding a bike, adopt is a method of learning, there's a prcoess to it, but once you adapt your set and ready to go.

Adaptation using the analogy of a learning to ride a bike is like saying you have to just keep going once you get the hang of it, and play it by ear once you get going.

At this point, adopting a model if one is presented is simply adapting to the process of it, understanding the core value in all the great insights you provide.

Martijn Linssen said...

Thank you Spiro! That is a tricky example of adopt versus adapt ;-) as it is impossible to adopt bicycle riding without 100% adapting to it

If I look at IT it's adopt what I've seen for the last dozen years: even with the socalled COTS products like Oracle and SAP, there is a lot of cutomisation involved before the tool fits in the enterprise.
However, due to the large, timeconsuming and costly upgrades some of those enterprises have chosen to adapt themselves to the "vanilla" product: they simply 'next-next-finish' install the product, adapt their company processes to the vendor's one, and off they go

Maybe the same will happen in our case: when enterprises think they can simply adopt Social and will find out that this is somewhat of a Trojan Horse that will open the door to a much larger force

Needless to say, much like in The Aeneid the enterprise will then be forced to adapt...

Whether that will leave the enterprise in the same state as Troj remains to be seen - but I'm very sure that there will be considerable collateral damage to say the least

Finn Berner said...

This is good. We adapt we do not adopt, we adapt to changing rules - rules change and we adapt. 300 years ago if a person lived more than 2 or 3 miles from where he found a new place to work he would have to move. Today most of us live more than 10 or 20 or more from our place of work, and we think nothing of it. The rules have changed due to new transportation technology. During the MRP boom in the 1980ies we adapted the new technology, but we did not adopt the new rules. We did not get the benefits the technology promised, as we were unwilling to change and adopt new rules of doing business. The sosial media is in the same situation today - we have to ask "what are the new rules" and how must business change to get the benefit. (I have not yet come to grip with what the new rules are - I have some ideas - but I'm not sure)

Jo Jordan said...

I had a challenge from a professor of organizations - what will happpen. Like you I thought - kaboom. Luckily I had an article on edge as praxis in my bag and as I later pondered the challenge, as one does, I thought this. Kaboom if and only if these two conditions prevail.
1. Resources dry up abruptly.
2. There is insufficient adaptive capacity to change when a resource crisis happens.
The moral of this story is that big outfits will be there, however distasteful they are, while they can extract resources from the ecosystem.
And if you are in one of them and believe in the organization or give a jot about its survival, then quietly build up edge handling ability so that when the crisis happens, there is sufficient skill in the organization to respond (maybe without the old guard but that is not the point. There pensions will cost the the organization but anyone waiting in the wings can calculate that in advance).

To put all this simply, I asked a 35 year old in a community dominated by 60 year olds when he thought things would change. He smiled happily and said one day one of them will decide to play golf all day and the rest will follow. Street smarts!

Martijn Linssen said...

Thank you so much Jo!I really appreciate your comment

You are right about the Kaboom absence, it will all go very gradually. I f you don't grow with your environment now, it will simply cost more time, money and energy later on - until the price to pay becomes greater than the one to gain (to be followed by that Kaboom, being an implosion rather than an explosion)

There will always be resources, I think, at least for years to come. I still am sometimes baffled beyond belief about how much people will put up with, even if they know their neighbour is outting in half the effort and getting double rewards. A shrug of the shoulder "That's life" and on they go - like the 35 year old in your story

I currently see that enterprises are very reactive; people are now simply adapted to the changed demand in work. One would expect Sales people to get the work fit for the employees, but in a crisis this is simply reversed (and the Sales kept on board of course)

What will distinguish and determine the success of one enterprise versus another in the near future? The amount of "inconveniences" their employees accept - and i think those resources are slowly drying up...

Jo Jordan said...

The resources - that comes down to basic strategy, no? Who is competing for the same resources?

Sometimes the competition is engendered by interconnectivity. Sometimes it is plain competition that can be met by interconnectivity.

The military get it. They are telling Congress and parliament in UK that they are moving towards edge organizations. Indeed, they've been doing this for 20 years that I know of. The pace is picking up now.

The answer to when the collapse is not in the interconnectivity issues themselves. It is plain old strategy. What is happening in the world and what part do we want to play?

We layout out our goals and we play the game. There are no guarantees of winning. We simply play because we want to.

"To play is to be" We do what we cannot live without.

The IT Skeptic said...

"What will the Boomers do?"

Provide experience and wisdom.
Provide stability to five-second thinkers who can't concentrate on anything.
Look after the shareholders' investment in the face of excessive risk taking and wild enthusiasms for anything shiny and new.

Don't under-rate us: we all have a role.
The last time youth rejected the old we had the Sixties. The music was good. The styles and STDs less so.

Martijn Linssen said...

Thanks IT Skeptic!

Experience and wisdom, yes; if they're still applicable in all situations, and not just "we've always done it this way so it's the way to go"

I agree that we all have a role, but in some enterprises the Boomers think they run the show - which they don't. Holding on too long to old ways is just as unwise as jumping from bandwagon to bandwagon the way the young do - mildly exaggerating here but the point is, east and west should meet in the middle

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