Enterprise 2.0 Leadership

For those who grew up in a command-and-control culture at work, it can be a little daunting to tackle the real challenges to their training embodied by Enterprise 2.0 initiatives. When  Enterprise 2.0 advocates say “emergent” and “free-form,” command-and-control purists hear “anarchic” and “chaotic.”  So how do we bridge the gap?

One way to bridge the gap is to rethink our views of leadership and teams.  In this regard, the folks at Zappos have some interesting things to say about what constitutes good leadership and team membership:

The best leaders are those who lead by example and are both team followers as well as team leaders. We believe that, in general, the best ideas and decisions are made from the bottom up, meaning by those who are on the front lines and closest to the issues and/or the customers. The role of a manager is to remove obstacles and enable his/her direct reports to succeed. This means the best leaders are servant-leaders. They serve those they lead.

The best team members take initiative when they notice issues so that the team and the company can succeed. The best team members take ownership of issues and collaborate with other team members whenever challenges arise.

Zappos’ focus on giving responsibility AND authority to the folks closest to the customer is a radical departure from a command-and-control structure that often gives the responsibility to the folks on the front lines without giving them the necessary authority to do what needs to be done.  If I’m reading the Zappos statement correctly, team members solve problems where they find them.  They don’t merely duck those problems by delegating up.

Now take this approach and apply it to an Enterprise 2.0 deployment:  “We believe that, in general, the best ideas and decisions are made from the bottom up, meaning by those who are on the front lines and closest to the issues and/or the customers.” Suddenly, this does not seem quite so anarchic.  Rather, it is about giving the front line experts the tools and flexibility to get the job done.  Above all, it’s about hiring good people and trusting them to do the right thing — with your customers and with your E2.0 tools.

And what about managers?  “The role of a manager is to remove obstacles and enable his/her direct reports to succeed.” Facilitating rather than restraining action is quite a change from command-and-control.  And, this rule for managers applies equally to knowledge management personnel.  Our job is to provide support to the front line staff and help remove obstacles in their path.  In an E2.0 implementation, this means helping the front line staff get started and then stepping out of their way so that they can bend and shape the tool to suit their needs and imaginations.

If you’ve tried to bring this spirit to an Enterprise 2.0 deployment, you most likely can attest to the fact that wonderful things happen when the subject matter experts finally have simple (and fun) tools that allow them to collaborate and interact with each other and their information base.  Equally, if you’ve tried to provide Enterprise 2.0 tools on a command-and-control basis, I’m willing to bet real money that you’ve got a failed implementation or two on your hands.

What’s your experience? Will I win my bet?

[Photo Credit: Windy]

Share