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How do you get to Management 2.0? Three lessons (from the M-Prize)

by Polly LaBarre on September 21, 2011


polly-labarre's picture

How do you get to Management 2.0? Three lessons (from the M-Prize)

We announced the winners of the Management 2.0 Challenge (the first of three legs of the HBR/McKinsey M-Prize for Management Innovation) here last week. Those seven entries offer compelling evidence that the undergirding principles, social structures, and social technologies of the Web not only offer up winning business models, they are the building blocks of a new management model for making organizations more resilient, inventive, and engaging.

Here are just three lessons from our management innovators about leveraging social technologies to create truly social organizations:

Trust your people with the future of the company
For all of the talk about empowering, involving, and engaging employees, why is it that so many organizations still tap into just a sliver of what individuals have to offer? According to Management 2.0 Challenge winner Jim Lavoie, it’s because too many leaders focus on what they can get out of their people rather than entrusting them with the future of the company.

There’s an emotional as well as a practical logic at work here. Only that level of trust, freedom, and responsibility can stir people to bring forth their full imagination, initiative, and passion. And, no single leader—no matter how brilliant and gifted—can invent the future of his (or her) company alone.

In his story about software company Rite Solutions’ “innovation engine” —a stock market-like forum for new ideas and collaborative platform for channeling development effort around the best—Lavoie suggests that it’s not technology but first principles that make every person feel relevant and fully invested in the future of the company. Rite-Solutions makes a practice of those principles: innovation is everybody’s job—every day (the stock market is part of new employee orientation and built into the everyday rhythm of work); ideas compete on equal footing (ideas that turn into products or projects have come from engineers, executives, and administrative assistants alike); and rewards are widely shared (Rite-Solutions is 100% employee-owned, idea generators and collaborators share in any cost savings or revenue produced, and get their names listed as inventors on patent filings).

Rite-Solutions’ innovation engine has teeth because it demonstrates that leaders are willing to take direction from the crowd (indeed, new products, services and lines of business hatched on the platform account for 20% of the company’s revenues). In a twist on that theme, James and Bobby Fishkin argue in their winning hack, The Deliberative Corporation, that it’s not enough to listen to the crowd, it’s crucial to equip it. The Fishkins have developed a powerfully practical approach—including balanced briefings, moderated discussions, and expert testimony—to taking the bias, politics, and knee-jerk emotions out of decision-making in order to get at “what the people would think if they were thinking.”

Maximize peer connections

As important as it is for employees to feel heard and respected by their leaders, it’s the relationship between peers that generates the agility, inventiveness, and engagement at the heart of a truly social organization. A number of M-Prize finalists demonstrated the power of organizing around that principle—none more dramatically than Morning Star, a 40-year old food processing company founded on the belief that “the best human organizations are those in which people aren’t managed by others, but in which participants coordinate among themselves, managing their own relationships and commitments to others.”

That belief comes to life as the “Colleague Letter of Understanding (CLOU),” a sort of contract in which each colleague outlines his or her commitments to fellow colleagues, defines a fundamental purpose, lists activities, tracks performance, and reviews, comments, and builds upon others’ work. Embedded in a purpose-built dynamic social network, the CLOU system is like Facebook on steroids—with a real-time activity feed, personal pages, and global views that provide a live map of the enterprise. Paul Green, Jr., director of the company’s Self-Management Institute takes stock of the advantages of making everyone their own (and their colleagues’) manager in his winning M-Prize story: the network of colleague relationships defines the org chart, rather than the other way around—and reveals the “natural” hierarchy of authority based on expertise and achievement; the drive for performance actually strengthens without traditional oversight; and everything happens more quickly and with less conflict.

If Morning Star seems like an extreme (or just extremely progressive) case, consider the story of fellow winner, Frédéric Leconte, who developed a global, peer-driven training initiative at eyeglass lens manufacturer Essilor, designed to promote locally-grown insight and connect peers across 102 sites in 40 countries. Some 800 volunteer trainers and coaches have taken charge of the learning and personal growth agenda and help to share an ever-evolving curriculum based on new discoveries and practices from the shop floor.

Capitalize on the Obvious
Sometimes the simplest lever can crack open the biggest opportunity for change. That’s what Kim Spinder learned when, as an employee for the Dutch ministry, she invented a hack to eliminate government red tape and replace bureaucracy with free-form, cross-agency collaboration. Her simple Web-based booking system, Deelstoel (“share chair” in Dutch), was designed to allow any Dutch government worker from any agency in any location to work at any other government office.

As Spinder describes in her winning M-Prize story, the “Open Government Places” initiative (which now includes some 53 agencies and 554 workplaces), does more than just share space—it is redefining the idea of the “office” and reinvigorating participants’ work-style (with an emphasis on open communication and flexibility); it is breaking down organizational boundaries to foreground individual expertise and experience (and make people and services accessible via a social network); and it is generating spontaneous connection and collaboration among co-workers who were previously invisible to each other. All without a budget or permission.

Instead, says Spinder, she and her team just “capitalized on the obvious”—the need for change, the resources waiting to be tapped, and the basic human desire to contribute to positive change. She offers up classic Winston Churchill wisdom as inspiration for aspiring management innovators: “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” (Or, as he also said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”)

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mitch-mccrimmon's picture
I think there are deeper psychological reasons why people are not trusted with the future of the company. Executives get to where they are by being great at developing and promoting their ideas or vision, just like politicians. They play to their strengths around analytical thinking and generating solutions. It's like being a star goal scorer in sports. But they want to keep doing that, not be catalysts or facilitators. I once coached an executive to be more engaging and he said it wouldn't feel like making a real contribution, like doing real work. Executives want to continue to be seen as great goal scorers and they use their power to ensure that everyone else believes them to be right. This is not an easy mindset to change. I have written about this in my article called Cultures of Disengagement: