One thing that strikes me today is the analogy between what is happening on a global scale between Google and China and what takes place daily on a minor scale in our companies between social media activists and central IT departments. On the one side, the people who advocate some form of freedom of speech to transfer valuable knowledge and view the company as a beehive, and on the other, the people who believe they have to control the way people actually work and view the corporate world as a machine to be automated with ERPs. Google decided to move to Hong-Kong, the same way corporate social media projects move to SaaS suppliers when corporate IT builds walls and behave like Mordac, the preventor of information services in Dilbert. It is the same political struggle, in the noble sense, and I discussed this at length in my book.
What is also interesting is the way it actually works in our day-to-day business. In companies, IT Departments are chartered to keep IT infrastructure costs down at worst, and to find a compromise between effectiveness and efficiency of applications at best. Thus, the approach to launch a new IT project is always driven by an initial demonstration (business case) which project owners must defend in front of a jury composed of people whose interest is certainly not to rock the boat, and who are paid to keep everything under control. The inherent bureaucracy of such an approach always ends up in beefing up the price tag to launch any new experiment in social media, because there will be a study on the value for the company, another one on use cases, another one on key functions, with the unavoidable “list of priorities”, another one on alternative technologies etc. At the end of the day, it is so costly that only people who control big budgets can actually do something openly, and those are precisely the ones who are less likely to have a strong desire for change. Those who do not have this power have no other option than to go underground, and potentially harm the company by breaching security.
It’s bound to be a Catch-22 situation ending up in major crises, unless a true sponsor steps forward in the management team, meaning a person with enough political savvy to understand that the social media movement can be used as a stepping stone for her own career. And only a few high potential managers clearly understand the benefit of balancing the hierarchical authority granted to them from the top with the legitimacy that they need to govern, and which they can only obtain from bottom-up elections.
By that’s no longer management. That’s statemanship.