Meeting the challenge of coordinating action at scale in the enterprise

2016-05-10

We are well on the way to achieving good outcomes with employee engagement using digital platforms for internal communication. But can the same be said for how we enable people to take action together?

A casually dressed man sitting alone in a cafe, working on a laptop.

Except in the most restrictive workplaces, knowledge workers today have access to an extraordinarily wide range of software tools to help them get work done. Some tools are specialised to particular industries or business functions, while others meet generic work activities, such as spreadsheets, email and web-conferencing.

Despite this abundance of tools, through my consulting work I have noticed an unmet challenge in the modern workplace that will only increase as we sprint towards the emerging patterns that are defining the future of work. This challenge reflects a need to support not just specific tasks or teamwork but our ability to organise people around the specific shared objectives and initiatives they need to be part of.

I think this issue is somewhat fundamental to the purpose of an organisation or business, as otherwise they are really just a random collection of people doing a job together. Consider that in an increasingly disintermediated world of work - where a myriad of functions is either automated, outsourced or crowdsourced to strangers - there are two critical attributes that make being part of an actual workplace worthwhile:

  1. A shared culture and vision.
  2. The ability to effectively coordinate collective action.

But even where the potential for culture, vision and action all exist in a workplace, the context for work where people operate in a flexible and digitally distributed manner poses an immense challenge to management.

Social software I am pleased to say has had a positive impact on addressing this problem in relation to culture and vision. Where it is has been embraced well, it can effectively flatten lines of communication where physical or organisational structures might otherwise block knowledge sharing and social support at scale.

Unfortunately, we have fared less well when it comes to coordinating collective action, whether this is business-as-usual operations or digital transformation. I know of managers that see the value in flexible working, but lacking an effective method of oversight they simply keep their fingers crossed that everyone is moving in the right direction. Others react by resisting the trend or demanding constant access to people and updates on progress. Unlike culture and vision, the state of the art in co-ordination often comes down to spreadsheets, maybe some agile walls and of course, lots of meetings and workshops. While I am a fan of all these tools and techniques under the right circumstances, neither is really scalable.

Maybe a silo-busting real-time communication platform is needed to bring people into a digital space so they can take action together? Or some kind of shared task management system where actions can be allocated and progress managed in extreme detail? I'm not convinced. These tools can definitely make team work better, but at scale, they either overwhelm users with too much information or they create a climate of micro-management. What is really needed is a platform that provides confidence to those needing oversight and transparency that naturally drive effective action by and between stakeholders.

I now think I've discovered an ideal platform for solving this problem, which is called Pinipa.

Pinipa logo

Pinipa is a new kind of platform that enables people to shape and deliver initiatives collaboratively, but without overwhelming people or creating a climate of micro-management.

I am currently looking for people responsible for complex projects or strategic initiatives in companies and other organisations to test this solution. If you are curious and would like to know more, please let me know.

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