Photos from the Sydney #sbs2010 venue – The Mint

The Social Business Summit in Sydney was held at the historic Mint, with venue services provided by the Trippas White Catering. I’m giving these guys a plug, because the quality of the venue and service was just excellent. I was also impressed by their audio-visual guy, who for a change didn’t simply plug us in and then run!

BTW Just so you know, the coffees are a Long Black (mine) and a Cap for Anne. And with great serendipity, the deck chairs were there by chance but reflected perfectly our theme image for the day.

Note: The welcome message and Headshift ‘Sail’ images are licensed under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND

Extending the scope and scale of operational command #sbs2010


As part of my presentation yesterday, I shared some questions (again, based on content from the Government 2.0 guidelines we created) for people to consider as they think about engaging online:

  • Where are the skills and resources located in your organisation that you need?
  • Where are the internal stakeholders located in your organisation?
  • Is there any overlap between the skills and resources and the internal stakeholders?
  • How complex or sensitive is your organisational or industry environment?
  • How mature is your organisation’s capability to operate as a social business overall?

 The first three questions in particular aim at the heart of my arguments about the constraints of current organisational structures. i.e. while a co-ordinated structure is the easiest form to adopt, you end up with people, resources and key internal stakeholders scattered around the organisation.

However, reflecting on the maturity question I was reading Dachis Group colleague, Caroline Dangson’s post on command versus control leadership this morning. She concludes:

Unlike operational control, operational command requires trust.  In fact, trust often eliminates the desire to control. Building and maintaining trusting relationships with employees, customers and partners is critical for business leaders.  This is why I believe that trust is the key element of social business.  Once a leader trusts his or her people to do the right thing (assuming people will do good most of the time with proper incentives), he or she can establish command by guiding and supporting behaviors that will bring desirable results.

How is the trust level in your organization? Is your leadership about control, or are they in command?

Back to my presentation, where I discussed the history of management and information and communication technologies, the issue of command versus control is of course a central issue. The pre-management structures were all about operational control. As organisations grew, we used information technology to extend the scope and scale of that operational control (and if possible, bake it in with automation). Rarely has it been about extending the scope and scale of operation command.

Photo credit: Control! CC-BY

Co-ordinated, Integrated and Embedded #sbs2010


I’m not going to upload all my slides from the Social Business Summit because some of my story today was told before at BarCamp Canberra – you can listen to my entire presentation from BarCamp on SlideShare already to get a feel for the first half at least of my Social Business Summit presentation.

However, I thought I would share this slide, which is based on our work for the Government 2.0 Taskforce but slightly amended to be more broadly applicable beyond government. In fact part of my message today was that the changes and challenges to the organisational structures relate to every large organisation, in every industry. I also talked about our experience of working with the Australian Law Reform Commission as an example of what is involved in helping an organisation to develop its own capability to engage online. It also highlights why moving from an ad hoc or co-ordinated organisational model needs to be supported, to avoid what I call ‘online industrial accidents’ (a reference to my opening comments about the pain and suffering caused by the industrial revolution).

Social Business Design – its not your children’s Friendface

I was watching the Friendface episode of the IT Crowd the other day. At one point, Roy, Jen and Moss are all sitting in the office together but end up talking to each other on ‘Friendface’.

It made me think for a moment that this is probably what many people fear their workplace will turn into if they open the floodgates to social computing. I don’t mean the FUD about time wasting online with the real Facebook and Youtube etc, but the fear that face-to-face interaction will be replaced unnecessarily with chat boxes. Not everyone is a technophile after all.

The situation in the IT Crowd isn’t as silly as it sounds. When we talk about management or organisational design issues, we have a tendency to separate out the technology (particularly the information technology) from the human aspects. In my opinion technology is always socially situated… and we see this playing out in the workplace when we notice that people actually exist in a hybrid environment of face-to-face and computer-mediated communication (even more so, if we included telecommunications in that definition). The task switching issue between physical and online can be real, particularly when we experience it through the paradigm of the older style collaboration tools.

However, another side of this argument is that what is bad for one person or group of people in the workplace, isn’t necessarily bad for another. For example, if Roy, Jen and Moss weren’t sitting together in the same office then chatting online actually becomes a positive and potentially productive mechanism.

I would actually argue that there is definitely a step change in the value proposition for using communication and collaboration technologies that takes place between different organisational compositions with different orders of magnitude, although it is hard to pin-point when exactly that happens. It is not necessarily about small versus large organisations, although clearly a small co-location work group may find less direct value than a similarly sized geographically or time-zone dispersed team. Increasingly social software is also allowing computer-mediated collaboration to extend organically beyond the the normal organisational boundaries – in fact, remove the arbitrary organisational boundaries (which are really simply intangible legal and social constructs anyway) and we find that everyone is part of a network.

The issue of using social computing in the workplace then becomes one of:

  • Understanding where different people sit in the network and how they add value to work flows;
  • Understanding the barriers to participating productively in that network that social computing technology could improve*; and
  • Designing social computing solutions that minimise the effect of task swapping between interacting with the physical and online worlds.

Call this the Social Business Design process if you want. But its certainly not you children’s Friendface.

*BTW the best way to achieve this is through a combination of analysis and participatory design, leading to solutions that support further refinement of those solutions through an emergent design process. You see why I added this point as a foot note 😉

A version of this post has also been cross-posted to the Headshift Australasia blog.

Remixing Gov 2.0 (An introduction to Project 8) #gov2au

As promised, I’ve updated my BarCamp Canberra 2010 slides about Project 8 with the audio recording of my talk. Its worth listening all the way through to the end, as the last 1/3 of the audio recording includes some discussion with the audience with some great points from people like Kate Lundy and Craig Thomler.

And remember, after you’ve listened to the presentation get out there and start remixing the Project 8 materials for your agency or government department!

Hello. My name is, Social Business Design – now with audio track

I’ve updated my slides from BarCamp Canberra 2010 with the audio recording to turn them into a ‘slidecast’.

This is also very similiar to my presentation for the Hargraves Institute’s Innovation 2010 conference last week, although I also talked there about Social Innovation Camp and a client case study (about a private social network we recreated) as examples of Social Business Design in action.

BTW I’ll also be adding an audio track to my Project 8 presentation from BarCamp as soon as it has uploaded!