[IMGCAP(1)]Commerce is now global, accessible and available to all– the world has been deemed flat. With all this talk about how flat the world is, it’s amazing how hierarchal our companies and institutions are, especially professional service firms with titles that create a class system of their own. How can the world be flat yet a company of five or 5,000 can still be dominated by hierarchal systems where people have no access to people “above” and/or “below”?
I am not an anarchist, nor am I downplaying the role of management teams and their conversation. However, there is something to be said for a flatter organization. I am all for those org charts full of their solid and dotted lines, circles and rectangles, asterisk marks, and pride, but I wonder if we should have two charts. An org chart and a communication chart?
The org chart can be used to define roles, create urgency around different action items, and ultimately hold people accountable. However, this same chart should not be looked to as a “cultural mandate.” Instead, the communication chart should be looked at as the cultural mandate.
It would be the visible representation of the linking between groups/individuals within a company and this would be the culture shaping document that gives access to all.
Biggest obstacle to this happening: pride and fear of change
Let’s be real, everyone hates change—you do, I do. There are multiple reasons for this and much smarter men than I have explained why people resist all degrees of change, even when it’s good for them. This is the biggest hurdle in your firm when adopting an internal social media tool for flattening your organization.
Why, then, do I mention pride? Ultimately, when someone resists change the root of it is pride. They know better, are above such antics/tactics, or are unwilling to try someone else’s idea. You know the reasons. Some are completely justified and others are not.
I am not throwing stones here; I am one of the worst at this. My wife, parents and friends will all tell you so. However, that’s why I work in a company with people—a community—versus acting as a lone-ranger entrepreneur. Ultimately, I believe there is wisdom in groups and folly in going at it alone.
Biggest tool: social media and change
Xcentric has rolled out what we call Talk—it’s available only to Xcentric employees and acts as our Intranet. But this is not the intranet of old announcing whose b-day it may be or when a civic duty date is approaching. It’s completely different. It’s alive. It’s streaming. It’s interactive. It’s FLAT!
What do I mean by flat? As soon as a “green” person enters our organization, they are given access to Talk, which comprises a history of interactions among employees about various issues, successes, failures, events and more.
While the new person doesn’t even know the person sitting next to them yet, this person can look at conversations from over the last year and beyond. He or she can see that the CEO is human and not some stodgy “The Man” out to exploit you so he can float on his yacht. That new employee understands very quickly that he or she is working for an organization – a.k.a. an organism. It’s a living entity that is comprised of so many moving parts one cannot begin to develop a printed/static piece to explain how the organization moves day to day.
Hours upon hours, manuals upon manuals have been used by the HR department (or fill in the blank with the person’s name at your firm) attempting to distill the organization into paper, an email or a series of electronic documents. Once they make it to the printer or PDF they are already dead. Stale. Dead. Decomposing. I’ll stop. You get the point. Social media is truly an enabler for organizations to finally capture their DNA.
Roy Keely is director of marketing at Xcentric (www.xcentric.com), which specializes in cloud computing and IT consulting for CPA firms. He has extensive experience in marketing, branding and sales and can be reached at 678.297.0066 x525 or firstname.lastname@example.org.