What happens when team members want to collaborate, but command-and-control approaches and internal competition prevail in culture and processes? New research indicates team members are starting to “spoof the system” by flouting organizational guidelines and creating work-arounds so they can collaborate. The global study conducted by InsightExpress and funded by Cisco surveyed more than two thousand end users and a thousand information technology decision makers from ten countries. The study found that 52 percent of organizations prohibit the use of social media applications and 50 percent of end users admit to ignoring company policies at least once a week. “End users have started to take things into their own hands,” says Alan Cohen, Cisco’s vice president of enterprise solutions.
The study found that users most willing to break company policies are those in the United Kingdom and France. Respondents in China were least likely to violate corporate rules. Still, the survey found that companies in China and India had significantly higher adoption rates of collaborative tools than companies in the United States or the United Kingdom. This is likely because companies in these growing economies are relatively new, and therefore their infrastructures are by no means set in stone.
Ironically, the study found that 77 percent of IT decision makers plan to increase spending on collaboration tools this year, while team members say corporate policies are constraining collaboration. Investing in collaborative tools makes little sense if an organization lacks the culture and processes to support the tools. The result is a schizophrenic organization in which some team members break rules, others operate by the book, and most team members get confused by mixed messages. Considering the study results, a prime opportunity exists for leaders to think and act collaboratively and for organizations to adopt collaborative culture.
Cisco will gladly sell you any and all of its more than 60 collaboration products. But buying these products or those of any other collaboration tools vendor will produce limited results unless your organization makes a fundamental commitment to collaboration. This shift includes moving away from command-and-control, internally-competitive culture and processes and replacing the pass-along, serial approach to work and decision-making with spontaneous, real-time models. I address this in the introduction to The Culture of Collaboration book.
Intercompany Collaboration: Focus on Culture and Processes
On another note…outmoded culture and processes can curb collaboration and compromise value—whether we’re talking about within a company or “outside the firewall.” As vendors and standards groups resolve intercompany collaboration technology issues, there’s a temptation to conclude that intercompany collaboration is “good to go.”
About three weeks ago, I participated in a discussion via TelePresence with Cisco senior vice presidents Tony Bates and Barry O’Sullivan. The company was discussing details of its new Intercompany Media Engine, which extends unified communications among companies. So, a supplier can easily view the availability or “presence status” of a customer, connect via instant messaging, and easily escalate the interaction to a voice call, web conference, or telepresence. You can view video of a demo call here. Meantime, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is working on an open standard for telepresence and unified communications so that people can interact regardless of technology vendor. This has particular relevance for business partners with different installed telepresence brands. Ultimately, the challenge for intercompany collaborators goes well beyond the technology. Organizations must focus on adopting collaborative culture and processes and integrating them across organizational boundaries.