February 8, 2011

Linked Segments

Posted in Business, Technology tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 9:31 am by lindaslongview

I have received some unflattering feedback that I made this post so succinct that I squeezed the life right out of it! (Thank you for gently letting me know.) Rather than rework it directly, I have attempted to reconstitute it at Protective Tribes, feel free to go there FIRST!

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Since my post Technical Complexity, I continue to deepen my thinking on subject of technology collaboration.  Recently,

  • I read Enterprise 2.0 (Andrew McAfee), a treatise on collaboration platforms (software) for organizations, and
  • I attended the Lab Automation 2011 conference in which a number of speakers addressed their experiences with collaboration platforms.

From these, I gained some new insights on the profound need to link organizational segments

Although segmentation and specialization are not new to industry (see Scientific Management), research and development activities have retained craftsman-like approaches because of the need for pattern recognition in problem solving and innovation.  Traditionally, within a narrowly defined research area, one or very few steward experimentation, analysis, and the accumulation of structured knowledge. However, more and more, segmentation and specialization are being deployed upstream of manufacturing changing the dynamics of pattern recognition and the accumulation of structured knowledge.  In fact, speakers at the conference described harnessing automation, outsourcing, and scheduling to fuel faster innovation across agri-business, pharmaceuticals, and disease research in ways that startled even me!

Having spent many years facilitating technology commercialization, I know firsthand the challenges of transitioning craft-sensitive loosely defined processes to robust segmented processes (research → development → manufacturing).  In my experience, the most critical factors for success are as follows:

  • Commitment to the transition – participants must understand deeply the constraints of the status quo and the benefits of change (the why)
  • Team collaboration – participants must be engaged and timely share process understanding to create new knowledge (the how)
  • Role valuation – participants must understand their responsibilities, feel valued for their contributions, and foresee continued opportunity (the human need for self-actualization)

With increasing scale and penetration of segmentation and specialization, the need for collaboration platforms such as dashboards, messaging, wikis, blogging, and tagging (described in Enterprise 2.0), is apparent – the proliferating segments need to be linked.  One of the pharma speakers at the conference provided an excellent primer on the demands and challenges of linking the segments.  He eloquently made the point that success requires a proactive creation of collaborative structure that encourages productive behaviors – “it’s about the conversations not the tools.” Concurring, McAfee describes common obstacles to implementing collaboration platforms:

  • Need to achieve 9x superiority (overcome status quo bias)
  • Reluctance to relinquish successful interpersonal behaviors of private communications (unilateral actions and defensiveness) that fail in public collaboration (due to mistrust and rigidity)
  • Impatience (adoption is slow and is thus a long haul effort).

Distilling the different observations and experiences, I conclude that the accelerating shift to a collaborative culture of linked segments requires a deliberate long-view transition with special attention to interpersonal behaviors. It is not enough to add the new collaborative tools into the organization along with automation and segmentation, but requires an integrated program that addresses commitment, valuation, and known obstacles for success.

Are you deliberately moving towards linked segments?

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