May 29, 2013 Harold Tor

Cultural Change in the Era of the Connected

I recently attended a seminar organised by IT consultancy firm OCTO Technology here in Brussels, where they talked about “The Giants of the Web”.

In essence, the seminar was about the things that successful web companies such as Google, Facebook, Amazon etc are doing, that accounts for their initial and continued success, and that distinguishes them from the other (i.e. unsuccessful) companies.

 

Cultural Change in organisations is inevitable

It was a great presentation by Ludovic Cinquin, their VP. And the points which he made were poignant and relevant. I do not wish to paraphrase him or his company here, although I’d just like to underline two points he made which I think are extremely relevant to digital communications in this age of constant connectivity.

Your time to respond was yesterday

Using Gary’s Social Media Counter, Ludovic cited how time is a vital element that web companies value. Among one of the several slogans illustrating this point was one reportedly coined by Mark Zuckerberg – “Done is Better than Perfect”. This really struck me as something which companies, not just web ones, need to do. It is not about presenting something imperfect before its time. It is about NOT over-analysing a situation in such a way that no decision or action is taken, or taken in time, such that it paralyses the outcome.

I am constantly reminded of this when companies I have worked with ‘cannot let go’ of the traditional, top-down reporting structure or hierarchy they have come up with. Hierarchies are good, in that they clearly define job scopes, responsibilities and duties. But if they hinder your company’s communications or ability to react or act in time, you have to rethink that structure. Specifically, in terms of social media, your clients’  expectation of you answering their tweets is instantaneous. You need to portray an image of wanting to help, instead of being unable or unwilling to do anything.

Horizontal organisation for productivity

Another point which I took home with me, was the idea of “pizza teams”. According to Ludovic, and contrary to popular beliefs, web giants have small teams (enough to feed with two pizzas, hence the name) comprising different members with different capacity and each team is in charge of each ‘feature’. At Spotify for example, people are organised by tribessquads and chapters, and everyone joins a differently-composed team called guild to work on a particular ‘feature’ – i.e. a particular project. This means that everyone works with different teams on different projects at all times.

The benefits of such horizontal organisation are enormous.

  • Firstly, there is a culture of collaboration and sharing that prevents information-hogging or departmental rivalry often seen in traditional top-down structures. This encourages creativity and output, and rewards efforts in a transparent meritocracy. Inefficient individuals or those who only talk big are easily singled out and eliminated, because more people are aware of this trend because teams rotate according to features/projects.

  • Secondly, in a horizontal structure, teams members achieve a sense of achievement at the end of each project because contributions are clear and team work is valued. In a traditional hierarchy, achievement is seen only in terms of upward mobility. As there can only be fewer and fewer superiors up the ladder, such mobility is limited, the sense of accomplishment is therefore restricted.

In terms of social media marketing, horizontal organisation proves to be more efficient and productive. Often, companies relegate it to one person’s role in the marketing department. But when communications relate to customer service, IT or technical support, sales, research, this person has to run to other departments who may or may not give him the information needed. When organised horizontally, one person in each of the different teams specializing in different areas is more able to engage in meaningful conversations with the clients.

The organisers of the seminars also mentioned other aspects such as continuous multivariate testing and continuous delivery, which apply once again not only to web or IT companies, but to all organisations. We are currently experiencing another global deep-cutting information revolution, that will radically change our society and social organisations. This is the time to evolve accordingly, or become extinct.

You can connect with the speaker Ludovic Cinquin (@OCTOTechnology) or Belgium Manager Philippe Guicheney (@pguicheney) on Twitter.

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