Social Networks and Organizational Pathologies …

Irving Wladawsky-Berger contemplates on Social Networks and Organizational Governance, arguing with a case of an “organizational system” that was streamlined too much – losing its senses and its manageability along the way. Check the actual post to see which organization he’s talking about, or take a guess … all in all this fits fine into my continued interest in organizational pathologies.

What I found worthy pointing out is the thoughts he’s developing, namely how to employ social software and communities (internally and across the organizations boundaries) to cure some of the pain, namely by acting as kind of gear between strategic and operational levels but also as a means to organize stakeholders in influence groups:

[…] How can we best fill the gear box role between strategy and operations in a highly distributed and complex organization where a traditional hierarchy does not work?

[…] collaborative platforms acting as a very effective balancing function and gear box between strategy and operations, and contributing innovations to improve both.


[…] These collaborative, social networks nicely complement the strengths and weaknesses of a company’s classic hierarchy. Communities are most useful when dealing with complex areas, where the problem to be solved has not yet been well framed, information is incomplete and innovation and extensive change are required. Hierarchic management is not as effective under such circumstances. On the other hand, where the actions are clear, all the needed information is available and it is primarily a matter of execution, an organizational hierarchy performs best.

Using social software for organizational improvement and change management is a use case I have been thinking of a lot in the past weeks. I suspect that leveraging social software in organizations, especially wikis, blogs and social networking platforms, can especially benefit organizations that are suffering from an overblown bureaucracy, inefficient processes etc. – sometimes I even (half-jokingly) say that companies near the brink of bankruptcy would profit the most from social software.

Perhaps I should expand on my social software business cases and consulting work and include some generic use cases for organizational change management, which is all in all a managerial job that’s usually lacking good tools.

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