Is Social Media a Management Breakthrough or Fad? Part 2
BusinessWeek’s March 23-30, 2009 issue focuses on Smart Ideas for Tough Times which describes how managers are trying new things to weather the downturn. The most interesting part of the series covers 11 management ideas that are the basics of any business education, but were quite revolutionary at the time.
This 4 part series (See Part 1 here) will examine these ideas alongside social media to see if we are witnessing a world-changing idea, or just another management fad. First, here is the recap from BusinessWeek:
Some of the most powerful and lasting management methods were launched during tough times, when companies needed new ways to manage costs and grow. Here is a look back at some of the biggest ideas over the past 100 years.
#4 – Skunk Works
The Breakthrough – Lockheed Martin organized an autonomous, high-performance team separated from bureaucracy to develop a plane in 143 days.
The Question: Can Social Media improve productivity by minimizing the organizational need for bureaucracy?
- Answer: Somewhat, but not completely
- We like to complain about bureaucracy, but it has a purpose in organizations. Don’t believe me? Well look around and talk to people in the world’s largest organizations. If bureaucracy were not a competitive necessity, it would not be present in ALL of the world’s largest firms. Skunk Works was a success because it gave TOP TALENT the ability to work around the controls required to make a large organization run efficiently.
- For non-Skunk Works teams, made up of Typical Talent where control and oversight are necessary, Social Media can streamline the governance process through more timely communication. It can allow teams to break from painful state-gate cycles to move to an environment of more iterative, constant feedback.
# 5 – Lean Manufacturing
The Breakthrough: From Toyota, an approach to efficiency that allocates resources only to those processes that create value for the customer.
The Question: Can Social Media identify and improve those processes that create value for the customer?
- Answer: Not really
- Social Media is all about communication which is more art than science. In order to improve communication skills, you have to practice. Practicing communication has a fuzzy connection, at best, to creating consumer value
- There’s a soft argument around Social Media democratizing communication to allow front-line employees to identify processes, but most modern production facilities have processes/systems in place already to do this.
#6 – Scenario Planning
The Breakthrough: Shell Oil improved strategic planning by creating scenarios, or possible outcomes, that take into account the combined effect of many different possible factors.
The Question: Can Social Media improve strategy by offering a better view of the possible future?
- Answer: Yes, emphatically
- Good strategy is hard evaluate because it can only be measured in hindsight. Bad strategic decisions are is easy to justify because you can always tie a bad outcome to something not considered in the strategy. Social Media can offer exponentially more points of view on the future than currently used by strategy managers and consultancies.
- Social Media can also improve the quantification of probabilities of possible outcomes through technologies that can collect and measure the perspectives of millions of people. These technologies are in their infancy, but will scale rapidly as more data is collected and analyzed.
In: Leadership and Management, Strategy · Tagged with: business week, innovation, Leadership and Management, process, Strategy