Monday, November 23, 2009

Managers a Barrier to 'Good Jobs'

"UK employers may have the will to provide good jobs, but they don’t know the way — and claim bad management’s a major obstacle in improving work."

No excerpts for this one - read the whole thing.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Harnessing Crowds: Mapping the Genome of Collective Intelligence

I recently came across this excellent academic paper from Dr. Thomas Malone (of "The Future of Work" fame) and others from the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence (a fancy term for radical decentralization, crowd-sourcing, wisdom of crowds, peer production, and wikinomics - defined very broadly as groups of individuals doing things collectively that seem intelligent). They examined 249 examples of collective intelligence such as Google's search engine, Wikipedia, Linux, and others to come up with a classification framework for different approaches to collective intelligence.

Here is the high-level framework they came up with:
  • Who is performing the task? Hierarchy or the Crowd?
  • Why are they doing it? Money, Love, or Glory?
  • What is being accomplished? Create or Decide?
  • How is it being done? Collection, Collaboration, Group decision (voting, consensus, averaging, or prediction markets), or Individual decision (markets or social networks)?
Taking these "genes", you can assemble the "genome" for any specific instance, and they include examples for Linux, Wikipedia, Innocentive, and Threadless. Table 5 on page 14 has an excellent chart of when each gene is useful.

Of course, in most every organization today, everything is channeled through the hierarchy gene, even though others could be more appropriate and effective for different tasks, especially innovation. It's a superb framework for measuring up against your organization to see which pieces are missing. It also outlines many of the "genes" we want to include in Organization 2.0. Great stuff. Highly recommended.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

VOA picks up the story on NASA 2.0

Pictured and quoted, and Arabic version. Op-ed is generating a lot of interest.

Update: The video. We're at the 2:14 point.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Transform NASA into the "Google of Government"

Welcome everyone checking out the blog after reading this morning's op-ed in the Houston Chronicle. Since Chronicle links aren't permanent, I'll repost it in its entirety below. Comments are welcome below, or, if you'd like to support this initiative, please email me at tgattis (at)

Update: a pdf of the newspaper page with the artwork.


Give NASA the chance to be next Google

Space agency's as good a place as any to bring bureaucracy into the 21st century

Houston Chronicle July 4, 2009, 7:40PM

As it celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Apollo moon landings, NASA may be facing its greatest challenge in history. Envisaged is a return to the moon, the establishment of a base there and a push on to Mars, all within far more severe budget and safety constraints than the Apollo program. Failure could mean the end of the organization. As former astronaut Bob Crippen pointed out recently (“The next step in space exploration,” Outlook, June 28, Page B8), the growing time gap between retirement of the space shuttle and new manned launch vehicles threatens the economic and technical base of the U.S. aerospace industry. Meanwhile, China’s space program, flush with funds, continues to rise as a competitor. Imagine what it will achieve with the same focus and funding that was lavished on the 2008 Olympics.

A radical breakthrough is needed. There are well-documented problems with the existing bureaucracy, and heavy reliance on private contractor outsourcing has not been a panacea. To succeed, NASA will need an organization that can enable something like a “Moore’s Law of Space Travel” — yielding continuous reductions in the costs and risks of space travel similar to the rapid improvements we’ve seen in computer technology.

At the same time, the Obama administration wants to pioneer “Government 2.0” based on modern “Web 2.0” collaboration technologies to improve both efficiency and effectiveness. It wants government to be more agile, innovative and entrepreneurial, and has hired federal information and technology officers to make this happen. What the administration needs is an agency to create a prototype of these new approaches — a “Google of government” able to transplant the Silicon Valley entrepreneurial ecosystem inside its organization to yield a continuous stream of innovations. Who better than NASA to pioneer this approach?

NASA is in an absolutely unique position to prototype a 21st-century organization. Given current political and budget constraints, many may consider the mission near impossible, but NASA has a mandate for change. It is expected to be creative, innovative and future-oriented. The public expects most of government and the private sector to be safe and conservative, but people understand that NASA must take risks to achieve great things with limited resources.

The rise of the open-source software movement is another example of the new, innovative organization. These very loose, voluntary associations have created massively complex applications like the Linux operating system and the Apache Web server — both now dominant applications on the Internet. The open-source movement has a principle known as Linus’ Law: “Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.” With the extreme consequences of potential “bugs” in the Moon-Mars mission model, the open-source approach may have useful applications at NASA. It could also be an effective way to work with international, academic and private-sector partners, as well as to build public engagement.

To kick off NASA’s transformation, we are calling for the creation of a permanent blue-ribbon advisory commission drawing on leading private and academic experts, such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Coordination Science, the Management Innovation Lab (MLab), McKinsey & Co., and even Google itself. By integrating these cutting-edge organizational tools and concepts into a single prototype organization, NASA can create a successful model that can be emulated elsewhere in government and industry. This next-generation organization may be more valuable to society than all the accumulated spin-off technologies from a Moon-Mars mission, perhaps even besting the greatest government spin-off to date: the Internet.

Gattis, a Houstonian, blogs on Organization 2.0 as a social systems architect with OpenTeams Software. Bronk is the fellow for technology, society and public policy at Rice University’s James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

How Microsoft falls

I know this is not the usual content of this blog, but an insight hit me today and I wanted to pass it along. It came from reading this Business Week story about the high prices Microsoft wants for Windows 7.

Microsoft's revenues have two main drivers: the Windows operating system and the Office suite. Now what happens to those revenues when Apple and Google release cradles for their phones (and the iPod Touch) that will drive a full-size monitor, keyboard, mouse, speakers, and printer - with built-in Firefox, Chrome, or Safari browsers to access cloud applications? (like Google Apps) If I have modest computing needs - web, email, pictures, video, documents, spreadsheets, presentations, etc. - why do I need a full-size PC or laptop with Windows and Office if my phone can drive everything I need to do and fit in my pocket to boot? As an added bonus, I can also choose to drop my home broadband service and go all 3G. All of a sudden Windows PCs and laptops are a niche market for high-end gamers and graphics.

It will take a little while to get there - faster phone processors, more memory and storage, better browsers that are stronger application platforms, iTunes conversion to a cloud app - but the trend seems inevitable, and the transition could happen very quickly once it starts. Microsoft has been able to drop Windows prices to hold on to netbooks (vs. Linux), but a price drop won't be able to stop this wave.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Manage by Commitments, Not Hierarchies

Some excerpts from a great post at bnet (highlights mine):
If you look at how people think about getting things done in large complex organizations, they basically sort stuff into three broad categories. The first is about power: the organization is a hierarchy where information flows up and orders flow down, and you do what you’re told or you’re fired or demoted. … This tends to create silos: the hierarchy is very up and down and doesn’t work well for work that requires cooperation across different units or functions. It’s pretty slow as well; it takes a long time for information to get up the structure and for orders to find their way down.

Another approach that really started to gain traction in the 1950s in Japan, and became more well-known in the 1980s, is management by process... the organization as a bundle of processes. Six Sigma…TQM [Total Quality Management]…all of these are variations on the same theme. This is hugely helpful—it allows you to squeeze out excess resources and continuously improve on what you do. Bit here we also have limitations, probably the biggest one being that standardization gets in the way of innovation... the higher an organization’s commitment to standardized processes, the lower the level of innovation.

Which brings us to our third approach: managing by commitment. Here, we look at an organization as a network of overlapping, continually evolving promises that people make to each other to get things done. The advantage and the power of this approach is that it lends itself quite well to situations that cannot be standardized: emergent strategies, innovation, one-offs or one-of-a-kind crises. It also works well when you coordinate among people who don’t report to you: suppliers, distributors, etc. And that kind of work is quite important. There was a study done a few years ago that said 40 percent of all employees in the United States added most of their value to their organizations through these non-routine activities. And about 70 percent of the growth of employees in the U.S. was among people who did this non-routine, non-hierarchical work, so it’s a big idea in the context of the economy as a whole.

...commitments within their teams. The most effective have five characteristics. First, they are public. They’re made publicly and their progress is tracked publicly. Next, they’re active. Parties understand what they are agreeing to and what each party is requesting; people don’t just nod, they really have to take responsibility for the commitment. Third, these are voluntary. The other party has the option to say something other than “yes”; they can refuse or make counteroffers. Fourth, commitments are explicit: it has to be clear who is committing. These aren’t committees making promises, they are individuals. And it works best when it is perfectly clear to whom the commitment is made. And fifth and finally, they’re motivating: the rationale is made clear…why it matters to the individuals and the organization is made clear.

More on this approach in a followup post here.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

WorldBlu announces Most Democratic Workplaces 2009

Their list is not about "democratic" companies in the "everybody votes" sense, but those that truly empower employees at all levels.

"The purpose of the WorldBlu List is to acknowledge the most successful organizations in the world that are choosing to operate, not using the traditional, command and control model of business, but a democratic model based freedom and possibility.

In these challenging economic times, nothing could be more relevant than honoring organizations built on transparency, accountability, integrity, and fairness that give us all a reason to believe that business can truly uphold and model humanity's highest values."

The list proves that these principles are not just theoretical, but work in real organizations in the real world. Check it out.

Monday, April 13, 2009

From command-and-control to collaboration-and-teamwork

Cisco CEO John Chambers explains how moving beyond command-and-control leadership has enabled the company to innovate more quickly, using collaboration and teamwork.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Social media's impact on companies

Social Media Science has a great article on both the internal and external impact of social media on organizations. The internal section matches up exactly with Organization 2.0:
Every day evidence mounts to support the need for companies to transform the way they operate internally. For the most part this is no longer even a matter for debate. Too much social evidence has already accumulated on this subject.
...put into place the social media channels and systems that will allow the corporate community itself to communicate, reward, suggest, ask questions, offer solutions, raise issues, list complaints, and other engagements designed to produce a company united in vision and purpose.
The section on the external impact (in terms of marketing and branding) is right on too. In fact, we're trying to expand OpenTeams' efforts in this regard. We now have groups on
Follow the links to sign up and join the Organization 2.0 conversation.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

More on Management's Grand Challenges

Dr. Gary Hamel has an article in the new February issue of Harvard Business Review titled "Moon Shots for Management". It is a fantastic article, unfortunately limited to subscribers. I have posted on this topic before, but this article goes into much more detail and articulates its points better. It's in absolute alignment with everything we hope to facilitate with OpenTeams and Organization 2.0. The summary:

Idea in Brief

• “Modern” management, much of which dates back to the late nineteenth century, has reached the limits of improvement.

• To lay out a road map for reinvention, a group of scholars and CEOs has created 25 ambitious challenges.

• Unless management innovators tackle those issues, companies will be unable to cope with tomorrow’s volatile world.

Management's Grand Challenges

1: Ensure that the work of management serves a higher purpose. Management, both in theory and practice, must orient itself to the achievement of noble, socially significant goals.

2: Fully embed the ideas of community and citizenship in management systems. There’s a need for processes and practices that reflect the interdependence of all stakeholder groups.

3: Reconstruct management’s philosophical foundations. To build organizations that are more than merely efficient, we will need to draw lessons from such fields as biology, political science, and theology.

4: Eliminate the pathologies of formal hierarchy. There are advantages to natural hierarchies, where power flows up from the bottom and leaders emerge instead of being appointed.

5: Reduce fear and increase trust. Mistrust and fear are toxic to innovation and engagement and must be wrung out of tomorrow’s management systems.

6: Reinvent the means of control. To transcend the discipline-versus-freedom trade-off, control systems will have to encourage control from within rather than constraints from without.

7: Redefine the work of leadership. The notion of the leader as a heroic decision maker is untenable. Leaders must be recast as social-systems architects who enable innovation and collaboration.

8: Expand and exploit diversity. We must create a management system that values diversity, disagreement, and divergence as much as conformance, consensus, and cohesion.

9: Reinvent strategy making as an emergent process. In a turbulent world, strategy making must reflect the biological principles of variety, selection, and retention.

10: De-structure and disaggregate the organization. To become more adaptable and innovative, large entities must be disaggregated into smaller, more malleable units.

11: Dramatically reduce the pull of the past. Existing management systems often mindlessly reinforce the status quo. In the future, they must facilitate innovation and change.

12: Share the work of setting direction. To engender commitment, the responsibility for goal setting must be distributed through a process in which share of voice is a function of insight, not power.

13: Develop holistic performance measures. Existing performance metrics must be recast, since they give inadequate attention to the critical human capabilities that drive success in the creative economy.

14: Stretch executive time frames and perspectives. We need to discover alternatives to compensation and reward systems that encourage managers to sacrifice long-term goals for short-term gains.

15: Create a democracy of information. Companies need information systems that equip every employee to act in the interests of the entire enterprise.

16: Empower the renegades and disarm the reactionaries. Management systems must give more power to employees whose emotional equity is invested in the future rather than the past.

17: Expand the scope of employee autonomy. Management systems must be redesigned to facilitate grassroots initiatives and local experimentation.

18: Create internal markets for ideas, talent, and resources. Markets are better than hierarchies at allocating resources, and companies’ resource allocation processes need to reflect this fact.

19: Depoliticize decision making. Decision processes must be free of positional biases and should exploit the collective wisdom of the entire organization and beyond.

20: Better optimize trade-offs. Management systems tend to force either-or choices. What’s needed are hybrid systems that subtly optimize key trade-offs.

21: Further unleash human imagination. Much is known about what engenders human creativity. This knowledge must be better applied in the design of management systems.

22: Enable communities of passion. To maximize employee engagement, management systems must facilitate the formation of self-defining communities of passion.

23: Retool management for an open world. Value-creating networks often transcend the firm’s boundaries and can render traditional power-based management tools ineffective. New management tools are needed for building and shaping complex ecosystems.

24: Humanize the language and practice of business. Tomorrow’s management systems must give as much credence to such timeless human ideals as beauty, justice, and community as they do to the traditional goals of efficiency, advantage, and profit.

25: Retrain managerial minds. Managers’ deductive and analytical skills must be complemented by conceptual and systems-thinking skills.