Mar 24, 2010

Culture's Impact on Technology



As an Organizational Behavior person, I believe that Culture trumps strategy. And of course, can derail tactics and events that go against the grain of the culture within no time.

Today, I was talking to a CEO of a professional services firm who was sharing how he had tried to champion a micro-blogging tool within his firm to share information across locations and silos and how the fact they were a hierarchical organization probably killed the tool's effectiveness.

Yes, technology, even when championed by the CEO can fail if it runs into culture.

Think of culture like the running river, and any initiative like a rock. The rock seems strong. With executive sponsorship, resources, and sometimes external consulting. Eventually the river wins. Not by strength but by persistence.

So this post by Paul Greenberg (@pgreenbe) on the Enterprise Irregulars blog was quite interesting.

From 2004 on, people seized control of how they communicated 24/7. What devices they used, what tools they used, what channels they used, when they communicated, what they expected as a result of that communication, what kind of response they got, all shifted into the hands of the individual. In the world of business, communications about a company no longer needed some company venue to occur. For a communication or array of communications to affect a company, it didn’t have to occur with the company’s acquiescence. Even more telling, it could occur without the company’s knowledge. This meant that the company no longer controlled its own destiny in regard to its customers, though it, of course, continued to control its own operations. (the fact that the company still needs to run itself is one of the things at the core of the difference between Social CRM and almost anything else with the word “social” in it) The conversation passed into the hands of the customers – meaning they could damage, grow. or affect somewhere in between, a company without the company having much to say about it.
Culture can be grown - enabled - in the direction which employees want to take it.

The question is - will leaders' give up the control?