May 5, 2011

Culture and its impact on Social Business

Interesting case study by Dinesh Tantri on his blog how Thoughtworks' culture was critical in making its Enterprise Social Network a success

ThoughtWorks is a “positive deviant” in many ways – Over the past 17 years we have experimented with and evolved a number of organizational and people practices that are fundamental to building a collaborative work culture. These practices and beliefs form the corner stone of what we call our “Global Social Infrastructure” :

Our belief that culture is the long term advantage not business models
Small Offices – We limit the number of people in each office to 150. People get to know each other better, there is better trust and deeper knowledge sharing
Open workspaces act as change agents – None of our offices have cubicles – None in leadership team have a private cabin.
Loose Hierarchies – our organizational structure resembles a fishnet with “temporary centralization based on purpose and need.“
Smart Incentives –Peer recognition and intrinsic motivation drive collaborative behavior
Informal Communities – We have always had thriving communities & fantastic conversations. None of them are “official” per-se. Most of them are self-assembled groups of passionate people – Irrespective of the platforms we have used in the past [ Mailman, Google Groups etc., ], we have always had intense conversations and debates in these communities. This is a side effect of the kind of people we hire and the traits we look for. Face to face community meetings are another key aspect of the culture. Every region has its own style and rhythm – Friday Pubs, Lunch and Learn sessions etc.,
Transparency and trust – This is a key part of our culture – Giving people on the ground access to resources they need and letting them make decisions is a major way of engendering trust. The rule of thumb on the transparency is “as much as people can tolerate “.

An open and transparent organizational culture will take to social networking like a fish to water, however it should be remembered that it is not a "necessary ingredient". If traditional organizations have the intent, they can also move towards creating an open and collaborative organization using social networking tools if they follow the process :-)