The Social Enterprise begets the Ultimate Meritocracy
Cristóbal Conde, president and C.E.O. of SunGard gave an excellent interview to Adam Bryant of the New York Times on the topic of flatter organizations.
I highly recommend reading the entire piece. On why the shift occurred, Mr. Conde opines:
I would say two things. One is just the massive information revolution. But equally important is the fact that before, while there were global companies, they were really just a collection of very local businesses operating independently from each other. Now a global company means a company composed of teams that are themselves dispersed. So every team can be global in many senses, not just the company.
But with the explosion of information, and flattening technologies starting with e-mail, I think that a C.E.O. needs to focus more on the platform that enables collaboration, because employees already have all the data. They have access to everything.
You have to work on the structure of collaboration. How do people get recognized? How do you establish a meritocracy in a highly dispersed environment?
The answer is to allow employees to develop a name for themselves that is irrespective of their organizational ranking or where they sit in the org chart. And it actually is not a question about monetary incentives. They do it because recognition from their peers is, I think, an extremely strong motivating factor, and something that is broadly unused in modern management.
What stood out most for me was his characterization of establishing a true meritocracy in the enterprise.
Meritocracy in the enterprise is something that most high performing leaders would love to see and institutionalize. But its difficult when layers of management can create barriers to transparency around who really was instrumental in getting the job done.
At most organizations, those at the very top are acutely aware that its very hard to have a handle on who truly are the best performers in the enterprise and as important how to infest the rest of enterprise with those smarts. The old model, that characterizes much of how this done at most companies today, would be to throw a lot of money and resources at actively identifying the best of the best via all sorts of creative performance reviews (peer, skip level, top down, etc etc). Then to actively “manage’ that talent pool downstream in the hope that it drives organizational performance.
Via the strategic use of social and collaborative tools, what SunGard has fostered is a more transparent, open enterprise where you move to a passive model of continuously allowing talent identification to happen in the flow of work, and in a way that fellow employees can identify, leverage and learn from the best. In turn, recognition, whether from fellow colleagues, industry peers and managers happens in the open and over and above subjective evaluation by managers. And there’s a lot more that comes with such collaborative and transparent structures in the areas of HR performance, Communications Performance and Line of Business Performance that I’ve written about in the past.
The most brilliant management thinking and execution planning at the top echelons of enterprises no doubt can get companies ahead within defined windows – monetizing a killer innovation breakthrough, riding a bull market, accessing untapped talent in an emerging market and the like. All require active execution by those at the top to ensure follow through. Sustainable advantage on the other hand, is a much much harder goal to achieve as scaling all that top down thinking quarter over quarter is not practical in active mode. And frankly the top heavy model is no guarantee of success as we’ve seen with the last financial crisis.
As much as many of us believe it, you just cant scale the “if you want it done right, do it yourself” mode of work. What socially powered enterprises get is the ability for the best minds, whether at the top, middle or bottom to see, participate and influence outcomes to drive overall organizational performance. Passively….in the context of work. I recently wrote about why Building IS Strategy – that’s the only model where the best ideas can be found as well as scaled. And socially tuned enterprises enable this mode of doing business where an open meritocracy around the best strategy and execution plan, against stated business objectives, can drive performance in a scalable way.
Stowe Boyd has some good thoughts on this in the context of social business on his blog that are certainly worth a read.