Thoughts on Enterprise 2.0 and Corporate Culture Change

Lawrence Liu wrote in Key success factor for Enterprise 2.0: Finding new roles for middle management

…Enterprise 2.0 technologies enable people who are doing the “real” work within organizations to bypass their middle management and connect and collaborate with each other directly as well as update and engage upper management directly. By cutting out middle management, the savings are not only in the salaries of those individuals but also in the time and energy expended by their subordinates and upper management to interact with them. Yes, middle management is the tangible overhead in many organizations that Enterprise 2.0 can eliminate!

I too believe this change will come, and that the flatter organisations of the future may well resemble the consulting organizations of today – the likes of IBM Global Services, McKinsey or Microsoft Consulting Services (MCS), where until a few moths ago I worked. 

Lawrence goes on to argue that a manager to report ratio of 1:30 is impossible, but in MCS that is exactly what it was.  Managers were not your traditional manager though.  They were not responsible for giving reports work to do.  Instead a resource pool operated with resourcing managers identifying staff with the right skills mix to quickly staff-up and tear down projects.  Consultants had to proactively go about managing their career, promoting themselves and finding their next job.  This, I believe will become the new model of the corporation in a Web 2.0 world.  And the fact of the matter is this model exists today in many consulting firms. 

But the impact and change brought about by Enterprise 2.0 will not be without pain.  MCS went through plenty when they made the change some 3 years ago. A lot of middle managers DID have to find themselves new jobs.  And it was VERY painful. 

If you are interested in the cultural impact this new world of work will bring, Tom Peters has written some good stuff on the topic of working and thriving in this kind of workplace.  The best place to start would be his Brand YOU article in Fast Company.  An absolute must read for anyone in the professional services industry.


3 thoughts on “Thoughts on Enterprise 2.0 and Corporate Culture Change

  1. Mark, thanks for your comment on my blog entry and the link to Tom Peters’ article. I’m aware of MCS’s model of having “Professional Development Managers” with ~30 direct reports. I didn’t say that this ratio was impossible. I said that it would be unhealthy and unsustainable given the context of what the typical manager has to deal with today. My thesis here is that as Enterprise 2.0 technologies become more pervasive and widely adopted in the workplace, the role and responsibilities of the middle manager will be dramatically impacted, and I agree with you that the model to which most professional services organizations have transitioned during the past few years would be a viable candidate to be emulated by other types of organizations.

  2. I believe that the real cultural change in an enterprise 2.0 world is more profound than this. In a successful collaborative organization goals are shared and constantly reviewed – everyone knows what they are. Trust and respect are paramount, as is an unending desire for constant improvement born of humility, dedication and vision.

    Expertise is something that flows from every part of the org chart into the top which is sharing goals, strategy, direction and narrative with everyone else. its not about the elimination of middle management, its about an organization that is fully prepared to embrace its entire team and be clear about what is and isn’t known, and what the true direction and issues are.

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