The assignment is to reflect on the characteristics of network centric and organization centric models described in the paper, Working Wikily published by the Philanthropy and Networks Explorations. The authors make this comparison:
- are centralized
- take time
- are difficult to coordinate
- are closed and proprietary
- constrain ability to tap expertise and share knowledge
- equate effectiveness with longevity
- use organization as the primary way to organize effort
- are decentralized
- are fast and getting faster
- make coordination and collaboration easier
- are open and transparent
- make it easy to tap expertise and share knowledge
- equate effectiveness with mobilization
- view the organization as one way to organize effort
I’m looking for evidence of both models in current and past workplaces, and must use both my current and immediate past employer to fully explore both.
In my past job, I worked for a publicly traded, highly regulated 3000-employee health care management organization with offices throughout the US. The culture there was very top-down and controlled; the chain of command was highly valued. As director of leadership and professional development, every email I sent to more than 10 employees had to be vetted by the communications department to ensure alignment with the current message from the top. There was little opportunity for top-up content sharing and collaboration. I attempted to build some learning communities among the graduates of our leadership courses, but had little success. The silos were very ingrained; VPs in one division did not want lower-level supervisors communicating with their peers in other divisions. I spent over 50% of my time in regular meetings, each of which lasted exactly one hour. Then, too, we had few tools we could use to communicate via networks. I left in 2006; at that time we did have an employee locator tool on our intranet that would indicate a person’s position, title, phone number and email address, but did not allow us to post any interests or skills.
Now I work for a very small software development firm. When I started there I didn’t know a wiki from a blog. I thought IM was something kids used to avoid email. I would never have dreamed of having a facebook page or watching a video on YouTube: too risky. However, my new company tracked projects on wikis, communicated by Skype IM, and was focusing marketing efforts on using social media. There were no organizationally-organized meetings at all. We just meet on-the-fly as needed using Skype or our web-meeting service. Decisions are made, documented in the wiki and we move on to the next thing. Recently, we’ve added one organization-centric meeting – a happy half hour from 4:30 – 5 every Friday. We chat about our week and then talk about any help we’ll need in the next week.
So I’ve seen both extremes – but not in the same company. I’d like to sneak back to my former company to see if anything has changed there. I think I’ll look up some former colleagues on facebook.