Cisco as an emerging Enterprise 2.0 case example

Cisco Systems, Inc.

Image via Wikipedia

[cross-posted at FastForward blog]

The current issue of Fast Company has a cover article on Cisco and their ongoing efforts to reorganize into something that is an excellent case study of what Enterprise 2.0 may look like in an established organization. It shouldn’t be any surprise that the quintessential networking company is on the leading edge of network thinking applied to organizational design. At the same time, Cisco is a large, successful, hierarchical, engineering-centric organization that isn’t likely to be terribly interested in organizational fads.

Here’s the argument in a nutshell:

Chambers has greater ambitions, even now, in the midst of turmoil. Or, perhaps, especially now. He has been taking Cisco through a massive, radical, often bumpy reorganization. The goal is to spread the company’s leadership and decision making far wider than any big company has attempted before, to working groups that currently involve 500 executives. This move, Chambers says, reflects a new philosophy about how business can best work in a networked world. “In 2001, we were like most high-tech companies, with one or two primary products that were really important to us,” he explains. “All decisions came to the top 10 people in the company, and we drove things back down from there.” Today, a network of councils and boards empowered to launch new businesses, plus an evolving set of Web 2.0 gizmos — not to mention a new financial incentive system — encourage executives to work together like never before. Pull back the tent flaps and Cisco citizens are blogging, vlogging, and virtualizing, using social-networking tools that they’ve made themselves and that, in many cases, far exceed the capabilities of the commercially available wikis, YouTubes, and Facebooks created by the kids up the road in Palo Alto.

The bumpy part — and the eye-opener — is that the leaders of business units formerly competing for power and resources now share responsibility for one another’s success. What used to be “me” is now “we.” The goal is to get more products to market faster, and Chambers crows at the results. “The boards and councils have been able to innovate with tremendous speed. Fifteen minutes and one week to get a [business] plan that used to take six months!” As storm clouds form for the rest of the business community, he says, “We’re going to gain market share.” [“How Cisco’s CEO John Chambers is Turning the Tech Giant Socialist“, Ellen McGirt]

What makes this case study useful and interesting is its emphasis on organization not technology. There’s an undercurrent in the article that everything is all a bit “socialist” somehow and isn’t that a surprise, which I found annoying at points. The more interesting point is that a bunch of engineers and big-organization executives are essentially concluding that hierarchy isn’t scaling well enough to meet their goals.

More than anything else, this story provides a well-documented case study that is an existence proof to other skeptical executives that the combination of Enterprise 2.0 technologies and the right organizational principles and practices can succeed.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

UC Berkeley demonstrates its intelligence; awards danah boyd her Ph.D.

UC Berkeley took its time, but clearly shows excellent judgment and intelligence in awarding danah boyd her Ph.D. at long last. We’ve known how smart danah is here for some time.

Well done, danah!

OMG. I have my PhD! OMG!!!!!

PS: I will post my dissertation in January when I return from vacation.

dissertation phd

OMG. I have my PhD! OMG!!!!!
Tue, 09 Dec 2008 11:40:50 GMT

Social media lessons from the Obama campaign

[cross posted at FAST Forward]

The Obama campaign was innovative on a number of dimensions, particularly with the use of social media and the effective leverage of committed volunteers. There’s been some good reporting that captures the ground truth of what the campaign actually did and some early efforts to make sense out of these facts in a way that offers lessons for those of us interested in their relevance to broader organizational and enterprise needs.

Use of social media

Effective use of engaged volunteers

Lessons for organizational design and strategy

JP Rangaswami on KM … “Clear, Transparent, Searchable, Archivable, Retrievable”

This has been lurking in my RSS aggregator for quite a while, courtesy of Jon Husband. There is really a lot of highly condensed insight in this post.

Thanks to JP Rangaswami for distilling social computing (in the context of work) to an essence.

From his post “Facebook and the Enterprise, Part 5: Knowledge Management“.


“More and more, knowledge management is going to be about reducing the cost of, and simplifying the process for, letting someone watch what you do. Nonintrusively. Time-shifted. Place-shifted. Searchable. Archivable. Retrievable.”


Via Dave Pollard via Nancy White

Powered by Qumana

JP Rangaswami on KM Clear, Transparent, Searchable, Archivable, Retrievable
Tue, 02 Sep 2008 13:08:06 GMT

Was being a fast follower ever a viable strategic option?

[cross posted at FAST Forward blog]

How often do you run across organizations that claim they intend to be “fast followers” when it comes to some dimension of strategy and innovation? Maybe I’m simply cranky because it’s Monday, but is there any way to make sense of such an approach in operational terms? The image of “fast follower” is intended to evoke a NASCAR driver drafting behind the leader, carefully waiting for the right moment to streak past and across the finish line. It’s deeply rooted in a notion that strategic success is a function of execution.

Any fast following strategy assumes learning from the leaders as a necessary first step. If you actually believe that the strategy can work, you need to be operating with something along the lines of the following as a theory of learning over time:


In this model, watching a first mover and waiting allows you to start your learning at a higher level and sometime later pass the first mover as their learning process peaks and levels off or slows down. I have two problems with this model. First, it assumes that the lessons learned by our first mover are easily observable and quickly transferable. Second, it still denigrates learning as an ongoing requirement. In this model, learning only needs to happen long enough to figure out the new strategic game and we get back to execution as the only relevant differentiator. It encourages you to undervalue and under invest in learning as a strategic competence.

I suspect that strategic learning is much more likely to follow a logistics curve of some sort. Early learning is relatively slow, followed by a period a very rapid learning, and ultimately a leveling off. If you accept that model of learning, then a fast follower strategy becomes even more suspect. In that environment, first mover advantages are likely to be more pronounced, with something like the following representing that situation:


At this point, being early in my own learning process, I mostly have more questions, not answers. Among them, in no particular order, are:

  1. What’s the relative value of competitive secrecy vs. the internal organizational drag on learning imposed by attempts to preserve secrecy?
  2. What can you do to shorten the slow ramp stage of learning?
  3. Under what circumstances would fast following remain a viable strategy? Are those circumstances strategically interesting?
  4. How do shortening learning cycles alter this argument?

Some links on social media applications within organizations

As part of my talk yesterday at the Social Media Strategies conference, I made passing reference to a number of stories, blog posts, bloggers, thinkers, and writers. It’s an occupational hazard of being a former professor.

I’ve written about different elements of yesterday’s talk over the course of various blog posts over time. Here are links to some of the most directly relevant together with links to other items I referenced:

Finally, I drew on a number of smarter people than I on the topics of expertise and organizational change. Here are some good entry points for further reading.

Seeing Organizational Patterns : A New Theory and Language of Organizational Design, Keidel, Robert W.
Keidel is an organizational theorist/designer who builds a very practical way of thinking and talking about organizations around the simple observation that all interactions in organizations can be understood in terms of the blend of control, cooperative, and autonomous ways of relating that organizational members can engage in. For the sports-minded, Keidel maps these three basic relating choices to the sports of American football, basketball, and baseball. He builds a nice case that organizational design choices can all be understood in terms of how these three fundamental relationship choices are mixed and blended.

Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation, Lave, Jean
Jean Lave is an ethnographer working as part of Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center. In this volume, Lave explores learning as primarily a social phenomenon and builds a very practical theory of how apprenticeship forms of skill acquisition and learning work in the real world.




Pragmatic Thinking and Learning: Refactor Your Wetware, Hunt, Andy
I’ve become a general fan of Andy Hunt’s pragmatic programming series of books. They are useful well beyond the narrow area of software development. In this new book, Hunt offers a useful introduction to the Dreyfus model of expertise and how it applies in the general context of knowledge work.




Quality Software Management (V1) : Systems Thinking, Weinberg, Gerald M.
The first of a four-volume exploration of the particular and peculiar challenges of managing the development and implementation of software. The first volume introduces fundamental notions of how to model and think about complex systems and how they respond to change. Weinberg adapts Virginia Satir’s family therapy theories to the environment of complex organizational environments.




Quality Software Management (V3): Congruent Action, Weinberg, Gerald M.

While all four volumes of Weinberg’s work are valuable, this volume on what Weinberg describes as “Congruent Action” is the most useful for understanding organizational change in concert with Volume 1.

Social Media Strategies Conference – presentation on internal communities

Here is the presentation I did today at the Social Media Strategies conference going on at the Stanford Court in San Francisco. We got some excellent input and interaction going. There should be a full size version of this graphic linked to this version.


I did this presentation using MindManager 7.0. It mostly worked, but not as well as I would have liked. The link to the MindManager file itself is below:

MindManager format file: Internal communities mindmap

Pay it Forward on LinkedIn

Here’s an excellent idea. I’ll be on the West Coast on the 29th (I’m speaking at the Social Media Strategies conference), but I’m sure I’ll be able to fit this into my schedule for the day. This comes to me by way of my long-time friend and colleague Keri Pearlson (who might get one of those recommendations).

My dear friend and Enterprise 2.0 Evangelista, Susan Scrupski, has posted an idea  that I m passing along to you. She s titled it LinkedIn Pay It Forward Day . She s suggesting that next week, on October 29, 2008 we all go visit the LinkedIn Page of someone in our social network and write a recommendation for them.

Susan explained, Everyone has worked with someone in their network who is deserving of a positive recommendation. The randomness of the recommendation will make it satisfying for you and the recipient.

Giving someone the gift of kind words is a wonderful idea. My daughter s class did that one year around the holiday time. It was free, and you should have seen the smile on the faces of the kids when they came home with their gift. My daughter put hers up on her wall and had me read it to her for months.

The idea of paying it forward is very appealing. As Susan mentions, in this economic environment, so many of our friends and colleagues find themselves out of a job or fearing that they may be. A gift of kind words is a great gift indeed.

I m endorsing her idea. I ve just put a note to myself on October 29 to go write a recommendation for someone in my social network. Let s all do that.

Pay it Forward on LinkedIn
Sat, 25 Oct 2008 04:14:42 GMT