I really enjoyed this conversation with Sharon O’Dea about the digital workplace. She shares an absolute tonne of insight into how organisations have responded to remote working in lockdown, what impact that has had on the use of internal technology, and what culture and behaviour change is going to be needed in future.
I managed to exert some self discipline and kept this video to 30 minutes or thereabouts. I think you’ll get a lot out of it!
I wanted to seek out the experience of these companies and ask: does remote work propagate, mitigate, or change the experience of office politics? What tactics are startups using to combat office politics, and are any of them effective?
In digitally mature organisations we are used to seeing strong communities of engaged, self-selecting members gathered around a shared purpose beyond that of their day to day jobs. Organisational communities thrive because they add an extra dimension to the organisational structure, and can increase the number of connections each individual has across the organisation’s network.
More than ever, we are aware of the need for better practices to address key challenges and tensions between technology and society. Doteveryone has been working on making the consumer tech industry more responsible and accountable to society for over a year. It’s been a fascinating process of research, prototyping and learning. Our ideas have evolved as we’ve worked with others to figure out what might be both practical for real businesses, and effective in making tech better for people and society.
I was asked this morning for the two main blockers to progress in the various attempts at technology enabled change over the years, whether titled e-government or digital transformation.
Here’s what I came up with – it would be interesting to get your thoughts:
Two main challenges for me would be two elements of core capability. The first would be technology, and specifically software. The main line of business systems in use in most local councils is simply not fit for purpose for the digital age. They are horrible to use, don’t interoperate, work poorly on mobile, don’t offer great customer experience for self service and are dogs for the IT team to maintain. Time and time again, otherwise excellent initiatives at e-government or digital transformation are scuppered because of issues relating to core back office systems. What’s more, the market seems to find it impossible to have an impact on the situation, and so driving the incumbents out is very hard to do.
Second, and possibly more important, are the people issues. First is culture, which is risk and change averse, often because of the role of middle managers, many of whom are ‘experts’ in their service area and extremely dedicated to preserving the current way of doing things. Folk on the front line can often easily diagnose problems and suggest solutions, and senior executives are usually well up for a bit of disruptive change. However those in the middle can slow things down and block progress. The other bit of the people problem is capability, in that there aren’t enough really good people around in organisations to drive the change needed forward, which takes guts and stamina as well as intelligence. Without a reasonably sized army of these people in place, initiatives can get run into the ground very quickly.
Digital Workplace Leader – a fun looking job going at Thanet District Council. “The digital workplace leader will be an experienced professional who leads the effort to create a work environment that exploits digital trends and encourages digital dexterity through the adroit use of technology. The goal is to improve employee agility and engagement so that Thanet District Council can profit from changing business models and improved workforce effectiveness in order to achieve its organisational goals.” If you get it, good luck in getting all that done in the year the job lasts for (!).
Publishers and the pursuit of the past – there’s nowt so tedious than the future of journalism discussion, but Ben Thompson at least brings in some strategic thinking about business models and incentives that’s worth digging into.
A networked organisation – Cassie Robinson is on fire at the moment – I feel like she should be given her own slot here every week. Here she articulates what it means to be a networked organisation – and how that differs from the activity ‘networking’.
Building a digital culture in DWP – another nice list of things that digital cultures look and feel like, this time by Jon Osborn. I do like “less process, more progress” and might start saying it on regular occasions, irregardless of context.
As always, these have mostly all been tweeted during the week, and you can find everything I’ve found interesting and bookmarked here.
We need a Minister for Digital Government – according to Dan Thornton at the Institute for Government. Quite a bit of commentary has been around the limitation of the word ‘digital’ – though that’s largely semantics – and I would argue that even if you (wrongly) take digital to mean just tech, there’s still enough that needs fixing to make it worthwhile.
“Which third are you?” – asks James Governor from Redmonk. The thirds being change agents, persuadables or heel diggers. All about your attitude to change. Every organisation has every type, and you need them all onside – or at least enough of them – to make stuff happen.