Being an enterprise linchpin

By Mark Drapeau posted 04-22-2010 10:38


Recently, I read the new business book by Seth Godin, Linchpin: Are you indispensible? which is a must-have for any modern person’s bookshelf.  The major premise of the book is that there are no more great jobs that pay well where someone tells you what to do.

Let me repeat that, because jobs where someone tells you exactly what to do have been a stable of hierarchical organizations for a long time now. There are no more great jobs where someone tells you what to do.

The reason is that every job simple enough for a manager to tell their employees exactly what to do can be outsourced or automated, eventually.  Even if you currently have a well-paying job where someone tells you what to do all day, how long will it last?

Companies are changing, and Godin’s book Linchpin urges workers to find ways to be indispensible within their organizations.

Indispensible?  Indispensible?  That’s a tall order! you might say.  Yes, it is.  But the good news is that the technologies of Enterprise 2.0 have made it easier than ever.  (While still keeping it very difficult.)

It has never been so simple to understand all of the moving parts within a large enterprise.  People talk to each other, but it’s clearly not only in person or on the phone.  They use email, instant messaging, video conferencing, blogging and microblogging, file sharing, and more to interact, and very often these communications are either shared or archived or both.  If this complex dataset can be studied and understood, one has a better chance of being indispensible.

As a new Microsoft employee, I am still having fun using their latest technologies.  But the single most important tool I have to understand the enterprise and try to be a linchpin within it is a feature of my Outlook 2010 program that lets me look up anyone in the company and see information about them.  Not only can I trace every single employee’s hierarchical reporting up to the CEO, I can also access numerous databases containing information about them.  All in a little window within my “email program.” 

The enterprise is becoming more social, because “social” is not all about free Web 2.0 products, but it is also about an idea, a feature, a function of business productivity software.

Enterprise 1.0 had one hierarchy, the one where you report up to your manager, who reports to his, and so on and so on.  This is the hierarchy I can look up in Microsoft Outlook.  It’s still a useful organizational tool – my manager can fire me, so I’d better talk to him, and know who he reports to, right?

But there’s a new, second social network within Enterprise 2.0, the modern enterprise, and it’s changing the way we work.  Rawn Shah has a good post at Forbes about this  People successful at the second kind of social network, the non-hierarchical one, know everyone worth knowing within a company (AKA people who get things done), lead a tribe of people who listen, and produce group results.

The flip side of this, for people who are already leaders in a hierarchy, is that continuing to think in an Enterprise 1.0 kind of way – that the hierarchy is all that matters – will increasingly lead to a good chance of being toppled from your throne by people you don’t know with seemingly insignificant titles that are, as Shah says, “digitally eminent.”  You will be replaced by leaders who establish command but not control.

Even the U.S. Army, that bastion of hierarchy and control, is loosening the grips and starting to look a tiny bit more like an Enterprise 2.0 organization.  Last year, the Army decided to try updating some of its field manuals not by having a small, dedicated team edit them but rather by opening them up to essentially everyone within the organization and allowing collaboration on a wiki.  If the Army is taking advantage of these tools and your enterprise is not (or you ignore the power of these tools existing within your company), you might start to think that the trend line is moving away from you…

Knowledge is power, and knowledge can be gleaned more easily than ever by the savvy Enterprise 2.0 worker.  Taking advantage of the many collaboration tools within an organization is allowing people to make their marks in business – however small – easier, faster, and more efficiently than ever.  And then all those Web 2.0 tools allow you to publicize it.

#socialnetworking #indispensible #hierachy #linchpin #knowledgemanagement #Godin