I was reading this blog the other day from a disenfranchised individual in a large corporation (doesn’t matter which, but it wasn’t the Department), and he was complaining their central communication function was more about “crowd control” than empowering people with information to do their jobs.
That’s an interesting term, crowd control, and it got me to thinking: how many large companies have that kind of mentality in the way they operate? Tell staff those things that will keep them happy and productive. Control all aspects of the message, so that you ensure everyone knows only those things which support the agenda of management. Stifle dissent , or better still, provide no way for any dissenters to be heard. Above all make sure that there’s no way for groups of like-minded individuals to form around an issue.
I’ve written before about the power of connected crowds. But the whole post I was reading about crowd control made me realise – again -that there’s this phase shift happening in large corporations.The phase shift is the redistribution of authority from central senior management to the edge. The edge being, in this case, those who actually have to do the work that drives things forward.
The phase shift is interesting because it is happening whether an organisation engages in crowd control or not. For a piece of work I was doing internally, I tried to find all the places our staff go to be together online outside our firewall. You’d be surprised at how many there are. Of course, it goes without saying that you can’t engage in crowd control beyond the confines of your own network…
At the Department, we’re getting ready to deploy a suite of collaboration tools that will open up channels of communication between staff. It will be many to many communication, unlike the one way messaging we rely on today. It is impossible to imagine that we’ll won’t get groups forming around what they don’t like coming from management.
That is entirely healthy and reasonable in my view. In fact, I’d like staff to speak out and make their views heard when they disagree. It forces us to consider all sides of any issue properly before making important decisions.
Anyway, having more brains on a problem is far better than having a few, which is what you get when you have a central group responsible for everything.
The point, of course, is that if the central thinking is that communications are about crowd control, then organisations are really forcing the many-to-many communication outside their organisation. Although I don’t think we are about crowd control at the department, the fact that we don’t have our new communications channels yet has already resulted in crowds forming beyond the firewall. Imagine the circumstance when new channels, far being lacking, aren’t even allowed.
My conclusion, based on this, is that crowd control is pretty much dead. And that centralised command-and-control will soon follow.