Where do you draw the line?

This is just one of those random thoughts that went through my head this weekend, but was too long to get into 140 characters.

  • An enterprise is an entity that is trying to address the needs and desires of those beyond its boundaries.
  • A community is an entity that is trying to address the needs and desires of those within its boundaries.

It is interesting to keep this in mind when you think about customers, employees and all other stakeholders. Do you consider them to be part of the organization or outside of the organization? It matters with respect to how you choose to interact with them. And conversely, how you choose to interact with them implies what you think of them.

Where you draw a line is important.


Principles of Community

In the context of an organization, there are certain principles that can be applied in order for that organization to operate more like a community as opposed to a bureaucracy. I have written previously about why I think this is important.

This list is a starting point. Please add your own…

Principles of Community

  • Frictionless information flow
  • Integration of the many into the one
  • Listening is more important than talking (or YELLING)
  • Commonly agreed to ground rules, roles and responsibilities
  • Multi-channel, multi-directional communication
  • Transparency
  • Authenticity
  • What’s good for you, is good for me
  • Everyone has a voice

Communication is the Heart

I have been struggling recently trying to figure out my “product”. I need to be able to describe what it is that I bring to the table for a client. I know I CAN bring value, I just couldn’t quite put it in words, that quickly and easily, conveyed that value. I guess what I have been searching for is a clear problem or need that I can apply my solution to. That age old problem of everything looking like a nail to my hammer.

All of my rhetoric and elevator pitches so far have been about how I solve problems. I have not been speaking in terms of the problem to be solved. This morning I think I have come closer to articulating the problem statement.

Communication is at the heart of any organization:

  • communication between managers and employees;
  • communication between functional areas;
  • communication with stakeholders and customers;
  • communication within project teams…

and I have yet to see the organization that has perfected the art of communication.

Enter social media and the community. By embracing a community model, any organization can take a quantum step forward in their communication effectiveness. This is where E Quint comes in. As a Community Architect, I use a structured approach to:

  • assess and understand the current communications ecosystem
  • develop a blueprint for improving communication structure and processes
  • help implement a new infrastructure for conversation

Improving the effectiveness of organizational communication will lead to better decision-making by organizations, which of course leads to what everyone wants, a better bottom line and the ability to keep on keeping on.

Community, Hierachry: Cognitive Dissonance

There seems to be a trend toward companies jumping on the social media bandwagon for marketing and promotional purposes. As much as I love social media and the promise it delivers, I believe that most of these efforts are going to crash and burn. The reason; non-alignment between internal cultural norms and the desired external perception.

Most organizations that are now starting to find the religion of “customer engagement” operate internally as authoritarian hierarchies. This causes cognitive dissonance among the people that are trying to implement the social media strategy. How can you expect someone, that operates day in and day out getting approvals, wondering what the boss wants, and asking permission, to understand and be able to implement an viable external community environment?

If organizations really want to engage with customers and become part of the conversation, they need to start by holding up the mirror and seeing themselves. Only those organizations that are willing to loosen the reins and allow an internal community culture to take root, will be able to successfully engage their external stakeholders as a community.

Project Community

For the past few days I have had a myopic obsession with the word “community”. So, of course, I began to wonder what happens when you combine the concepts of Project Management with the concept of Community. The first thing that pops into mind is the community of people that are project management practitioners. A worthwhile area of investigation, but I want to look at something a little different…

What happens when we think of “the project” (any project) as a social object? By social object, I mean, something around which conversation naturally emerges. If the nature of a project was so compelling that people chose to talk about it out if interest, as opposed to out of requirement, it could really change the complexion of project effectiveness.

I am not talking about getting rid of PM tools, I am just saying that if people were passionate about a project, there would be less need to beat them about the neck and shoulders to meet deadlines. The point here is not that Social Media, as discussed in earlier posts, directly drives efficiencies, but that is can create a community of project stakeholders that are passionate about the successful completion of a project.

Community Architect

My new job title.

In my earlier post, The Practice of Community, I defined community to be the integration of the many into the one. Not a bad central concept, but I did not develop any mechanics as to how one actually goes about doing it. Upon further thought I am starting to see how it may work.

Scenario: A client or potential customer approaches you and says, “We need a blog for Brand X”. Now you have a choice as to how to respond.

Option A:

That’s great. I agree. Let me tell you about your blogging options…

Option B:


The “Option A” response is the technologist. It probably leads to immediate revenue, and a blog that does not deliver any significant ROI. The “Option B” response is the architect. It leads to a long discussion with the client and maybe no revenue, but with the client ultimately making the best decision possible.

I am clearly an architect by nature. I am always trying to find the new design that works better. I am always looking at how myriad things are interconnected. Now I have come to understand that the single concept that encompasses all of the new activity we are seeing happen on-line is the concept of community. So I figure that makes me a Community Architect.

Think about building a house. The object of activity is the house. The house is designed and built to meet the needs and desires of the home owners. The key roles in building the house are architect, general contractor, and sub-contractor.

Now let’s look at Community. The object of activity is the Social Object, the thing about which conversation revolves. The community emerges to meet the needs and desires of the community members. The roles that seem to be in place now to build (planned) communities are the agencies (general contractors) and the tool vendors (sub-contractors). Hey wait! Who is responsible for seeing the big picture? Who works with the community to understand their needs and desires? We need a Community Architect!

The community architect is the one that has the vision of how to integrate the many into the one. Everyone needs a community architect. Send me a tweet, anytime. 🙂

The Practice of Community

In 1954 Peter Drucker published the Practice of Management. It is considered by many, myself included, to be the seminal work about the nature of organizations in the 20th century. I once read that he spent much effort in naming his book before settling on “Practice” as the key word in the title. My recollection is that he considered ” The Art of Management”, “The Science of Management”, and “The Theory of Management” among others. He decided that “Practice” best described the concept he was after. It is something that we are continually learning and trying to improve by trying it out, or practicing it. So with great homage to Mr. Drucker, I am introducing The Practice of Community.

My definition of community is “the integration of the many into the one”. I will expand on this theme and its broad implications, over time. For now I just want to frame up what this means for me and E Quint Consulting.

NOW I have the elevator speech I have been looking for:

Other person in the elevator: “So, what do you do?”

Me: “I facilitate the development of community as an organizational structure within organizations.”

Other person in the elevator: “Cool! Tell me more about that.”

…or something like that. 🙂

Basically what this means is that I can talk about what is happening all around us with regard to social media, enterprise 2.0, WOM, etc. within the single context of community, where all of these instances are simply examples of “the integration of the many into the one”.

From this basis I see many themes that I want to develop:

  • The cognitive dissonance that occurs when organizations attempt “community” marketing while operating internally as an authoritarian hierarchy.
  • The practice of community is about continually working to include the next the next layer “outside” into the whole.
  • The “tools” of community, both new and old.
  • Why is community a viable organizational model “now”?
  • Can community and hierarchy co-exist?
  • Examples of community that can serve as models for the enterprise.

If you see anything you like here, please take it and run with it and give me a link. Remember this is just one big community. 😉

My new job title: Community Practitioner.

Branding E Quint

Ever since I started thinking about starting my own consulting practice, I have been talking to people to get advice. The one bit of advice I have been getting consistently is to be able to clearly, and quickly, state what irt is that I do (or will do). I am finding that to not be an easy task.

What I know is that there is an opportunity to help organizations rethink their structure and processes. Now I am not the first person to see this, …duh. So the question is what am I bringing to the table? My first response was Social Media expertise. But I think that terminology is going to give me problems on two counts. First, I think it is a difficult conceptual jump for most people to go from Organizational design to Social Media. Secondly, I think the term Social Media is always going to conjure up visions of technology.

So I think I am going to steal a page from the Citizen Agency playbook and start thinking in terms of Community.

Re-Imagine the Organization as Community

My elevator pitch? Let’s take a shot …

I am a consultant that works with organizations to help them look at their structure, processes and culture from a community perspective. I want organizations to consider all of their stakeholders as a single community as opposed to discreet constituents or demographic groups. I want organizations to move away from the traditional “Us vs. Them” mentality: management vs. employees, marketing vs. engineering, customers vs. customer service. I want to see an engaged conversation between stakeholders. And lastly, I want to help facilitate that change.

What do you think?