As explained in previous posts, corporations and organizations that choose to outsource or organize across geographically separated units face a lot of risks related to communication, coordination and leadership.
The question is, can we leverage some of the dynamics of self-organizing networks or natural born virtual organizations to compensate for the lack of organizational glue?
I believe the answer is yes.
An old cliché tells us that the human capital is the most important asset of the firm. While not agreeing with this on a general level is difficult, I would propose that the social capital and the way it is applied is of equal importance to the skills and competencies of the individual level.
What good is a bunch of PhD’s if they dont communicate, interact and collaborate in an efficient and value-creating way? In fact, the value of social capital and its deployment applies not only to PhD’s but to all kinds of employees.
How can the idea of social capital be applied to companies that are transitioned from local to virtual?
If we look again at some of the problems that these organization are typically facing, we find that many of them can be applied to the lack of or inefficient deployment of social capital.
Therefore, what we need to do is to start with the employees themselves. What are their motivation for being in the organization? Is it for a monthly pay check, because of career opportunities, or just for the fun of it?
A self-motivated workforce is not something we can build over night, we can build structures and procedures that incite a culture of self motivation.
Lets take an outsourced IT support function as an example. What we could do is to put in place an solution-exchange in which IT supporters can post problems and solutions, and rate the contributions delivered by other contributors. If we were really brave, we would let the customer end users rate the solutions delivered.
Suddently, customer satisfaction is built in to the system and on the minds of the supporters in every thing they do. Employees are crediting eachother for contributions in an direct and very rewarding way.
We could build the use of the solution-exchange in to the career plans and performance measures – but this may not even be necessary as the social capital put into the network is already at work and gaining momentum.
Structures, procedures and solutions do not solve all problems, but they can make a difference. If you want a picnic, build a park, not a parking lot 🙂