Leveraging Networks and Social Software for Mission Success: Web 2.0 Tools Help Dynamically Assess Contributions, Grasp Organizational Sentiment, and Identify Key Human Capital Assets

By McCluskey, Tom; Korobow, Adam | The Public Manager, Summer 2009 | Go to article overview

Leveraging Networks and Social Software for Mission Success: Web 2.0 Tools Help Dynamically Assess Contributions, Grasp Organizational Sentiment, and Identify Key Human Capital Assets


McCluskey, Tom, Korobow, Adam, The Public Manager


Corporate and federal leaders are learning that traditional, hierarchical organizational ("org") charts are no longer accurate (; depictions of how and by whom work gets done in modern institutions. They worked well in an era when output was mostly characterized by a linear, step-by-step process and accurately reflected work flow. However, in today's environment, where information, both tacit and explicit, is not only part of the production process, but also the end-product, the traditional hierarchical org chart breaks down in describing how work gets done and, most important, cannot answer the questions, "Who knows what?" and "Where do I go for information?"

Most organizations have work or socially based networks of employees. The arrival of social software--Internet applications that link people together formally or informally--has dramatically altered the way information is shared and how knowledge is created in an organization. Those applications fundamentally complement networks: they enhance existing networks and can facilitate the rapid formation of new ones around a task or organization-wide initiative.

Social software helps make organizational networks virtually explicit and provides an environment for tacitly existing networks to create linkages and share information. Thus, social software applications are becoming a critical component in managing the modern knowledge-based organization--they enable information sharing and the creation of knowledge that can greatly enhance mission success. Organizations that do not embrace and understand the power of networks will likely fail to compete in business or fall short of achieving their mission objectives.

Background

Despite the exponential growth in social networks, federal-sector organizations have been slow to understand this phenomenon and tap its potential. Notable exceptions where government has successfully adopted and implemented such technologies include the Director of National Intelligence's Office of Analytic Transformation and Technology, which last year deployed A-Space--a common collaborative workspace for all analysts from across the intelligence community (IC).A-Space went online on the government's classified joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System September 22, 2008. This system is accessible from common workstations around the globe and across multiple agencies.

A-Space stores information and allows one to search for and retrieve both classified and unclassified analytic information and enables Web-based messaging and collaboration--regardless of organizational affiliation. This innovative approach is unprecedented in the IC, which has also begun using micro-blogs like Twitter to disseminate critical information on events such as the recent swine flu outbreak. More recently, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) announced its own use of Web 2.0 tools such as Facebook, You Tube, and Twitter.

Despite these examples of successful social media implementations, few federal organizations have embraced social networking tools and technologies to link communities of practice and interest. To many federal leaders, these networks and new technologies represent a potential threat to established command and control, normalized operating systems, and sound security practices. Social networks can be chaotic, yet creative; they often promulgate variance in ideas and approaches, outcomes that traditional hierarchies seek to eliminate. Given the relative newness of social networking technologies combined with the cultural barriers and bureaucratic mistrust of these open systems, solutions on how best to leverage these technologies to enhance institutional performance are still in their infancy. In an effort to contribute to the development of such solutions, we focus on how such networks could provide an exciting opportunity to dynamically assess contributions, grasp organizational sentiment, and identify key human capital assets. …

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