Tom Wolff’s Newsletter

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Content Copyright © 2013 Bloor. All Rights Reserved.
Also posted on: The Norfolk Punt

I’ve noticed that some people seem to assume that if you talk about technology as being important in organisations today, and (I believe) it is, then you are also saying that everything should be looked after by the IT group.

Not true; technology should be managed by the business as part of the business; and although you do need technologists that understand technology (the laws of physics really can’t be repealed by the marketing director), I think that, ideally, they should probably work in the business and share business goals and successes. Perhaps the ‘IT Group’ of the future is a purely cyberspace organisation, maintained with the aid of robust collaboration tools. OK, I do realise that’s some way off.

Nevertheless, this all applies in spades to Social Collaboration. This is not primarily a software thing and it doesn’t ‘belong’ to the IT group – collaboration tools are only an enabler (although they can be an important enabler, an aspect Bloor focuses on; and don’t forget that some technicians will have to install and maintain them). Collaboration belongs to the whole organisation and is more about people and process than it’s about tools (just buying trendy collaboration tools certainly won’t deliver a collaborative organisation by itself). In fact, if you see Enterprise Architecture (EA) as being about transforming the enterprise (in accordance with business strategy and vision), perhaps Social Collaboration is part of EA – and that shouldn’t be owned by the IT group either.

Which brings me to an interesting newsletter I’ve found: Tom Woolff’s Newsletter from Tom Wolff & Associates. Tom Wolff, Ph.D. is apparantly a recognised consultant on coalition building and community development, with over 30 years’ experience training and consulting with individuals, organisations and communities across North America. He claims that his clients include federal, state and local government agencies, foundations, hospitals, non-profit organizations, professional associations, and grassroots groups.

He has pubilished “The Power of Collaborative Solutions: Six Principles and Effective Tools for Building Healthy Communities”. His Newsletter is mostly about collaborative communities; and more about people and process than technology and software.

His thesis is that collaborative processes are the key to addressing the critical challenges that confront our communities, our states and our nation in the new millennium. Perhaps, on a smaller scale, much the same applies to the challanges facing businesses today. He isn’t at all focussed on implementing collaboration software technologies but on higher collaborative issues.

I think his Newsletter and his book might provide an interesting read, even for people outside of its intended audience, for anyone trying to implement social collaboration in a business enterprise. They are about as far as you can get from ‘guides to installing SharePoint’. For example, the current edition of the Newsletter looks at seven keys to success when implementing multi-site coalitions, including things like “building a learning community”; the book looks at (for instance) how collaboration differs from (in decreasing order of capacity) cooperation, co-ordination and networking.

Who knows, success with social collaboration may even have a spiritual component; to quote Woolff, we must create collaborative social processes that parallel and reflect what we hope the outcomes will look like – in other words, if we want to build an altruistic and ethical collaborative organisation, then we can’t build it in a ‘blame culture’ by diktat, enforced use of software and diversive individual monetary incentives.

This sort of thinking probably underlies successful implementations of social collaboration software, which is only a means to an end.