5 case studies — Social technology impacting management

We’ve tossed around a lot of ideas on {grow} about how technology is impacting our lives, but I’m also really interested in how it is impacting the culture of our companies.

For example, what is it going to be like leading a new workforce that is conditioned to manage relationships through text messages and accustomed to the continual stimulation and reward of video games?   As they enter the workforce, are they going to change our companies?  Or, are our companies going to change them?  Maybe a little of both?

The intersection of technology, Generation Text, and corporate culture will have vast implications for recruiting and retention, training, compensation, HR policies … nearly every company-employee touch-point in fact!

With this backdrop, you can imagine how interested I was to read a report from McKinsey on a competition they held to identify how Web 2.0 tools and technologies are changing management.  From 143 entries, here are five big ideas:

1. Sharing common resources more efficiently

Employees of the Dutch government are using web-based tools to share offices, conference spaces, and other resources. The employees were facing too many bureaucratic hurdles, and even had to reserve meeting space in their own buildings through an outside agency!  One particularly frustrated employee tweeted her exasperation to colleagues, and they decided to form a group to build their own reservation system with open-source software.  They rolled it ou,t building by building, and now the system includes more than 53 offices and 554 work spaces across the country. The employees say the net result is a “shift from the focus of individual ‘ownership’ as defined by specific government buildings and offices to a sense of ‘stewardship’ shared across the spectrum of government.”

2. Global training with local experts

Essilor International, a global maker of ophthalmic lenses, created an internal training program that mixes in-person and Web 2.0 formats to transmit best practices among 102 sites in 40 countries. The company says that a mastery level that once took three years to achieve can now be reached in about one.  A lens-processing center in Thailand, for example, developed a game to teach new workers how to understand the shape of a given kind of lens; now it’s used in Brazil too. A social-network feature enables coaching across multinational locations. The system is called “Entangled Talents” because the company said “the talents of individual employees across the globe have become entangled, creating a web that supports the company’s daily operations.”

3. Powering continuous improvement 

Best Buy has more than 1,500 locations and more than 100,000 employees on the frontlines of customer service.  In an effort to make sure that senior managers learn what those employees are hearing from customers, the company created an online platform that rewarded employee feedback on what they are hearing from customers.  The platform allows everyone to see collated information from all stores in a useful and searchable format. This information is powering a movement of continuous improvement that has affected things as simple as the signs in one store and as complicated as decisions about how to implement a national promotion.

4. Social networking for new product development 

Rite-Solutions, a software company, built an internal idea marketplace that has so far generated 15 new commercial products that account for 20 percent of the company’s total revenue. This system goes far beyond a typical brain-storming platform. The internal website connects potential new products with the resources, experience, and expertise that can bring ideas to life. The internal social networking site enables communities to organically develop to further improve, develop, and commercialize new product ideas.

5. Using internal communities to reduce time-to-market

The Mexico-based cement giant Cemex introduced an internal-collaboration platform called Shift, which has helped the company reduce the time needed to introduce new products and make internal process improvements. Shift uses a mix of wikis, blogs, discussion boards, and Web-conferencing tools to speed problem-solving.  When employees use Shift, ideas, suggestions, and  recommendations bubble up across the network. Communities of interest are form to tackle challenges common to their locations, markets, and skill sets.  Projects can move forward without the barriers posed by traditional hurdles, such as over-reliance on e-mail and live meetings. The payoff is lower cycle  times, faster time to market, and real-time process improvement.  The company has 500 active internal problem-solving communities.  An example: Cemex invited 400 employees involved with its ready-mix products to help figure out which worked best and which were redundant. The result is a slimmed-down product line offered in a constantly updated catalog available globally.

How is your company using social technologies and Web 2.0 tools to manage smarter?  Any case studies and successes you’d like to share?

High expectations. A {growtoon}.

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