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I am interested in exploring how workplaces are actually changing (not the hype). This blog is my place for thinking out loud about what I see happening - or not happening.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The new supplementing, not supplanting the old (2)

We took this picture just off Brick Lane in London early last year. The place is a magnet for cool.

The starting point in helping me to understand how organisations work is Karl Weick. I am not saying it is the only place I could begin, but it is where I started. Serendipity led me to pick his Social Psychology of Organising off the shelf of the library of Cranfield University early in my doctoral research explorations.

Weick says there is no such thing as an 'organisation'. Rather, he descrbes the process of dynamic organising as an outcome of "conjunctions of sets of procedures, interpretations, behaviours and objectives to be achieved." He points out that "the appearance of continuity and repetition in processes across time is attributable to the rules and procedures that regulate behaviour ... most 'things in organisations are actually relationships tied together in systematic fashion".

So what?

Weick for me gets to the heart of the matter. In all the excitement about enterprise social networking, Enterprise 2.0, focusing on the technologies and making generalised statements about the need for senior executive support and creating receptive cultures, Weick offers us insight and ways of thinking about what happens when networks of people act together. Social networking is not new, in fact organisations have always just been exactly that - patterns of relationships constrained and enabled by an enterprise's formal systems.

He does a really interesting thing in the last chapter of the book. He says that "if we can understand how nine people go about the work of getting organised, producing, dissolving and restructuring, then we should have some clear idea of what to expect when we watch one thousand people go through the same activities"

I will have a go at thinking this through tomorrow - and what its significance might be for enterprise social networking dynamics.

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