Enabling Action-Orientation with Collaborative Technologies

Estimated reading time: 2 mins

Web2.0 and collaborative technologies promise a new world of integrated thought leadership. However they are not without their flaws.

There are three key weaknesses in the typical use of collaborative technologies. The weaknesses are in the way decisions are made that lead to action.

  1. Decisions are made by committees. The larger the group of contributors to a discussion and the degree of diversity in the group has an exponential effect on the time needed to achieve a concensus, and even then decision tend to be the average point in cost/effectiveness. Innovation is rarely an attribute of committees as the status-quo is often upheld.
  2. Discussions are open-ended. Discussion in groups, if not time-boxed, can last forever. There is a constant tug between closing the decision and new information presenting itself that will influence the decision. It becomes perpetually iterative and ends up with ‘analysis paralysis.’
  3. Accountability for decisions. When collaborative technologies bring large numbers of people together, who is actually accountable for the decision? Contributors to a decision, unless they have sufficient vested interest in the outcome, have no real accountability.

Executives in organizations love action. Action means progress and delivery, and then bonuses. I can imagine them shuddering if they knew decisions were to be made without the above weaknesses being addressed. So how do we do that?

Well I don’t think it’s too difficult.

  1. Decisions should be made by select groups, and not the whole population. Online tools such as LinkedIn and Facebooksupport this in fact. Group membership can be controlled by group moderators, and then invitation to specific tasks can restrict contributors further.
  2. Decisions should have an end-date, and again the above technologies can support this. Facebook, for example, allows events to be scheduled. Events should be scheduled to initiate the decision process, review and checkpoint the process midway, and close the process. Subsequent events should share the decision made with any supporting information such as action lists and owners. LinkedIn has the feature of automatically closing questions.
  3. With restricted membership of the group, accountability is clearer. Membership allows only invested people to contribute to the decision. When initiating the decision process, it is essential therefore to clarify the roles and responsibilities such as people with specific expertise, and also arbiters who resolve disputes.

An effective decision process that drives a decision towards a planned date will not only increase the quality of the decision, but allow action at the desired time. Using collaborative technologies gives action-owners the confidence that they have a supporting community behind them.

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