Montag, 17. Januar 2011

Cultural change and Enterprise 2.0

- Is the “right” corporate culture the basis or an effect of successful e2.0 projects? -

Anja Wittenberger
In the context of enterprise 2.0 there is an ongoing discussion about the following question: 
“Do we have to change the corporate culture to be successful with the internal and external use of social media or is the cultural change a result of the consistent transformation to an enterprise 2.0?”

In addition to the general discussion my daily consultant experience clarifies that task. In customer projects I usually introduce to the clients how to use a wiki as a tool for preparing, executing and wrapping up meetings, for instance live reporting during the meeting by all participants.
Obviously it’s an easy and simple option to gain a higher benefit.
All participants agree that they have to handle many daily tasks which now can be processed with much more efficiency and transparency by using collaboration tools. The pleasure at work increases and they feel more confident and satisfied.
It’s easy to see that a wiki prospectively will be a standard tool during meeting like a flipchart or beamer.

Often the following objection arises: “But we can`t believe, that this is working within our corporate culture.”

So in my opinion two questions come up:
(1)  Is the “right” corporate culture or the relevant corporate evolution in connection with enterprise 2.0 the foundation for a success? or
(2)  Is the cultural change an effect for the successful evolution to an enterprise 2.0?

Corporate culture
Corporate Culture is the sum of all things a company takes for granted. This includes the basic values and the internal and external cooperation. (via Hoffmann Group) a company without culture doesn’t exist.

The corporate culture and enterprise 2.0 have one essential thing in common. Both need the cooperation and they naturally influence each other.

“..In companies with a bad working atmosphere the effort of these ‘social’ systems can’t be successful!...” Bernd Schmitz (via

Therefore enterprise 2.0 can’t be an efficacious remedy. Companies without a successful and well-performing enterprise 1.0 are not able to become an excellent enterprise 2.0 just by using a social software suite or statements like “We are open, we share knowledge and we work all together in a collaborative intranet!”

The most important requirements are open communication and a handling of mistakes free of judgement according to the popular saying “Where wood is chopped, splinters must fall”.
The posting of J. Buschbacher and E.Graf (via reaffirms that a fear of criticism supports failure of enterprise 2.0 projects.

The companies certainly need openness for change, a collaborative working atmosphere, employees, who want to make their work better and faster and last but not least a top-management, which can degrease a little bit of control.

Businesses want and need to change to keep up with development of society and technology. Enterprise 2.0 shifts the focus back on humans and raises the question “How do we want to collaborate today and in the future?”
Exactly for this task the web 2.0 generated various practices and technologies to support companies during the competition of playing a significant role in market.
Most of the businesses already realized that necessity. The change bears chances as well as risks.
Often companies fear enterprise 2.0 is just a reinvention of things already in place and increasing chaos.

This was one of the questions during an interview with Andrew McAffee, teacher at the Sloan school of Economics and the originator of the definition of enterprise 2.0:

“…Andreas Thomann (credit Suisse):
Web 2.0 is based on a horizontal, democratic and spontaneous kind of collaboration. How does that fit in a corporate structure, which is shaped vertical and hierarchical?
Andrew McAfee:
In fact it sounds like a contradiction. Enterprise 2.0 doesn’t mean that companies have to scrap their hierarchical and tight organized structure. The new technologies are not a substitute for the present structures and technologies, but an addition. The benefit develops especially in times when innovative solutions are required.
In those times companies are interested in gathering the knowledge and horizon of experience of their employees…” (via

Enterprise 2.0 is focused on methods and technologies of communication and knowledge exchange and benefits the collective improvement.
When companies start to change their ways, technologies and behavior of communication, they change their operating principles as well as their corporate culture by living enterprise 2.0. It doesn’t really matter what kind of corporate culture already exists at this point. You need to get the consciousness that enterprise 2.0 is not an IT-project but an evolution with variances in organization, culture, process and of the technological attempt.
This attitude supports a successful creation of your own enterprise 2.0 initiatives.

Where do we have to start?
First you need to answer the following questions:
What (tools, methods, values) do I want to adapt for my company? What kinds of modification do we need to support the company’s and employees’ efficiency?
What chances accrue from these modifications? What risks do we have to attend? And what kind of adaption suits to my company and its employees? When do we have to start? NOW!

Start your initiative. Prepare an ‘open space’ event together with your employees. Just live the participation and collaboration in a real event including personal conversations where you give the possibility to all participants to make their ambitions clear in a free way. You’ll see if your company is already open for enterprise 2.0 and you’ll create first pilot projects for testing the tools in the field.

“… creating a real added value is only possible, if you permit the participative components in your company…” said Arnd Layer, IBM Germany. He is the competency Leader of Web 2.0 and social software. (via

The most important requirements for a success of this first step are:
  • Defining clear and fix targets
  • Voluntary participation
  • A solid organizational and subject-specific preparation
  • A powerful key note in presentation
  • External support for moderation
  • A quick and pithy report of the results
  • An easy and central access of the results to all employees
  • A subject-specific evaluation of the results and take adequate measures
  • The conclusion has to be communicated by the top-management
These events achieve a kind of new energy for all employees who campaign for useful changes.

“… When the topic social media comes up, two philosophies come into conflict:
  • A mechanistic deterministic philosophy represented by most of the companies and
  • A liberate-selfish oriented philosophy represented by (mostly) the younger employees and clients of the companies
This situation causes in many companies an ongoing evolution. …“ (via

During the next steps this energy and dynamic needs to be channeled and leveraged for a successful development of your enterprise 2.0 projects.

So the following answers appear to the questions posed at the beginning:
Is the “right” corporate culture or the relevant corporate evolution in connection with enterprise 2.0 the foundation for a success?
If a company has an open culture, a flat hierarchy, a well functioning cooperation and a permanent will for evolution, the cultural aspect is given and supports the success of this project.

Is the cultural change an effect for the successful evolution to an enterprise 2.0?
If a company decides to use tools and methods of enterprise 2.0, the company culture will change. The possibility of an open communication accrues for instance by the chance of annotating postings in a blog. Suddenly the employees who share the knowledge in a collaborative intranet prove themselves valuable. These employees will be noticed because of exactly this fact and earn more acceptation from the whole company. Their department or position is not relevant at this point.

Cultural evolution is both, foundation and effect.

It’s an indispensable must to pay attention on this aspect of enterprise 2.0 projects and take adequate measures to support the change.

If you heed the advice resulting from successful enterprise 2.0 projects “think big and begin small”, every company will find the suitable way to become an “enterprise 2.0”.

guestpost written by Anja Wittenberger (TwentyOne AG) works as a
Consultant for collaboration and communication in the enterprise2.0-way


  1. Good Post.

    “Do we have to change the corporate culture to be successful with the internal and external use of social media or is the cultural change a result of the consistent transformation to an enterprise 2.0?”

    From my point of view, this is a chicken-egg relationship. To solve the dilemma, enterprises usually start with technology deployment (which is easier) before going for a change to motivate people for transparency (which is seems rather difficult in the beginning).

    Unfortunately technological systems change more rapidly than social structures do. Before users can adapt to a technology and learn to use it effectively, they are confronted with a new one.

  2. Very interesting post!

    I agree with A. Stocker in the question of the chicken-egg relationship, but in relation to newer results of research it dont't seems to be the most important dilemma. Some users does adapt newer systems very fast (and sometimes as pioneers of their organisation) and for the others there is the need of a more guided exploration.

    Just now, there is an interesting interview proceeding on (german), in which Dr. Richter - an expert in Enterprise 2.0 research - explains some interesting details out of his research experience.

    You can access the interview here:

  3. It seems that corporate structure (roles and job descriptions) should match a culture where implementation of ESN are successfully implemented.  But when I browse Career sites for companies with ESNS, I still see traditional corporate hierarchies.  I don't feel coporate culture, at least in the U.S., truly reflects a flat hierarchy.

  4. Milos Vujnovic3. Juni 2012 um 20:37

    Well, the whole process of change needs a long breathe and endurance in order to be successfully completed. This probably is the biggest challenge in implementing enterprise 2.0 in any kind of way. But be aware, that the more the younger generation is growing up naturally with electronic devices and services, the more they will also want to use these things in their companies, so the adoption will in the end take a natural way. 


Disqus for Enterprise 2.0 & Social Media Strategies