Tag Archives: Management Theory

Decentralized Governance of Corporate Intranets

Nielson Norman Group LogoOne of the newsletters I read is AlertBox from the Nielsen Norman Group, Jakob Nielson has long been considered the expert on website usability. NN/g does extensive research for major corporations makes the information available to the public. His newsletter this morning included a piece on trends in intranet portals, which make extensive corporate information available for use by employees. In this report I came across a surprise—a section on governance! Most often such reports refer to “management.” This one out and out uses “governance,” talks about “roles” as central in governance, and stresses that in the last year, decentralized governance has been found increasingly beneficial.

Governance Becoming More Decentralized

As enterprise portals mature and grow so does the need for more structured, yet disbursed, portal governance. Portal teams are learning that since the intranet portal touches all layers of the organization, so should the governance. The new case studies reveal a move toward a decentralized or matrix governance model, as opposed to past years where governance was more centralized — being created, communicated, and policed by the enterprise portal owners.

Some organizations find themselves creating governance where once there was none, while others flesh out more specific details of their portal governance structure to accommodate touch points across the organization.

For example, the Carle Foundation has created a governance structure that is both formal and flexible, with defined roles, responsibilities, and workflows. The governance team is drawn from all levels of the organization and has assigned tasks to staff from nearly every operational area across the organization. From the senior sponsor to the individual content contributor everyone has a role to play in ensuring the upkeep and ongoing development of the intranet portal.

Governance, like most aspects of portal development, is marathon not a sprint, and portal teams realize that governance must evolve, as does the portal. (Emphasis added.)

NN/g’s recommendations are based on 83 intranet portals. The corporations studied in this research report were:

  • The Carle Foundation
  • City of Olathe, Kansas
  • Coca-Cola Enterprises Ltd.
  • Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)
  • FDC Solutions, Inc.
  • Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der angewandten Forschung e.V.
  • Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute
  • Municipal Design and Survey Unitary Enterprise “Minskinzhproekt”
  • National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)
  • Northern Arizona University (NAU)
  • Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners
  • Persistent Systems Limited
  • Resource Data, Inc.
  • Think Mutual Bank
  • Department of Transport (Canada)
  • Yara International ASA

Excerpt from “Intranet Portals are the Hub of the Enterprise Universe” by Patty Caya and Kara Pernice on June 29, 2014

Sociocracy Joining the Mainstream

Sociocracy joining the mainstream would allow it to relate its own methods/ideas/concepts to those of mainstream management theorists and industry leaders. This is crucial to the wider acceptance of sociocracy for two reasons:

1. People relate new ideas to what they already know. That can be to concepts or to names/words.

2. When I explain sociocracy to management people, educators and management consultants, they shrug and say all the best organizations do that. Or that’s been focus of management theory since 1967.

The Mainstream

When sociocracy present ideas as uniquely its own it seems to be appropriating ideas, calling itself unique. In fact, these techniques are common, but sociocracy has a better way to combine the techniques of business with democratic values. Management theory has nothing but (sometimes) good intentions.

If sociocracy were presented with phrases such as “Like Peter Senge, sociocracy advocates……” “As did Peter Drucker said in 1957, sociocracy maintains that….” “X corporation’s strategic plan process is similar to that of sociocratic organizations with one exception.” Then people listen. They open up because they can hear ideas in the context of what they have personally already validated.

That’s why I worked so hard to relate sociocracy to other management theorists in We the People. This hadn’t been done before. The relationships in the book are not complete, partly because of my lack of knowledge of management theory in 2007, not that it’s so huge now, but it was a lot of research because I like to work with original sources. The other reason was because of space. The book couldn’t do two things at once. The immediate need was for a comprehensive guide and handbook on sociocracy with as much context as possible.

Unique to Sociocracy

What is unique to sociocracy, I think, are double linking, moving policy making to the bottom of the organization, and structuring policy and operations decisions not to “higher” and “lower” management, but as separate functions. At the upper levels of well-managed organizations, they are separated, if not by those names and if not always consciously. Policies are most often discussed and adopted in special meetings, often at retreats.

Even the use of consent is not unique to sociocracy. Upper management levels also use consent, though consent may not always be binding—there will be a fall back. The lack of a fallback in sociocracy and the clear definition of what “consent” means, however, are unique. The definition of “unique,” despite the word police who say either it’s unique or it isn’t, is a blurry one. Better said that is that consent is extended universally in the organization and used for many more types of decisions.

Sociocracy won’t be widely accepted until it begins to debate the big ideas in an arena where its own ideas will be heard.