Poorly managed organizations are likely to function - or, I should say, malfunction - with frequent use of the exclusive "we" - a divisive verbal tactic also known as the royal "we". I suspect most business people can recall being on the receiving end of an irritating exclusive-we remark from a defensive boss, such as:
"We don't do things that way here."
"Will you stop asking so many questions? We don't tolerate 'fishing expeditions' around here!"
It's quite clear that the speaker is gruffly excluding the person being addressed from the pronoun "we" to stifle communication. Even worse, such poor communication may be indicative of a dysfunctional exclusive-we culture, in which information sharing is discouraged in favor of hoarding information in silos. Such organizations will struggle to so much as acknowledge business problems until they become undeniable crises, leaving managers in constant 'fire-fighting' mode.
Successful, winning companies use the word "we" a lot, too - but in an opposite, winning manner:
"What should we be doing that we aren't doing now?"
"These questions are important. We need to be able to answer them."
What a difference! This time the speaker is invoking the collective "we" to equally include the person being addressed, as well as everyone in the room, and literally everyone throughout the entire organization.
Leaders in highly successful organizations naturally speak and act from a collective-we perspective. Even better, they build a collective-we culture, actively encouraging and supporting information sharing and collaboration. Doing so transforms a company's collective-we into a powerful company asset capable not only of quickly solving problems, but also proactively finding them.
Michael Roberto, a leading business leadership authority whose excellent book Know What You Don't Know I have written about previously, repeatedly emphasizes the vital need for organizations to develop problem finding skills. Roberto recently commented about new technologies that enable internal crowdsourcing (aka the collective-we):
Crowd sourcing can work inside of a company too, and we're seeing more and more companies doing that; particularly global companies that have people spread out around the world. They're using [new] tools to get people sharing [information] across different silos. So to me, that's one of the most really fascinating developments that's happening.
In this recent interview, Michael Roberto shared valuable insights on effective problem finding that further affirms three major ways in which a unified information architecture is a particularly effective technology enabler to build and leverage an organization's collective-we:
Organizations must frankly answer, "Why did we fail?"
I think one really good way to [start cultivating problem finding skills] is to take a look at a failure that took place in the organization. Ask yourself, "Could we have seen it coming... were there some signals we missed? Why did we miss them?"
Our customers who have undertaken such "candid self-assessment" have discovered that they had been acting based on an incomplete informational picture that was indeed missing critical business signals. Such signals reside within unstructured content - free-flowing text residing in document repositories, SharePoint, wikis, file servers and external websites. Unstructured content typically makes up the vast majority of all enterprise information, but it is also typically severely underutilized.
A unified information architecture fills this huge void by integrating and joining all siloed sources - unstructured content as well as structured data - presented to end users through a wide variety of access tools.
Boil large quantities of information down to what really matters, so people will consume it.
[In the] old-school way, you built a big report, you put it in a binder and it collected dust... the answer is not a big report. The [real] answer is three bullets... the couple of takeaways - and technology can play a role in helping to share those. But the most important thing is boiling it down... If you (have) a 100-page report... no one is going to read it.
A unified information architecture mines "those key takeaways" from every "100-page report no one is going to read" through natural language processing (NLP) and text analytics, including extraction of entities (such as names, products, places), key phrase extraction, entity normalization, content classification and much more. Combined with the power of universally indexing all information, text analytics 'add structure to unstructured content' essential to maximize the findability and joinability of unstructured text with related content and/or data from other sources.
It's also important to note a successful unified information architecture will also present the user with the information most relevant for the issue at hand, and not just a long list of documents to sort through. This includes providing intelligent recommendations of other highly relevant information sources to best enable the discovery of new insights and new ideas to help quickly find and solve a problems and identify new opportunities.
As a result, UIA ensures "those key takeaways" from every "100-page report no one is going to read" will be discovered by users whenever they are needed to help directly address any given matter at hand.
In an intriguing service knowledge management example, a level 1 IT support technician for a leading financial services firm successfully resolved a serious enterprise application failure incident with no known workaround in the first call: the company's UIA-powered service knowledge solution surfaced an ideal resolution buried within a 100-plus page application development transitional document, written by one of the original Indian programmers.
Few people probably ever read the entire document, or even knew it existed; and yet, the company's unified information architecture empowered the company's collective-we from halfway around the world to fully leverage the problem-solving value within that document when it was needed.
"You can't chase down everything"... but a unified information architecture can.
You can't chase down everything [every piece of information for every possible issue]. I think that part of the job of the leader is to be able to prioritize... [and] recognize that you have talent around you that can help you.
The same financial services firm and other Attivio customers have also integrated key information about their own employees into their unified information architecture, particularly areas of subject matter expertise and current areas of research. Through such Expert Finder capabilities, a worker within a global organization can find and reach out to fellow co-workers for help down the hall or anywhere in the world - once again, empowering the organization's collective-we to cross international boundaries.
A unified information architecture is a force multiplier that unleashes the power of the collective intelligence of the entire organization; its internal crowdsource of knowledge and expertise, including trusted partners and external resources, to solve business problems, and, even more importantly, find business problems before they become serious issues.
Infographic: From Unacceptable Performance to Service Excellence
Service management excellence requires knowledge management excellence. Manual efforts to gather and correlate vital service information often fail, wasting significant time and leading to poor service performance and higher costs.
Check out the infographic success story of an Attivio Service Knowledge Expert customer that empowered its service reps with a 360-degree view ofallenterprise data and content related to a given service incident – complete with recommended information most likely to quickly resolve that incident at the first level of support.