Alrik's Blog

A blog about Enterprise 2.0 and it's facets.

Managers and Social Software June 29, 2010

Filed under: Social Software — alrikd @ 23:59
Tags: , , ,

The German weekly newsmagazine Wirtschaftswoche just published an article about managers and their behavior in decision-making within enterprises. The author subsume that most managers overestimate themselves, ignore critic and orient oneself on wrong rules of the thumb.
But managers who recognizes this behavior can change the environment for decision-making processes around them. Collective Intelligence may one answer.

Status Quo of decision-making

Kahneman a Nobel prize winner and professor at the honorable Princeton university words it as follows; most decision makers rely on their intuition because they think, they can fully appraise the situation.
Let’s show an example. What would your boss do, if the blond and very lovely executive secretary made a proposal about the new office equipment, or the cleaner does? Most of them would take the proposal of the secretary more seriously, than the cleaners. But that is fatal! Most Managers rely more on their gut instincts than on the hard facts.
The same behaviors appear at ad-hoc decision processes. Most of the managers think, they are very effective due to their big experience base. But this is not entirely right. Ad-hoc decisions are useful, if situations are repetitive and occurring without significant changes. By way of example policemen face such situations all day long and they get constantly feedback. Almost each possible situation is well-trained beforehand and reviewed after the shift.
But now let’s face the situation of a manager. The market entrance of a new product is not the same, like it was in the company before and even feedback processes are (mainly) missing. Most decisions are too complex and the intuition doesn’t work them too.

Five invisible pitfalls

Based on the thoughts of the article mentioned above, the author of Wirtschaftswoche has identified five critical pitfalls.


Most decision makers value their place too positively; e.g. most smokers think that they don’t get cancer beside strong statistical facts. Managers act in the same way; projects last longer than planned, the costs increase faster than calculated and often the results are much worse than thought before.

inflated ego

Individuals are tending to an overestimation of their own and an underestimation of the competitors skill-set. Hence they take risks without a solid numerical and economical foundation.

herd instinct

Individuals tend to adopt the behavior of their fellow-men. Especially in meetings employees try to reach a consensus with their colleagues, even if there are better solutions or critical issues to mention. They try to keep the inner balance of the group beside their own opinions.


Like mentioned above managers are no computers with strict logical decision routines. They are emphatic and feel sympathy or antipathy with one of their subordinates or managers. Likewise some are more focused on reaching specific goals of their department than follow the visions of the company.


We aren’t able to value information without strong personal influences. Per definition information are only a set of characters combined with a syntax. We rate them with our own mind scheme and information we had before. If the other information support our created opinion, we add them to our thought framework and decide that they are very useful. If they don’t fit, we deny them mostly without strict logical reasons. Hence we are prejudiced in our thoughts and experiences we made, when we get an other response to make a decision.

It is obvious, managers need help in decision-making processes. The gut instinct isn’t enough and even the experience base sometimes doesn’t help, but who may help. EXPERTS and their network!

How experts share knowledge

In the blog post of Tobias Mitter some answers are given. The ideal environment for decisions are open and fully connected workforces, if you combine it with an effective and efficient Knowledge and Information Management, hurrah you have done a big step to an Enterprise 2.0 and optimal support for your managers.
But a realistic view on your company will show that your experts often keep their knowledge private, sometimes even when they got asked directly. Empiric studies have identified reasons why experts keep knowledge private:

  • they fear of loss of status within the company

  • the drain of knowledge from the worker to the organization, if it isn’t needed anymore they get fired

  • fear of criticism

  • lack of appreciation from managers and colleagues

  • lack of time

  • no benefits for the single person

  • restrictive and indoctrinated communication patterns

No technical issues are mentioned nor the absence of willingness by the employees. This is very important because it shows that the employees want to share knowledge and interact. Maybe the already existing communication channels, like email, Chat and meetings, are not enough?!

Create a knowledge sharing-friendly environment

Your workforce need an environment where knowledge sharing isn’t an other task in the time line of the day, they need to understand that it is they key value of each organization. The information flow is increasingly important, especially for your decision makers. They need a critical and open-minded workforce and no fellow runners.
If the base is working efficiently, produces the right information at the right moment then you’ll have well supported managers. It is quiet similar to the working processes of assembly lines, but the goods are not made from iron or synthetic material, your input are information delivered just-in-time and even better just-in-sequence (it means: at the right time, at the right place and in the right oder).
Managers again have to understand that their gut instincts are not enough to decide on market entrances or purchasing options. They have to use their workforce, the information and the knowledge of the organization.

How Social Software can help?!

Social Software can help to connect experts within your company. Ease the search for information, experts and stakeholders. They are also suitable to increase the awareness.

  • informal awareness – are the kinds of things people normally know about each other, when they work together

  • social awareness – information you receive about a person in a conversational context (is the person paying attention, does he/she feel well or the level of interest), maintained by feedback-channels (verbal or non-verbal)

  • group-structural awareness – information about people’s roles and responsibilities and their status

  • workspace awareness – information about the interaction of employees with the workspace and its included artifacts (documents). Who is working when with whom and which documents.

Social Software can increase each of them. Awareness is the starting point for excellent processes and well-reasoned decisions. They lead to a high motivated workforce, a high alignment to the enterprise strategies and a higher knowledge. Employees are much more engaged and they connect among each other to a vital Social Network, which is able to support information. The social network of the company is also able to filter internal and external information for the decision-making processes. The fear of the information flood is mainly baseless. A stable and vital network of experts, information/knowledge and open-minded managers can set up a well prepared company for the competition.But how managers are utilizing Social Software so far?

Managers and Social Software utilization

A study from Deutsche Telekom, the defacto.x and Selbst-Gmbh explored the usage of Social Media.
80 % of the managers are already engaged in Social Media channels like Xing, Twitter LinkedIn an others. Every third is communicating actively with Social Software and every fourth is publishing decisions or knowledge in blogs and wiki.
In most companies Enterprise 2.0 is more and more recognized and organized as a project more than a whole strategy! A lot of managers fear about a loss of control about their communication and data privacy protection. The loss of unique knowledge is the third big fear. But one-third has already established guidelines for the use of Social Software. Stephan Grabmeier, leading author of the study, summarizes the results: “The Web 2.0 Culture change needs to be exemplified primarily by executives. Collective Intelligence, communication without hierarchy and Open Innovation are far more than only buzzwords.”

Managers need the support of the workforce and start to find tools and methods for efficient collaboration and knowledge sharing to support their decisions and motivation of their employees.