I've written before about how a little disagreement can be a good thing for companies. It fosters diverse thinking and should result in a more thorough, and thus better, decision-making process.
But while disagreement is your friend, unresolved disagreement is not, writes Mike Schaffner on his Beyond Blinking Lights and Acronyms blog. He goes on to make the point that by giving folks a platform to air and discuss their opinions, collaboration technology can help resolve disagreements .He writes:
Collaboration technology can also be a vehicle for people to put forward their opinions and allow others to comment and discuss the merits of someone's positions. Technology doesn't care who you are or what your rank in the organization is. It dispassionately publishes your position to all, where it must stand on its own merits. It can be a great leveling device.
This is the same kind of democratic communication model Dell uses on its IdeaStorm community, where users vote on ideas submitted by other users.
Schaffner was inspired by a post written by Cisco CTO Padmasree Warrior, Cisco's chief technology officer, in which she uses a new acronymn NGCE (Next Generation Collaborative Enterprise) to describe "a virtual organization that dynamically forms and executes against a company's priorities." The quote cited by Schaffner:
It is important to point out that collaboration must not be confused with consensus or teamwork. Collaboration does not mean everyone must agree before any decision is made. Nor does it suggest that there is no room for individual creativity.
The rest of Warrior's post is worth a read, as well. She describes an enterprise that forgoes the traditional command-and-control management style for one in which "clusters of experts" make decisions, which are then communicated through social media applications. Organizational functions become less relevant, and the whole enterprise becomes more flexible and fluid.
Existing technology architectures will have to change to incorporate mobility, security, synchronous and asynchronous communication, personalization, community, team spaces, borderless networks, and rich interactions ? and possibly "additional functionality that will evolve over time," writes Warrior. But just as important, companies will have to tweak their processes for strategy and planning, delivering value to customers and partners, human capital, innovation and design, manufacturing and distribution, marketing and messaging.
Sounds like a tall order, but Cisco is making headway in its own organizational structure. Of course, it's internally testing collaboration applications it hopes to sell to other companies. It introduced a slew of new unified communications and collaboration tools at a user event and announced plans to buy Norwegian videoconferencing company Tandberg in November.