Why Company Culture Is Critical to Successful Collaboration Technology Deployments

T. Banting

Summary Bullets:

  • Company culture is pivotal to the successful adoption of collaboration solutions.
  • Task cultures are more likely to succeed in reacting to change and adapting to the organizational challenges required to transform a business using collaborative solutions.

Technology alone does not allow a business to change and transform. It won’t make organizations more efficient, productive, creative, or innovative unless businesses are able to assimilate the technology into their culture. Company culture is pivotal to the successful adoption of collaboration solutions; indeed, oftentimes there is too much focus on technology rather than addressing change and rethinking how employees, partners, and customers work together.

Organizational Culture

Organizational culture is made up of shared values, beliefs, and assumptions about how people should behave and interact, how decisions should be made, and how work should be carried out. The adoption of collaborative technologies that are inconsistent with organizational culture is likely to meet with resistance, making it more difficult to implement. Consequently, an understanding of organizational culture is essential prior to the adoption of collaboration technologies. In his popular work on organizational cultures, Charles Handy presents four major types of culture: power, role, person, and task culture.

  • Power Culture: Power-oriented organizations can respond quickly to events but are heavily dependent on the abilities of the people at the center of their company. Control of resources is the main power base in this culture, in conjunction with some elements of personal power; consequently, communication and the flow of information is from the top down.
  • Role Culture: This type of organization is typified by strong functional or specialized teams coordinated by a narrow band of senior management at the top and a high degree of standardization. This type of organization is likely to be successful in a stable environment, where the market is steady and predictable. Conversely, the role culture finds it difficult to adapt to change; it is usually slow to perceive the need for it and to respond appropriately.
  • Person Culture: In a person-oriented culture, individuals are the focal point; control and management hierarchies are impossible in these cultures except by mutual consent or by a committee of peers. Such an organization consists of groups of professionals (e.g., consultants, doctors, or lawyers), with no manager. Co-ordination is typically provided by a committee of peers.
  • Task Culture: Task culture is project-oriented and associated with organizations that adopt matrix or project-based structures. This culture looks to bring together the right resources and the appropriate employees for addressing specific projects. Typically, teams are formed for a specific purpose, can be re-formed or dissolved, and contain all the decision-making authority required.

A task-oriented culture is therefore most likely to benefit from collaborative solutions. Healthy cultures are a strong asset that can result in long-term, sustainable competitive advantages; however, it should never be assumed that technology will be adopted, and its ROI realized, without understanding the needs of the users and the culture of the department or organization.

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