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Top Down vs. Bottom Up June 4, 2007

Posted by Jeff in collaboration, corporate.

A couple of recent comments on this blog got me to thinking a bit more about the role of corporate culture in the success of Enterprise 2.0 adoption. While I do recognize that the culture of an organization can be influenced by the leadership team at the top of the organization, in my experience working in very large organizations (i.e. thousands of employees) the scope of this influence is determined by a couple of key factors:

  1. The overall size of the organization. In a large organization, there are often many layers of management between the corporate leadership team, and the employees “down in the trenches”. All it takes is a couple of (intentional or unintentional) dams along the management stream for the trickle-down effect to be cut off.
  2. The stability of the leadership structure. It is very common in large organizations for senior executives to change roles/positions within the company, which means that they will have their own priorities, biases and experiences which they use to lead.

These are a couple of reasons why I am still not convinced that it is a good idea to rely on senior executives to lead the build-up of a collaborative culture within an organization. Even if the intentions are good, it takes a lot of planets to align in order get some significant results. On the other hand, for the eager and impatient employee, the alternative is to bite the bullet and take on some more responsibility – which likely means trying to introduce the Enterprise 2.0 ideas to the workplace from the bottom up. Don’t get me wrong, executive support is very important for fostering a collaborative culture – but if you are waiting for your boss to initiate the conversation, then you may be in for a long wait.


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