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Opinion Leaders and Lead Opinions: Reflections on Steven Sinofsky’s “Era of Continuous Productivity” vision

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Social networks and social media are reshaping not only our personal lives but our workplace/business lives as well. No doubt about that. There is the continuous productivity idea as well in the realm of software engineering (via agile whatever). No wonder that Steven Sinofsky – with a 23 year carrier in Microsoft – might be the first one to recognize the disruptive effect of the latest “social xxx” practices on the workplace. In fact he is speaking about a whole paradigm shift in the business world as the result of that:

In his post about Continuous Productivity: New tools and a new way of working for a new era [‘Learning by Shipping’, Aug 20, 2013] Steven Sinofsky is putting forward a quite bold vision of the future:
image

The cloud-powered smartphone and tablet, as productivity tools, are transforming the world around us along with the implied changes in how we work to be mobile and more social. We are in a new era, a paradigm shift, where there is evolutionary discontinuity, a step-function break from the past. This constantly connected, social and mobile generational shift is ushering a time period on par with the industrial production or the information society of the 20th century. Together our industry is shaping a new way to learn, work, and live with the power of software and mobile computing—an era of continuous productivity.

While I completely agree with what Mr. Sinofsky has written about (even enthusiastic about that), I also heavily miss two things he was not taking into consideration at all:

  1. The current old-style management represents a phenomenon which is ages old (in fact since the tribal times of the mankind): the unavoidable existence of – what I would call – opinion leaders.
  2. The current rank and files practices is an ages old phenomenon as well: the unavoidable existence of – what I would call – lead opinions.

So I have the following reflections on the contents of his entire post:

  • Opinion leaders of the latest social networking and social media practices have a quite recognizable tendency to mislead their followers rather than direct them to the right way of thinking and knowledge. Reasons for that are numerous: from pure economic interests (click baiting etc.) to pure personal inability to grasp the complex and changing subject area of their judgements. … etc. In addition it is getting significantly easier now to become such an erroneous opinion leader than any time before in the history of mankind. So here is a negative tendency, not taken into account by Mr. Sinofsky.
  • While lead opinions are distorted by the very existence of inherent distortions communicated by different opinion leaders, more distortion of the lead opinions tends to be generated by the nature of the social media itself. It is so easy now to come to a seemingly undeniable concensus by so large number of people that it is also much easier to make even huge mistakes in the execution. … etc. There is a clear negative tendency here as well, and it is not taken into account by Mr. Sinofsky either.

For these reasons I am urging Mr. Sinofsky to take these aspects into consideration as well, if possible.

My summary of Mr. Sinofsky’s findings (as a quick reminder):

In his post about Continuous Productivity: New tools and a new way of working for a new era [‘Learning by Shipping’, Aug 20, 2013] Steven Sinofsky is putting forward a quite bold vision of the future:
The cloud-powered smartphone and tablet, as productivity tools, are transforming the world around us along with the implied changes in how we work to be mobile and more social. We are in a new era, a paradigm shift, where there is evolutionary discontinuity, a step-function break from the past. This constantly connected, social and mobile generational shift is ushering a time period on par with the industrial production or the information society of the 20th century. Together our industry is shaping a new way to learn, work, and live with the power of software and mobile computing—an era of continuous productivity.
Later on he notes:
The culture of continuous productivity enabled by new tools is literally a rewrite of the past 30 years of management doctrine. Hierarchy, top-down decision making, strategic plans, static competitors, single-sided markets, and more are almost quaint views in a world literally flattened by the presence of connectivity, mobility, and data. The impact of continuous productivity can be viewed through the organization, individuals and teams, and the role of data.
Particularly he is emphasizing:
The idea of management hierarchy or middle management as gatekeepers is being broken down by the presence of information and connectivity. The modern organization working to be the most productive will foster an environment of bottom up—that is people closest to the work are empowered with information and tools to respond to changes in the environment. These “bottoms” of the organization will be highly networked with each other and connected to customers, partners, and even competitors. The “bandwidth” of this network is seemingly instant, facilitated by information sharing tools.
because:
People have the ability to time slice, context switch, and proactively deal with situations as they arise, shifting from a world of start/stop productivity and decision-making to one that is continuous.
versus:
The mid-20th century would kick off a revolution in business, business marked by global and connected organizations. …. Middle-management grew to spend their time researching, tabulating, reporting, and reconciling the information sources available. …
Management took over the role of resource allocation from owners and focused on decision-making as the primary effort, using knowledge and the skills of middle management to inform those choices.
A symbol of knowledge productivity might be the meeting. Meetings came to dominate the culture of organizations: … The essence of these meetings was to execute on a strategy—a multi-year commitment to create value, defend against competition, and to execute.
The entire process of meetings degenerated into a ritualized process to inform management to decide amongst options while outside the meeting “everyone” always seemed to know what to do.
i.e.:
Where people used to sit in important meetings and listen to important people guess about information, people now get real data from real sources in real-time while the meeting is taking place or even before.
so:
There’s a new role for management that builds on this new level of information and employees skilled in using it. Much like those who grew up with PC “natively” were quick to assume their usage in the workplace (some might remember the novelty of when managers first began to answer their own email), those who grow up with the socialplace are using it to do work, much to the chagrin of management.
Management must assume a new type of leadership that is focused on framing the outcome, the characteristics of decisions, and the culture of the organization and much less about specific decision-making or reviewing work. The role of workplace technology has evolved significantly from theory to practice as a result of these tools. The following table contrasts the way we work between the historic norms and continuous productivity.
Then
Now, Continuous Productivity
Process
Exploration
Hierarchy, top down or middle out
Network, bottom up
Internal committees
Internal and external teams, crowds
Strategy-centric
Execution-centric
Presenting packaged and produced ideas, documents
Sharing ideas and perspectives continuously, service
Data based on snapshots at intervals, viewed statically
Data always real-time, viewed dynamically
Process-centric
Rhythm-centric
Exact answers
Approximation and iteration
More users
More usage
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5 Comments

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  2. […] of the Xiaomi phenomenon before the global storm is starting on Sept 5 [Aug 30, 2013], and Opinion Leaders and Lead Opinions: Reflections on Steven Sinofsky’s “Era of Continuous Productiv… [Sept 1, 2013] posts on my ‘Experiencing the Cloud’ trend-tracking […]

  3. […] also my post on Opinion Leaders and Lead Opinions: Reflections on Steven Sinofsky’s “Era of Continuous Productiv… [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, Sept 1, […]

  4. […] Sinofsky, the former president of the Windows Division at Microsoft, on Continous Productivity; and a response by Nacsa Sandor, an ICT veteran who made his MSc in Engineering and Automation in […]

  5. […] Egy ilyen vizsgálatot szemléltettem két 2013. szeptemberi trendkövető posztommal: – Opinion Leaders and Lead Opinions: Reflections on Steven Sinofsky’s “Era of Continuous Productiv… – Sinofsky’s ‘continuous productivity’ idea to be realised first in […]

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