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This chapter discusses how you can use intranet tools to make your evaluation and coordination processes more efficient, make faster decisions, and solve acute problems. 

A discussion about ISO 27001 certification lends itself well to continuing our example of the application involving frosted glass refrigerator doors from above, but at a different level. This situation is fundamentally different here though. The frosted glass project would have cost next to nothing. The cost of ISO certification, in contrast, is completely unclear. Would it cost several hundred thousand euros? And wouldn’t we maybe be throwing out the whole “agile child” of our self-organization concept with the bath water, because we are imposing a bureaucratic process on ourselves which is incompatible with our agility? Would this investment really be worth it just because a couple of customers have asked about it? After all, we’ve always acquired hosting jobs without it in the past. The data is still secure – whether it’s certified and externally audited or not. 

It quickly becomes clear that we can’t simply evaluate and possibly reject such a complex idea in a chat or microblog post. These two channels are simply not persistent enough for this. A complex topic of such importance has to be analyzed and discussed over weeks or even months. It needs the expertise of outsiders. Arguments need to be collected, compared, and carefully weighed. 

When deciding for or against ISO certification, it’s clear from the start that it’s impossible to clarify the question clearly. It would hardly be possible to prove with absolute certainty whether it makes sense or is superfluous. Even afterwards, this is often not the case. The evidence is often anecdotal and based on narratives from stakeholders that support a decision.

An intranet must help the team to make a far-reaching decision, increase transparency in decision-making, and document the decision-making process in detail. 

I’m even tempted to say that an intranet helps to objectify decisions like this. However, I’m sure you would contradict me and quite rightly so. Despite the documentation and the whole gamut of evaluations that will become available for the whole company, in the end, a decision like this is still partly a gut decision. It is an entrepreneurial bet that harbors risk. 

When it comes to complex decision-making processes, a collaborative intranet can demonstrate its full range and strength. 

It’s one thing to communicate quickly and easily (chat, microblog) or disseminate information and news throughout the company (intranet news). But in the example given above, it is neither about one nor the other. Making the right decision is a struggle. We have taken a path on which classic lean start-up methods are of no help to us. When making decisions of this magnitude, you cannot simply “fail fast” or “learn comprehensively from customers at an early stage.” 

You have to take a really pertinent risk only to find out later perhaps that the returns weren’t as high as you had hoped. Numerous decisions like this have to be made in companies that compete with one another for employee resources. In our company alone, we usually have fifty really cool projects on the back burner, but only have time for a maximum of ten of them over the following six months.

A classic approach without an intranet involves simply moving forward with projects that motivate people. This is something that our customers often call “creating facts”: let’s just get started with it! If we make waves at some point, the project will have progressed so far that it will seem easier to complete it than stop it. 

It is clear, of course, that having fifty projects on the go will ultimately result in far fewer than ten completed projects. And projects also tend to drag on for forever, because the people involved are constantly jumping back and forth between them. They can’t focus and consequently, their performance falls short of their real potential. Many of our customers who deal with the same problem come to us at some point and say, “We need some resource planning software!” Their concern here is mainly supported by the idea that central, coordinated planning can give the focus back to the employees: today, 70 percent on Project A and 30 percent on Project B, tomorrow, 100 percent on Project C and so on. This approach has a small weakness however: it never works. In none of the 50 projects. 

Forget resource management. You may be able to do this with machines, but not with people. 

If you want to divide your human resources into twenty parts and spread their productivity over fifteen projects, then you’re trying to treat the symptoms of a sick and inadequate organization without curing the cause. At best, what you can achieve by this is short-term relief. With certainty, all you will achieve is to give a seriously sick person five weeks without symptoms before the pain starts over again. Or you can treat them in a way that will heal them completely.

An intranet that supports complex decision-making, makes processes more transparent, and facilitates participation in the entrepreneurial struggle treats the causes.

If you manage to get through ten projects in a rigorous and concentrated manner, instead of letting fifty projects simmer on the back burner at the same time, lots of things will happen that feel like magic to your employees. But let’s talk about how this all actually works first: we are considering whether we should strive to achieve ISO certification. Let’s go through the whole thing again quickly.

I post a message in the secure group “Management” in a messenger: “I’m thinking about whether the company should get ISO 27001 certification. Some of our customers want this, and we’re not certified at the moment. This isn’t stopping us from getting orders now, but that may change in the future. I think it’s a sensible investment. What are your thoughts on the matter?”

One or two people say “yes” to the idea right away. So, I go to our intranet microblog and describe the whole matter in a bit more detail. Now everybody in the company can see it. The microblog is topic-based (threads) and discussions scroll up the screen with every comment made. Anyone can bring a topic back to the top by making a post in the discussion.

We are now simply assuming that – unlike the refrigerator film the whole company is now teasing me about – the feedback I get will basically approve the idea mixed in with a bit of skepticism. But either way, I can’t make a decision right now anyway. A step like this is simply not directed from the top down in our company. We always create an “agile org story” internally for far-reaching decisions like this that can affect the entire company. An “agile org” is what we call the process that controls our company organization comprehensively in all aspects. This is a special feature in our company that has come about because of the extensive autonomy that our teams and employees have. I don’t want to go into more detail about this procedure at this point. Let’s just say that our “agile org” can be compared to a board of directors or senior management or simply “those with power.” This is where the decision about the matter at hand will eventually be made at some point.

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