Procter & Gamble, a consumer-goods giant, has created more than 20 “communities of practice” which bring together volunteers from different parts of the company and focus on a specific area of expertise, such as packaging, fragrances or skin science. These groups meet and share ideas, and other employees can put questions to them via the company’s intranet. Many of the company’s products have benefited from innovations brought about through internal co-operation and knowledge-sharing.
These informal networks, and software platforms such as Lockheed’s Unity project, can help lay the ground for more collaboration. But they cannot resolve deeper problems, such as resistance to change at the top. All too often, senior managers say they want people to work together but then bicker among themselves. In part, this is because one of the main trends in management over the past ten years or so has been to decentralise organisations, giving divisional heads more autonomy and rewarding them largely on the basis of their individual units’ performance.
Source: The Economist