In Lloyd Davis's Perfect Path blog, he argues (in It's Social Stupid, 7 December 2006) that blogs, wikis and on-line social networking tools provide an exciting new generation of "social software." He suggests that these tools offer support for the informal conversations and interactions that can add greatly to the vitaity and effectiveness of organizations. And he maintains that the question should no longer be about whether these tools should be adopted, but rather how best they might be used to get things done.
The central tenet of Informal Coalitions is that organizations are best viewed as dynamic networks of self-organizing conversations. Organizational change takes place through these conversations. That is, as the patterns and content of the conversations change, so does the organization. Where organizational conversations support the officially adopted themes (policies, strategies and programmes etc) performance is likely to continue in line with management's stated intent. However, where the conversations run counter to the officially adopted line - and where a sufficiently powerful coalition of support can be built around alternative themes - the policies and strategies themselves are likely to fail and/or to change. The building of informal coalitions of support around particular themes is not only the way in which formally adopted changes are derailed, but also the mechanism through which those changes become formal propositions and adopted policy in the first place.
Informal Coalitions argues that leaders - throughout an organization - must actively engage with these shifting conversational networks if they are to build powerful enough coalitions of support for desired changes. Since the hidden, messy and informal "shadow-side" issues (such as individual differences, informal organizational relationships, power and political dynamics, social processes, cultural assumptions, and so on) are by definition, undiscussable in the formal arenas of the organization, this means that the informal conversations and interactions are ordinarily the most significant in this coalition-building process.
If, as Lloyd Davis suggests, these informal conversations become increasingly stimulated and facilitated by web-based social software, it will be important for those formally charged with bringing about change in their organizations to become equally adept in their use. Also, if an organization exists through the conversations that it invokes, this means that its actual boundaries are not defined by such things as its formal organization charts or balance sheet assets - except in the limited sense of its formal governance. The organization(al conversation) already extends well beyond these formally defined boundaries; with changes in strategy, structure and process often being provoked, initiated and/or shaped by other so-called 'external' stakeholders. However, from this perspective, the increasing availability of on-line 'conversational' tools means that the 'edge' of the organization is likely to extend even further and become ever more diffuse in the future.