The Inclusive Organization and the Reachability Factor
by Jane McConnell

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What is reachability for an organization? It means people anywhere in the organization can be contacted directly and individually. People can communicate and interact with others beyond their physical workplace. It means ideas and initiatives that originate in one place can reach across the organization, to all interested people. When there is a problem to solve, a challenge to confront, all people in the organization can contribute ideas. From a small company with a few teleworkers to a large, global organization with thousands of people around the world, reachability is a pre-requisite for inclusiveness. Most organizations do not have sufficient reachability and are therefore limited in their ability to be truly inclusive. This is a handicap for building a strong common purpose and a shared sense of belonging.

Among the key questions and challenges to be addressed at the 2017 Global Peter Drucker Forum is “determining a new equilibrium between global and local as well as centralized vs. decentralized to support a sense of belonging, joint purpose and community building”. I would add two more areas where equilibrium is needed: between desk-less and desk-based workers and between the center and the edges of the organization.

Accidents happen

A new balance must be built between these accidentally separate groups of people. Accidental because the separations are not intentional. They happen because digital and transformation initiatives tend to be driven from the center. The result? Organizations end up off balance. Global viewpoints are favored over local ones; centralized decisions over decentralized. Desk workers have better access to information than desk-less workers; so do people at headquarters compared to those working on the edges of the organization. Improving reachability is a first step to restoring equilibrium and building a sense of community and belonging.

Digital reachability is the starting point for inclusiveness.

Digital technologies, deployed and adopted intelligently, increase reachability throughout the organization. Social networking, enterprise search, people search, real-time chat, collaboration spaces and so on are available today in most organizations. Unfortunately, these systems do not always encompass the entire organization and small and even large pockets of people are not reached. (See data at the end of the post.)

Over the past few years, mobile access has extended reachability, especially for the frontline workers. Today, many organizations are implementing BYOD (bring your own device) strategies, letting desk-less workers not only interact with others in the organization but also share ideas and information in ways that were impossible a few years ago.

Inclusiveness grows through new work practices based on visibility.

Visibility means peoples’ voices reach beyond their physical place of work. When people are able to express opinions in blogs, internal social networks and open online communities, when they can react and comment on news, and in general make their voice heard, it is a big step towards inclusiveness.

Inclusiveness becomes even more powerful when people start to work out loud. Working out loud means narrating one’s work and working in a transparent, observable context on a platform such as an enterprise social network or in open project spaces. On-going work is visible to others in the organization. People outside the project team from anywhere in the organization can volunteer to help, bringing expertise on demand to the project team.

Common purpose and a sense of belonging develop naturally in a culture of inclusiveness.

Global collaboration energizes organizations and builds a sense of belonging in all who participate. Examples include crowd-sourcing and enterprise jams where people are mobilized to participate in generating and evaluating ideas to solve problems, respond to challenges, create new services and so on. Cross-organizational involvement including global and local teams, desk-less and desk workers, central people and those on the edges sparks new relationships and catalyzes organizational change.

One step beyond global collaboration is cooperation. Cooperation is both a mindset and behavior. People share and take the time to help others freely and voluntarily, not just because they are part of the same team. For example, someone asks for information or help via the social network, and has dozens of responses in hours. People point others to experts and resources, and in general work with a mindset that goes beyond structured, individual team projects or organized, global initiatives to a broader sense of community.

Do you have technologies and work practices that cultivate inclusiveness?

The items listed above are indicative, not exhaustive. They are intended to provide food for thought and practical leads on how to increase reachability.

How would you answer these 10 questions?

  1. Does your digital work environment reach the entire workforce?
  2. Does everyone in your organization have access to the enterprise social network?
  3. Can people throughout your organization reach people they don’t know personally, using criteria such as skills and expertise?
  4. Can people anywhere in the organization find information – even if they do not know the source?
  5. Can customer-facing people reach the information and experts they need when serving clients?
  6. Can individuals from anywhere in the organization express themselves openly and directly using tools such as blogs, wikis, Twitter-like tools or other?
  7. Do people and teams work out loud, making their work visible to people outside the project team before it is finished?
  8. Are customers included in online communities with the workforce?
  9. Do you have initiatives such as enterprise jams or crowd sourcing (including frontline people) to solve problems and generate new ideas?
  10. Is there participatory leadership where people are encouraged to give input to business goals, and to challenge ideas and work practices?

Organizations that achieve reachability for the entire workforce will have taken a giant step towards equilibrium between global and local, desk-less and desk workers, and the center and the edges. The resulting balance will change the DNA of the organization to one of genuine inclusiveness, where diverse voices and ideas will mix to form common purpose and a sense of belonging.

About the author:

Jane McConnell (@NetJMC), based in Provence, France, is an independent digital strategy advisor and analyst, who works primarily with large European organizations. Her latest research is published in her 10th annual report: The Organization in the Digital Age.


    1. You’re right, Petra. Language is a major barrier in global,organizations. I believe machine translation can help somewhat, but only at a very basic level. English native speakers have significant advantage in most global organizations in much of the world. That’s definitely a factor that throws things off balance.

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