The Fabulous Cannon Of Aha: You Should Know…Lois Kelly

In Change Agents Worldwide, we had a conversation thread recently about how we talk about each other, so that others might know us betterLois Kelly and I agreed to correspond. Now, I have never met Lois in person. So what am I to suppose?

Well, importantly, and this is pivotal to the ideas of social business practice, I do know her through the network, through others with whom I have high trust relationships. This trust, and the value one puts into it, passes between network nodes like a genetic marker. It resonates.

Honestly, this network value is enough for me to say I value Lois. It is an automatic recommendation. But what happens when I dig a little deeper?

Before our video meeting, I clicked her avatar and profile page in our Change Agents network. Immediately, I get something more, partially by what is left out.

There is a close up headshot photo of her welcoming smile and her kind eye (singular). Her photo is cut in half, we see one the right side of her face. This I like, because it makes me wonder: what else? What is out of frame, awaiting discovery?

This resonates. I have long used an avatar of the top half of my face, eyes looking up, searching for something. It is the look of wondering, of seeking and creativity. This is how I hope people see me.

Then there is her “descriptor”: Creatively uncovering, communicating possibilities.

Sure, I’m buying. 

In VUCA times, possibilities are all that are available to us. It is a great place to aim for. I am distrusting of those who have answers all the time. I do know that Lois is a driving force behind Rebels at Work, and I have read a lot of that team’s writing, used quotes in presentations, and been inspired by the simple, direct ideals.Her brief bio includes:

The answers are found by listening and discovering in new ways, with unusual questions.

Lois’ website even has a section called #365questions  – she clearly doesn’t lack for inquiry!

So, I have a start, and plenty of holes. What is missing, what is just out of shot? Turns out, plenty enough for one hour of video chat!

We are all multifaceted, there is always more to us than anyone can know. We should be careful to boil someone down to the bare essentials. So, I shall share what I feel about Lois’ competitive advantage – what I sensed in her that is rare compared to all the other geniuses out there in the world.

I am always looking for a balance in people, how they manage the necessary tension in being multi-dimensional, how they hold themselves in the dance of dichotomy. For me, Lois’ tension is between rebelliousness toward, and relevance to, corporate audiences.

I am naturally attracted to the rebellious side. What’s not to love about someone who

“gets shot out of a cannon every morning”!?

That is a simple enough reason to say “I like you!” Her Rebels @ Work driver is such personal work for her – she has been charging into work for her entire career asking “Why don’t we do it that/this way?”

Early on in her career, that creative, exuberant approach got her into tight spots, stepping on (or maybe laying) landmines, until a senior leader told her, “Get revenue attached to your ideas, and you will be successful.” Madison Avenue beckoned, and the rest is (her) history (to tell).

So, here we have an ideas person. I meet plenty of those, always interesting, often marginalized. Lois is different. She is relevant. She understands organizational politics, she knows when to push and prompt, and when to wait and encourage emergence.

emergence

She can act as an external rebel and she can work to cultivate the internal rebels to develop the processes need for change.  Importantly, she reads the executive to see if they want to engage in the profound underpinning discussions of change or if they want to keep things simple.

Often, the intellectual, challenging conversations (the ones practitioners cherish) will ‘bore them to death.’ So she instead works to unlock the ‘one thing to do to get things moving.’

She leans on her studies of positive psychology and behavioural science – 95% of our decision-making is managed in our sub-conscious, so unlocking that understanding allows leaders to have better conversations about why they like what they like and want what they want.

This search for, and understanding of, relevance in the workplace led her to write a 2005 book (on what we might today call “social business”, among many contentious monikers for the workplace changes we see happening in the 21st century,) about “Conversational Marketing.”

Making it safe for leaders to investigate emergent practices and ready themselves for change, one step at a time, is prescient. Many contemporary #SocBiz visionaries struggle to make their views coherent enough for big business to buy. Lois has it down.

This ying-yang of rebel and relevance is a beautiful thing to observe. It ebb and flows so naturally in conversation, it is a lullaby for change. Is that balance, that interplay, her natural genius? Possibly. But she is also a constant learner too, she is never satisfied that she is done. Hers is a work in progress.

I will finish with a weird and whimsical image, one which I hope Lois will enjoy. If it is spot on, then she takes the acclaim as someone who shares creatively and naturally. If it is off mark, put it down to my active imagination that she was able to stir quite delightfully in a video chat hour that flew by.

On her website she lists a passion for uncovering “aha.” It conjured for me an image of the Fabulous Cannon of Aha, with Lois, smiling wryly, lighting the torch paper. The customer has three choices at the start of every day:

  • Lois can fire you from the cannon,
  • you can fire her from the cannon, or
  • you can both be fired from the cannon, and she will hold your hand the whole way.

The choice is yours! But here’s the thing: no matter which choice, it will work and it will be fun.

In the person-to-person economy, really knowing people is critical. You should know Lois Kelly. And here are two other people you should know…Simon Terry; and Richard Martin.

This post first appeared on the ←This Much We Know.→ blog.

Leadership in Transformation

flash-55045_640 A common topic of debate in the Responsive Organization movement is whether an organization can become responsive or it must be born that way.

Undoubtedly many of the leading case studies of future of work organizations are organizations created or rebirthed from near death by charismatic founders. Some use this as evidence that the elements of a responsive organization must be present from the beginning. In a previous post, I pointed out that we cannot rely on transparency alone to make change occur for us. The power structures in a traditional organization will prevent most radical change.

I am unambiguously in the optimist camp here in Change Agents Worldwide and the company in the optimist camp inspires me. I have seen organizations change enough to not recognise their former selves. Change to more responsive ways of working is possible. The question is how.

What gets in the way

Chris Argyris’ classic article Teaching Smart People to Learn is a rich source of observations of what gets in the way of a Responsive Organization transformation.  In particular, Argyris notes that:

… There seems to be a universal human tendency to design one’s actions consistently according to four basic values:

1. To remain in unilateral control;

2. To maximize “winning” and minimize “losing”;

3. To suppress negative feelings; and

4. To be as “rational” as possible—by which people mean defining clear objectives and evaluating their behavior in terms of whether or not they have achieved them.

The purpose of all these values is to avoid embarrassment or threat, feeling vulnerable or incompetent. In this respect, the master program that most people use is profoundly defensive. Defensive reasoning encourages individuals to keep private the premises, inferences, and conclusions that shape their behavior and to avoid testing them in a truly independent, objective fashion.

These hidden values in most organisation get in the way of the transparency-led transformation that many hope to see. The Responsive Organization poses a threat to control, a threat of losing and negative feelings. Importantly the delegation of authority in a Responsive Organization may cause people anxiety as to objectives and rationale for action.

The role of leadership is to act as a counterbalance these natural human values and shift the behaviours to that of a Responsive Organization. We need to create rationales for action more powerful than embarrassment. We need to create community to generate trust, support and connection. We need to enable learning through conflict and experimentation.

Purpose:

Leaders must create a strong rationale for the transformation. In cases of crisis, startup or near death of organizations, this rationale can often be imposed by a charismatic individual. The external circumstances enable a threat-based narrative to bind people together in a defensive rationale for change.

However, most organizations are successful to their own terms. As Argyris notes, we want to feel successful even if our results don’t pass external muster.

Leaders need to leverage two elements to create a strong rationale for change in this context:

  • The Purpose of the organization: a purpose is the ultimate rationale for why people come together in an endeavour. It defines the common impact the group of people wish to have on the world.  As a higher agenda, it is the perfect rationale for change for even the most successful organizations.  Purpose is a mastery quest. Very few organizations have the capability to completely fulfil their purpose. They can however strive to better realise it.
  • External orientation: No closed system will find a rationale for change. External orientation is where organizations find the challenges and opportunities that define the purpose into specific improvement opportunities. Leaders need to relentlessly focus the organization on its customers and community to see transparently the challenges and opportunities that exist for change. Well defined external impacts in this community will be what can drive the autonomy of teams in the organization.  Using customer and community data in line with Purpose, also enables change agents to overcome embarrassment-based resistance in the organization.

Community:

Individuals will need support to take on the risks of a Responsive Organization. The role of leaders is to create the sense of community that will support an individual through that change. At the heart of that community will be engagement with others and a growing sense of mutual trust.  Leaders set the tone for any community. They must also work hard to reinforce these key community behaviours

  • Engagement: Engagement begins with transparency and connection. I cannot truly care about the others in my community until I know who they are and understand their purposes, concerns and circumstances. Leaders need to create the conditions to enable people to be more social, to connect, to solve and to share their work challenges together.
  • Trust: Engagement will build trust as it builds understanding. Transparency will reinforce trust. However, leaders need to take on the role of fostering responsibility and accountability as engines of growing trust in the organization.  When people see that individuals and teams are accountable for driving change then they will have greater trust in the change agenda.

Learning:

This post is deliberately not titled like a listicle e.g. ’The 3 or 6 things to transform an organization’. Even a basic familiarity with change highlights that formulas will work only up to a point. Leadership needs to be adaptive to enable any system to change in a sustainable way.

To be true to their purpose and stakeholders, to leverage the potential of their community, each organization will take an unique path through change.  The role of leaders is facilitate the individual and organizational learning required:

  • Experimentation: creating a culture of rapid iteration to address challenges and opportunities will accelerate the cycle of learning in the organization. Leaders must help this experimentation culture to overcome the resistance identified by Argyris and also to spread and have a wider influence in the organization. Lessons learned must become new truths which will take a sense-making role for leaders in the wider organization and mean leaders must champion new ways of working when they arise, whatever the personal costs.
  • Conflict: The biggest reason that organisational transformations fail is an unwillingness of the leadership of the organization to allow uncertainty and conflict. Conflict will happen. The uncertainty associated with conflict is inevitable. Efforts to suppress this will either undermine transparency, the rationale for change, engagement or learning. Failure to embrace conflict takes many names: politeness, bureaucracy, politics, corporate speak, history, culture, etc. Failure to embrace conflict is an unwillingness to learn and improve. There will always be resistance when change comes and it must be addressed. Leaders need to create and sustain the right kinds of constructive conflict – driven by purpose, based in facts from an external orientation & experimentation, mediated through an engaged community.

Change is Coming. Lead.

I have seen the potential of purpose, external orientation, engagement, trust experimentation and conflict to drive change. Supported by leadership these are the elements of each organisation’s transformation. These elements are critical to a Responsive Organization.

Throughout this post I have referred to leaders and leadership. This need not be hierarchical leadership. Change takes change agents. Clearly it helps if leadership and power are aligned in an organization in reinforcing the need for change. However, the changes described above are not capable of being implemented by top-down edicts. These changes must come as individuals and groups discover their power and are influenced as a result, This kind of leadership relies on influence and can begin bottom up or even from the middle management so often scorned in organizations.

Change is possible. Change is coming. Smart people can learn. Your people and your organisation can better realise their potential and their purpose. A Responsive Organization transformation will occur if you are prepared to lead the change.

Lead.

This post was first posted on simonterry.tumblr.com

 

What Does it Mean to be a Change Agent?

Over the summer, our network went through some rocky reverberations.  Conversations cropped up that forced us to think carefully about what we’re attempting to do here at Change Agents Worldwide.  The process, although difficult, was healthy, sobering… cleansing.

We divided into three international regional teams and set about to examine who we are and what we’re interested in achieving.  Key to that introspection was a focused exploration into our values.  Individually, every professional executes against personal goals and ambitions, but collectively – within the network – we needed to capture the essence of what it means to be a change agent in our network.  Scripting our values became the pedestal upon which we’d build a new business model that served our greater purpose.  As a startup, we’d been experimenting with a new model for management consulting.  The disruptive nature of what we were attempting to do, combined with competing ideas of how to go to market, resulted in difficulty convincing potential clients and network members to embrace the new model.  It was obvious we were headed for that dreaded startup pivot, yet we resolutely agreed we would not pivot on our values or what we wanted to achieve.  We, in the purist sense, meant everyone in the network.  Not just the founders, everyone.  At Change Agents Worldwide, every individual has an equal voice and the ability to course correct, question, or object to any aspect of our business.

From the very beginning,  we’ve been focused on a single goal: to Change the World of Work. It occurred to us that although there are many thought leaders in and around the social web who believe the same things we do, and who teach, write, and speak brilliantly about these same concepts, they may not self-identify as a change agent.  Going forward, we agreed we needed to create a manifesto, a credo that would define uniquely what we believe and who we are as participants in the network.  We crowdsourced this credo over a period of weeks.  From here, we’ve crafted a refreshed understanding of who we serve, how we will serve them, and who rightfully belongs as a member of our network.  Every existing member of our network signed the credo.  And going forward, signing the credo is part of our on-ramping process.

If you see yourself in the description above, consider joining us.  We have an incredible team working on leading-edge projects and breakthrough ideas in some of the largest institutions in the world. We are, in fact, changing the world of work every day.   In subsequent posts, I’ll be writing about some of those advancements and achievements.  There’s never been a better time to be a Change Agent in our network.

 

Change Agents Go to Washington!

b4fszcDrowning in paperwork?  Demoralized by endless meetings where you sit and sit and sit, and have no voice?  Tired of performance management reviews that have little to do with your potential or passion?   Frustrated by knowledge that buries itself in graveyards of  email thread coffins?

Then, we have a workshop for you.  Come get rejuvenated in November and learn how your work experience can be joyful, interesting, and rewarding.  Changing behaviors at work is challenging, but results in greater productivity, innovation, job satisfaction, and loyalty.

For the first time, a crack team of our Change Agents will descend from the cloud and lead you through a discussion of how you too can “work in the future.”

Where:  KMWorld 2014, Grand Hyatt, Washington D.C.

When: November 4, Tuesday morning, 2014

Workshop Description:

W9: Flexible & Agile Workstyles & Processes for the 21st Century Organization
9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

 

Susan Scrupski, Change Agents Worldwide
Joachim Stroh, Change Agent, Change Agents Worldwide
Catherine Shinners, Founder, Merced Group
Carrie Young, Principal, Talk Social To Me

 

The Future is already here and evenly distributed among the global members of the Change Agents Worldwide (CAWW) network. This half day workshop shares their secrets: how they work, their values, how they adopt/adapt/exapt new ways of working with their global team. A team of Change Agents discuss leading organizational concepts such as: new models for organizational design, the power of self-organization, social and organizational network analysis, and more. They’ll talk about the cornerstone of what makes their networked organization work: transparency, trust, authenticity, and a culture of sharing and cooperation. The CAWW network exemplifies how social and operational integration yields iterative improvements in responding to customers, working collaboratively with partners, and creating value in the marketplace. The workshop also talks about what supports their work: SWARMS, Pods, Cookie Jars, Green Rooms, and other new processes based on agile and self-organizing principles.

The workshop will review our philosophical principles, explain the practical application of these principles and demonstrate how they’re exercised in a network-based organization.  We’ll also lead audience members through a series of hands-on exercises to experiment with putting these ideas into practice.  It will be an interactive day of learning and sharing. We’re looking forward to cooperating and collaborating with new friends of the Change Agents Worldwide network.

We have a special conference registration discount for anyone wishing to attend KMWorld 2014 too. The discount will get you $100 off the early-bird rate and $200 off the regular rate.  Please let us know if you’re headed to KMWorld in the comments.  See you there!

Smarter Innovation: Road Map to the Future

Last spring, we were approached by the Academic Director of Columbia University’s Graduate Information and Strategy program, Katrina Pugh.  She had received word about the innovative way our Change Agents work out loud in the cloud.  We were asked to contribute to a management book published recently by ARK Group, “Smarter Innovation: Using Interactive Processes to Drive Better Business Results.”

The goal of the book is to shed light on insights that have been growing in our knowledge space – tacit knowledge sharing, conversations, collective intelligence, applied analytics – but which have never been wrapped together in a coherent way to address such as pressing problem. As our global economy steps out of its long slumber, it will be the innovators who expand opportunity and prosperity for their employees, customers and societies.  – Kate Pugh

smarterOur chapter in the book resides within the topic focusing on social and operational integration.  We go into great detail about how we work, our values, our innovative business practices, and the strength of our network-based decision-making when it comes to modern organizational design and methods.  Authored primarily by three of our Change Agents, but collaborated on by our whole team, the chapter defines how Change Agents Worldwide “works.”  And, of course, the way we work is a reflection of how our network wants to work.  Every change agent in our network believes in the principles we espouse, so it should come as no surprise that we actually work this way.

The book is fascinating. It’s available today on the ARK Group web site.  Contributions by leading consultants and thought leaders who hail from Columbia, Deloitte, Emory University, 3M, Motorola, Pfizer, Intel, and many others have presented cutting-edge examples of how large and small companies are innovating with customer service, supplier intelligence, sales, knowledge retention and discovery, inventory, and open patent alternatives.

If you just want to read our chapter, Innovation by Design, you can download it today from our web site.  For all of those who’ve pre-ordered the chapter on our web site, you will be receiving a notification shortly that it’s available for download.

Feel free to download our first e-book as well, Changing the World of Work.  One Human at a Time.  We are currently working on new book ideas, so make sure to subscribe to our newsletter list to keep up with our new products and services.  Lots of good stuff coming from our worldwide team of Change Agents.

The Green Room Experience

Kavi1-226x300Many moons ago, I was a stage actor in a theatre group.  Grease paint. Dialogues. Arc lights. And all that! From the plays of Anton Chekov to ‘The Zoo Story’ (my toughest) by Edward Albee).   The Zoo Story, I recall in particular, was miles and miles of dialogue. A never ending ascent of a tall ask, for it was a two character, one act play, for a duration of what could be called ‘eternity’.

As much as I remember the performances, memories from the Green Room stay fresh! A time of bonding, intense conversation, reassuring glances and a scintillating access to performers and performances.

The Green Room, Wikipedia says,   “is the space in a theatrestudio or similar venue which accommodates performers not yet required on stage. The green room functions as a waiting room and lounge for performers before and after a performance, and during the show when they are not engaged onstage.”

My experiences in the Green Room guides me to think that the definition is perhaps an honest clinical descriptor. Like saying ‘Twitter is a social networking tool’. Or that cars have four wheels and help in getting from place A to place B. Technically right, but far less than what they do.

For the Green Room is a ‘hot and happening place’. In every sense of the word.  My recollections lead me to memories of fervent pace and the anxious eyes of fellow performers before the performance. The director’s calm demeanour that magically soothed frayed nerves. Plus it was an incredibly awesome angle to relish some class acts from! A place where you are closest to the real act. Performers and performances in close quarters before their grand performance on stage. You see mistakes. You see spectacular transformations.

The Green Room is a stepping stone to a real performance. In a literal way too! All of those memories and experiences came rushing back. In just a bit.

For now, switching topics and talking about CAWW! :)

For a while now, Change Agents Worldwide has held my attention. In a very unique sort of a way. It started with random exchanges on twitter that stayed long after the exchanges themselves. Leading gradually to more sustained conversations that were not only ‘useful’ but served to whet the appetite for learning and exploration in the ‘change’ domain in a way that can be described as unique, contemporary and also at the bleeding edge of thought!

The people that I had these conversations with, lead me CAWW.  Take a moment. Do go over the website. One particular line from their website that struck a deep chord enough to explore their work “We designed Change Agents Worldwide to function as a cooperative, where value is realized by every node in the network” Every word there, appealed.

So, when I did discover that CAWW had a ‘Green Room’ where I could go and dip my toes in what it is like to be part of the real conversations behind the curtain, I didn’t waste much time asking Susan Scrupski for an opportunity.

What looked like a relatively calm week in June (that later got swamped by a busy calendar) was when I got to get into the Green Room at CAWW! A authentic and thought provoking digital experience.

After sharing my contexts in the ‘stream’, we got down to outlining priorities, problems and challenges.  A superlative change agent is one that asks a heap of questions. Some of them out of a seeking for answers.  At other times, as part of a nudging thought train in a different direction.

The people at CAWW are masters at it. Deep searching questions. Calm quips. Simple yet profound ideas and a curiosity for more. The beauty of the interaction also got multiplied by the geographical spread of where the ideas and interactions came from. S

Simon Terry based out of Australia and me would exchange a few ideas before Europe woke up and the conversations would continue through the evening with friends from the West! If the maxim of ‘ideas rule the world’ were to be proven true again, in a very literal sense, I didn’t have to look any further.

Engaging and hearing from a variety of people.  Richard MartinLuiz SuarezJon HusbandJoachim StrohCatherine Shinners Carrie Basham YoungStuart McIntyreThierry de Baillon.  Kevin JonesGuy Alvarez . Marcia ConnersPatti Anklam Presenting a dazzling array or presence, opportunity and thoughts.

A clutch of ideas, an array of links to resources and surveys and more importantly thoughts to pursue, stay with me. Long after the one week in the Green Room of CAWW has gone by! A wholesome refreshing time.

Notwithstanding the fact, that this Green Room triggered a flurry of memories of another Green Room from a different era.  More of that story for another time.

For now, people, if you haven’t explored CAWW, you must!

 


This is a Guest Post cross-posted from Kavi Arasu‘s blog.  See original post here.  Mr. Arasu applied to be one of Change Agents Worldwide’s Green Room clients.  If you’re interested in applying to become a Green Room Candidate, apply at this link.

 

You Can’t Put a Price on Epiphanies

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Anthea Rowe, StarTech

$17,000.

That’s the estimated value of the free consulting I received during my seven days in the Green Room. But that doesn’t begin to capture the actual value of the experience. Because you can’t put a price on epiphanies. Or a mindset change. Or the increased excitement, confidence and enthusiasm I developed after working with Change Agents Worldwide (CAWW) for a week.

I submitted my question to CAWW in May 2014. Submitted with bated breath. What were the chances this international collective of brilliant thinkers and do’ers would want to discuss my small company’s challenge?  But they did!

My question was: “How can we retain the close-knit culture of our small organization even as we experience dramatic growth?” I work for a small tech company based in London, Ontario, Canada. As recently as last year, it was possible to know everyone in the company by name. Now , with new hires joining us every week, that intimacy is no longer possible. Or at least, so I thought. The Change Agents helped me realize there are many things we can do to keep the StarTech culture alive and strong even as we grow like crazy.

The conversation in the Green Room was vibrant and crackling with energy. I asked a ton of questions of them, and they asked many of me. It was a dialogue in every sense of the word.

Whatever question I asked, there was always a seasoned expert available and eager to address it. Whether it was about our hiring process, corporate culture, change management or plain ol’ intranet solutions – there was always a helpful Change Agent ready to share relevant insights.

And the insights included a powerful mix of theory and practice. Change Agents use evidence from psychology, sociology, organizational behaviour and management research to establish the principles for 21st century workplaces. They also have a plethora of case studies from organizations large and small that have implemented communications strategies, engagement campaigns, and more around those principles.

So, what did I learn? I learned the future of employee communications is about enabling. Enabling employees to connect with each other. Enabling employees to find their own information. Enabling employees to work out loud so that others see what they’re doing and want to help. The future of employee communications is building platforms that enable employees to connect and self-organize. The future is decentralizing communications so message come from the people who own them.

The dozen or more Change Agents who participated in my session were helpful, friendly and sincerely interested in supporting my company’s success. These people are serious when they say they want to “change the world of work!”

They were a diverse group with a wide range of experience: in-house comms, IT and knowledge management types; consulting and management expert types. Many Change Agents currently work in-house – at the UN, Lexmark, Teach for America, etc. – or used to work in-house – e.g., as SVP of HR for an international bank, or an IT and comms professional at IBM. These people know the challenges of moving projects through organizations, getting buy-in… all that good stuff. The other Change Agents members are independent consultants, and they’ve worked with many companies across a range of industries (many of them household names).

The best part about my week in the Green Room was that it epitomized the “Work Out Loud” culture CAWW advocates to clients. Using their online platform, I interacted with subject matter experts all around the world at different times of day and in varying amounts. Some Change Agents were regular contributors throughout the week; others popped in when they saw questions that interested them. But all were helpful. Importantly, the timing always worked for me because I could drop in and out of the discussion as my schedule allowed.

If you have a burning question or planning opportunity related to your organization, my advice to you is this:

If CAWW is ever gracious enough to open their doors to another Green Room participant, leap at the chance!

 


This is a Guest Post by Anthea Rowe, Communications Manager at StarTech.  Ms. Rowe applied to be one of Change Agents Worldwide’s Green Room clients.  If you’re interested in applying to become a Green Room Candidate, apply at this link.

Beyond Adoption to Value Creation

maturity scale

A great deal of attention in enterprise social networking has gone into ‘driving adoption’. A focus on adoption can distract organisations from the real challenge of any business activity, creating value in fulfilment of the organisation’s strategy.

Adoption is an intermediate goal

Adoption is a means to an end. Adoption is a tool of value creation. It is not the result. The desired outcome is the value created by an engaged community that allows for the fulfilment of a strategic goal through outcomes like better alignment, innovation, adaptation, better customer & community focus, greater agility or improved efficiency.

The desire to move beyond adoption is growing. Luis Suarez recently argued that the language of driving adoption is missing the mark. Joachim Stroh has also highlighted ways in which we need to move beyond traditional adoption.

The logical next step from adoption is the end goal of work. Business and people work to create value in line with a strategy. We need our use of enterprise social networking to create value for each users and for the business as a whole.

Adoption as a goal alone can lead us astray

Our focus on adoption is often reflected with concerns from our traditional hierarchical ways of working. For example I have been asked the following questions about adoption that indicate something is going astray:

  • If we don’t have universal adoption, how will people get our messages?: If you are focused on one-way communication, there’s a good chance they don’t listen to your messages already.
  • Can’t we just mandate adoption? You can, but it rarely works to create an engaged & valuable community. Incentives may be a transitional tool to help people engage with the solution but take care that they don’t make participation an end in itself.
  • Won’t our people resist adopting this new solution? If the solution offers no value or is seen as a distraction from real work, they should resist. If it creates value for users and they see its value to the organisational strategy then this is an issue that we will overcome.
  • What’s the right number of users to adopt a social network? There is no magic number. The right answer is enough of the organisation to create enough valuable conversations for users and the organisation. That can be a surprisingly small percentage of the organisation, provided they are well connected into the larger organisation.
  • We have lots of users. Nobody knows what to use it for. What do we do now? You have users but it is likely you don’t have a community that understands how to do things together to create value for your strategy.

Most importantly of all, enterprise social networks are infrastructure, not tools. Employees need tomake sense of a new enterprise social network and integrate it into their work. There is no pre-ordained usage that people can adopt like many other technology systems. Adopting a network as another conversation tool may be interesting but rapidly loses relevance in a busy workplace with many high volume channels for communication. The best guide to employees is to direct their sense-making into how it will create value for their work and strategic value for the organisation.

Often adoption drives demand a lot of overhead and effort. They are pushing something into a community. Where this effort goes to creating niche use cases with easy adoption, selling a uniqueness event in an enterprise social network or investing all the time in unusual campaign activities it can backfire. Employees who come to think of the enterprise social network as being used only for a special activities may not consider the opportunities for every day value creation. In these networks, there is a dramatic difference in utilisation between when adoption is being driven and every day use limiting the potential of the platform. Use caution that your efforts to drive use reinforce the connection to value in daily work and strategy.

Importantly adoption is rarely a goal that makes sense to the managers and leaders whose support is needed to foster a collaborative culture and role model usage. Conversations advocating adoption of social collaboration and other future of work practices can seem abstract and a side issue to the work of the organisation to many managers. Managers are looking for how enterprise social networks contribute to value creation.

Personal and Strategic Value

Value is different for every organisation as organisation’s purpose, strategies and goals differ. Value need not be a hard dollar return on investment. ROI can rarely be calculated in the abstract for infrastructure. From an organisation’s perspective defining a contribution to a strategic goal is often more effective.

Value is different for each individual depending on their goals, their role, their work preferences and their needs. Individuals will need to change their work practices in ways that make sense to them. Role modelling and storytelling will assist this journey but they will make their own sense of value.

There are 5 key elements of the work to moving the focus of enterprise social networking to value creation:

  • Create Strategic Alignment: Make explicit the connection between social collaboration and the strategic goals of the organisation. At a minimum, these conversations will educate your employees on the purpose, strategy and goals.
  • Guide Personal Value Creation: Guide employees to understand how the enterprise social network creates value in their work. In my work with organisations, I use a Value Maturity Methodology based on users maturity through 4 stages Connect>Share>Solve>Innovate.
  • Experiment & Learn: Create an environment for employees and the organisation where the enterprise social network fosters experimentation to create new forms of value in work. Encourage sharing and solving challenges.
  • Foster A Learning Community: An engaged and aligned community of employees working together for business goals is the greatest opportunity for value creation in organisations. Focus on how community accelerates value creation and the key roles required in any community. Understanding the roles of champions and leaders is critical.
  • Discuss Value Creation: Social networking accelerates double loop learning. Discuss value creation in the network as the work conversations occur. Celebrate lessons and successes. Back innovations with corporate muscle. Use these new learning conversation to foster alignment with strategic goals and encourage people to find new personal value.

If you would like to create greater value in your enterprise social network or discuss how the Value Maturity Model applies to assist your organisation to create strategic value, please get in contact. I can be reached through Change Agents Worldwide @simongterry or Linkedin or www.simonterry.com

Facelift Marks the Next Chapter for our Progressive Ideals

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Change Agents Worldwide has a unique business model that is in perpetual beta, as our friend and fellow Change Agent, Harold Jarche, likes to say.  Everything we do, we do ourselves including all our branding and our web site.  Funny thing is, we don’t have a web designer or UI/UX professional in the network.  We’ve spent a tiny amount of funds on a couple freelancers, but for the most part, we are boot-strapped and we don’t have a marketing budget.  We love that about us.  We only answer to ourselves, and we only do things we can afford.

Last February, we spent a little money on a photographer to immortalize our first annual dinner.  My partner, Joachim Stroh, says hiring that photographer was the best idea I have had so far.  (Should I be worried?) Lol.

lWhen we launched our web site, we wanted to establish an image of being bold, being different, being courageous enough to tell our story with imagery that would establish our brand.   The company is maturing, and today we are well over 50-strong in our network.  We are now replacing our edgy images of lobster girls, turkeys on the beach, and space travelers  that were designed to attract the kind of people who’d be willing to be bold with us.  That worked, and we now proudly feature actual photos of our Change Agents with some select quotes. See for yourself.

Change Agents Worldwide is not about technology. It’s not about organizational redesign.  It’s not about KM practices or e-Learning or Innovation or Change Management.  Change Agents Worldwide is about people. People who share what they know about all these things and more with their colleagues to be the change they want to see in this world.  The bright people in our network are not ego-less, but our hearts are bigger than our egos.

If you want to hang with brilliant, caring people who also want to change the world, join us.  Better, if you want to fix what’s broken in the depths of the soul of your company, hire us.  If you’re just a little “transformation-curious,” try us.  We’re right here on the Web, and we’re always open for changing the world of work.

 

 

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Reason #30 Why We Can’t Change: We Don’t Have the Time

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My friends and colleagues at Change Agents Worldwide are kicking off a “blog carousel” to address all these reasons why organizations can’t change.  This list was carefully compiled by a Product Engineer of the Milwaukee Gear Company in 1959.  These objections still live on today in memos, meetings, analysis decks, and teleconference calls over a half-century later.

I decided to start with #30.  “We don’t have the time.”  This one always bugs me.  You’re busy; we know.  We’re busy too.  But, it really takes no time at all to participate on the social web and to communicate internally via a social channel.  Let me narrate this story via my friend, Jim Worth. Jim is CIO of a large industrial  manufacturer in the U.S.   A longtime member of The Society for Information Management (SIM), he recently  volunteered to do a presentation for his industry peers at the local  NJ SIM Chapter meeting.

Jim took the attendees through his decades-old IT leadership career from his 15 years at Philips Electronics, then Merck where he was introduced to social technologies, and Labcorp where has was most recently.  Jim’s a progressive guy who loves technology and loves the freedom and mobility of social tools and new gadgets.  He was one of my first recruits to our team for this reason.  But, heck.  THE GUY IS BUSY.  I can’t even begin to tell you what he has on his plate, plus he is an active cyclist, has a wonderful family, and maintains two lovely homes.  Jim’s presentation opened many eyes at the SIM meeting.  His colleagues were blown away by what he was showing them.  This was the first time they were exposed to his other persona as a “Social CIO.”  This issue of time came up after the usual issues of privacy and security.  He explains:

The questions then turned to, ‘How do you have time to do this?,’  ‘How can you keep up with it all?’  I said it does not take much time to be social.  Using a smartphone you can keep up and keep the conversation going all day.  Regarding keeping up, I said that I don’t.  It is like a waterfall of information and I catch a little in a cup, but that is better than missing out all together.  I said I would rather be tapped into this information flow and take some from it, instead of not being present to take part.

Through his example, Jim demonstrated that someone who had a job just like they did, who was in the same demographic as they are, had the same and more experience has they have, was able to demonstrate mastery of social tools and a profound understanding of the tenets of social working.  So, you do have the time.  You just need to know how to work and play out loud with online networking.  It’s good for your career, your life, and your peace of mind.

cross-posted from susanscrupski.com