Reflecting on these, I saw a parallel to common challenges for each change agent’s practice of bringing about a better world. Change agents are taking on difficult work, not for the benefits of ego or any personal desire. Change agents act out of a purpose to make an impact that helps others. At the same time what surprises many who take on change is that the road is harder and more difficult than they ever expected.
Every change agent lives with these five daily reflections:
I can’t go back. There is no way to go back.
I can’t avoid obstacles. Obstacles are the work.
I don’t have forever. Time is limited.
Everything changes. Loss is part of that change.
My actions and my interactions are how I make the change work.
Once a change agent sees the need to make a change in the world, it becomes impossible to ignore. They can’t wish it away or pretend things are as they were. They can’t undo their commitment to purpose.
Embracing that commitment means accepting that there will be obstacles to be overcome. The obstacles aren’t inconveniences or distractions. They are the work to be done to bring about the change.
Time is always a constraint. Time demands we make the most of every opportunities to create change. Time means we must start now. Time means we must involve others.
Just as we must embrace the obstacles we encounter in our work, we must accept that there will be loss in bringing about change. Some things we lose will be important to us and to others. Part of a change agent’s role is to help others understand and manage that loss.
We have only our actions and our interactions. That is how we bring about change. That is how our change will be judged. Ends don’t justify means. The means are a key part of the change.
Change agents can and do wish it were different. Keeping reflections like these ever in mind helps us to avoid the disillusionment that comes along with unmet expectations and unfulfilled wishes. Change agents are pragmatic and realise that little changes without the hard work to make change happen.
Diana Renner and I were discussing working out loud this week when Diana mentioned that she had an unpublished blog post in development that I recognised as the feeling of the ‘trembling finger’ when I am about to work out loud. This guest post is a result of that conversation. It is too good not to be widely shared – Simon Terry
It has been almost two years since I stepped into the unknown and became an independent consultant. Looking back, it feels less like a step and more like a leap. In a single gesture of defiance, I traded security for freedom, leaving behind a relatively comfortable, predictable role in a large organisation. I had never expected to end up working on my own. But the promise of freedom was alluring. It still is. At the same time freedom opens up possibilities that are terrifying.
In his book The Concept of Anxiety, Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard explores the immense feelings of dread that accompany that moment when we find ourselves at a crossroads in life. The moment when the choice to do something hangs in perfect balance with the choice to do nothing. Kierkegaard uses the example of a man standing on the edge of a tall building or cliff, from where he can see all the possibilities of life. As he looks over the edge, he experiences both a fear of falling and at the same time a terrifying impulse to throw himself intentionally off the edge.
Every edge I have stood on has provoked feelings of dread and excitement. Whether going into a first meeting with a new client, writing a few pages in my book, or facing a bored and unmotivated group, I have struggled with what Kierkegaard calls our dizziness of freedom. Just like Kierkegaard’s protagonist, staring into the space below, I have contemplated many times whether to throw myself off or to stay put.
However, what seemed risky and largely unknown two years ago rapidly has become part of a familiar landscape. It would be natural to relax and enjoy the view… Yet I have learned that it is at this very point that I need to become more vigilant than ever and exercise my freedom to choose in three key ways:
To rally against the safe but numbing comfort of the status quo. I need to keep reminding myself that the greatest learning is just outside of my comfort zone. I need to keep stretching myself to keep growing.
To resist the strong pull of the crowd. I have found perspective on the margins, not looking to the outside for approval or acceptance, not following a trend just because everyone else is following it.
To interrogate the world’s criteria for what is good or successful. I am suspicious when I am being offered a formula to quick success or many riches. It is powerful to be able to question mainstream expectations, and carve my own path with courage and purpose.
The responsibility that comes with the freedom to choose is terrifying. But the cost of not choosing is even more so.
We need to welcome this dizziness of freedom as a sign that we are, in fact, just where we need to be. A sign that we need to slow down and reflect on the risk, then step off the edge anyway.
Diana Renner – Leadership consultant, facilitator, author of ‘Not Knowing – the art of turning uncertainty into opportunity’, Chartered Management Institute Book of the Year 2015, UK.
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.
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.
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.
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.
How can organizations become “social”? Adapting companies to the social economy so they can meet the requirements of empowered and connected customers requires some massive internal transformation. Even when leaders understand the necessity to shift away from old models and modernize their organizations, they hardly know where to start.
To decide to join the social dance floor is a first, smart decision. But then, what? “Deploy an internal social network” says the CIO. “Publicize a new Vision & Mission statement” says Internal Comms. “Hire a consultant” suggests the Strategy dept. “What’s a social organization?” silently asks HR. All classical, outdated and unsuitable answers in our social age.
In fact, what is at stake here is a deep culture change. Tools are important enablers, but they don’t trigger the necessary transformation on their own. Changing the corporate culture and actual behaviors of employees at all levels, across functions and geographies, is a huge challenge. One size certainly doesn’t fit all. But it doesn’t help to over-complexify the issue. What’s really needed is action: tangible activities that advance organizations into the social world.
Let me suggest a very simple and pragmatic approach to this transformation. It goes with 2 steps only: getting ready, then acting; and a culture change framework that I named ‘Voices’. Because I believe that becoming social is pretty much about freeing the voices of the corporate people: listening to what they say, encouraging them to communicate and connect.
If it’s about culture change, one has to understand the existing culture that is to be changed; and who will help, versus who’s not. This point is particularly important because we know now (except for some top leaders overestimating their impact, maybe) that large-scale change requires much more than the executive team’s determination. Social can’t be top-down. It takes a network to spread a network culture.
1. Understand the baseline situation. Where does the organizational culture currently stand in terms of perception and efficiency? Where are the pain points?
Companies are sitting on massive amounts of scattered data which, if linked and made sense of, form the best foundation for a transformation initiative. The combination of employee surveys, social media monitoring, corporate reputation assessment (such as PatientView’s for pharma companies), image audits, employer brand assessment, investors’ perception reports etc. provide a fair sense of the current corporate culture, from a relational and multi-stakeholder perspective. Diagnosis should also include existing processes & rules of engagement (what exists, what is possible, what is prohibited) and take into consideration the company’s ‘DNA’ and history.
On top of data, and because social is about emergence and conversations, assessment should comprise people’s insights through interviews. Internal stakeholders (leaders, change agents, existing social communities) certainly have a lot to say and interesting suggestions. The diagnosis phase is also a fantastic opportunity to engage with external stakeholders and have them participate in the organization’s transformation.
To make sense of all the collected insight, data visualization techniques are to be preferred to thick (boring) reports.
2. Understand key contributors. Who will facilitate the transformation, or make it happen? Who will stand in the way, and why?
The organization is full of people longing for a more social working environment, whose understanding and energy are fantastic resources for culture change initiatives. They are sometimes just not visible by the executive team. A good diagnosis should identify those people: active participants to internal and external social networks, internal community managers, members of communities linked to innovation / collaboration / societal issues / digital, change makers in general. Beside, map the institutional “key holders”: decision makers, but also potential road blockers (control freaks, old-style power-driven leaders).
External stakeholders can help the change too, and it’s important to map them as well. Often, messages are better accepted when they come from outside. Know your external social advocates, selected thought leaders or executives in companies that have undergone a successful social transformation, and connect with them.
Act: Get on with Culture Change
Now the preparatory work is done, it’s time to reboot the corporate and organizational culture and install a 21st Century, social version. How? By rolling out very concrete activities, to enable employees to connect. I’ve often been frustrated at the lack of specific, tool agnostic guidance to drive the change, so I’ve developed a framework which can hopefully help others.
Much more than tools, this is about humanizing organizations: support meaningful connections, let people speak, listen to what they say, and leverage the power of their voices.
The VOICES framework:
6 steps to internal social transformation
The proposed structure is named after an acronym that reflects 6 key dimensions of organizational culture change.
1) Vision – Develop & explain the strategic perspective. One has to be explicit and sincere about where the organization stands today, why it has to evolve, and where to. Share Lee Bryant’s remarkable presentation about 21st Century firms. Inspire the decision-making team: let them read Dan Pontefract‘s Flat Army, Frederic Laloux’ Reinventing Organizations, and Robert Phillips‘ ideas on public leadership. Explain why and how social is an enabler, frame the culture change, write the story of the organization as a social company (picture the target) and link it to corporate historical roots. Benchmark social companies and be inclusive: we all have a role to play in changing the culture.
2) Openness – Encourage external connections, instead of preventing them (the common rule as of today). Set up a corporate speakers’ bureau, train employees into delivering engaging presentations, and promote them externally. Encourage attendance to social-related conferences, and post-event sharing of acquired knowledge. Check engagement rules applicable to employees in external speaking opportunities and social media, and revisit them since they’re probably too restrictive. Identify & publicize initiatives where staff supports local communities. Support co-creation opportunities with external stakeholders.
3) Information – Educate about social: increase social media literacy at all levels of the organization. It doesn’t have to go through expensive training programs: MOOCs abound that offer free alternatives. Leverage conferences and communities of practice for benchmark, education & networking. Train the Legal, Compliance, Communication departments to the opportunities of social. Make use of visual tools such as mind mapping and infographics to ease understanding.
4) Culture – Impact the corporate leadership culture. Connecting the social transformation effort with HR processes is critical. Something has to change in the way HR operates, both as a condition and a result of the change. This is no small task: training HR to social, working with them on management culture change, revisiting talent identification (to support internal social leaders and disruptive thinkers) and performance management (to reward collaboration rather than competition), seriously improving leadership diversity, implementing workplace flexibility, etc. The leadership team also has to be specifically trained and supported. Having them write a collective internal blog about their journey into social media could be a good idea.
5) Enterprise 2.0 – Develop collaboration networks. This is about tools and using them well. Assess existing tools and improve their likability. Enable collaborative & social platforms, move away from predominantly email-based working culture. Shine the light on community managers (it’s high time to recognize the value of this job) and support their skill building.
6) Success Metrics – Monitor selected performance indicators, since organizations don’t just go social for the mere sake of it. Beside classical KPIs (number of employees on internal social networks, of active users, of active communities…), a few new indicators should be considered: top leaders’ activity on internal social networks as well as external social media, speakers’ bureau activity, number of HR processes improved, mentions of the organization as a social company in the media, and so forth.
Internal social transformation is a critical challenge for companies, because it is the condition for them to succeed with their customers. As Susan Scrupski states it, “organizations must evolve beyond industrial age management structures and practices in order to prepare for a future that is predicated on agility, responsiveness, and distributed leadership”.
Thoughts, ideas? I’d love to hear your suggestions so as to help organizations become social.
I love listening to Podcasts. I listen to podcasts when I drive to and from work. I listen to podcasts when I am on a long drive – 6+ hours. I listen to a broad spectrum of podcasts: Football (soccer), Finance, Economics, News, Public Radio, Social business, etc. This weeks blog is prompted by a one episode I listened to recently from the podcast Shift, by Megan Murray and Euan Semple.
The podcast I am referring to is episode 21, about Vulnerability. As I listened to the podcast the first thing that popped into my head was that Working Out Loud (#WOL) requires you to put yourself out there and to be willing to be vulnerable. When I think of working out loud, I think of people sharing what they are working on, asking questions, asking for input on a project, takling about an issue you are trying to resolve. In each of these situations you are risking that someone will think less of you. You need to be vulnerable to do any of those things.
People are scared of putting themselves out there and working out loud. They are fearful that there will be negative repercussions when they make a mistake out in the open. They are fearful that people will think less of them. They are not willing to risk sharing because there is no benefit or that other people will not find what they are sharing as interesting or informative.
The opposite is true. Working out loud has so many benefits and everyone should be doing it within an organization. People will learn and grow quicker and faster by working out loud. Organizations are more effective when people share and are open with each other. The likelihood of finding a piece of information increases as more and more people work out loud. People learn from each other only when information is shared. People improve and innovate on ideas only when ideas are discussed openly. By working out loud, your chances of getting the best information, in timely manner goes up tremendously. Even if a conversation happened out loud months ago, finding that piece of information increases because it was stored for others to discover, read and learn from.
So be brave, take the challenge, work out loud and be vulnerable.
A large part of the history of our technology has been the effort to use technology to control human behaviour. Technology transformation is often sold on the potential to better make humans do things that they should be doing. The failure of so many transformational technology programs is proof that human behavioural changes are a subtler and more elusive challenge. Changing the conversation is as important as changing the process.
The Business Case for Technology Transformation
Leadership mindsets from the industrial era often lead to the management question:
“What can we do to make people do the right thing?’.
Technology transformation is sold on a promise of offering the answer. Too commonly management will choose a new technology system or process as delivering a way to make people ‘do better’. For example:
Customer Relationship Management systems will deliver better conversations with customers and better sales force productivity
Human resources systems will deliver better talent, engagement and performance conversations and better compliance with required processes
Business Process Management systems will enable better and more granular control of the processes that people use to do the work
Enterprise collaboration tools will make an organisation more collaborative
Knowledge management tools will make organisations better informed
Better analytical tools using big data will deliver better decisions in organisations
However, these technologies are usually only an infrastructure to support new behaviours and new conversations. Their capabilities underpin human behaviour. New processes will encourage change. New data capture and reporting may help measure activity. Without a willingness to change to new behaviours from users, the systems alone cannot make change without risk of major disruption or disengagement.
Technology rarely can require a new behaviour or a new conversation. Human creativity enables remarkable ways to cling to old ways in the face of new technology. Even to the extent that these technologies deliver better measurement of human activity, organisations are often frustrated to discover that the ability to measure and target activity simply generates activities to solely meet the measures, not behavioural change. Quantities are achieved as the cost of both productivity and quality.
Change the Conversation
Changing the leadership question can have a dramatic impact on how an organisation makes decisions. Here’s a different question for management to ask about a transformation of technology:
‘What do our people need to better deliver our goals?’
There are a number of advantages that flow from changing the conversation around change and transformation in this way:
Engaging your users: Instead of assuming management or a technology vendor has the answers, the question opens up a conversations for people who do the work to contribute and learn. Treat your employees as skilled knowledge workers and respect their creativity and opinions. These people will have the best context on what is causing the issues and what support they need. Engaging their input will be the most powerful element of change in performance. At the end of the day, the behaviours that need to change are theirs.
Change the leadership conversation: Shifting from a control mindset to one that is about realising the potential of the team is a powerful change in an organisational conversation. A transformation can be a key way to help accelerate this change in mindset. If employees feel trusted and are free to share, many people will highlight the way that the leaders themselves may need to change as part of that transformation too. The best change begins with those seeking to drive change.
You may not need new tools or a new process: How many systems have been implemented to solve issues which were simply a lack of clarity of purpose or objectives of work? Do people need new skills or capabilities instead of new systems? Do people need new freedoms, approaches & leadership support to respond in an agile way to market needs? Consider alternatives and additional elements to enable the behaviour changes that arise.
Inconsistent demands on people: Engaging your people in change will highlight areas where you are being inconsistent. In a siloed organisation systems often work at cross purposes. Are you sure that all the other elements of your systems & culture reinforce the right goals? For example, it is common for people in sales and service roles to experience that their time is used up with low value compliance tasks. As a result high value customer tasks will get pushed from the system. Forcing additional compliance will only make that worse. If performance management systems and the real leadership conversations in your organisation work against your new system, it is dead before it is even deployed.
Engaging outside the organisation: Do your customers want to give you the data that you need for your new CRM or analytics system? Does the change in sales approach or work process improve their experience as well? Will great talent be rewarded by working in your performance management system? Are you sure you can articulate the value of these changes to external stakeholders? Your people will need to do so. Your people’s reluctance to do your view of ‘the right thing’ might be saving you from broader issues with customers or other stakeholders.
Pace of change: Changing systems takes time. When will the system need to change again to adapt to a rapidly changing market? Are your people holding back because they can see the next change coming? Are you better to focus on your ability to change behaviours in more agile ways than through changing technology systems?
Technology transformation can be a powerful enabler of organisational change. However, it is merely an enabler. Changing the leadership conversation is often the critical element to ensuring the success of a transformational change.
The future belongs not to the leadership of technology. The future belongs to the technology of leadership.
Our opportunity is not incremental improvement in the leadership of change to implement network technologies. Our opportunity is a much more important transformation of the critical human technology of leadership for the network era. Only new leadership capabilities & concepts will enable us to realise the potential of the future of work
Realising Human Potential is What Matters
If you are one of the thought leaders, consultants or vendors working to bring about the adoption of social collaboration technology, you know there is a raging debate about what changes in social and network technology means for organisations. However, there is much that is unclear in the debate about the future of work. Social Business is dead, not dead or even not enough. The biggest challenge is adoption, lack of executive buy-in, return on investment or even organisation’s success. You need a collaboration layer, you need purposeful collaboration or you need cooperation instead.
If you are a manager in an organisation trying to achieve outcomes in a rapidly changing business climate, you most likely missed this entire conversation. The debate about the impact of social collaboration technology is not even on your radar (unless a consultant or vendor has caused you to reflect on it for a moment before you returned to the daily challenge of running your business).
What matters most to managers is more effective human collaboration – collaboration that improves the performance of your business for your customers and delivering better work experience for your people. Managers everywhere wish there were better ways to tap the talents, innovation and engagement of their people to help deliver better outcomes. That is at the heart of the discussion of employee engagement in our organisations.
The technology that engages people and realises potential is called leadership. That’s why so many investments are made by organisations in leadership development and in a push for leadership in every role. Leadership is the most effective technology to solve for the management wish.
Network Era Leadership Realises Human Potential
Work is a human task. Leadership is the work of mobilising others to action. Leadership is how we help people to realise their human potential. Much of our network and collaboration technology is just an infrastructure for the work and leadership required. The network can magnify the culture of the organisation, but we need the right leadership models for managers to realise the potential of a network era of work.
Traditional management & leadership approaches inherit many of their concepts from process models borrowed from the industrial era. In this mindset human potential is measured in productivity terms. The command and control culture focuses on using the right processes to drive human productivity and align that productivity with the right tasks. The engines of human potential (engagement, knowledge creation, experimentation, innovation & enablement) are driven out as sources of volatility & waste. What many call leadership is better described as a process of command of people with an efficiency mindset. That is not leadership at all.
These traditional management concepts also get baked into organisational systems. We have built much technology to explicitly or implicitly reflect these industrial models of management and work. Look inside any organisation and you will find plenty of systems designed from the top-down that reinforce hierarchical command and control. Pull out your system process maps and look for your employee’s ability to do exception handling. In many cases there is no exception process. Exceptions are handled in hacks.
Transparency, responsiveness, the ability to work across silos and effectiveness are often surrendered to tight control of process, narrow measurement of process outcomes, compliance and efficiency. Critical systems in customer management and human resources systems offer some of the most striking examples of these constraints and are widely copied from organisation to organisation. To the frustration of everyone, managers and people must work around these systems to collaborate and cooperate effectively while managing waves of top down change management to bring them back to compliance with process.
The disruption of the networked era is evidence of the scale of change that networks are bringing to our lives. ‘Kodak Moment’ has an entirely new meaning today. This pace of change focuses our attention on a need for change in the concepts of leadership & organisation to support a changing world of work.
We need not focus much on the threats of this era. The opportunities of new models of work and leadership are greater. New network technologies give a glimpse of the potential for leaders to better leverage the people of organisations for work and innovation. However, realising the potential of human collaborative and cooperative knowledge work in networks demands new leadership models.
We Know How to Start Leading in the Network Era
Each new era brings social changes and requires new more effective concepts. We updated the concepts of leadership and management at the birth of the industrial era, leveraging existing concepts from the military and other spheres of human life. Now people need to work to develop new models to leverage the infrastructure delivered by networks and collaboration technology.
The good news is that many of these concepts are already clear and have been developed by practitioners to the point where they are capable of application in everyday work. These practices now work highly effectively and can be taught. Managers now need to pick these up and build the capability in their people to lead in new ways, using:
Deeper self-awareness and understanding of human behaviour and drivers of high performance
However, we cannot expect managers do to all the work alone. We will need to support them with learning, coaching and the opportunity to practice the new skills and mindsets. We need to change the organisational systems and processes that hold back this opportunity to better leverage human potential.
Making these changes is the great challenge of leadership is in the new network era. It is the work I will be focused on with my colleagues in Change Agents Worldwide as we help others to navigate these changes.
The future of work is the future of leadership for everyone in organisations. Building a better more effective model of leadership will help realise the human potential of this future. Join the effort in your organisation to build a new technology of leadership to make this possible.
Collaboration is human-to-human interaction. We are rich, creative and diverse, given the chance. You can’t add a collaboration layer to your existing processes.
Collaboration is not something that helps with the work. Collaboration is not something you integrate into your existing systems. Collaboration requires a fundamental rethink of the way work gets done. Collaboration is not a layer because it changes the whole system. Great collaboration goes the whole way through.
The phrase ‘collaboration layer’ is common. The idea of a collaboration layer most likely has its origins in information technology architecture. Collaboration systems are often represented as a different layer of the system stack, similarly to the user interface. As a result vendors and others talking to an IT audience will often promote the need to add a collaboration layer to existing processes. After all adding a collaboration layer sounds relatively painless – all the benefits of collaboration without the change.
As the application of the phrase shifts from systems architecture to the business conversation on how work gets done, something gets lots in translation. Success in the application of social collaboration systems does not come from integrating one more piece of technology into the stack. Collaboration is not an integration challenge. Collaboration is not about machine-to-machine or even machine-to-human interaction. Collaboration is human-to-human.
Collaboration can’t just be layered in on top of everything else. Collaboration requires a rethink of the entire process to foster the best of human interactions. Networks are required for collaboration. However, great communication requires more than a network. Great collaboration requires a community. The highest value collaboration goes beyond a community and builds a change movement.
To bring community to life you need to do more than add a layer of machine-to-human and human-to-human communication over the top of your Taylorist processes. The goal of social collaboration is not to make dumb workers better informed. The goal is to leverage their collective knowledge, intelligence and creativity. Allowing workers to share purpose, connect and create new and better ways of working together comes from giving them the opportunity to connect deeply and to rethink the processes and entire systems that they use to do their work. The best innovations in social collaboration are when entire traditional processes disappear because a newly engaged workforce finds a better way.
People will not stay long in a conversation where machines send them status updates. There is much less value in collaboration, little community and no change if the process is the process and can’t be rethought. This is one of the reasons so many enterprise social networks struggle. Without the prospect of creating a sense of community and the ability to change things, what is the point of participating?
If you want the benefits of rich collaboration, growing community and powerful change driven by your people, then you will need to move beyond a collaboration layer on existing processes. Letting your people use collaboration to change the whole system for the better has to be possible. Collaborative humans will demand it.