Successful Networks Require a Cross-Disciplinary Team

It should come as no surprise that a one-dimensional approach to network “deployment” will yield lackluster results.  In the heyday of the Enterprise 2.0 movement, it was largely IT that introduced social networks to the workforce.  The mistake that many customers made in those early days was viewing social networks as a technology platform vs. an organizational catalyst for transformation.  Even if the initial use cases were solid, and vendors provided initial on-ramp training, the true power of a connected workforce would not emerge.  Social software is much more than the sum of its technical parts. In fact, you could argue the opposite is true. Organizations that took a multi-departmental approach to rolling out ESNs, have proven to be successful, are still growing, and have produced outsized returns to their organizations.

English: A diagram of a .
Diagram of a Social Network. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Learning to work in a connected, flat, transparent, and highly collaborative manner invariably surfaces tensions that require intra-organizational re-thinking.  They demand a new type of leadership.

Petty arguments that erupt over jurisdiction, approvals, roles, decision-making, authority, and budget allocation are exposed and rendered useless and highly unproductive when vibrant networks connect and share.  It’s one of the reasons why rigorous command and control, hierarchical models can’t survive in a healthy, transparent and functionally strong social network.

When we started assembling the members of Change Agents Worldwide, we knew we’d need a cross-disciplinary team that was equally adept at the mechanics and Zen of working in an open network, as well as experienced in the disciplines required to deliver true organizational change.  We’re also becoming more and more knowledgable about the science and practical application of Social Network Analysis (SNA). In mapping our own expertise,* you can see although we share many competencies, our social map demonstrates a visualization of the skills required to truly help large organizations take steps toward building a future workplace.

In this expertise map, a square signifies an area of expertise of one of our Change Agents. The larger the square, the larger the number of Change Agents (green dots) possess that expertise. A line between a circle and a square indicates a Change Agents possessing that expertise. Darker lines indicate greater degrees of expertise.

If your Enterprise Social Network has stalled, or you’re not seeing these outsized results, we can help you start extracting the value out of your existing investment.  If you truly want to experience what it feels like to be surrounded with this sort of expertise, we invite you to join us in our Green Room.  It’s free, and we will swarm you with ideas on how to approach your organizational issue.


*Special thanks to Change Agent Patti Anklam and Optimice.










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Change the Conversation

Ravens in Conversation

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.

This post has been cross-posted from

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New e-Book from Change Agents Worldwide

We’re pleased to release this collection of essays from a variety of our Change Agents who are changing the world of work. Whether they’re independent (Solo Change Agents) or working as part of a large organization (Enterprise Change Agents), 21 of our network members have provided their unique wisdom on what organizations can do to increase productivity, engagement, and provide richer workforce experiences in order to foster greater innovation and growth.

You can now download the e-Book for free.  Simply request a free copy and it will be immediately available to you.  

If you’d like to read the book on your Amazon Kindle, you can order it here for $1.99.

This is our first published piece.  We learned a lot in the process, and we have plans to write more books.  Stay tuned for announcements on future works and events from our Change Agents.  An easy way to do that is to sign up to receive our newsletter which will be coming out regularly starting this Friday.


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Can Social be Top-Down?

Can social be top down

Adoption is the pain point of social enterprise. While adoption rates linger at staggering low levels, critical success factors are endlessly identified, dissected and commented.

Among those is the “top management support”, often seen as the key to success. But is it really? Is it true that, to succeed, social initiatives must have a high level champion, possibly the CEO? Can a company become social if it hasn’t got its Michael Dell, a Chief Social Officer, or at least highly convinced top executives?

Exemplified success stories support this view. And it is true that top management can provide precious resources for social adoption:

A vision. Foreseeing what a company will become in 10 years from now can’t ignore social, which top executives (should) know. What’s even better is when they embody this vision, and act accordingly – at least by using and promoting social tools. Being a social leader is another story.

An example for others to follow. When brought into new tools or new interaction modes, many employees want to know whether the Management is serious about it before jumping in.

The organizational impact capacity to make things change. Only top level executives have that power to make a difference quickly since they decide on the organization, budgets and priorities. If they put their institutional power at the service of social adoption, there’s little doubt it gives it a better chance to happen.

However, I believe it is not the magic solution to having a company embrace social. Finding and convincing top-level champions may even be detrimental to social projects because of the time and energy they require.

Often, this top-down approach is just not effective and does not generate the expected positive outcomes on social adoption.


Geared for competition, not collaboration. The top executives of today have grown in environments where competition, not cooperation, was the key to moving up the corporate ladder. Hardly enthusiastic about the “collaboration imperative”, they value the social status attached to their title and react strongly when hit by internal competition. They take a critical look on social, which challenges the way they operate. Information leakage, negative opinions made public and disorder are major risks they’re not willing to run.

Shaped by old management theoriesWirearchy is not yet at the program of business schools, which still teach students how to become good leaders, i.e. the happy few at the forefront who lead the others thanks to their brilliant ideas, superior dedication to ROI, etc. But social requires a whole new theory of management, just as modern economics needs to move away from bases that are no longer adapted to today’s reality.

Not familiar with social tools. Very few top executives, especially in large companies, are digitally native. They belong to a generation that has had to learn all the digital tools, applications, social networks, etc. and for which each innovation is a pain that will require learning efforts. While efforts are paying off for an ever increasing share of the elder adults , reaching a high corporate position requires a lot of hard work which gives top executives little time or intellectual availability to get started with social.

So, what can you do if you don’t have, from the early start, a strong advocate for social among the executives team?

Well, just remember that social is at its best when it comes from the people themselves. Listen to what already exists. Identify your social connectors. Let the employees speak with each other, interact, form discussion groups. Stimulate the creation of communities, provide a minimal infrastructure and let them self-organize. Establish an open dialog and avoid control. Manage to put the most engaged participants under the spotlights.

Then go see the Management and show the depth and intensity of these interactions generated by the social communities. Social is then no longer an abstraction, but a concrete, simple and attractive reality. Tell the corporate leaders they are welcome to join the movement, and how interesting it would be for them and for the company.

The real flavor of social is bottom-up.

Thoughts?   –  @CelineSchill

The 1 v. 9 Rule

Gettysburg Battlefield Monument

Have you ever implemented a technology for an enterprise that had the chicken and egg syndrome? You know the type. You implement a valuable technology but no one is using the technology. As you analyze why this might happen, you realize that you need people to use the tool, but the value is not there until you have a large number of people using the tool. Which should come first? The people or the tool? How do you get people to change behavior, adopt a tool, adapt the way they work when you realize that to really have change, you need a large number of people to change almost all at once?

I have seen this situation more than once. You have a small set of people dispersed throughout the enterprise that is interested in the technology. You think you have won the battle because interest is high from these advocates. But if you peel away the edges, you would see that while they are excited and are some of the biggest advocates for the technology and while they each represent a team that could use the technology to great effectiveness and the technology has potential to realize get value within the team, there is an issue.

This is a big issue. The rest of the team is not aware of the value, they don’t see the need for the tool and they provide every excuse under the sun for why not to use the tool. I like to call this the 1 vs 9 rule. You have one person that is ready and eager to adopt, adapt, and use the technology but you have 9 people (2 through 10) that are not. More often than not, this is one of the biggest reasons a technology like this fails. It is not about the implementation of the technology, it is about the change management.

As the person in charge of the technology and responsible for enterprise adoption and change management related to the technology, what do you do? This is not a time to give up and fail. What techniques could you use to get #2 through #10 to adopt the tool along side of #1.

Here are some ideas.

  1. You are not alone: Seems simple enough but this is often the first step that people forget. You need to get the advocates, the 1’s, to help in driving the adoption of their team. One team at a time. While you are responsible for change management and adoption, you are not alone. The #1’s need to know what is expected of them and need to know that it will not be easy.
  2. Build a play book: Now that you have set the expectation you need to provide the techniques and tools that the #1s will use to get 2 through 10 engaged. Depending on the technology being implemented, these tips and techniques could include having them set expectations to the team, have them get their own advocates within the team, and have them remind (nag or ankle bite) the team periodically.
  3. Lower management: Work with the first line of management of that team. Get them to understand where the value is and then get them to help drive adoption within the team. Have them set expectations for their team, but don’t let them mandate, that type of technique could backfire. Do this in conjunction with the advocate of the technology. They can help sell the story.

The hope is that you can do this over and over again with each group until you have critical mass in the enterprise using the technology effectively. Think of the first group as the keystone, that the rest can use as an example or template of how to drive adoption in their teams.

While I write these words into this blog, I know that I have not done justice to all of the ideas others have used to drive adoption of 2 through 10. What techniques, tricks, and methods do you use to drive this type of adoption? What has worked for you?

(Cross post from