Voices Of The Corporate People

W. Kandinsky - Squares with concentric circles
W. Kandinsky – Squares with concentric circles

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 All classical, outdated and unsuitable answers in our social age.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.

Get Ready

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

E. Degas - Singer with a glove
E. Degas – Singer with a glove

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.

You Can’t Add a Collaboration Layer

Human to Human

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.

Simon Terry  @simongterry

This piece was cross-posted from simonterry.tumblr.com

What Does A Friend Look Like In The Age Of Social?

Or, How John Hagel, David Armano, Hugh MacLeod and Harold Jarche Kickstarted Me.

Here’s how it began.

2011 Back story: In my MarComms job, I had two projects front of mind – launching an Enterprise Social Network (we were the first company in the world to completely replace our intranet with Yammer) and developing a bunch of infographics on business performance (turning heavy PowerPoint slides into something more digestible). Independently, I was mentoring some young communicators who were trying to work out their pitch and career paths.

I spent a lot of time thinking about these topics; with plenty of online research. I was working out how to not just understand these topics, but put them into practice. I was on twitter rather passively, following a fist full of thought leaders – among them meme capturer / destroyer Hugh MacLeod, (Center of the) Edge thinker John Hagel and the social / design maven David Armano.

I also helped edit some resumes; and ended up updating mine (I was called to account for having a very out of date one) but was disappointed in the outcome – it did not capture the essence and depth of what I felt I could offer.

Then, one day, the three topics coalesced around a single idea: develop a social (shareable) infographic resume, for myself, as an intellectual exercise in creating content that people want to talk about and share, that allows them to know me better / deeper, and that drives my own career trajectory (I was not looking for a new job, but I did want to own my career path more keenly.)

So, I sketched up some ‘3-D’ ideas.

JA-on-my-mindThen I sent to a friendly designer and, why, there it was – a look along my journey; even a look inside my brain. Wherein, snippets of Armano/MacLeod/Hagel genius.

Next, I shared it, as you do. I put it on Slideshare and tweeted Armano a thanks. He, in turn, kindly tweeted:

Next thing I know it was trending on Slideshare home page and had several thousands hits.

That process lead to the development of the personal branding BrandBoards product. But there’s more.

Soon after, I was invited by Yammer to attend a Customer Advisory Board meeting in San Francisco, and to present on the social journey we had been on using yammer-as-intranet. I met many corporate social technology mavens there, real thought leaders and active practitioners. Who was on as keynote before me? None other than John Hagel. Neat. It was a most inspiring event, and one name came up a few times as someone to follow and study: Harold Jarche.

No-one has since guided my own social journey more than Jarche. Deep, patient, profound, inviting, his writing and approach to net work is something I have appropriated for myself (the approach, not the writing!)

Flying back to Vancouver from that event, I was both lifted and highly focused. I needed to show up differently at work, to stake a claim for a new way of working, to work out loud.

And touching down in YVR, I saw some tweets about Armano being in town the next day and hosting a Q&A. Synchronicity. I went along, had a chat about ESNs and social business. Things were moving.

I have been a fairly heavy poster / participant in the Yammer Customer Network over time, especially in the ‘thought leadership’ category. Therein I cultivated relationships with many strong, vibrant social leaders.

That lead, via Ernst Décsey, to an invite to a new, progressive group of social business (or whatever we are calling it today) leaders who were developing a new model of working around change, social, network theory.

Rather fraudulently, I joined Change Agents Worldwide (CAWW) crew here, and suddenly I was (virtual) face-to-face with people whose content and ideas I had used and pushed inside my own organization: the amazing graphics of Joachim Stroh; working out loud with Bryce Williams; sharing wirearchically with Jon Husband; and then, (network theory crush!) The Jarche himself!

How wonderful.

Now, why did I write all this? Oh yes, to talk about friendship, and trust.

CAWW friends in NYC
CAWW friends in NYC

The social journey for me has been an immense undertaking as I uncouple the vestiges of my (the?) old ways of thinking and embrace the opposites of what I have known to be normal:

  • from local to global
  • from private to public
  • from head-down to horizon-seeking
  • from control to choice
  • from saved to shared.

In this process, on this journey, I have made new friends, quick friends, high trust friends, guiding friends, virtual friends. I am sure neither John Hagel nor David Armano remember who I am [Update: Armano told me he did remember me. Nice.], but they are still friends, because they have given freely and I have received gratefully, and amplified their gifts to others. From them and others, I have learned to ask “How can I help?”  to strangers with no distinct quid pro quo other than, we are all in this together.

There is a Peter Matthiessen quote I use all too often.

“Soon the child’s clear eye is clouded over by ideas and opinions, preconceptions, and abstractions. … Not until years later does an instinct come that a vital sense of mystery has been withdrawn.

The sun glints through the pines and the heart is pierced in a moment of beauty and strange pain, like a memory of paradise.

After that day, we become seekers.”

I return to it regularly for two reasons. As a parent to two young kids I get to see through their clear eye every day. Also, it helps me reflect on how in the last few years I, too, have become a seeker again. Much of that is down to social, virtual friends who have let me into their trust.

gapingvoid1And what of Hugh MacLeod? Well, I have yet to meet him so, for now, one of his limited edition prints above the toilet will have to suffice.

Still full of (shit) ideas,

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

Here’s How Change Agents Of The World Unite

As we begin 2014, let’s start at the end.

Change Agents navigate the choppy waters and uneven terrain toward the future of work. They invite you along for the journey – as guides, as co-conspirators, and treasure seekers.

They are in the vanguard. This puts them ahead of the pack. It means they are ready. It also makes them vulnerable. There are bruises, and battles, yet Change Agents still ask:

How can I help?

The currency of social business is a deep understanding of emergent themes and practices in culture, technology, organization design, and the impacts on, and motivations of, individuals. Change Agents are rich in life and learning.

Change Agents are in the flow. They believe in networks and net work. They trust. But flow without hustle is mere meandering. Hustle is a willingness to connect with others and (co)create a vision of a better tomorrow. Change Agents say

“I am part of the solution. I can help. Let’s talk / work.”

Change Agents work out loud. They do not have all the answers. They believe ‘share’ is the new ‘save.’

Mostly, Change Agents are curious. Curiosity is the kick-start, the prerequisite. It is the muscle that helps us manage deep, continuous, uneven change.

Curious? Welcome to Change Agents Worldwide. [Oh, you are already here! Excellent.]

This post was originally posted on the ←This Much We Know→ blog.

Classifying a Community

Photo by Eric Ziegler

Defining categories of communities can be done in many many different ways: e.g.  by size (small, medium, large, humongous), types of people in the community (internal employees vs. external clients vs both), etc.

There are so many different types of communities that to be honest, it can scare away even the hardiest of requester for a new community. Last week I talked about the first step that must happen with requesting community managers, setting expectations.  Inside that post, I mentioned that some well intended requests come without knowing much about what a community could do for them.  So to help them understand what is available, I have often used the following examples to help the types of communities they could build

  1. Pushy Community – Not much of a community, but still there is the need for them in enterprises (hopefully rarely).   Success is defined as people reading the information)
  2. Interactive Pushy Community – This is the first real level of a community, where the push of information is accompanied with the ability to like, rate, and comment with the posts.  The community can’t post new messages, but they can interact with what is posted, allowing them to engage with the content and the content creators.  Success is defined as people read the information and interact and engage with the content. 
  3. Interactive Community – The community is built so that the community members interact with each other, collaborating on documents, asking questions, getting answers, and sharing information with each other.  Sometimes email is used to get the community re-engaged or to get the word out on the most important of information.  The success of the community is defined by people almost fully interacting and engaging in the community and occasionally relying on tools outside the community to interact with each other. 
  4. Collaborative Community – The community is built so that the community members interact solely using the collaborative tools available, collaborating  interacting, engaging with each other within the community. Success for this community is when the community members use the tools available to exclusively collaborate with each other and do not use external tools to collaborate.  (e.g. no email).
  5. Inter Collaborative Community – The community is built much the same way as the collaborative community, but instead of just collaborating within the community, the community members collaborate inside the community and with other communities and groups.  This community knows they are successful when each of the community members are always using collaborative tools in their day to day interactions.
You can classify communities how ever you would like.  In the above examples, I have laid out some examples of types of communities and how the communities would work, with the hope that when I describe these to an unknowing new community manager, they can pick a type and drive their community to success. 
How would you classify communities to a new community manager?  Would you use the same descriptions or would you describe them differently?  If you used the above example, would you add or subtract from the list?  For each of the above types of communities, what would you say make these communities successful? 

from Eric Ziegler’s http://zag.zig.us blog http://zag.zig.us/2013/11/classifying-community.html

How to start a change movement

Change movements fascinate me.  People coming together to create change that is beyond the power of one individual, is how all of our greatest social accomplishments have been made.  I have started a few myself, both successfully and unsuccessfully.  I have studied lots of others hunting for ideas that can be reused.

I have learned that there is no perfect formula. However, these things help movements to success:

Purpose:  Defining why the movement exists matters most.  This is the reason people will give up their time and effort to be involved.  Failure to agree on common purpose will result in factions, disruption and failure later

Engaged champions: A few engaged champions is worth thousands of passive members.  Find your champions and treasure them.  Finding them is usually as simple as letting them approach you.  The ones you want will have a bias to act.  You are often better cutting the freeriders and focusing only on the engaged users in the early stages.  Exclusivity, a strong sense of the other and deep personal relationships helps build energy and resilience in the movement.

A small secretariat: A movement usually needs some group accountable for shaping and maintaining direction.  A small secretariat of the most engaged champions can play that role.  The secretariates does not need to be hierarchical but they do need to play a role as custodian of the purpose and a node for actions across the network.

Cellular structureNetworks are more resilient & more engaging than hierarchies.  Small group structures engage people and build personal connections within the network. The groups also provide local support, back-up for missed communication and solve issues locally where required.  Action by small groups requires less coordination.

Stories: Successful movements have rich storytelling traditions. Myths, tales and anecdotes help share their messages and make purpose tangible to the community and others. Stories share abstract ideas in tangible ways making them more human and personal.

Continuous communication: Driving change is only one element in people’s lives.  You cannot overcommunicate.  Share stories, successes and challenges.  Make sure there is a vibrant connection across your network.

Sense of community:  Great movements build strong senses of community.  That is usually evident in the support and sharing that occurs within the community beyond its core purpose.

Symbols of change: To understand the movements vision, you need defining symbols that people can understand and relate to their own world. A few common values can be part of a powerful symbol of the change.  The more human, personal and individual the symbols are the easier they are to live and share.

Consistent action & confrontation: Action builds movements.  Action inevitably involves confrontation with opponents.  A regular cycle of action and confrontation is required to keep engagement of the movement.  Action and confrontaction creates new stories to share and can bring the movement’s symbols and purpose to life for a wider audience. Progress may be slow but action must be continuous.

Reflection & adaptation: Successful movements adapt to changing circumstances, responses and to the needs of the system in which they operate.  Processes to foster reflection and development of new adaptations matter to enable this.

Gathering: Human beings are tribal.  We like to gather.  Whether it is gatherings of the cells or gatherings of the whole movement, the people involved need to come together and feel part of the tribe from time to time.  Gatherings are where the informal story sharing occurs.  It is where trust and connection is built, knowledge is exchanged and new innovations are started.

This list is a starting point on my studies and experience.  What are your ideas?  What have a left out?  What of the above is wrong?

Simon Terry @simongterry

Immersion is a Catalyst of Change

Wish you were here

When making major change finding symbols and mechanisms that help accelerate the change can be important. These elements of your change management plan act as catalysts, helping make the change occur. Jim Collins described the power of catalytic mechanisms as a vehicle to help organisations achieve goals in a classic Harvard Business Review article.

Immersion in the problem is an incredibly powerful catalyst of change in organisations. Too often change conversations can have an abstract or a theoretical flavour. Improving customer satisfaction, employee engagement or community reputation can seem like moving the needle on an intangible measure. These conversations are often lifeless. They are very different measures and conversations when you are at the edge of the organisation, face to face with those affected and discussing the issues.

Immersion changes the nature of people’s understanding of problems. Put the change agents or those doubting the need for change in the heart of the problem, face to face with the issues and people involved.  The need for change change is more tangible.  People see things with new eyes. Immersion shows you parts of the system that you have never seen before. There is nothing like being on the spot.  Immersion also delivers passion and insights that can’t be found around a conference table.

We have a lot of ways to immerse ourselves in any situation requiring change. I have seen the power of formal immersion programs that prompt reflection, discussion and action. More simply, we can eat our own dogfood. We can go to Gemba. We can know our enemies. We can manage by walking around.  We can do the work or live the life for an hour, a day or a week. We can turn back on our customer and community understanding and use our own radar to contribute to the change.

Immersion can be the easiest powerful action you can take to catalyse change. Everyone in the organisation can be involved. It can take as little as half an hour and as much as a lifetime. Put your leaders in the heart of the problem and watch the results.

Simon Terry @simongterry

Disrupted, Disruptors… Unite!

Blue Painting by Wassily Kandinsky

A short while ago, one of my tweets – that seemed to me no different from what I usually publish on Twitter – was favorited and RTed way more than any of my previous tweets. It made me curious to understand why. Was there anything in its content that was particularly appealing? Any learning I could draw from this?

This tweet is a simple, short sentence captured in Whitney Johnson’s article of Aug. 2011 in the Harvard Business Review, “Disrupt Yourself”. I hadn’t seen this paper when it was published, but I got in touch recently with Whitney – discussing how one can personally embrace disruption in a world of complexity –, then I came to read this article. It provides a great example of driving personal disruption, embracing change, overcoming fears, taking risks for the better.

Disrupt Yourself

Being a kind of professional disruptor on a permanent basis (one of the hot jobs of tomorrow…), I’m convinced that change starts with ourselves, at our very individual level. Organizations would be more engaging, business more relevant, and life more interesting if more people (in the corporate world, and else) dared to think different and to take risks. Even just a little.

For this reason, I’ve enjoyed reading the paper and I naturally shared it on Twitter. Whitney kindly retweeted the message which greatly extended its reach – she is a respected thought leader and has built a wide audience.

But I think it doesn’t explain all. Why has this sentence been so popular?

“If it feels scary and lonely, you’re probably on the right track”

My guess is that people have been moved by this particular sentence. It conveys an emotional feeling that resonates loudly with what change agents experience on a regular basis. Loneliness and fear.

Driving change, either at work or in one’s personal life, is never easy. Even when you get older, even when you’ve accumulated experience of conducting successful changes. Disruption experiences always come with something new: new environment, new opponents, new traps, backlash – or apathy, betrayal sometimes… and a fair amount of disappointment when considering results compared to the amount of work done. Failure? Possibly. Although you always learn something from (even unsuccessful) disruption.

Disrupted, Disruptors… You are not alone

It’s a bit ironic that precisely this tweet about feeling scared and alone is shared by many. If you’re numerous, you’re not alone anymore!

This is, to me, the key to driving at best personal or professional disruption. It takes a lot of courage to change things; it can be painful and scary. That’s why it is so important to connect with other change makers. Knowing you are not alone makes disruption considerably easier. When you’re able to share your feelings AND benefit from others’ experience, the weight of change feels much lighter. You may even find yourself joining or launching a community with other change makers and turn your frustration into a positive force.

My communities

In my case, family and friends provide the closest support, and their emotional backing is precious whenever I go through turbulent times. But it’s not always possible to share about everything, especially change in the workplace – can be pretty boring for them actually. Fortunately, I’ve found many ways to connect with other disruptive thinkers:

  • At work, through internal social networks and communities
  • Through external social networks, mostly Twitter and Google+. This is where I came across the inspiring, supporting @corprebels and @Rebelsatwork communities, as well as like-minded individuals I might never meet in real life. Sometimes, a mere look at a comment below a post or an answer to a tweet raised my interest, and triggered a rich, meaningful conversation with someone half a world away. The most recent examples of this happened with Nollind Whachel (hi Nollind!) and Jennifer Gilhool​ (hello!) whose experience and thoughts I’ve found resonated a lot with mine.
  • In communities of practice such as the mind blowing Change Agents Worldwide group (you’ll hear a lot about it soon!) and the amazing community of people encountered at the Enterprise 2.0 Summit

I wouldn’t be able to thrive without them, and my gratitude is infinite.

What about you, change makers? Do you feel “lonely and scared” sometimes? And what do you do about it?