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 All classical, outdated and unsuitable answers in our social age.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

No Playing With (Social) Fire

How do traditional, regulated industries cope with social engagement? Not so well, as it seems. In a series of two posts, we will explore the reasons that hold those industries back from becoming truly social (part 1), taking Pharma as an example. Between real constraints and irrational fears, various avenues of action exist (part 2) to seize the business potential of social engagement.

Turner_-_The_Burning_of_the_Houses_of_Parliament

Stop dreaming. You will never hear a traditional, regulated industry go for social media with genuine enthusiasm. Even when marketers or IS specialists get it, the rest of the organization generally doesn’t. In the face of social business, incomprehension and distrust are the norm.

A typical example is the Pharma industry. Although digital and social initiatives are not rare any more, to make a new social venture happen is still a painful journey. Cumbersome procedures, lack of management support, misunderstanding of coworkers are enough to quench the enthusiasm of social business advocates. Why? Because many preconceived ideas, fantasies almost, distort the picture of social:

  • “Social is vain”. Social networks are for young people – or people with enough time to lose –, they count for nothing versus real-life connections, and discussions taking place there are futile.
  • “Social is nasty”. Sentiment is mostly negative against the industry and social media gives echo to the nastiest activism of ignorant crowds. Better keep evolving in the familiar world of press releases, press conferences and media trips.
  • “Social is unnecessary”. In many fields of business, corporate people still believe success depends mostly on science and lobbying. For public health related business, the recipe for success would combine relevant scientific data + the support of respected scientific opinion leaders + proper channeling of tailored messages to policy makers. A pinch of marketing, slick visuals, and there you have it.
  • “Social chases away compliance”. Specifically for the Pharma industry, procedures imposed by health authorities are supposedly not compatible with wide social engagement. When you have to report any single adverse drug reaction you become aware of – in just a few hours –, or when any allusion to a benefit that’s not in the drug’s label is strictly forbidden, it’s pretty hard to consider opening the floodgates of social conversation. Imagine thousands of people complaining or speculating about your drug on social channels, day and night, 365 days a year. In the absence of FDA guidelines, how do you manage?

 A wealth of opportunities

But, these are convenient excuses for not trying. The reality is that there is a wide space open for experimentation of social engagement. The benefits are clear: as global PR Agency Weber Shandwick states, social media for Pharma:

  • Allows direct communications with audiences
  • Adds value to patient and physician communities
  • Shapes perceptions
  • Gains insight into patient populations, and
  • Extends important messages

(in 2013 Digital Health: Building Social Confidence in Pharma).

No one said it was easy. “But digital health can become a solution instead of a problem if seen for what it actually is: an amazing tool for connecting patients, caregivers, healthcare professionals, treatment providers, and institutions with the information necessary to advance public health” says Michael Spitz in an Oct. 2013 article.

With the emergence of collaboration and listening tools, Pharma companies and other traditional industries are starting to enter the game. But few leverage the full power of social engagement. Why?

It’s a mindset (and leadership) issue

Traditional, regulated industries and the executives that drive them are deeply influenced by organization principles inherited from the Fordist era. “Control” is an absolute value, and “risk avoidance” a perpetual motto. Not a bad fit with today’s litigation culture and short-term financial management.

Organizations are optimized for business efficiency, segmented along functions and grades. Processes enable a standardized replication of a maximum of activities, to ensure the predictability of production, quality, and business results.

Human “resources” must also meet the demand for control. Talent acquisition and development are very standardized. As a result, the management and leadership teams are amazingly homogeneous from a gender, culture, education, and social origin standpoint. The “dominant while male” is still the leader archetype.

Such teams are not diverse enough to innovate and promote an authority-driven type of leadership, where being a good element in the chain of command is at least as valued as the in-the-job performance. This mindset stands pretty far from what social business requires.

Authenticity, connecting capacity, appetite for complexity, flexibility with hierarchical codes, collective and inclusive leadership, empathy with all types of interlocutors… are enabling skills in today’s social economy, and what precisely is still missing within the traditional industry.

 

In our next blog post, we will propose solutions for regulated industries to embrace social engagement, based on experience and observations. Your ideas are very welcome, feel free to share!

In the meantime, if you haven’t done it yet, take the test 🙂 How wired are YOU for social collaboration?

Incent to Share

Photo by Eric Ziegler

Your company doesn’t share information.

There are silos in your organization.

Each silo is not interested in helping the other silos.

Enterprise Social tools are integrated into business tools

Enterprise Social tools are still not being used.

Why is it not working?

Culture culture culture.

Technology is not what wins the battle, change and culture, that’s what’s needed .

Find the incentives for people to share.

from Eric Ziegler’s http://zag.zig.us blog http://zag.zig.us/2013/11/incent-to-share.html

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

Setting Expectations

 

Photo by Sarah Ziegler

A friend and I were recently talking about adoption. Specifically we were talking about the adoption of tools that help build enterprise communities. One idea we discussed that I haven’t read that much about is:

        Setting expectations.

While I know this idea is not new, I have not heard much about the use of setting expectations for Enterprise 2.0 or Social Business or adopting enterprise social networks. For example, as a people manager, if you have read it once, you have read a million times. To help guide your employees to ensure they know what to do, you need to set expectations with your employees. If you don’t the manager is at a higher risk of not getting the best performance out of each employee.  This is an oldie but goody. But why don’t we use this same idea in the enterprise for adopting enterprise social tools?

I find that for some people, they just want to create a community because their peer has one (the me too syndrome).  Others have good intentions but don’t know where to even start to build a vibrant community. In both situations, neither have defined what expectations they have for their community. In both situations, instead of just allowing them to create the community and have it fail, the requester needs to clearly understand their goals so they can use the technology to meet their goals.

So, step 1: get the requester to define their hopes and dreams for the community they want to build.  Have them define how do they see the community working. Have them, articulate what their goals are for the community.  Work with them to design how the community will work. The key to the success, is to get them to set their own expectations for the community and then have them work to have their community meet that expectation.

While setting expectations are great for the community, one of the keys to ensuring the community is as vibrant as desired, the community manager must communicate what expectations they have for the community to the community. In addition, as the community grows, the community manager must influence the community to meet those expectations, while being willing to reset their expectations and adapt to how the community grows.

Setting expectations are crucial, being influential and flexible is equally important.  But then again, isn’t that the recipe for success in almost all situations?

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