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 is Change Agents Worldwide?

We started working on the business almost a year ago to the day.  Over the course of the year, various members of our network have blogged about what we think, how we work,  and what we believe.  But, we never formally “launched” the business. We are still fine-tuning some of our progressive network-era based business processes, so we are still not ready to announce the business formally to the market. That day will come, but we want to be ready when we open the floodgates.

That said, we’ve attracted a nice following of friends and fans who are getting swept up in the excitement around what we’re building.  We felt it was time to provide a little more detail around who we are.  This presentation gives a good overview of the basics.

So What’s Next?

Our virtual doors are now open and we are ready to work with you. We invite you to experience, firsthand, our collaborative work environment.  We can help you create solutions to some of your most pressing business issues. Some examples include:

  • How to build next generation networks and communities that thrive.
  • How to implement transformational change from organization design to new technologies like Enterprise Social Networks.
  • How to prepare for the future of work and increase productivity, employee engagement, customer experience , innovation and growth.
  • How to make your organization more responsive, resilient, agile and open to ongoing change.

Change Agents Worldwide is ready to help you develop faster and more flexible solutions with some of the best minds in the industry. We’d love to start a conversation and give you a glimpse of how we can all operate successfully in the networked age.

 

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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?

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

Wasting People – Who Cares?

Edvard Munch-The Scream-1893“How have you been lately?” I asked recently a friend of mine, working in a large corporation. The response stroke me – “I now feel better than a while ago. I have resigned myself to the idea that I have no future in my job, in my company. I will no longer be promoted nor challenged. So, the best I can do is switch to “autopilot” at work, and invest my brain and energy in meaningful activities outside of work”.

“I feel better. I have no hope anymore about my job”

This is killing me, really. Not just because she’s my friend, and I know she’s a very valuable resource to her company, but because I’ve witnessed this oh so many times.

Every time, it’s about skilled senior professionals, in their forties or early fifties. Although committed to the company’s mission, they are led to a point where they have no choice but to emotionally disconnect from work. These people may be bitter (read anonymous evaluations of companies on Glassdoor.com, they can be cruel) – or just disengaged. It hurts them most if they’ve strongly invested their professional field before, sometimes at the expense of their personal and social life. I’ve seen this happen a lot with women, which is not surprising given the ​lack of opportunities they are offered in the corporate world. But an awful lot of men feel they’re being put aside as well.

A lack of recognition, career stagnation, inept management, meaningless pressure, bureaucratic culture, sterilized internal communication, social stratification, the unpleasant “corporate kabuki” of performance evaluation are hurting those people in their professional life and personal self-esteem. The problem is not that people leave their companies, generating high turnover; the problem is that they stay. They stay with no enthusiasm, little pride and a low, very low productivity.

Sitting on a gold mine

Corporate leaders are sitting on a gold mine and they disregard it. While striving for growth and productivity, many companies still afford the luxury to waste a major resource: their own talents. They’ve managed to have those people join, they’re paying their salaries, infrastructure, travel, communications, and so forth… and end up using a fraction only of the available intelligence and energy.

How come they don’t take the issue more seriously?

It’s not that they are not aware. Employee disengagement is everywhere. Studies and surveys pile up. The recent Gallup “State of the Global Workplace” report, showing that only 13% of employees feel engaged, has been much publicized. Thirteen per cent! Other major consulting firms come to the same conclusion (Aon plc, Hay Group) and communicate heavily on their findings.

Mainstream business literature urges companies to do something about it. Studies demonstrate that higher employee engagement leads to “greater business success, lower cost in talent recruitment, (higher) workplace creativity and customer satisfaction”. In his remarkable book “The Flat Army. Creating a Connected and Engaged Organization”, Dan Pontefract (@dpontefract) compiles enough data and case studies to demonstrate that “engagement is good”, and “disengagement is bad”. The proof is in the numbers.

Any action?

Most often unfortunately, companies do little about this issue. Constrained by habits or unable to think differently, few of them admit that it’s precisely the way they are run that causes disengagement. Hierarchy, command-and-control, organizational silos seem natural and permanent – the price to pay for efficiency. Outdated leadership models have proven good for the leaders currently in place – so why would they change? Who would be willing to relinquish their power, status or comfort?

Some organizations launch a window-dressing “employee motivation” initiative that ends up with yet another employee survey (with closed, lenient questions), a stereotyped corporate movie (featuring beautiful, diverse, happy people that look 100% fake), one more top-down newsletter, or a wide range of lip service.

Some leaders just ignore the topic and bury their head in the sand, causing a friend of mine to claim: “Man descended from apes, leaders descended from ostriches”. They express fatalism and see employees as a mass of undifferentiated, not fully reliable people which needs guidance, structure and control. Sheep need a shepherd.

At the same time, companies go on spending $$$ to attract talent from outside, because their own talents are “not good enough”. Oh, really? Regardless of perception bias (“the grass is greener elsewhere”), could it be that they’re “not good enough” precisely because they’re not engaged?

Nobody says it’s an easy task. Engagement drivers are diverse. In large corporations, it is impossible to handle well individual aspirations and please everyone. Plagued by a “support function mindset, insufficient capabilities, and a low tolerance for risk”, most HR departments are “unable to relate the ROI or business impact of their function” (McKinsey) and cannot handle the issue seriously. They can even be an additional source of frustration for employees. Forward thinking HR exist, but they have a low share of voice.

Employee disengagement can be prevented (or cured)

However, despite the difficulties, a few simple changes could turn companies into more engaging organizations. How? Through social re-engineering. Changing paradigm. Empowering employees. Thinking of them not as “resources” but as “partners”, not as uncontrollable kids but as responsible grown-ups. Supporting communities. Giving up stereotyped language. Revisiting corporate leadership culture. Becoming a social organization… sufficient substance to feed future posts — and hopefully corporate strategies, someday. Among existing great resources on line, the Change Agents Worldwide blog is full of valuable insights on the matter.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear about your experiences. Have you witnessed disengagement in your working environment? Has any organization you know been able to turn around the situation, to build new motivation and passion for work? How have they done?

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