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 All classical, outdated and unsuitable answers in our social age.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

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.

expertise
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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Employee Engagement: Beyond Workplace Psychosis 2.0

I always have been an ardent supporter of true qualitative research. Yet, data IS interesting, specially when, considered under the right angle, it helps shedding a light on otherwise unnoticed facts and behaviors.

A number is a number is a number
Emanuele Quintarelli, when presenting the results of the Social Collaboration Survey he recently conducted among 300 Italian companies, exposed such numbers, which curiously were barely commented, during the recent Enterprise 2.0 Summit (you can have a look to his presentation here). He, and his colleague Stefano Besana, found out that middle management is not the problem we all thought it was. On average, it represents a problem for less than 20 percent of companies having undergone a social business initiative. Wow… A fast and dirty interpretation of this finding would be to correlate it with the now (in)famous prediction from the Gartner Group saying that 80 percent of social business efforts will fail, and to assert that old thinking — introducing social with a project mindset, something easily understandable and actionable at middle management level — fails in reshaping businesses to adapt to our new hyper connected reality.

While intellectually flattering, as it nurtures our believing in the necessity for a cultural and behavioral change, making such a correlation would be a fraud. 80 percent of middle managers seing value in social means that part of them are adopting new leadership traits in their behavior (Emanuele’s survey in fact shows that half of companies, on average, think that their culture fits social initiatives). If so, how may we interpret the dreadful level of disengagement (63 per cent worldwide) among employees reported by Gallup?

When structure trumps culture

More than culture, organizational structure imposes constraints on our behaviors. Going even further, organizational culture might be defined as the set of behaviors which develop over time along the interplay of these constraints. As John Wenger insightfully pointed out:

“I’m often fascinated by how people, when they walk through the door of their workplaces, adopt behaviors akin to the symptoms of Stockholm Syndrome. Despite knowing in our hearts and in our guts that much of how workplaces operate is nonsensical and even anti-human, we maintain the charade that it’s the best way of doing things. As Alan Moore points out in No Straight Lines, industrial systems were not designed with human needs at their heart, yet we still organise workplaces along such lines. We go along with the deceit that doing things in a mechanistic, command-and-control way is the right way to do things.”

In many cases, the “victimization” of unengaged employees isn’t caused by, or targeted toward colleagues and managers, but toward the system itself, which structure embodies a deterministic set of constraints. Restoring goodwill requires much more than changing management’s mindset, it calls for a reweaving of the formal structure of organizations. Structure and culture are intimately linked, and at the end of the day, they all relate to relationships between people. As Dan Pontefract wrote in Flat Army:

“… organizational culture is defined by one criterion, and one only: an organization’s culture is defined by the manner in which employees are treated by their direct leader.”

I won’t discuss here the superiority of networks over industrial era hierarchies as organizational model, many others have brilliantly discussed it, you can for example read these recent posts by Jon Husband or Oskar Berg. Yet, a crucial question remains: does a networked organizational structure intrinsically trigger employee engagement?

Sadly, the answer seems negative. There are still few plausible case studies of companies exhibiting —and living— this kind of structure: GoreValveAutomatic, and some others, but they all share a common attitude toward employee engagement: they hire individuals who fit their internal culture, and are particularly cautious about the personality and mindset of new hires. When setting up the right structure, they tend more to protect the corresponding culture than to assimilate dissent elements. Indirectly, they all prove that, if a network-based structure enables engagement and collaboration by leveraging trusted relationships, it doesn’t help that much in restoring motivation from disengaged employees.

Workplace psychosis 2.0

Companies’ culture is evolving; in some cases, their structure is beginning — albeit slowly — to change, but the level of disengagement keeps on increasing. To counter this inexorable trend, some companies are beginning to adopt new behaviors: ROWE human resources approach, BYOD policies, better work-life balance,… but is there any tangible evidence that those are really enhancing engagement?

In a parallel to the rise of industrialization, in our Western societies, the XIXth century has seen our lives being more and more tightly structured and partitioned: work, family, religion, leisure, have grown into social and behavioral “boxes” which, for many people, were largely disconnected one from another. This social, moral, and ontological evolution even reflected itself in the thinking of the time. For example, in Ancient SocietyLewis Henry Morgan, one of the founders of anthropology, described social evolution as a set of patterns belonging different domains: technology, subsistence, marriage, family and political organization.

Today, all, but one, of these personal, social and political boxes which prevailed in the XIXth century have disappeared, in a global transformative movement, accelerated by the internet and the rise of networks. Technology is now pervasive, and affordable to anyone. Family is no more the infrangible nucleus it was hundred years ago, and marriage is no more the reference point of human lives. Political minorities take now their own voice, whichever it is, and the class struggle is merely memories in hedonistic and individualistic societies. Work, instead, has remained the last “reserved” domain, in which people still think and behave differently than in any other situation of a life characterized by social and cultural continuous hybridation. This fracture is less physical, as telework and freelance contracting develops, than psychological, as work codes greatly differ from the ones from our private life, as the nature of work moves away from its outcomes, and gets more and more abstract.

This situation sheds a new light on the lack of engagement, in organizations attempting to adopt more flexible internal rules and to entice employees to bring more of their personality and creativity into the workplace. Being a more complete self in a disconnected, self-contained, workplace, while living a more and more demanding and connected life externally, exhibits all the traits of a split personality disorder. In other words, organizations trying to socialize processes tailored (Taylored) to an industrial-era operational mentality, or to add a social layer to an otherwise closed system, are, slowly but steadily, growing workplace psychosis 2.0.

The nature of the firm, redux

Isn’t there any hope left, beside a radical erase-and-redesign move? Yes, there is. Beside culture and structure, and even beyond them, organizations have to rethink about their nature. I have previously written that the dominant transactional purpose of organizations, famously explained by Ronald Coase, is becoming an economic nonsense. For more than a century, they have grown on top of our society, draining tangible and intangible resources for their own sake, up to the point they have become totally closed systems, subject to growing entropy.

Instead of fighting for a shrinking piece of profit, organizations have to learn how to be useful again to the society which nurtures them, beyond shareholders’ interests, and to become the thriving engines of a global circular economy. To regain sustainability in the new world we see emerging, companies must rethink their own purpose, and will have to switch from an onward, quasi parasitic, to an outward, symbiotic, attitude. The schizophrenia route is definitely a no go. Instead of requiring even more from employees, they are urged to open the doors, and to show them that they care about the world, the society, the city, the life in which they operate.

For sure, most people want to get their work done the best they can, but this only if this work gives sense to their life, and if they are able to feel that this sense is shared among coworkers. Instead of trying to weave socializing behaviors with obsolete business mechanisms, let your employees know you care about your customers, and give them tools to support this. Let them know you care about broader, deeper issues, and help them getting involved in resolving the problems they tackle in their real, external, life. This was the lesson that my friend and colleague from Change Agents Worldwide Céline Schillinger brilliantly gave us during the Enterprise 2.0 Summit: her “Women in Sanofi Pasteur” internal movement grew on the premise of helping to solve the gender balance issue at work, a problem which isn’t limited to the internal corporate world, and the initiative flourished through external recognition. Her success shows that, in order to get more from their employees and contractors, in order to re-engage them, organizations must, simply, give them more. Not as employees, but as human beings. Not in the workplace, but in their life. Let us open the doors of the confined world of work, it needs fresh air. Right now.

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