UN Security Council

A change tactic for helping your executive management to work out loud

Summary: In this post I present a change tactic to help executive management see the value of their company’s enterprise social network without risk and time commitment.


Many employees only know the name of their CEO and that he probably earns lots of money. That is not much to trust him as a leader. In large traditional organisations the executive management is often far removed from the workforce. Once a year the company might hold a town-hall meeting, at which the management team lays out the company’s strategy and answers employees’ questions. The rest of the year the Internal Communication department prepares and distributes updates on behalf of the management team. Thus, in traditional organisations there is hardly any interaction and communication between the executive management and workforce leading to misunderstandings, mistrust and potentially disengagement. How do managers expect employees to trust and follow them if they don’t know them?

An enterprise social network or similar can help bridge the (communication) void between management and employees by ‘working out loud‘. In a previous blog post I talked about why managers, including executive managers, should be using such platforms. There are many others that highlight the necessity of the C-Suite to become ‘social’ (aka connected!). In a recent post I also wrote about very concrete first steps for managers to get started with a company’s enterprise social network.

And yet, some managers may still refuse to use such platforms actively, partly because of different reasons or excuses, e.g. lack of time, unable to see the value or other higher priorities. But rather than just giving up, maybe there is something that can be done to ‘nudge’ executive management and accelerate the necessary change? Two ideas that go into this direction are  ‘Ask Me Anything‘ by John Stepper of Deutsche Bank and ‘Open up the corporate ivory towers‘ by Daniel Martin Eckhart of Swiss Re. In both cases the goal is to make executive management more accessible and certain decisions taken by them more transparent.  The initial investment taken by the management is low, but the value that can be shown is high.

Based on a similar thinking there is a change tactic I call ‘One day in the life of…’.  The title is actually inspired by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s novel ‘One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich’.  Thanks to Solzhenitsyn and his remarkably detailed narration, the reader can get a sense of the inhumanity and brutality that inmates of the Gulag prison camps suffered. Whilst many of them were not able to speak out, Solzhenitsyn gave them a powerful voice in his book.

‘One day in the life of…’ in a corporate setting is (hopefully) taking place in a different context ;). The idea is to open up a world to people which they usually don’t have access to.  It can provide a glimpse into the demanding but interesting day of people that employees know the name of but not much more than that. This builds trust and probably to a certain extent understanding of why certain decisions are taken.

How can ‘One day in the life of…’ work? It should be set up as a campaign supported by proper communication and also educational elements, since it is not meant to be done just for the fun of it but to help people adopt new behaviours and tools! One employee is selected to follow a senior manager or C-Suite member for one day to meetings, lunch, events (whatever is on the schedule). The employee uses the company’s enterprise social network or Intranet during the day to keep other employees updated obviously leaving out any confidential information. It needs to be ensured though that there is no censorship by anyone, otherwise the communication becomes inauthentic and not trust-worthy and is perceived as yet-some-other-internal-comms content. The employee can use #hashtags to update his status, so others can follow the conversation, ask questions or ask the employee to ask certain questions to the senior manager or C-Suite leader. Since asking a question on the enterprise social network or Intranet is in most cases not anonymous, it can be assumed that there won’t be any difficult or inappropriate questions. Quite the opposite, it might be difficult to get people to post questions. That is why it is important to facilitate this process carefully.

What does the manager gain? Well, let me ask you: ‘What does the manager stand to lose?‘ A skeptical manager can experience the power of using such platforms with very low (time) investment. There is not much he needs to change in his daily schedule if anything. At the same time he can get to know the platform and how he could use it himself. It’s a supervised learning by doing exercise. More importantly though, the manager might be able to earn higher trust, credibility and better understanding among employees. And hopefully, the next time he will use the tool himself to keep his employees informed of what he is doing by ‘working out loud’. Of course, this idea is also valuable for further increasing the use and reputation of the company’s enterprise social network or Intranet. Thus, a win-win for all!

Enterprise social platforms allow for and at the same time require new behaviours.  It is a learning process. However, sometimes traditional learning formats like videos, presentation, brown-bag lunches etc. are simply not sufficient to help with the first steps. If your managers and employees don’t see the value or don’t know how to use these tools for their own benefit, it’s time to explore new ways of learning and helping them to get started!


© Picture Credit: Christoph Schmaltz

Changing one mind at a time: Influencing behaviour in legal KM projects

Together with co-author Shimrit Janes we published an article in the Ark Group’s latest publication called Legal Knowledge Management: Insights and Practice (link to the TOC and a sample). The article looks at crucial success factors of such change projects, but zooms in on the most daunting task: influencing people and their behaviour.

Examples of truly effective KM programmes in the legal sector can be difficult to find. Challenges such as securing budget, engaging leadership and employees in the necessary change process and influencing their behaviour can all stand in the way of a succesful project. The article looks at crucial success factors of such change projects, but ultimately zooms in on the most daunting task: influencing people and their behaviour.

Excerpt:

Changing behaviours

Change is hard. The ‘9x effect’ states that people tend to weigh the benefits of something new by a factor of three, and equally also overweigh the cost of what they have learned by a factor of three. Thus, something new needs to be nine times more appealing than the status quo. Whilst the ‘9x effect’ is more a rule of thumb than hard science, it is a useful story for illustrating why overseeing a change project can be so hard.

We should be under no illusion; implementing new social tools within a KM programme requires change. This is not just because of new interfaces and functionality. More importantly, they break with long-learned behaviour patterns in the enterprise. In order to be valuable to the firm and its people, these technologies require its users to share instead of hoard their knowledge; ‘work out loud’ instead of either alone or within their confined team; to trust and be open instead of control and being secretive; and to actively build their own reputation, instead of passively relying on their manager to choose them for promotion.

The Influencer Framework

There are two fundamental elements that impact the probability of someone changing their behaviour: motivation and ability. Simply having the motivation to change does not mean you have the ability to do so, and vice versa. Consequently, both elements need to be considered in equal amount when trying to influence people to change.

This logic lies at the heart of a framework developed by Patterson et al. called ‘The Influencer Framework’. It can be used in any situation and context in which encouraging change is necessary. It is not, however, a change management model in and of itself. Rather, the framework can be appliedto different elements of a wider change management programme, for example to communication promotion, education and coaching, and technology selection. The framework identifies six sources of influence as shown in Table 1.

[table id=1 /]

Table 1: An adapted version of The Influencer Framework

From knowledge management to knowledge networking

This presentation, given at the Legal KM Conference in London in May 2013, talks about these changes and challenges of introducing an enterprise social network in a professional (legal) environment and particular workstreams of a change acceleration programme.

In the past, knowledge was treated as just another company asset, that could be captured, stored and retrieved in a big warehouse. The role of knowledge management was to ‘manage’ knowledge. This is still important for certain knowledge, but most of our knowledge is inherently attached to people. Thus, Rather than desperately trying to connect employees with some KM system, it is even more important to connect people with each other. Therefore, the role of a knowledge manager has all of a sudden become even more interesting by thinking of ways to enable employees to connect with others inside and outside the company. The introduction of an enterprise social network is only one aspect to facilitate these connections.

Introduction of social tools in the enterprise

We just published an article (in German) in the Community of Knowledge called ‘Einführung von sozialen Technologien im Unternehmen – Erfolgsfaktor Mensch‘. It looks at a variety of barriers to introducing social tools in the enterprise and presents strategies on how to overcome them. In particular, it focuses on how human behaviour can be influenced to overcome the stated barriers.

Excerpt:

Today, there is hardly a company that has not already experimented with social technologies. The high expectations, however, have only been met in very few cases. Will this new software category suffer the same fate as the first generation of knowledge management tools? Disillusionment is spreading, but also the realization that the introduction of social technologies is not a typical IT project and that this is not a sprint but a long process.

Excerpt:

To be successful and economically viable social technologies require nothing less than a new form of organization – the networked enterprise. Depending on the size of the company the cultural and organizational change, however, tend to be extremely difficult, costly and above all very tedious. On the other hand, large companies can benefit most from using social technologies because of network effects.

For managers of initiatives tasked with the introduction of social technologies, this results in a dilemma. The success of their initiative depends not only on technology, but depend even more on employees and organizational factors. See diagram below:


Diagram: Corporate struture and culture can only be influenced indirectly, yet are very important for the introduction of social technologies

 

 


© Picture Credit: Christoph Schmaltz

Second-wave adopters are coming! Are you prepared? Part II

[ I originally published this post on the Headshift blog in 2009. ]

This is the 2nd part of a blog post looking at user adoption.

  1. Overview of barriers to introducing Enterprise 2.0 and user adoption
  2. Scrutinizing barriers to user adoption
  3. Thoughts on how to attract second-wave adopters

In the first post I listed the following barriers to user adoption:

  1. Insufficient training
  2. Culture
  3. Generation Gap
  4. Applications not part of users’ workflow
  5. Time effort > personal value
  6. Complex applications

The first barrier (insufficient training) can be addressed fairly easily. The scope and content of the training program should depend on complexity, context and people’s background.

Barriers two and three (culture and generation gap) are cited very frequently with respect to user adoption. Not to sound harsh, but I think the importance of these two barriers is partially overrated. This is not to say that they do no effect user adoption at all. But looking at cultural issues, people assume that certain behavior can be attributed to a particular culture and by that ignore other explanations.

For example, a very common argument is that people are unwilling to share what they know. Well, they may not be necessarily unwilling to do so, but it does take low priority when people try to meet their goals and deadlines. That was the fallacy of the early KM era, in which employees were asked to step outside their work and ‘contribute’ to a fancy KM tool (aka database). The beauty of social tools is it then, that they allow people to do their work in a more efficient manner, thus, gaining direct personal value and at the same time letting the organization as a whole benefit from it by breaking down silos and enhancing transparency. People need to realize that in most cases, knowledge-sharing is not an activity but in fact a by-product of people’s work. That’s why it is so important to implement these kind of tools into people’s workflow.

On the generation gap, most of the statistics seem to indicate that the older generation is technology averse and few use social tools or services on the Internet. But what about LinkedIn with it’s 39 Million users? What about XING, where 37% of its users are baby boomers? What about Facebook, where the fastest growing demographic is women over 55? And if the younger generations are always on the lookout for the next cool thing, why is the average age of people on Twitter 31? Can we really explain all that just by looking at age, gender or race? I doubt it! Ultimately it comes down to value! People flock to a service from which they get value. What constitutes value, lays in the eye of the beholder. Therefore, it is paramount to understand people, their needs, interactions with others, current tools they are using and so on.

This leaves us with the last three barriers (applications not part of user’s workflow, time effort > personal value, complex applications). To reach second-wave adopters we will need to concentrate on these barriers and come up with strategies to bridge the old and new world.

Whenever there is change about to happen, people effected can roughly be divided into three groups:

  1. People inside your garden
  2. People on the fence
  3. People outside your garden

The number of people can be visualized according to a bell-shaped curve. People on the edges, thus, group one and three, are usually in the minority, whereas group two constitutes the majority.

When considering the introduction of social tools, the groups above can be mapped as follows:

  1. People already using social tools or very eager to do so (the enthusiasts)
  2. People not completely opposing the idea of social tools, but reluctant to some degree to adopt new ways of working for various reasons (the skeptics)
  3. People completely resistant to the introduction and use of social tools, e.g. lawyer that asks his secretary to print out emails or newsletters. (the lost)

Forget about the third group! Getting them into your yard will most probably be impossible and distract you from focusing on the people on the fence. Besides, the group is usually fairly small and may well leave the firm not too long into the future. The enthusiasts are also  usually a small group, but a very important one. They can positively influence at least some of the people on the fence.

As pointed out before, the skeptics are not opposed to social tools per se, but do need to understand how they can benefit most with the smallest effort to change existing practices. And that’s where Enterprise 2.0 projects fall dangerously short. Early adopters and enthusiasts tend to have their heads somewhere in the clouds and forget about the existing work practices of the masses.

I liked Gil Yehuda’s analogy of the E20 and the long neck, which applies to enthusiasts vs. skeptics:

“The problem is that the “body” — the enterprises that are supposed to benefit from Enterprise 2.0 thinking are lagging far behind. […] the “head” is moving forward, looking at traditional business as the outdated, backward-thinking, unimaginative dolts who just don’t get it.  The messages delivered by the head seems to say everything you are “is dead”.  SOA is dead, IT is dead, data-centers are dead, waterfall is dead, email is dead, etc.  Instead, we live on perpetual betas, agile, clouds, and micro-this or that, social-this or that.”

As much as we dislike it, people live in their inbox and this fact is not going away over night by telling them about the benefits of using social tools! Given the lack of appropriate tools in the past, people have grown accustomed to (ab)use email for everything, e.g. public conversations (e.g. cc’d), collaboration, awareness (e.g. newsletters, updates), connecting with others. It’s effortless to fire an email to a group of people rather than using a separate tool. And yes, for most people it is easier to use email for collaboration rather than a wiki, even though they are aware of the disadvantages.

In the last part of this series we will be looking at ways to attract second-wave adopters of enterprise social tools.

Second-wave adopters are coming! Are you prepared? Part I

[ I originally published this post on the Headshift blog in 2009. ]

I decided to break this blog post down into three parts, as it had become way too long during all those endless nights of writing. The general theme is that in the near future we will see more companies starting Enterprise 2.0 projects to increase productivity, reduce cost, improve client relations. While we have seen some early success stories, companies will need to think hard about ways to attract second-wave adopters.

The post is divided as follows:

  1. Overview of barriers to introducing Enterprise 2.0 and user adoption
  2. Scrutinizing barriers to user adoption
  3. Thoughts on how to attract second-wave adopters

While everyone is talking about social tools and services in the consumer market, things have been comparatively quiet in the enterprise market. Yes, there are very noteworthy case studies out there (Sun, Wachovia, TransUnion, and also some of our clients), but the number of initiatives and scale can’t stand up to the things happening in the consumer market.

The crux of the matter is that different dynamics are at play in the enterprise impeding more often than not the commission of even small-scale social software projects:

  • IT departments
    • There is an obvious disconnect between IT and LOB; rigid, long-term IT strategies; concerns about security and compliance
  • IT investments
    • Millions of dollars have been spent on heavy enterprise systems that promised much but delivered little. Admitting failure is difficult, especially if people that commissioned the systems are still with the company.
  • KM 1.0 stigma
    • The promise that knowledge could be captured and stored was proven wrong but cost businesses millions of dollars. Anything coming along now promising better ‘knowledge-sharing’ raises immediate suspicion.
  • Organizational hierarchy
    • Gatekeepers seeing their position weakened.
  • Corporate culture
    • Fear of losing control.
  • ROI
    • The focus on quantitative ROI, even though investment is relatively low compared to traditional enterprise systems and ROI figures for DMS, CMS, CRM systems were usually based on a coin flip rather than real figures.

 

However, with the current economic climate, change is not optional anymore. Organizations need to address inefficiencies caused by outdated management ideas and inadequate technology to increase productivity, save costs and offer better service to existing and prospect clients. This is one of the reasons why I expect to see more and more social software projects starting over the next months. At that point we will talk more about the HOW and less about WHAT and WHY of social tools. But even if companies start exploring business social tools the question remains: Will people come if you build it? And more importantly, will they stay?

User adoption is especially critical in E20 projects, because the tools become more valuable the more people actually use them. Therefore, user adoption must not be an afterthought but carefully thought of for from the start.

Here are some of the most common barriers to user adoption:

  • Insufficient training
    • Even though the training effort is relatively small compared to heavy and complex enterprise systems, handholding during the rollout is very important.
  • Culture
    • Culture can be subdivided into personal and corporate culture, but both influence each other. People fearing disadvantages from the introduction of new tools will do everything to sabotage or avoid their usage.
  • Generation gap
    • Baby boomers, Gen X and Y and Millennials adopt technology in different ways and interpret the world according to their own values and beliefs.
  • Applications not part of users’ workflow
    • Technology exists to help people to create value and do things more efficiently and effectively. If the technology does not support those processes, users will be reluctant to use it.
  • Time effort > personal value
    • People are pressured by deadlines, objectives and managers. If the tools do not help them to alleviate some of the pressure, they will stick to their current tools and processes ignoring their inefficiencies.
  • Complex applications
    • Uptake will be low if applications require a lot of effort to learn and subsequently to use due to unnecessary complexity and lack of usability.

In the following post we will have a closer look at each barrier.