Simon Terry

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The Last Thing We Need is an Enterprise Social Network

Dear CEO

Re: The Last Thing We Need is an Enterprise Social Network

The purpose of this email is to explain why the last thing we need is an enterprise social network.

This email is in response to the conversation about enterprise social networking in the executive leadership meeting yesterday. We thought it best to summarise the position of the leadership team, because yesterday’s conversation got derailed by anecdotes about social media, technology terminology, fear of change and discussion of abstractions like collaboration, future of work and new organisational structures. Before you left the meeting, you remarked “Based on this discussion, I think an enterprise social network is the last thing we need”. We agree.

We don’t want faddish technology. We need execution of strategy.

As CEO, you’ve been rightly suspicious of all this discussion of social inside the organisation. It is bad enough that your teenage children never look up from using social media on their phones. Whatever that involves, it can’t be needed activity in our organisation. We are a place of work.

What made this country great was well-run organisations, hard work and increasing effectiveness in creating value for customers. That takes focused strategy, disciplined execution and a willingness to do the hard yards. Great organisations aren’t built by chasing technology whims. They come from executing strategy to create better value. When we need to create better execution on strategy, the latest fashionable technology is the last thing you need.

We need better strategic value creation

Times are tough. Industry is more competitive than ever and change keeps increasing. We know customer and shareholder value needs to go up and costs need to come down. We have a strategy that is about meeting these new customer & stakeholder expectations, improving the organisational efficiency and delivering the returns that shareholders demand. We all wonder from time to time whether everyone in the organisation gets the imperative of the new strategy and whether they are all working hard enough to find new ways to create value. We know that we perform better when we have better conversations to make sure that our employees are aligned to the strategy. What we don’t need are distractions when there’s doubt that people even understand the strategy.

When we need strategically aligned value creation, the last thing you need is an enterprise social network.

We need new more effective ways of working

To fulfil the strategy of the organisation, we know as a management team that we will have to start to work in new more effective ways. There has been too much wasteful duplication of work in the organisation. Too many of our processes & policies don’t line up across the silos, aren’t agile enough for the environment and don’t meet customer needs. Both our customers and our employees complain about how badly we do this. We need to start working in new and different ways to identify, solve and improve this on a continuing basis. We have to focus everyone on find and using better work approaches that help us to fulfil the strategy.

When we need working in new and more effective ways, the last thing we need is an enterprise social network.

We need to change management and leadership in every role

Working in more effective ways will likely require us to change the way management works. We are going to need to push decisions down to people closer to the customer and give our people the ability to fix problems. We will need our managers to move from command and control to a coaching and enabling role. We need to ensure that all our people are realising their potential and able to work to create new sources of value. Of course in this new role, middle management will need to be trimmed and the new flatter organisation will need to change more often as we respond to further changes driven by our customers. Employees will need to step up into a leadership role in these changes and with customers, the community and the organisation.

When we need to change the culture of management and asking every employee to play a bigger role in leadership, the last thing we need is an enterprise social network.

We need different conversations

Changing the culture of management is going to demand very different conversations in our organisation. We are going to have to find ways to make sure that conversations are efficient and effective. We need to leverage the contributions of more people from across the organisation. We won’t be able to rely on long meetings, workshops, speeches, video and emails. Did you see the budgets for communications, off sites & roadshows in the forecast for next year? We have to do something different. We will need to involve our people more in making decisions. If that’s going to happen our people will need to be better informed and better able to channel their contributions. Our people will need ways to inform themselves, learn by pulling what they need, share ideas of how to work better and collaborate to solve work problems. We are going to need to encourage our people to join conversations that use their capabilities to innovate, to create value for customers and create new forms of working.

When you need to change the conversations, collaboration and culture of an organisation, the last thing you need is an enterprise social network.

We need more from our people

We wrapped up the last executive leadership meeting reflecting on how big these demands will be on our people. We will be asking for a lot of change in them, their work and the way the organisation exists around them. We will be asking our people to play an increasing role in the success of the organisation. We will want them to lead new conversations to create the future for this organisation. We need our people to be more engaged because we will need much more from our people.

Conclusion: What we need

After you left the executive leadership meeting to catch up with the board, we realised that we are clear what we need as an organisation:

  1. we need to succeed by fulfilling our strategy to create greater value in a rapidly changing market; and to do that
  2. we need to be able to work in new & better ways that create a more effective, agile and responsive organisation; and to do that
  3. we need a new culture in management and more leadership from our people; and to do that
  4. we need new conversations that enable our people to discuss and act on creating better strategic value; and to do that 
  5. we need more engagement and a better ability to leverage the potential of our people to contribute to and lead this change; and to do that
  6. we need an enterprise social network to support the first 5 steps.

If you are surprised by point 6, think back through the needs again. After all you were the first to say that an enterprise social network is the last thing we need. We don’t want an enterprise social network because it is new technology or because it is good for some abstract goal. We need one to help our people to execute on the changes necessary to achieve the goals of our strategy. Enterprise technology only makes sense when it enables us to work in new ways that deliver strategic value. As your management team we can see that the value creation opportunity is compelling. We couldn’t see it when you made your remark, but we have come around to your perspective.

The paperwork required by our old process is already on your desk, but a number of our people have started experimenting with solutions to see what value we can create. (Interestingly, their first suggestion is a better procurement process.) When you get back from the board, your assistant will show you how to log-in and join us discussing how we implement in the new enterprise social network.

Thanks for challenging us to come up with a better way of working.

Please think of the environment and don’t print this email. We’d encourage you to discuss it on our new enterprise social network instead.

If this post sounds familiar or if you would like to create greater value in your enterprise social network or discuss how the Value Maturity Model applies to assist your organisation to create strategic value through enterprise social networking and collaboration, please get in contact. I am available through @simongterry or Linkedin or www.simonterry.com


1 Comment

  1. […] the story you need to read before you buy your collaboration solution or […]

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