Start with Connection

Are your employees really connected through your Collaboration platform? Many who are members of your platform aren’t actually connected in human relationships. Perhaps it is time to check that your organisation is ready to begin the journey of adoption to realise strategic business value.slide1

A Missed Connection

When I explain the Value Maturity Model, many listeners skip over the first stage of the model and want to rush into the heady territory of sharing, solving and innovating. “Connection. OK. We have our employees on our network,” they say, “We are connected already. What’s next?” I am not alone in this experience. In a recent conversation with James Tyer of Togetherwise, a collaboration & learning consultant in the UK and Canada, James explained that he often has to take people back to the beginning to pick up missed connections and build a solid foundation for the work of realising business value.

Cai Kjaer of Swoop Analytics has also pointed out in a recent Linkedin post that having a network solution and employees being able to access that solution are precursors to realising value from social collaboration.  However, those steps on their own aren’t enough to create the human relationships that are necessary to work more effectively in organisations.

Experts in collaboration have been stressing for some time that a platform is not enough to deliver the benefits of collaboration. We can’t rely on “Build it and they will come”.  Most vendors now stress the need for adoption but what they often mean is “people on a platform” to ensure their revenues. ‘People on a platform’ is not enough to generate meaningful work and business value. Random crowds roaming your enterprise social network will get you nowhere you want to go. The potential wisdom of crowds of employees must first be shaped by strategic community management. We need to help employees to connect new relationships to be able to benefit from new opportunities for social collaboration.

Connecting Human Relationships

Community managers are the agents of strategic value in social collaboration. Their work translates human connection into the specific business value that realises an organisation’s strategy. The first role of community management in an enterprise social network is to connect new human relationships. Those relationships, not the platform, are the foundation of new value.

Think for a minute about the best work relationships that you have. What are the characteristics of those relationships? Features of great working relationships include a shared understanding, context and goals, reciprocal value, trust, mutual support, and learning. The first work of community managers in organisations that are using a social collaboration solution is to put in place the conditions that will foster these kinds of connections.

The Work of Connection

Let’s look at some critical elements that deliver connection for business value in a social collaboration network:

  • Connecting Understanding: For many of your employees, the use of social collaboration tools at work is new. Kai Riemer of the University of Sydney has demonstrated in his research into ESNs that sense-making is a critical early phase of network development. We need to help employees to make sense of the use and benefits tools in the work context.
  • Connecting Purpose: Work is busy. There’s already too much to do. People need reasons to use a new platform. Real people love their tasks to have meaning. Connecting those reasons to shared purpose in the organisation is an important benefit to users and a benefit in communicating and reinforcing purpose.
  • Connecting Strategic Value: Your organisation’s strategy outlines the most important work that needs to be done and the value that the organisation is seeking to achieve. Ensure that this value is clear to your community and that they can help drive what the organisation needs to be done.
  • Connecting Work: Not every employee and business will be able to find the connection between their own work and the broader business strategy. Help individuals and teams to make the connections of their work into broader businesses, processes, and projects.
  • Connecting Groups: Groups (or the related concept of Channels) are the home of work in any effective social collaboration solution. Make sure you have the groups you need to start the right work. Make the groups findable for new employees. Help these groups form, storm and norm on their way to performing. You don’t want names in a group. You are aiming for a team built on real human relationships.
  • Connecting Capability: Human capability is variable. Not everyone will have the capabilities they need to understand how to use the platform, to work or to lead in these new complex relationships. Make connections for people to ways to build their capability to be more effective.
  • Connecting over Barriers: Every organisation has legacy rules, mindsets, processes and approaches to work that will get in the way of effective collaboration. Help your teams to fix, avoid or work around these barriers.
  • Connecting Leaders and Champions: Real people are influenced by the behaviour of others. Leaders and champions will help shape the work, the norms and the value created in your network.
  • Connecting Governance: Budgets come with expectations and organisations come with norms. Connect a governance team that can help the community managers to drive the right strategic outcomes in ways that best suit your organisation.
  • Connecting Data: Value realisation requires measurement. Put in place a plan to measure the data you need and gather the tools that you will need to do the measurement.
  • Connecting Resources: Nothing is free. Great work needs the right level of resources. Make sure your community management team and platform has a sustainable level of resourcing for the strategic value that you want to create.

If you skipped the Connection stage in your collaboration solution, some of these elements might have been missed. Even if you picked up these steps, are these elements integrated to ensure that the foundations for future business value are in place?

Realising the strategic value of social collaboration requires a focus on the human relationships in work. Any good relationship begins with a strong connection.

If you are interested in exploring further how to the Collaboration Value Canvas, enables organisations to conduct a two-hour workshop with business stakeholders to ensure that the business has an integrated plan for its community management and adoption work.  Contact Simon Terry to discuss how this could be applied in your organisation.


In a discussion on Facebook around this post, Mark LeBusque added this insightful comment:

Another reason why BEING comes before the DOING. I often come across coaching clients who have been frustrated when projects hit a hurdle and it’s always because they haven’t created a meaningful connection with their cohort before the project begins. Instead of sitting in a room on Day 1 of the project talking about what they need to DO they should spend time in a less sterile environment talking about how they need to BE. The key element there is how to really be connected.

Mark’s comment highlighted to me the one missing connection:

Connecting Self: Busy people tied up in work, status, fears, dreams and other mindsets can struggle to connect to their feelings, fears and sense of self. Any relationship must be based on a strong sense of who you are and want to be. We need to help people connect with and leverage their authentic self as part of their work.

5 thoughts on “Start with Connection

  1. Human connection, sense of self. How much of this necessity I wonder is borne out or linked to the emergence of AI.

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