Now that I look back, I realize that a life predicated on being obedient and taking orders is a very comfortable life indeed. Living in such a way reduces to a minimum one’s own need to think. – Adolf Eichmann
I went looking for a quote about the need for thought and the dangers of comfortable life for a blog post inspired by a client conversation. I wanted to write about the challenge of discomfort and learning. I came across this shocking quote and it could not help but throw the issue into a starker relief that I will explore in this post. I will return tomorrow to the business story I wanted to tell but first let’s talk about the threat of thoughtless comfort.
Hannah Arendt in her book and essays ‘Eichmann in Jerusalem‘ gave us a memorable description of Adolf Eichmann’s role to execute the Holocaust during the Third Reich. She described Eichman as an exemplar of
‘the fearsome, word-and-thought-defying banality of evil’.
The second half of that phrase is commonly quoted. Eichmann tried hard to present himself as following orders at his trial. Arendt focused a great deal on his compliant active participation in the evil of the Nazi system. The impression she created is that a compliant mind is particularly banal, even when engaged in the horrors of genocide.
On the Thoughtlessness and the Banality of Evil
The horrors of the Holocaust were real and clear. Eichmann played a significant role in the Nazi state’s plan for ‘the final solution to the Jewish question’. For some, Arendt’s phrase ‘the banality of evil’ has been controversial. Some commentators see Arendt as having fallen for Eichmann’s efforts to minimise his complicity. Other commentators feel the ‘banality of evil’ phrase downplays the horror experienced by the millions of victims, Eichmann’s own role in perpetrating evil, or distracts from the actions of other evildoers.
However, Roger Berkowitz argued that Arendt was making the point that those who participate willingly like Eichmann in these kinds of evil movements:
‘are thoughtless in the sense that they abandon their independence, their capacity to think for themselves, and instead commit themselves absolutely to the fictional truth of the movement.’
Whatever, your view of the controversy, we are left with a stark example of the need to discourage ‘thoughtlessly & dutifully’ participating, acquiescence to the comfortable paths of conformism and unwillingness to learn in the face of reality, especially the reality of evil.
This context brings us back to the less often quoted first half of Arendt’s phrase, ‘word-and-thought defying’. A compliant mind brooks no independent thought and no other word. An compliant mind offers no chance for reflection, no time for learning and no chance for a change of course. When we chose to commit ourselves to a group, movement or a larger community at the price of compliance with fixed beliefs, we have become thoughtless.
That thoughtlessness can offer a form of comfort. The hard work of thinking and challenges of solving for reality is taken away. Without the need for any effort to challenge our views or change our actions we are in a perverse, reality-denying and self-denying form of comfort. Our biases are not disrupted. Our actions are secure. We need not engage with the world or learn anything new. Many of the uncomfortable demands of the modern world have been removed.
Worse still, this attitude in a community can be reinforcing. Vaclav Havel noted in his 1990 New Year’s address to the Czechoslovak nation, a nation coming out of totalitarianism, that a compliant mindset had created a ‘contaminated moral environment’ that sustained the previous system:
We had all become used to the totalitarian system and accepted it as an unchangeable fact and thus helped to perpetuate it.
Thankfully today, outside of the remaining totalitarian states on the planet, we do not need grapple with state enforced pressures to conform. We do not the need to sacrifice learning, thought and independent action for the comfort of fixed beliefs.
Yet, we experience smaller moments of thoughtless comfort every day. Our civil society is strained by media bubbles that tell us what we want to hear. Our politics deals less with reality and more with with comfortable messaging to match strongly held ideological positions. Many organisations place enforce the comfort of compliance, beliefs and a tight binding culture for their employees. Our social cliques can involve real peer pressure and shape how we interpret and act in the world. We form habits we repeat long after they remain relevant. Savvy marketers offer us pre-packaged solutions to implement without reflection. In a world of real threats, rapid and daunting change, these forms of comfort can be very appealing.
The real problems and opportunities in our world are not going to be solved by thoughtlessness or belief. Compliance is not a path forward no matter how large the movement or community. Worse still, compliant mindsets and thoughtlessness throws up at us the risk of evil and other dangers that the world faced through the systems of totalitarian states.
Each of us must value the opportunity to think, to learn and to act independently. We are going to have to lead the hard conversations and the difficult collaborative work of learning and change. With that thoughtfulness comes the embrace of an ongoing level of discomfort. That discomfort is not to be avoided, it is the price of learning together engaged in the reality of our shared situation. Discomfort is the price of a civil society that is generating solutions together.
Leaders need to change their style of work to suit the different types of engagement in different domains. Leaders should recognising that open collaboration in platforms like Yammer focuses more on leading by influence. They can also play a critical role in helping people see the opportunities to work in different ways through coaching and mentoring
One of the areas for further discussion I called out in the post on the role of Transition in Inner and Outer Loops was the area of leadership. It is important to note that leadership in this context includes hierarchical managers but is also wider, including the leadership actions of peers and other champions. Leadership, in the sense of inspiring action in others, might be a key expectation of managers but we know that not all managers are leaders. This post examines how leadership fosters collaboration in each domain and the role leaders play in tranitioning between domains of work. In the previous post, I said
People don’t need to know ‘what to do where’ so much as they need to know when their current mode of work is ineffective.
Leaders, whether hierarchical or peer leaders, help people see these opportunities to change.
Inner Loop – Leading Performance and Execution
Most managers are familiar with the approaches to achieve performance in teams focused on execution and continuous improvement. The challenge is usually the consistency of a manager’s leadership behaviours.
Inner Loop platforms can help increase the volume and velocity of communication of managers in these teams, addressing a key challenge for many managers in their performance and their leadership. Better awareness across the team and its stakeholders of key issues and challenges will also enable managers to chose to lead in more relevant ways that drive better performance.
As teams embrace the potential of the Inner Loop, transparency, autonomy and rapid communication, also increases the potential for peers to play a leadership role. The Inner Loop should also enable greater sharing of customer feedback and voice to guide performance and shape the improvement opportunities pursued. Hierarchical leaders should be encouraging customer focus in decision making in this domain and encouraging other leaders to take action to drive improvements in performance.
Agile has seen rapid adoption as a work practice because of its potential to support autonomous teams reacting to new customer feedback where leadership can come from any role. The Inner Loop of rapidly adapting teams, both hierarchical and cross-functional, is a great environment to develop the leaders of the future.
Transition – Leaders Create the Need to Change
We can get so focused in our execution challenges or so enthusiastic about our communication with a wide network that we don’t see the need to change our behaviours. In both the Inner and Outer Loops of collaborative work, coaches and mentors can play a key role in helping individuals to improve their performance.
Coaching is critical in encouraging individuals and teams with a focused pursuit on delivery to reflect, to consider alternatives and to ask for help. While many people in focused work feel that stopping to look around is a waste of precious time, the advantages of being able to reuse work, borrow capabilities or have new insights deliver an exponential return on the time invested. Great coaching questions from leaders will foster this reflection and the opportunty to try another approach.
Mentoring is a way to spread learning across the network. Like coaches, mentors can prompt reflection in either domain that will help foster change. One of the reasons to underpin an organisation collaboration strategy with a ready team of champions is to create a force of mentors to help your users with issues, ideas and new ways of working.
Investing in coaching and mentoring programs in your organisation is a key part of a balanced focus on performance using the 70:20:10 model of learning. That investment in coaching and mentoring will help you leverage improvement in work across both the Inner and Outer Loop.
Outer Loop – Leading by Influence
All employees in your organisation benefit from better understanding the dynamics of influence in the networks of the outer loop. This is a realm where the writs of power run shorter than many hierarchically powerful leaders expect. Networks value contributions and contributions create value. Insistence on decision making power or overreliance on orders weakens an individuals influence in networks because they have the ability to treat blockages as something to route around.
To gain influence in networks, leaders of all types need to practice some key fundamentals:
- to stand for something – a vision, a purpose, some values, or a goal
- how to win trust & respect – authenticity, credibility, showing alignment, showing capability and delivering for others
- be known for your own action – set an example, demonstrate capabilities and values, put evidence behind your reputation, give generously of your time, capabilities and experience
- create motivation – using a vision and narrative, shared goals and personal connection
- foster action – highlighting gaps, making action safe, encouraging experimentation, encouraging reflection in others, fostering tensions and being provocative.
Working out loud by sharing a persons work can help foster these conditions of influence. The genius of John Stepper’s five elements of working out loud are that they are well aligned to creating the ideal elements for influence:
- Focus on relationships
- Visible work
- Purposeful discovery
- Growth mindset
These characteristics can be rare or unusal to traditional managers brought up in the domain of hierarchy. To enable them to be effective leaders in outer loop context we need to build their capabilities to act in new ways. We also need to foster and reward the champions and other leaders who demonstrate these approaches to encourage all employees to leverage the potential of the outer loop.
Working out loud can sometimes seem quite abstract. The benefits can seem a little obscure. Here’s a little story of how purposefully sharing your work in progress can create a great experience that makes work easier and more effective.
A Story of Working Out Loud Outside
I interact a lot with the Customer Success Team for Microsoft Office. We are both trying to help clients to find the best ways to implement Office capability. These situations can vary from client to client because each one has a different strategy, a different culture and a different plan. There’s always something new to learn and a new problem to solve.
Today as I travelled to work, I got an external Yammer post from Avi Sujeeth, a Microsoft Customer Success Manager in the US. I’ve known Avi for a while through online interactions only. Avi was in discussion with some of his colleagues around an issue about organisational structures for IT teams that he needed to solve for a client. Avi had previously seen a post I had written on the same topic in the Microsoft Tech Community.
By @mentioning me into that thread in Microsoft’s Yammer Community, I was able to join into that thread of conversation between the Microsoft team from around the world. The thread appeared as a notification in my inbox in my ChangeAgentsWorldwide Yammer. I answered the question to the best of my abilities. Over the next 30 minutes, in and around other tasks I was doing, we had a quick back and forth to clarify some issues. I went on with my day in Melbourne.
Breaking Down the Benefits
When I next checked Yammer, I saw a new notification of a follow-up message in the thread from Avi pointing out the power of what just happened. Included in that post was the following quote (shared with permission)
I had no idea where this conversation was going to go. I don’t have Simon’s email. I did it all in about 30 minutes because of async communication. Work Out Loud rules.
There’s little reason to believe that I could have contributed to solving a problem for Avi if he hadn’t his work in progress, based on a mutual understanding from a history of sharing our work. I don’t have Avi’s email. I didn’t know he was based in Texas until I looked up his LinkedIn profile to include it above. I don’t have a clue what he is doing other than what he shared with me. He was on a deadline that I didn’t discover until the last post. The ease and the curiosity with which Avi could share that challenge with me made it incredibly easy for me to quickly understand the issue and reply to the best of my ability. The whole interaction took less than 10 minutes of my time.
Importantly, Avi wasn’t sure what he might get from his question to me. Avi took a risk putting the message out there. I could have been in a workshop or on a plane. I might not have had anything of value to say (I’m still not sure that I did). There’s some comfort that he probably got better answers to his question to me from his peers while I took my time responding. Having shared a work challenge out loud his colleagues could all jump in to the conversation too.
Would Avi have got the same answer asking me publicly or privately on Twitter or Linkedin? Maybe, but then he may not have got the participation of his colleagues and I wouldn’t have had the same sense of engaging in a team response to a problem. Being part of a purposeful team is highly engaging, even if it is just a single thread. Because this was one thread with many other people from organisation I know well, I knew I could trust the team and I felt safe to share my thoughts and get feedback – the dynamics of responding were better and a better solution resulted.
Working out loud is a powerful tool for solving work problems because when people share work in progress purposefully with relevant communities. Examples like these are what we need to achieve to move the conversation in collaboration from sharing to solving work problems. Once people work out loud consistently organisations and individuals see benefits quickly further driving collaboration internally and externally.
PS:A short comment on external collaboration features:
Many organisations turn off external messaging and external groups in Yammer because they don’t understand the experience or have fears of security or data sharing breaches. This example of an agile and fluid form of external collaboration is a what is lost in that decision. Avi could have got my email from a colleague and emailed me but it would have been the same information, just slower and less engaging. More and more organisations need to work not just across silos, but across organisational boundaries in rapid collaborative teams.
This morning’s #esnchat led by my Change Agents Worldwide colleague and change management expert, Jennifer Frahm involved a vibrant discussion about how to launch an ESN quickly. A strong theme of the discussion was that collaboration takes time to build and you should take care not to rush that development. The Value Maturity Model above is founded in the growing sense-making and culture change in a community that surrounds that community’s embrace of new ways of working.
Launch Quickly. Succeed Slowly
In part the question is not the real issue. Launching a social collaboration solution of any kind is not the problem. Launches can be put together in days or weeks depending on your passion for chaos. Send some communications, enable the network, have a fancy launch event and you are done. Launch is complete.
However, a successful launch, even with a high level of engagement, is not the point of collaboration in your organisation (this article was pre-reading for the #ESNChat discussion). Your organisation and your employees work to create business value. Until your collaboration platform is sustainably creating that level of business value your job is not done. The Value Maturity Model describes some of the key steps to that growing maturity over time.
What if you don’t have the time?
We don’t always have the stakeholder support to take time. Many organisations want or need to get going quickly. Launch dates become fixed in the calendar before organisations understand why they are seeking to launch a collaboration platform. The key issue in my experience is that the same organisations who want to go quickly are usually those who think that going fast will make their collaboration network cheaper to launch and run.
The value of a purposeful, strategic & vibrant collaboration community is that it becomes self-managing. The community begins to develop the value and the engagement that drives its own future success and growth. The community becomes the example to all new users as to ‘what we do here, how we do it and why’. Over time that self-managing, self-promoting and self-correcting characteristic of successful collaboration platforms is what reduces their cost to operate and accelerates their value creation.
Setting up a community to become purposeful, strategic and vibrant takes time and money. If you want to do that quickly, it will cost you more money up front in the planning, leadership and communication, not less. You will also need to invest more money over the life of the community to manage the higher risks of failure and to sustain the community after launch until it becomes self-sustaining.
Community managers often bemoan the continued focus of business leaders on the costs of their work. Many organisations seek to continuously cut budgets and resources for community management over time. Let’s be clear that organisations decrease investment when they lose confidence in the returns from an activity. Community managers are the agents and architects of strategic value in collaboration. They need to embrace the challenge and justify their ongoing investment in their growing returns.
Given there are many platforms in the market that promise fast engagement (& with good evidence to support it), the issue is not how quickly you engage in use of the platform. The key challenge for any user and any organisation is how quickly their use of a platform becomes a self-sustaining contributor to the fulfilment of purpose and sustained value creation. When clients ask me why the investment in developing their community using the Value Maturity Model is required, my answer is that they can skip the work, but they risk skipping the value. The value of a clear strategy and an effective approach is that it accelerates the value of strategic collaboration. If you want to go fast, you need to plan for more costs, now and later.
A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it – Max Planck
If science advances one funeral at a time, management ‘science’ advances more slowly. For management to advance, there must be a radical transformation in the nature of work and our organisations that makes old management practices extinct. That change is now underway as digital transformation changes our industries and our work.
Changing the Paradigm
The word ‘paradigm’ fits niceley into a buzzword bingo square for most in management. It is a fancy term that consultants like to throw around. However, paradigms are why science advances ‘one funeral at a time’. Prevailing theories in a scientific discipline create culture and power structures that are self-reinforcing. Thomas Kuhn referred to this as a paradigm – “the practices that define a scientific discipline at a certain point in time.” Those practices shape who has seniority, what looks like a right answer, who gets to decide what is published and which research directions are acceptable. By shaping what is measured, what questions are asked and how answers are interpreted, a paradigm has a long reach shaping the continuation of that approach. As long as the proponents of the current paradigm are in power, alternative approaches are often suppressed or at least confined to the periphery.
Management likes to see itself as a science of measurement and performance, but the reality is that it is far less scientific. Much of management is complicated resulting in difficult or remote or multi-factor connections between cause and effect. Much of management is still run on intuition or prevailing opinions. These elements reinforce the prevailing paradigms. If we look for dramatic changes in the theory of management, they are few and far between, many of the everyday principles we have today can be traced to the beginning of the industrial revolution or to Taylorism at the beginning of the mass manufacturing age.
How can these ideas be so enduring when in many cases there is strong evidence a management approach is ineffective. There is plenty of evidence that pay for performance remuneration and highly targeted performance environments can be ineffective, costly and even counter-productive. However, these approaches remain the default way that organisations manage, measure and reward performance. Dan Pink gives some examples in this short video.
Why does it takes a radical shake-up in the nature of industry and our organisations for managers to reflect on whether there is a fundamentally better way of fulfilling their roles? Management theorists like Gary Hamel have been calling for management innovation for some time but the progress has been weak. The few managers who have sought to lead change have been seen as mavericks with the adjective ‘dangerous’ held back for private conversations. Even successful examples of new management approaches such as those flowing from the Toyota Production System have been either isolated to a few organisations or been adapted to fit within the prevailing management paradigm for general consumption.
Here’s my hypothesis. Failing ideas in management survive because the measurement is weak so proving failure is less direct than in a university experiment and the social pressures to conform in management are so strong. Career progressing in management is entirely dependent on being a right thinking leader like other past successful leaders. Worse still the paradigm in management has become ingrained in processes and systems so that efforts to change require radical overthrow of the way businesses work. The outcome is that change is not a question of a generation of management dying off. Change in the paradigm can require a whole industry model to die off under the competitive assault of new models. The first industrial businesses powered by water, steam and machines killed off the craftsman model of industry. The mass-manufacturing businesses and Taylorism killed off the first industrial models of work.
The Next Great Extinction of Management
The next great extinction of management has already begun with the digital transformation of business. With the rise of new digital competitors, we are seeing a new found energy in the innovation of management. This time around the innovators have management directly in their cross-hairs with new work management practices like Agile and approaches like increased use of analytics and prediction seeking to either remove traditional management roles or reshape them entirely.
Traditional organisations have begun to look at their practices afresh as they see traditional management role models struggle and fail. At the same time, they admire and seek to replicate the success of newer organisations, hiring their talent and seeking to bring new practices across at the same time. The change is not always driven by evidence or even success. In many cases, the shifting management paradigm is simply driven by a fear of being left behind and the need to create evidence of change that enables the next career opportunity.
With a great deal up for debate and much of the future paradigm in flux, the market for management is as confronted with much insightful and proven practice and a great deal showmanship & thought leadership. The lack of a clear path and the flailings of traditional managers to either defend old ways or jump on new approaches can be frustrating for change agents looking to consistently build new and better approaches to work. The better organisations are embracing their change agents and realising that they cannot import ‘best practices’ whole they must adapt new ways of working to their own circumstances and organisation.
Change Agents are critical for organisations navigating these changes. Management is less a science and more about the creation and shaping of a culture of performance. That culture is inherently local to each organisation and influenced by the complexity of the environment, team, purpose and goals of that team. As the surrounding environment in organisations becomes more complex and the pace of business continues to drive change, businesses cannot rely any longer on importing best practices and copying them onto their organisation. They must be looking to develop adaptive cultures of perfomance within their organisation that are learning and continuously changing. Platforms that enable change agents to sustain this change will be critical.
By the time you hear about the next great management book that everyone is reading, the paradigm will have changed. Focus instead on how your organisation can manage the process of learning and adaptation to deliver excellence in performance and the realisation of human potential. That’s the future of management
Last week I had a couple of long flights and I read ‘Team of Teams’ by Gen Stanley McChrystal et al. again to refresh my understanding of the authors’ insights into creating agility and responsiveness in an organisation tackling complex rapid change. At the conclusion of the book, the authors describe their model for an effective team of teams combining speed, empowered execution, interdependence and shared consciousness in an environment of high trust and common purpose.
‘Team of Teams’ highlights that traditional hierarchical environments struggle to adapt to the pace and complexity of change. The cost of information exchange across a hierarchy and the lack of autonomy prevents effective adaptation. Teams can ameliorate this at a local level if properly managed but a hierarchy of teams will have limitations on its ability to adapt. Structuring a more fluid structure that allows for constellations of teams working as a network is the key. This Team of Teams can adapt and reorganise itself while sharing information across the network in a rapid and responsive way through practices like working out loud.
McChrystal et al. note that complexity comes from the speed of change and the interdependence of parts of the organisational system and surrounding environment. Adaptability depends on being able to manage individiual execution in a pervasive awareness of the system and the role that players are taking and the actions that they are undertaking. Coordinating these elements requires a universal understanding of purpose and high levels of trust across all in the organisation.
What struck me was the alignment to the Inner and Outer Circles of work that are at the heart of Microsoft’s Collaboration product strategy. The Inner Circle in the Microsoft version is the environment of speed and empowered execution. This is the environment that solutions like Microsoft Teams are designed to support. The Outer Circle is the work environment of organisational connection and discovery. In the Outer Circle teams have the opportunity to share the visibility of their work with others widely across the organisation and explore unexpected connections around their work.
There is overlap in both circles and as noted in my previous post, the shaded areas above only capture the core environment of each circle. You can push the circles and their associated products to cover the entire domain of a Team of Teams if required. However, each pattern of work is different and there is value in specialisation.
What is critical to note is that Trust and Common Purpose are issues in both an Inner Circle team and and Outer Circle community. Both depend on purpose for shared connection and a sense of direction and trust for effective collaboration. The work of community managers and leaders is to foster trust and shared purpose. This is the work of change and adoption and where the alignment to the value maturity model supports the development of community.
Every digital transformation project needs to build a platform for the critical capability for success in digital – human learning and change. Ensuring your people have the tools to collaborate and the freedom to change is essential for the rapid and scaled digital learning and change to be able to deliver strategic value to your organisation.
Platforms for Digital Transformation
The evolution of digital transformation has put a high value on platforms because platforms offer more than just the opportunity to connect and transact efficiently and effectively. Digital platforms bring together diverse players within and across markets and enable them to connect easily with standard API interactions, interact in standard easy ways and offer a predictable stable environment of trust.
Platforms help interactions in digital to scale quickly because the platform gathers an active community of users building the network effects and the benefits of diversity of capability and information. Standard interaction patterns allow an innovation ecosystem to develop despite this diversity and users are spared the cost and complexity of dealing with each other’s complex processes costs and systems. The growing user commitment to the community, the learning that occurs in the platform and the growing trust helps further to reduce the cost of any transaction and increase the appeal of the platform as a place to solve problems.
So platforms work because they:
- connect users in a market
- provide easy standard processes to reduce the cost and complexity of action
- provide transparency and other processes to improve trust
- build an innovation and learning ecosystem that creates ongoing valuable change for users
In a platform environment, participants can benefit from greater transparency, greater learning and greater innovation, while retaining their freedom of choice and control over how they participate. We have seen over time the power & value of eBay & Amazon as an auction & commerce platform, Google & Facebook as advertising platforms, and many more. Increasingly organisations pursuing digital transformation are looking to the opportunity to create these two-sided market opportunities in their digital strategy or to participate in digital ecosystems effective which demands at least the ability to interact with these platforms, whether through APIs or other forms of integration.
The Human Platform for Digital Transformation is Collaboration
At Microsoft Ignite, I spoke with Cai Kjaer and Scott Ward on the role that collaboration plays as a platform for digital transformation enabling employees to transition easily between the inner and outer circles of their work.
In a recent post exploring the role of transition between the inner and outer circles, I highlighted that transition was the zone where users sought learning and feedback to help their work.
Organisations that want to accelerate the digital transformation in their organisation need to develop ways to accelerate this learning and feedback process for their employees. A standard human platform for digital transformation on their collaboration platform will play a critical role in reducing the cost of learning and feedback and increasing the trust and effectiveness of the resulting change.
Traditionally, the biggest barriers to learning and feedback in organisations are:
- not knowing where to go or who can help (no clarity of the human market for learning)
- an uncertain, costly and slow process of engaging others (high complexity and transaction costs in this human community)
- fearing that you will be judged adversely for asking for help or exposing work that is incomplete (lack of trust in the organisation)
- concern that learning and change is likely not to be valued in a risk-averse compliance-oriented environment (lack of value in learning and change in the organisation)
The value of organisations building a collaboration platform in their organisation is to specifically address these three issues to help accelerate learning, feedback and change, whether in the domain of focused execution or in the wider enterprise challenges of alignment, engagement and discovery. Organisations that invest in change and adoption to build effective collaboration platforms for their employees see the growing maturity of the use of the platform by their employees through the Connect>Share>Solve>Innovate maturity model. This growing maturity itself enhances the ability of the organisation to deliver its strategic agenda and manage its day-to-day processes more effectively.
Let’s examine for a minute those key items on the top right of the chart that describe the rising benefits of collaboration platform as it matures. How does the platform increase the value, trust, empowerment, collaboration and agility of the organisation? An effective collaboration platform is a human digital transformation platform:
- Market: employees know where they can find a vibrant marketplace of other employees willing to Connect>Share>Solve>Innovate: the collaboration platform becomes a straightforward home for any need for learning, feedback or change (connect a market). Community managers and their agents in the community champions will play a key role in bringing people together in the community and fostering day-to-day use. Leaders can help by using their positional power and participation to bring people along and set the direction for the community.
- Standards: employees have standard processes and interactions to get the learning and feedback of others – this is why effective collaboration launch and adoption programs focus on developing user behaviour around common uses cases, hashtags and groups. Building vibrant communities means that each of these areas that an employee will have a standard expectation in the community as to how it is to be managed, a culture of collaboration that facilitates interactions like a human-to-human API.
- Trust: employees can see on the platform the culture of working out loud, others role modelling the behaviour that they want, the contributions of leaders and the lack of negative consequences and benefits of interacting. Experimenting with working out loud at scale reduces the trust cost of working out loud for any user. Importantly too when employees can see the authentic interactions of the wider community and come to know them better the cost of seeking learning, feedback or change is reduced. Community managers, leaders and champions play a critical role in creating a culture that fosters this.
- Ecosystem: As these networks mature to the Innovation stage, employees will be exploring potential to take the strategic goals of the organisation further and have a demonstrated freedom to act building on the capabilities of the collaboration platform. This role-modelling helps foster the degrees of freedom individual employees need in a digital organisation to learn and to adapt through needed change. A vibrant community of collaborators and access to leadership reduces the human cost of employee innovation and helps improve the alignment of these innovation activities to strategic goals.
Creating a Human Platform for Digital Transformation
You cannot rely on the technology tools you are using to create this platform. The most challenging aspects of this change are human and no matter how strong the engagement techniques are in the technology it cannot provide human elements like purpose, connection, trust, leadership, and alignment. It is important to remember that employees first and foremost concern will be their safety and success in the everyday workplace off the technology platform. That is where change and adoption must help support employees.
Creating this human platform to accelerate the organisation’s digital transformation and to deliver real strategic value takes an investment by organisations in a number of key elements:
- a clear strategy for the role of collaboration and its alignment to the strategic challenges in the organisation – this is far more an adoption or communication plan
- community managers who act as the architects and the agents of strategic value realisation in community
- champions who lead the community day to day and develop its norms and practices
- organisational leadership that understands its role in networks and in fostering digital innovation.
- the experimentation, change programs, launch activities and other ongoing efforts to engage the wider organisation in collaboration, to maintain connection and to grow the value of the collaboration.
From the experience of organisations around the world, it is clear that it takes more than ‘launch and forget’ to realise this human dimension of collaboration. Changing the collaboration in your organisation is a cultural change that impacts all your employees. The benefits to your organisation and its digital strategy are transformative if you are prepared to invest in the change.
Simon Terry enables organisations to realise the strategic value of collaboration as a platform for digital transformation. Simon is a Yammer Adoption Specialist, a Microsoft MVP and a Workplace by Facebook Adoption services partner. Through Change Agents Worldwide, Simon and a global network of future of work professionals help organisations to lead change, collaboration and new ways of working.