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Reflections on Facebook at Work (& Promises of Universal Adoption)

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One core reasons collaboration tools have an adoption problem is a lack of benefits to users. That problem is not solved by a new tool. The benefit problem is solved by working out loud purposefully – creating an environment to learn, solve problems and create new solutions together.

The reviews of Facebook at Work are starting to come in. The claims from Facebook are intriguing: no community management required, no need to worry about adoption (after all its Facebook – your users are using it already) and so on. Does a new solution like this solve all the issues with collaboration at work?

Universal Adoption Isn’t Enough

We have had similar promises before of universal adoption before. Many existing IT systems providers were convinced that collaboration was a layer or feature that they could add to their applications. After all, they had adoption and use of their system, so the collaboration would naturally work in their system, particularly if they forced it into the existing processes. These systems have largely failed to deliver on expectations because the basics of value are not met. People don’t expect to connect with others or to share their work while working on processes in ERPs or other IT systems. Usually people collaborate to avoid the restrictions of these process driven systems or to achieve better outcomes than they can get from the system. Forcing in additional messages and conversations brought greater burden and more noise than user benefit.

Facebook begins as a dominant personal social tool so it starts in a much stronger position for adoption. For Facebook users, it is already platform to connect and share with others. Many sophisticated users already work there, marketing themselves and their businesses and engaging communities through Facebook pages and groups. Carrie Basham-Young has reviewed how easy Facebook has made it in Facebook at Work for people to Connect and to Share. We might wonder how the separate Facebook at Work profile will compete with the personal profiles for time and attention. Many users will already be connected and sharing social updates with work colleagues through a personal profile. Even so, Facebook will undoubtedly be able to capture a large share of the corporate graph and its watercooler conversations.

Sharing Isn’t Enough

Velux recently shared some insight into their adoption of social collaboration. A key insight of that case study was that sharing social status updates alone is not enough to create value. They needed to solve problems and create new value together. They need to move beyond what they saw as the pattern of ‘working out loud in Twitter’ to a more purposeful form of work asking questions to solve problems and connecting around key projects and activities. Like all social collaboration tools, Facebook at Work will need to help organisations navigate this transition and its history may be its disadvantage in this regard.

The Solve and Innovate steps of the Value Maturity Model of Collaboration will be where users see novel benefit and what keeps ensuring that they devote time and effort to using the new tool. Facebook at Work has clearly taken this into account with its focus on categorising groups into Teams and Projects, Open Discussions, Announcements and Social. However, if the traditional Facebook patterns of behaviours of social announcements and other forms of social sharing dominate, Facebook at Work will have not advanced the collaboration in the organisation, they will have simply extended Facebook use deeper into office hours. What if the patterns of Facebook use prove harder to change than our work email practices?

 Purposeful Working Out Loud Required

Working out loud requires people to consider the purpose & effect of their sharing. John Stepper’s discussion of the 5 elements of working out loud makes this explicit. Working out loud only makes sense when it makes work better for you and for others through learning, winning or giving help, making a new connection or other ways of solving every day work challenges. 

All forms of social collaboration, no matter how smart the technology, require individual users and the organisations involved to solve the challenge of creating connections based on purposeful working out loud. Slack another adoption success story is now being queried for the value of the conversations it creates. Slack’s solution is often suggested to be in its integrations but these can be complex to navigate and even discover for a new user dealing with a high volume chat channel.

Creating value for users and organisations is what will ensure that we change the long entrenched practices in way we work and we will consistently value new approaches to collaboration. Organisations need to invest in change support and community management to achieve an ongoing uplift in the value of collaboration. Facebook at Work is unlikely to magic this away any time soon because the context of value creation in each organisation and for each employee is different. The organisation needs to use new methods of working and collaborating to create its own approach to success. This is why customer success processes at other collaboration vendors have been notoriously resistant to being reduced to an algorithm. 

The Four Capabilities of a Social leader

Senior executives need new mindsets and new capabilities to be effective in the networked work of the future. Four capabilities will help e executives make the most of their networks:

Personal Knowledge Management: Personal Knowledge Management gives executives the personal learning skills to manage the flow of information and to deepen their personal networks. As executives personally learn to Seek>Sense>Share they develop critical digital skills for network leadership.

Working Out Loud: Working out loud is a practice that helps surface the value of work and learning in networks. Leaders are already the focus of attention. Making their work in progress visible to others is a highly valuable step because it accelerates trust and learning.

Leading in Networks: Network leadership requires leaders to surface shared purpose, build trust and influence and enable collaboration. Expertise, rank and orders are replaced with adaptive leadership techniques that manage learning, tension & alignment.

Creating Value in Networks: Leaders need to be able to set a strategy for their and their team’s engagement with networks. They need to be able to accelerate the maturity of value creation in those networks as they develop through Connect>Share>Solve>Innovate.

Developing leader’s practice of these key capabilities will enhance their effectiveness in enterprise social networks and the future of work.

Speaking to Senior Managers

Senior leadership engagement in change is a hot topic. Social collaboration makes the absence of leader engagement obvious. I’m often asked to speak on collaboration, learning and leadership to senior executives. As I used to be one, people want me to share a little of my passion for these topics. Here are some suggestions to guide you in your senior leadership engagement.

It’s not a priority

Collaboration, leadership and learning is unlikely to be a priority for your senior leaders. Sure they’ll discuss it but they don’t want to do it. They don’t know anyone who got made a CEO because his team was the most collaborative or the most agile. There is always a bigger business or customer problem that is on their mind.

Rather than engage in an argument as to why this mindset is wrong (it is – see Big Learning), I start with understanding the real business problems that they want to solve. Once we understand the business problems we can connect collaboration, learning and leadership as solutions to that problem.

Avoid Capitalised Nouns

Senior executives are busy and distracted. They don’t want jargon and hype. They are allergic to empty captalised nouns. The more you use words like Collaboration, Leadership, Engagement etc without making them tangible the less credible you are. The more it sounds like a futuristic vision or a quixotic quest the less relevant you are to their world.

Tell Stories

Stories make change tangible to busy & smart people. Ben Elias of ideocial.com remarked to me recently that it is hard for people to conceive of how their organisation could be highly collaborative. They have never seen it, so the ideas and practices don’t connect with their reality. Specific stories make that connection. Tell rich and engaging stories of how things can be and how to get there.

Ask for something specific

There’s nothing worse that taking the time of senior leaders, winning their support and not being able to define exactly what you want them to do. Always have a specific ask of them ready to go. Have two in case they say yes to the first. Better yet have a personal ask that is framed as something simple that they can agree to do to sustain change. The 3 simple habits of working out loud was designed as one such example.

When you are done, Stop. Leave.

Senior executive time is precious. Give it back to them. Tempting as it may be to bask in the glory of a good meeting and deepen rapport, you will win more credit by leaving when you have done your job. Remember when something is not a priority you are always on borrowed time.

Why doesn’t your community plan involve your community?

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Many organisations want the benefits of better collaboration and the potential of better leveraging the potential of their people in a community. Increasingly with the availability of enterprise social networking, social mobile apps and integration into other productivity tools, organisations have the network capabilities to create the communities at hand.

A Network with a Demanding Boss

Too many plans for enterprise social networks and communities are developed without any community participation. The organisation wants something from the network. They set about getting that goal. When realising the goal proves harder than they expect, the organisation resorts to communication, performance levers, gamification, or maybe even ‘change management’. Many of these remain efforts to impose an external rationale on a network.

If the goals of a network are imposed externally, it is not a community. It is a network with a demanding boss. Any network of this type will lose energy over time as people query the benefits of their participation.

Use the Network to Create a Community

A community comes together around a common set of purposes.  Use your network to discover, discuss and align those goals. Engage the people that you would like to form a valuable community to find out how they want to engage.  My work shows that people have their own great reasons for adopting the practices that accelerate value at work and build communities. Those practices are those of the Value Maturity Model –  Connect>Share>Solve>Innovate.

The organisation’s goals will become a part of that discussion naturally.  Everyone works for the organisation and there will be some shared purpose. By engaging people you will discover the greater potential of the community and leverage its rich diversity of talent and perspective.

Ask leaders to lead

Much has been discussed about executive participation in enterprise social networking. Often it is seen as the panacea that will make people do the ‘right things’ in the network. Even the busy senior executives struggle to participate when it is imposed on them as an externally mandated task.  Again, the effort is to impose an external logic for networking.

When you focus on the community, what is clear is that what is needed is leaders. We don’t need participation from senior executives, when need people who are willing to take on the role of leader in the community to help the community to achieve its purposes. Leadership should come from senior executives, but it can also come from other community leaders, influencers and champions.

Don’t focus solely on senior executives. Focus on finding leaders willing to help create a community and drive change.  These people may well be your organisations mavericks and change agents.  Embrace their ability to lead.

The Value Maturity Model is an approach to help organisations create strategic value in collaboration and social networking. The Value Maturity Model Canvas helps organisations to develop agile plans for communities using participation of community members. To learn more, get in touch with Simon Terry via about.metwitter or Linkedin.

Create a Reputation Economy

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Connecting and Sharing create a reputation economy in your organisation to underpin the trust and collaboration required to Solve and Innovate.

Four topics are commonly discussed in communities around enterprise social networks:

  • Why would anyone go out of their way to help others?
  • How do we increase the value of collaboration in our organisation?
  • What is the role of leaders?
  • How do we cut down the gossip and non-work conversation in our network?

The answer to these four questions are connected to one element of successful networks: they create a reputation economy in the community that fosters collaboration.

The Value of Reputation

Humans aren’t the rational economic machines that most organisations try to manage with role descriptions, performance plans and other incentives. Humans do things outside the job description and the process every day.  We work around the hierarchy.  Importantly, we collaborate because we value relationships and we know that the returns from collaboration exceed the costs in our effort.

One of the challenges of collaboration is the danger that others will free ride on your efforts, improving their performance but bearing none of the costs. Mark Pagel’s Wired for Culture uses evolutionary approaches to behaviour to examine an important part of our defences against free riding, reputation.  Because our relationships with our work colleagues are not transactional, over time we build a level of trust and a reputation for each colleague based on their behaviour.  This reputation system influences who and how we collaborate with others.

Ever wondered why a users first ever request for help or crowd sourcing of ideas will usually struggle?  They have no reputation in the community and others will hang back until someone shows they can be trusted. 

Increasing the transparency and connection of reputation in your organisation will accelerate collaboration not just in a social network or other tool.  Collaboration across the organisation will leverage the new transparent reputations developed.

Building Reputation

We don’t build reputation with our status in the organisation or by declaring we can be trusted.  We build reputation through with who we are associated and how we act, particularly when we act against our interest.

The Connect and Share phases of the maturity of a collaboration community enable people to develop these critical stages of reputation. Working out loud for the benefit of others can accelerate that trust.  As can demonstrating and encouraging a growth mindset.   Sharing information, insights and solutions, particularly when there is no reason or benefit to the sharer is a powerful way to build a reputation.  Others sharing without penalty and preferably receiving benefits establishes the view in the community that it is safe.

The reputations and the trust built in Connect and Share are what powers the value in the later stages of the model.  People contribute later because they know that their contributions go to those who they respect and have the interests of the community at heart.

The Importance of Leaders

Leaders bring status into communities. However, as noted above, the presence of status is not enough to create or sustain trust.  Actions by leaders count.  

Leaders can play a critical role in showing the way to build reputation and in establishing that collaboration is safe and beneficial.  Importantly, leaders can use their authority to calling out free-riding behaviour and encourage participation by others. Leaders can acknowledge the reputations built in the community giving them greater influence in the organisation.

Leaders also need to be aware that their status also brings a fragility to their own personal reputations.  If they fail to act in the community to reinforce their authority, it will erode rapidly.

The Critical Role of Gossip & Non-Work Conversation

Organisations hate gossip and non-work conversation. They are seen as a threat to the singularity of corporate messaging and a waste of time.

However, gossip and non-work conversation are critical parts of reputation systems.  Gossip is how we share our views of others reputations. Non-work conversation is another way for us to share and build our reputations with others.

Create a reputation economy in your collaborative community by fostering connection and sharing.

The Value Maturity Model is an approach to enhancing the value of collaboration in your organisation.  The Model is supported by a range of tools and practices to enable leaders and community managers to maximise the potential in collaboration.  If you would like to learn more about the Value Maturity Model, get in touch with Simon Terry.

Leadership in Transformation

A common topic of debate in the Responsive Organization movement is whether an organization can become responsive or it must be born that way.

Undoubtedly many of the leading case studies of future of work organizations are organizations created or rebirthed from near death by charismatic founders. Some use this as evidence that the elements of a responsive organization must be present from the beginning. In a previous post, I pointed out that we cannot rely on transparency alone to make change occur for us. The power structures in a traditional organisation will prevent most radical change.

I am unambiguously in the optimist camp. I am not alone and the company in the optimist camp inspires me. I have seen organizations change enough to not recognise their former selves. Change to more responsive ways of working is possible. The question is how.

What gets in the way

Chris Argyris’ classic article Teaching Smart People to Learn is a rich source of observations of what gets in the way of a Responsive Organization transformation.  In particular, Argyris notes that:

… There seems to be a universal human tendency to design one’s actions consistently according to four basic values:

1. To remain in unilateral control;

2. To maximize “winning” and minimize “losing”;

3. To suppress negative feelings; and

4. To be as “rational” as possible—by which people mean defining clear objectives and evaluating their behavior in terms of whether or not they have achieved them.

The purpose of all these values is to avoid embarrassment or threat, feeling vulnerable or incompetent. In this respect, the master program that most people use is profoundly defensive. Defensive reasoning encourages individuals to keep private the premises, inferences, and conclusions that shape their behavior and to avoid testing them in a truly independent, objective fashion.

These hidden values in most organisation get in the way of the transparency-led transformation that many hope to see. The Responsive Organization poses a threat to control, a threat of losing and negative feelings. Importantly the delegation of authority in a Responsive Organization may cause people anxiety as to objectives and rationale for action.

The role of leadership is to act as a counterbalance these natural human values and shift the behaviours to that of a Responsive Organization. We need to create rationales for action more powerful than embarrassment. We need to create community to generate trust, support and connection. We need to enable learning through conflict and experimentation. 

Purpose:

Leaders must create a strong rationale for the transformation. In cases of crisis, startup or near death of organizations, this rationale can often be imposed by a charismatic individual. The external circumstances enable a threat based narrative to bind people together in a defensive rationale for change.

However, most organizations are successful to their own terms. As Argyris notes, we want to feel successful even if our results don’t pass external muster.  

Leaders need to leverage two elements to create a strong rationale for change in this context:  

  • The Purpose of the organization: a purpose is the ultimate rationale for why people come together in an endeavour. It defines the common impact the group of people wish to have on the world.  As a higher agenda, it is the perfect rationale for change for even the most successful organisations.  Purpose is a mastery quest. Very few organizations have the capability to completely fulfil their purpose. They can however strive to better realise it.
  • External orientation: No closed system will find a rationale for change. External orientation is where organizations find the challenges and opportunities that define the purpose into specific improvement opportunities. Leaders need to relentlessly focus the organization on its customers and community to see transparently the challenges and opportunities that exist for change. Well defined external impacts in this community will be what can drive the autonomy of teams in the organization.  Using customer and community data in line with Purpose, also enables change agents to overcome embarrassment-based resistance in the organization.

Community:

Individuals will need support to take on the risks of a Responsive Organization. The role of leaders is to create the sense of community that will support an individual through that change. At the heart of that community will be engagement with others and a growing sense of mutual trust.  Leaders set the tone for any community. They must also work hard to reinforce these key community behaviours

  • Engagement: Engagement begins with transparency and connection. I cannot truly care about the others in my community until I know who they are and understand their purposes, concerns and circumstances. Leaders need to create the conditions to enable people to be more social, to connect, to solve and to share their work challenges together.
  • Trust: Engagement will build trust as it builds understanding. Transparency will reinforce trust. However, leaders need to take on the role of fostering responsibility and accountability as engines of growing trust in the organization.  When people see that individuals and teams are accountable for driving change then they will have greater trust in the change agenda.

Learning:

This post is deliberately not titled like a listicle e.g. ’The 3 or 6 things to transform an organisation’. Even a basic familiarity with change highlights that formulas will work only up to a point. Leadership needs to be adaptive to enable any system to change in a sustainable way.

To be true to their purpose and stakeholders, to leverage the potential of their community, each organization will take an unique path through change.  The role of leaders is facilitate the individual and organizational learning required:

  • Experimentation: creating a culture of rapid iteration to address challenges and opportunities will accelerate the cycle of learning in the organization. Leaders must help this experimentation culture to overcome the resistance identified by Argyris and also to spread and have a wider influence in the organization. Lessons learned must become new truths which will take a sense-making role for leaders in the wider organization and mean leaders must champion new ways of working when they arise, whatever the personal costs.
  • Conflict: The biggest reason that organizational transformations fail is an unwillingness of the leadership of the organisation to allow uncertainty and conflict. Conflict will happen. The uncertainty associated with conflict is inevitable. Efforts to suppress this will either undermine transparency, the rationale for change, engagement or learning. Failure to embrace conflict takes many names: politeness, bureaucracy, politics, corporate speak, history, culture, etc. Failure to embrace conflict is an unwillingness to learn and improve. There will always be resistance when change comes and it must be addressed. Leaders need to create and sustain the right kinds of constructive conflict – driven by purpose, based in facts from an external orientation & experimentation, mediated through an engaged community. 

Change is Coming. Lead.

I have seen the potential of purpose, external orientation, engagement, trust experimentation and conflict to drive change. Supported by leadership these are the elements of each organization’s transformation. These elements are critical to a Responsive Organization.

Throughout this post I have referred to leaders and leadership. This need not be hierarchical leadership. Clearly it helps if leadership and power are aligned in an organization in reinforcing the need for change. However, the changes described above are not capable of being implemented by top-down edicts. These changes must come as individuals and groups discover their power and are influenced as a result, This kind of leadership relies on influence and can begin bottom up or even from the middle management so often scorned in organizations.

Change is possible. Change is coming. Smart people can learn. Your people and your organisation can better realise their potential and their purpose. A Responsive Organization transformation will occur if you are prepared to lead the change.

Lead.

Transparency is a Disinfectant

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‘Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants’ Louis Brandeis

Transparency is a disinfectant. Openness highlights the need for change. Just as hygiene enables but does not deliver good health, transparency alone will not change the behaviours in an organisation. 

From Transparency to Transformation

Many people hoped the transparency of social business would transform organisations. We are now in an era when an organisation is more transparent internally and externally than ever. Networks & conversations reach across organisational boundaries. Opportunities exist to connect, to share information about opportunities and issues and solve problems together.

Many hoped that with this new transparency would mean organisations followed a path that looked something like this:

Transparency > Greater awareness of issues> Experiments towards a Solution > Autonomous leadership

In this model, increasing the transparency and connection across the organisation highlights the problems. The visibility of problems enables individuals to experiment with new models to address the issues. Those experiments foster the evidence and the leadership to complete the transformation. 

This model has the appeal that people need do little. Simply add technology to make the organisations more transparent and change begins. However we have learned that organisations are communities of humans and that greater transparency is a positive, but it not enough to catalyse transformation. There are real human forces like power holding us back from this change.

Transparency is a Prerequisite not a Solution 

Speak to any change agent and you will hear a common refrain: ‘My organisation can see the problem but it still won’t do anything’. 

Transparency is essential to highlight problems & opportunities. Transparency in networks is good at finding new issues that have been hidden by historical ways of seeing things. Customers and community can raise their issues directly, often for the first time. Employees can share frustrations.  People can use the new transparent organisation to find those with the ability to make a difference to the issue. What transparency doesn’t do is guarantee that person does anything.

Brandeis is right that transparency is a wonderful disinfectant. Transparency also changes behaviours. When people are aware that their actions are transparent they are more likely to consider others and feel the accountability of the community. The rarity of bad behaviour in enterprise social networks is a case in point.

However, more likely does not mean a guarantee. Transparency will not overcome the wilfully blind leader, the resort to arguments, justifications and excuses or the use of power to enforce an exception. Each of these may be seen by all but they also might be accepted in the culture of the organisation.  When organisations have strong cultural or power forces that resist the issues, people may see something but still refuse to acknowledge, to discuss or act on it. 

Transformation takes Transparency, Accountability and Leadership

Organisations need transparency. Effective organisations thrive on it and particularly on the most difficult forms of opening their organisation up to external parties like partners, customers and the community. These organisations make accountability to respond to what flows from transparency part of their leadership conversation.

The sunshine of transparency helps create safer and more human organisations. Accountability and leadership leverage that transparency to complete the transformation.

A future post will describe the characteristics of an organisation’s leadership conversation that leverage transparency to foster transformation of organisations.