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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.me, twitter or Linkedin.
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.
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.
Re: This Enterprise Social Network Doesn’t Work For You
The purpose of this note is to clarify our most recent discussion in the executive leadership team about our enterprise social network. Thanks to your help we have now clarified that the enterprise social network is the last thing we need.
However our discussion on executive engagement in the network was again challenging. Initially there was a great deal of division in the executive leadership team as to how executives should use the network and their willingness to be involved. We did not get to explore your perspective on the role of executives in using our network when you left the room for another commitment declaring ‘this enterprise social network thing doesn’t work for me’.
We must admit we were initially disappointed by the comment. However, the remaining members of the executive team spent some time considering your insightful remark. We set out below the outcomes of that discussion:
Employee Engagement will deliver our Strategy
We realised that employee engagement, leveraging new ways of working in every role and discretionary effort to achieve our strategy is what will deliver better results. We believe that building a community in our enterprise social network will be another way for our employees to connect, to share, to solve problems and to innovate. The critical question we should consider is ‘Does this new approach to work deliver value for employees?’. The views of executives are less important than the value created for this community of value creators. All the evidence to date is that the network does work for our employees. Employees are more engaged and working more effectively.
This helped us understand that this enterprise social network doesn’t work for you but it works for our employees.
Leadership Helps Create Employee Engagement
We realised that employees need help to make sense of how to use the network, need help to solve problems and make change occur. That means employees need the support of leadership in networks. Importantly, that leadership does not have to come from the most senior executives. Leadership is a role not a job. We had hoped our most senior executives would play that role to ensure that the activity in the network aligned to strategy and best realised the potential of our people. However, we are already seeing new leaders rise up to fill the gap. The senior leaders who are involved can do more to foster this.
This enterprise social network doesn’t work for you. A strong community works for leaders who will help it achieve its potential and the community will surface new leaders to help shape and foster engagement.
Attitude & Capability are a Question of Leadership
We realised that much of the discussion in the room about lack of time, doubts about effectiveness of managing in networks or lack of skill were problems of attitude or of capability. These issues can be solved because they are the kind of challenges our executive leaders solve every day in other domains when required. People learn new skills, they work in new ways to fulfil the strategy and we ask people to be more efficient and better prioritise their time to do what matters. We ask exactly the same from our employees when we want them to achieve more. We don’t accept their refusal to change.
Towards the end of that discussion an interesting question was asked ‘If engaging in the community that creates value in our organisation doesn’t work for you, why are you a leader here?’. We wanted to share this question with you.
Conclusion: Our Enterprise Social Network Doesn’t Work For You
We didn’t see at first. We now have come to agree with you that this enterprise social network won’t work for you.
As a result, we have started a thread in the network asking our employees to contribute to the choice of who should takeover as CEO. That conversation is currently favouring the CMO. The community value her authenticity, respect her authority and trust her leadership. We aren’t surprised that the board seems to agree. Sorry leadership of this organisation’s community did not work out for you. We wish you the best in your future endeavours. You may find some useful suggestions as to what to you can do next in the thread that has started with advice on that topic.
Thanks for contributing so much to our efforts to engage the community, realise our strategy and improve performance.
Engage an executive in your enterprise social network. A great chance for executives to get involved is International Working Out Loud Week from 17-24 November 2014. Help an executive to see the leadership potential of working out loud. Find out more at wolweek.com
Enterprise social networks are made up of individuals who form their own groups and networks and the community is an aggregation of each of these components. We need to remember this structure when we start to think of value in enterprise social networks.
From Top-Down to Every Scale
One resulting characteristic of value in enterprise social networks is that they resemble a fractal, a mathematical shape that shows similar characteristics at any scale. Value in an enterprise social network does not only occur at the aggregate level.
Smaller scale activities are more important to sustain and grow the development of value across the whole network. There is less opportunity to order or impose value creation in a network than in traditional hierarchies where top down value is the priority and individual value is rarely considered.
Value For Users and Groups Makes a Network
Individual and group practices that create value are the underpinning of value for the whole network. Value comes from connection, sharing information, solving problems and innovating for an individual or the whole community. Without this value to the individual or group, no value creation at the network level will sustain itself.
Individuals and groups must understand and see the value being created to continue to work in new ways in the network. Developing the maturity of a network means building this sense of how value is created and how it aligns to strategic goals.
Create a Sense of Value at Every Scale
The power of the Value Maturity Model is that it is designed to take advantage of this characteristic. The method can be shared with users, with groups and with the whole community to help them make sense of how value is created for them and for the network.
Secret tools of community managers or organisational leaders won’t help individual users and groups find their own path forward to value. The power of value creation in an enterprise social network is the ability to leverage people’s potential to help
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
Change Agents Worldwide and Socialcast have now completed four great webinars on the future of work, enterprise social networking and collaboration:
- Moving Forward with Social Collaboration presented by Susan Scrupski, Harold Jarche and Simon Terry
- Social Collaboration for Business Benefit: Real Stories, Real Impact presented by Catherine Shinners, Thierry De Baillon and Simon Terry
- Enterprise Social Networking What You Need to Know presented by Harold Jarche and Carrie Basham-Young
- Creating a Vibrant Enterprise Social Network Employees Will Love presented by Joachim Stroh, Kevin Jones and Simon Terry
Recordings of these webinars are available at the Socialcast webinar centre.
Conversations correcting errors are an important part of any enterprise social network. Learning begins in these discussions and that learning is widely shared.
Many organisations are concerned to have a ‘single source of truth’. Often the discussion of an enterprise social network will be seen as offering a conflict with an enterprise single source of truth. If anyone can answer a question in the network, how do we know their answer is right?
The answer is because it will be public. A public source of error is one that can be identified and corrected by others with better access to the source of truth or better ability to answer the question.
Most organisations are filled with small private errors that circulate widely. We learn from gossip. We are taught our jobs by our colleagues. We help others to understand. We make our own meaning as we translate the top-down one-way communications in the organisation into something relevant to our roles.
Myths and errors accumulate and circulate easily in the private social interactions in an organisation. Because there is little conflict in a group who all share an error, there may never be a call to check the information against a source of truth. This is one reason while enterprise knowledge repositories become dull and quiet places.
The minute someone shares one of these errors in an enterprise social network in answer to a question or discussion there is an opportunity for it to be corrected. Once an error is public it can be checked and a better answer shared. The experts in charge of the source of truth and anyone else with a perspective can add their own insights. The discussion alone can draw attention to areas of common misunderstanding or issues requiring further education.
A failing of many single sources of truth in organisations is that they are not updated when things change. It can be hard keeping all the truths up to date in a timely manner in times of rapid change. In this case, the single source of truth becomes the single source of error. The power of a public conversation in an enterprise social network is that these errors can be highlighted too. Even the source of truth can be corrected when it needs to be.
Transparency has a disinfectant quality in organisations. Make sure that your single source of truth is supported with a public discussion of error. Seeing errors in public is far better than them circulating in private.