Why doesn’t your community plan involve your community?


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


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.

Dear CEO: This Enterprise Social Network Doesn’t Work For You

Dear CEO

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

Value is a fractal


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

SCNOW Webinar Series from Socialcast and Change Agents Worldwide

Change Agents Worldwide and Socialcast have now completed four great webinars on the future of work, enterprise social networking and collaboration:

Recordings of these webinars are available at the Socialcast webinar centre.

A Public Source of Error

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.

The One Success Secret to Social Collaboration in the Future of Work


There is a lot of advice out there for organisations trying to achieve success in social collaboration and new ways of working. The future of work is very popular now so there is a lot of effort to sell the newness, the complexity and its special nature. Much of that advice makes efforts at social collaboration sound difficult to achieve or alien, if you are working today in a traditional organisation.

Despite all that discussion, there is one practice that helps make initiatives in social collaboration successful and increases the value that is created in the future of work. That practice is simply:

Treat it as just work

We work collaboratively every day

Every day people collaborate at work. Mostly they don’t call it collaboration. Instead, it is seen as having a conversation, sending an email, persuading someone, getting advice, getting help or working together on a task or project.

Social collaboration extends the opportunities of who can engage in this collaboration. Social collaboration tools enable this kind of work to be done with more people, faster and with better ability to leverage the knowledge created. If social collaboration tools don’t make it easier or better to do this kind of work, then users won’t and shouldn’t use them.

Treating social collaboration as a special activity distinct from work confuses people. They debate when they should use this special collaboration. They question the value of collaboration. They can’t see the point. And each time they go back to their work and start collaborating with others again.

Work is why we share information

Many people can immediately see the value of social collaboration as a way to share information. Your enterprise social network looks like Facebook. Your corporate blogs look like the ones in the public domain. Your wikis and knowledge management systems may even be familiar too.

However, this familiarity makes people uncomfortable at work. Clearly we don’t usually share the same information at work as we do in Facebook.  Many people ask: What should I share? What do I have that is worthwhile to share? What will happen if I share the wrong thing?

However in any organisation the best reason to share information is to work. People share information to do work together and to create value. Connecting with work colleagues, working out loud, solving work problems collaboratively and innovating with others are the reasons we share information at work.

Work isn’t special

Treating social collaboration as work addresses other issues that organisations face as they move into the future of work.

You have the policies, processes or campaigns to do your work. You don’t need special approaches to start social collaboration. Your normal work rules and processes should cover your social collaboration too, including rules on privacy & confidentiality, behaviours and performance processes.  If these approaches break, constrain or prevent new forms of social collaboration, there is a good chance they don’t work for other forms of collaborative work and should be changed. Don’t create special rules.

Do you gamify your daily work processes? If you don’t gamify everyday work, don’t gamify engagement with a social platform. Remember it is the work that creates the value, not the adoption. Don’t confuse the tool with the result.

Don’t start with special things. Start by helping your people to do their work better. If your organisation has never ever sought any input to its product development processes, doing a special product ideation session can be valuable, but it is a terrible way to start a social collaboration journey (especially if you fail to follow through on the ideas). You don’t want people building an idea that a social collaboration tool as something for special, rare & unique events. You want people realising its potential to do work and solve work problems each day.

Treating social collaboration as work also addresses why senior executives and other leaders should participate. This is not a special domain. This is where the work gets done. If you want to lead, lead here too. 

Work Creates Value

Most importantly, considering social collaboration as work drives our attention to the question of the value that the work adds.  When we work, we know we need to work more efficiently and find ways to make our work add value. That is part of the deal with work.

Focusing on social collaboration as work also reminds us that we should work to realise our strategy as an organisation. The collaboration must realise the organisation’s goals and the goals of the individuals who need to work.  Collaboration for its own sake is a waste.

Start Working to Work Better.

Social collaboration is the same. We shouldn’t focus on the tools. We should focus on the value of the work we do and how we can do better.

If you want to create value from social collaboration and new ways of working, start by treating it as work. Then ask people to improve their work. Experiment and make changes to make work more productive and effective each day. You will need to change processes, policies and organisational structures over time, but you will be guided by the collaboration of your people. That is the way to realise the human potential in your organisation.

The journey won’t be easy. There will be setbacks and lessons to be learned. People will need to learn new ways and adapt to change but an engaged group of people working together will create greater value for your organisation over time.  

That sounds just like work too.


The Connect>Share>Solve>Innovate maturity model assists organisations to accelerate the value of the work their people do in social collaboration tools in practical ways.  Accelerating the progress of collaborative work from Connection to Innovation significantly increases the returns to individuals and the organisation from new ways of work.  Importantly it also engages people in shaping the future of work in their organisation. If you would like to learn more, please get in touch.

Change Agents Worldwide E-Book Released

The Change Agents Worldwide e-book: Changing the World of Work One Human at a Time is now available. Get yours now:

CAWW e-Book

The book is a series of essays that answer the question “what step should organisations take to make the most of the future of work?” The answers reflect the diverse and insightful perspectives of the members of Change Agents Worldwide on leveraging social collaboration, networks and trust.

My essay in the book is entitled “Do You Trust the Talented People You Went to Great Care to Hire?”

You Can’t Add a Collaboration Layer

Collaboration is human-to-human interaction. We are rich, creative and diverse, given the chance. You can’t add a collaboration layer to your existing processes.

Collaboration is not something that helps with the work. Collaboration is not something you integrate into your existing systems. Collaboration requires a fundamental rethink of the way work gets done. Collaboration is not a layer because it changes the whole system. Great collaboration goes the whole way through.

The phrase ‘collaboration layer’ is common. The idea of a collaboration layer most likely has its origins in information technology architecture. Collaboration systems are often represented as a different layer of the system stack, similarly to the user interface. As a result vendors and others talking to an IT audience will often promote the need to add a collaboration layer to existing processes. After all adding a collaboration layer sounds relatively painless – all the benefits of collaboration without the change.

As the application of the phrase shifts from systems architecture to the business conversation on how work gets done, something gets lots in translation. Success in the application of social collaboration systems does not come from integrating one more piece of technology into the stack. Collaboration is not an integration challenge. Collaboration is not about machine-to-machine or even machine-to-human interaction. Collaboration is human-to-human.

Collaboration can’t just be layered in on top of everything else. Collaboration requires a rethink of the entire process to foster the best of human interactions. Networks are required for collaboration. However, great communication requires more than a network. Great collaboration requires a community. The highest value collaboration goes beyond a community and builds a change movement.

To bring community to life you need to do more than add a layer of machine-to-human and human-to-human communication over the top of your Taylorist processes. The goal of social collaboration is not to make dumb workers better informed. The goal is to leverage their collective knowledge, intelligence and creativity. Allowing workers to share purpose, connect and create new and better ways of working together comes from giving them the opportunity to connect deeply and to rethink the processes and entire systems that they use to do their work. The best innovations in social collaboration are when entire traditional processes disappear because a newly engaged workforce finds a better way.

People will not stay long in a conversation where machines send them status updates. There is much less value in collaboration, little community and no change if the process is the process and can’t be rethought. This is one of the reasons so many enterprise social networks struggle. Without the prospect of creating a sense of community and the ability to change things, what is the point of participating?

If you want the benefits of rich collaboration, growing community and powerful change driven by your people, then you will need to move beyond a collaboration layer on existing processes. Letting your people use collaboration to change the whole system for the better has to be possible. Collaborative humans will demand it.