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.

Who Helps Creates Value in Your Organisation?

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The difference between a network and community is a culture of collaboration. Collaboration doesn’t just happen. It is grown through the action of leaders.

Markets are Value Networks

The markets we use when we exchange financial value today are networks. Networks of connected agents exchange value in our stock exchanges, banks and risk markets. These networks did not arise simply because people connected. Financial markets are facilitated by practices that help transform connection into valuable interactions.

When the networks of merchants in coffee houses became stock exchanges, they relied on the role of brokers and market makers to help build a valuable marketplace. These roles helped people:

  • to build trust in the new market,
  • to create liquidity that enabled activity when demand and supply from participants was not perfectly matched,
  • to share information,
  • to develop new ways of working
  • to help the new markets to enforce the rules and standards of the exchange.

The same leadership work to build value, trust and new ways of working is found in the history of banking, insurance or other exchanges.  

The value created in these networks did not occur because the network existed. It occurred because of the work of people to build a collaborative culture in the network. People need to build a sense of how to use these new exchanges and to build trust in that they would deliver more value than risk.

Your Network Needs Market Makers

Any collaborative network will need leaders to help facilitate the creation of value in the network.  This leadership will be a combination of technical support from community managers and change leadership support from change champions in the organisation and the organisation’s senior management.

The Value Maturity Model highlights the way that collaboration’s market makers need to work to facilitate the value creation in your network:

  • Connecting relevant people to the network and into groups
  • Sharing information that may not have reached its necessary audience
  • Helping to solve issues by matching needs and capabilities, finding other resources or information and even holding a problem or information until there is a match of demand or supply.
  • Providing the systems and support to enable innovation experiments to be fostered until they are proven or fail.
  • Experiment and lead adoption of new ways of working
  • Helping lead the change in the culture of the organisation to allow the development of further cultural change.

To maximise the value of the networks in your organisation, you will need to develop the leadership capabilities that can take advantage of networks.

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, please get in contact. I am available through @simongterry or Linkedin or www.simonterry.com

Value is a fractal

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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

Working Out Loud Creates Value

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Working Out Loud is one of the most crucial practices for value creation in an enterprise social network. For many, it is also the least comfortable. We need to work at this new practice to deliver value.

Working out loud is the core new practice as sharing grows in an enterprise social network. When the conversation moves from sharing personal information to sharing work, value for the individual and organisation rises dramatically. That sharing is critical to the maturity of value creation in an enterprise social network. Without sharing of work, you hold back the benefits from other forms of work collaboration.

Working out loud creates great value in a network because:

  • working out loud gives a work purpose to the connection that has been formed in the network
  • working out loud invites community to form around people and their work enabling others to help, share knowledge and make work easier.
  • working out loud is not natural to many in the traditional workplace, but when people overcome hesitation and practice it they start to see the benefits of new forms of collaboration, that it makes work much easier & the culture much richer – a core driver of personal adoption
  • working out loud is the transition point to much wider collaboration across the organisation and particularly collaborative sharing and problem solving – work that is open is work that can be made better 
  • working out loud exposes the work which allows for better strategic alignment, reduced duplication and importantly recognition of the great work underway.
  • working out loud enables role modelling of transparency, vulnerability, learning, agility and experimentation.
  • working out loud by leaders can change the leadership dynamic from one based in control and expertise to one that leverages networks and collaboration.

Some great resources are available to help you with working out loud:

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, please get in contact. I am available through @simongterry or Linkedin or www.simonterry.com

Beyond Adoption to Value Creation

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A great deal of attention in enterprise social networking has gone into ‘driving adoption’. A focus on adoption can distract organisations from the real challenge of any business activity, creating value in fulfilment of the organisation’s strategy.

Adoption is an intermediate goal

Adoption is a means to an end. Adoption is a tool of value creation. It is not the result. The desired outcome is the value created by an engaged community that allows for the fulfilment of a strategic goal through outcomes like better alignment, innovation, adaptation, better customer & community focus, greater agility or improved efficiency.

The desire to move beyond adoption is growing. Luis Suarez recently argued that the language of driving adoption is missing the mark. Joachim Stroh has also highlighted ways in which we need to move beyond traditional adoption.

The logical next step from adoption is the end goal of work. Business and people work to create value in line with a strategy. We need our use of enterprise social networking to create value for each users and for the business as a whole.

Adoption as a goal alone can lead us astray

Our focus on adoption is often reflected with concerns from our traditional hierarchical ways of working. For example I have been asked the following questions about adoption that indicate something is going astray:

  • If we don’t have universal adoption, how will people get our messages?: If you are focused on one-way communication, there’s a good chance they don’t listen to your messages already.
  • Can’t we just mandate adoption? You can, but it rarely works to create an engaged & valuable community. Incentives may be a transitional tool to help people engage with the solution but take care that they don’t make participation an end in itself.
  • Won’t our people resist adopting this new solution? If the solution offers no value or is seen as a distraction from real work, they should resist. If it creates value for users and they see its value to the organisational strategy then this is an issue that we will overcome.
  • What’s the right number of users to adopt a social network? There is no magic number. The right answer is enough of the organisation to create enough valuable conversations for users and the organisation. That can be a surprisingly small percentage of the organisation, provided they are well connected into the larger organisation.
  • We have lots of users. Nobody knows what to use it for. What do we do now? You have users but it is likely you don’t have a community that understands how to do things together to create value for your strategy.

Most importantly of all, enterprise social networks are infrastructure, not tools. Employees need to make sense of a new enterprise social network and integrate it into their work. There is no pre-ordained usage that people can adopt like many other technology systems. Adopting a network as another conversation tool may be interesting but rapidly loses relevance in a busy workplace with many high volume channels for communication. The best guide to employees is to direct their sense-making into how it will create value for their work and strategic value for the organisation.

Often adoption drives demand a lot of overhead and effort. They are pushing something into a community. Where this effort goes to creating niche use cases with easy adoption, selling a uniqueness event in an enterprise social network or investing all the time in unusual campaign activities it can backfire. Employees who come to think of the enterprise social network as being used only for a special activities may not consider the opportunities for every day value creation. In these networks, there is a dramatic difference in utilisation between when adoption is being driven and every day use limiting the potential of the platform. Use caution that your efforts to drive use reinforce the connection to value in daily work and strategy.

Importantly adoption is rarely a goal that makes sense to the managers and leaders whose support is needed to foster a collaborative culture and role model usage. Conversations advocating adoption of social collaboration and other future of work practices can seem abstract and a side issue to the work of the organisation to many managers. Managers are looking for how enterprise social networks contribute to value creation.

Personal and Strategic Value

Value is different for every organisation as organisation’s purpose, strategies and goals differ. Value need not be a hard dollar return on investment. ROI can rarely be calculated in the abstract for infrastructure. From an organisation’s perspective defining a contribution to a strategic goal is often more effective.

Value is different for each individual depending on their goals, their role, their work preferences and their needs. Individuals will need to change their work practices in ways that make sense to them. Role modelling and storytelling will assist this journey but they will make their own sense of value.

There are 5 key elements of the work to moving the focus of enterprise social networking to value creation:

  • Create Strategic Alignment: Make explicit the connection between social collaboration and the strategic goals of the organisation. At a minimum, these conversations will educate your employees on the purpose, strategy and goals.
  • Guide Personal Value Creation: Guide employees to understand how the enterprise social network creates value in their work. In my work with organisations, I use a Value Maturity Methodology based on users maturity through 4 stages Connect>Share>Solve>Innovate.
  • Experiment & Learn: Create an environment for employees and the organisation where the enterprise social network fosters experimentation to create new forms of value in work. Encourage sharing and solving challenges.
  • Foster A Learning Community: An engaged and aligned community of employees working together for business goals is the greatest opportunity for value creation in organisations. Focus on how community accelerates value creation and the key roles required in any community. Understanding the roles of champions and leaders is critical.
  • Discuss Value Creation: Social networking accelerates double loop learning. Discuss value creation in the network as the work conversations occur. Celebrate lessons and successes. Back innovations with corporate muscle. Use these new learning conversation to foster alignment with strategic goals and encourage people to find new personal value.

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, please get in contact. I am available through @simongterry or Linkedin or www.simonterry.com

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?”