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Some thoughts on dialogue in the context of leading change in digital transformation

Summary: Dialogue and exchange are very common catch phrases used in today’s world of change and digital transformation. With the raise of social technologies in intra-company communications, dialogue and exchange became key drivers and motivators for introducing and motivating adoption of those new opportunities. Looking back on my years in the field I am frequently asking myself: What has to fundamentally change to really accelerate the impact and effectiveness of the new digital opportunities? This short essay contains my thoughts concerning the subject and was triggered by one of the latest TED Radio Hour episodes.

Disclaimer: As mentioned in my section on “Sources of Inspiration”, I get a lot of food for thought from the TED Radio Hour (by npr.org). Listening to one of the most recent shows on “Dialogue & Exchange“, two segments got my thoughts spinning. I need to mention, that what was triggered in my head does not match the actual context of the talks’s content. It’s more an “abstraction” of the two angles on dialogue & exchange.

TAKE 1: Moral Reframing. Manipulating the other side by using a resonating baseline of moral values to win an argument.

In his segment of the TED Radio Hour, Robb Willer and Guy Raz talk about the political divide in the US. Robb introduces the results of a study, in which democrats, republicans & liberals were surveyed on their position towards environmental protection after reading one of three essays. One essay was emphasising the moral values of republicans, one the ones of democrats, one was neutral and simply arguing the case. Republican & democrat participants were leaning towards supporting pro-protection arguments, if delivered in the moral value framing closest to their political position. Liberals would support the subject no matter what.

The study was proof for the method of “Moral Reframing”, in which the other side is persuaded to follow a particular argument, by delivering it through a morally resonating message. I believe, you can safely call that “manipulation”.

What my brain made of this…

Quite a while ago I realised that the saying

Don’t do unto others what you don’t want others to do unto you.

by Confucius is slightly misleading. It implies that we all live by comparable values, standards, preferences and ideals. I believe we can all agree, that that’s not really the case. At least I can name you a list of things – business and private – that I don’t want experience, while others would sincerely indulge in them.

Nevertheless, in a lot of change initiatives, the believes of either thought leaders, executives or advisors (or a combination of all three) are used as the driving arguments for change. Based on those believes new strategies are proclaimed, operating models established and IT tools get introduced. In only a very few of those initiatives the drivers really come from the base and represent the broad perspective on challenges, opportunities and options for a way forward. This is exactly the moment, where the arguments fall short and the need for change is only put out there but does not resonate with its audience.

What if we first listened to the ones that have to adopt change and that need to be taken on the journey towards the future? What if we decided to really seek to understand the fundamentals that move the people that we need by our side to really make a change? What if we used the learning from that process and modified the arguments in a “morally reframed way” to persuade people based on their values to come on board and take an active role?

I can hear the shouts of “that’s manipulation!”. But what, if you also apply another Stephen R. Covey habit of “thinking WIN/WIN“? Then the “manipulation” is not harmful but essentially in the best interest of everyone and a good way of getting a larger adoption of behaviour that is required to really make a change.

What if…?

TAKE 2: New challenges for diplomacy + The ability to have a dialogue without trying to convince the other side

Jonas Gahr Støre is the former Minister of Foreign Affairs for Norway. In his TED Talk he is picking up on the raise of intra-country conflicts and the roles of diplomats in a very difficult environment of extremism.  One piece of his talk that triggered a particular thought process in my mind was this chart (screenshot taken from a still of the video on npr.org):

ted_screen

Besides the fact that this is a massive challenge for diplomats that are trained to solve INTER-conuntry dispute, I suddenly asked myself: might it be the case that corporate leaders and managers are facing a slightly similar issue?

Looking back at my time in larger (and some small) corporations (as an employee at them or a consultant to them) I remember the phrase

“We are dealing too much with ourselves and not enough with the market, our audience or the competition.”

really well. Firstly this means that too many capacities are bound by internal ineffectiveness (not to be muddled up with inefficiencies!). Companies are not applying the right people or skill to solve INTERNAL problems, so things tend to drag on forever. They might be throwing some weight at the problems, but it’s not the right weight. I’ve learned about this angle in a talk from Dr. Gerhard Wohland when he said (something in the direction of):

Whenever a surprise hits, companies tend to ask the wrong question. They usually what to know “what are we going to do now?”. That’s the wrong question. If you knew your options, the situation wouldn’t be a surprise. What you need to ask yourself is “who is the right person in our company to deal with this and find out what to do?”.

Secondly, the majority of people hired for a job (if not hired for an HR role) are trained (and framed) to deal with OUTSIDE facing topics. They are (if hired well) diplomats to deal with EXTERNAL challenges on the client, partner or industry side. They have not come on board as diplomats and problem solvers for the INTERNAL conflict – even though that solving those would automatically lead to improved business success…I dare to quote Richard Branson in this context:

Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your clients.

Those two thoughts lead to two questions, that might be a starting point to resolving the INTRA-company challenges.:

  1. Are the right people dealing with our internal challenges? (instead of: are we doing the right thing?)
  2. How do we attract the right people that we need to deal with our internal challenges? (and most likely this will not be the next VP with an impressive commercial track record…)

Listening without the goal of convincing.

Another part of Jonas Gahr Støre’s talk referred to the ability to

Distinguish talking from making decisions.

What resonated with me here is the fact, that too many intra-corporate conversations don’t have the objective to understand. The dialogue is either “fake” (aka the feedback doesn’t really weigh as much as the initial statement) or the only aim of dialogue is to find the right angle to convince people of something else.

I am sure, we all have been in a situation where we’ve been invited to a “constructive conversation”, which turned out to be an environment in which – after having voiced the own perspective – the only objective was the attempt to convince us.

You’ve been there, right?

Now there is a difference between my TAKE 1 on “moral reframing” in this essay and the lack of dialogue I am referring to here. Because the sort of dialogue I am promoting in my TAKE 2 is a necessary foundation for being able to find resonating arguments. It can only derive from the will to walk into a conversation with the sole objective to understand, not to immediately respond and convince. For this methods like “active listening”, in which a listener repeats the perceived message in own words to then see if the sent and the perceived meaning actually match, can be very helpful.

If the objective of a conversation is a real understanding of all parties at the table, there is no need for neutrality or consensus to maintain a good conversational climate. It would be baked in by the fact that real interest into the other’s point of view is the driver of the talk, instead of the “polite waiting period before I blurt out what all the others have to believe anyway.”

My Essence: Effective change requires a foundation derived from a real dialogue.

Let’s not take the detour over “Starting with Why?” (Simon Sinek) again 😉

Let’s take it as a given and agree, that the purpose for change, for the introduction of new ways of working and the move towards a connected organisation has to start with a real dialogue.

Before companies whip out their value propositions and try to encourage behavioural change, they might want to get a deep understanding of the values and drivers of the people the change will affect. This will help us to work with resonating value propositions, which in itself are much stronger in their effect.

Let’s seek a dialogue that has the objective to understand, not to convince or manipulate.

If we want to proclaim the power of the crowd, holocracy and flat (or no) hierarchies, let’s find the real motivators to do so. Because a stock price, competitive advantage or a steep increase in bonuses won’t be it. That much we should really know already…

Let’s introduce a new breed of (non-HR) managers: diplomats for internal affairs.

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Managing internal digitalisation like a start-up (Mini Series 1/4)

To get back into the flow of publishing my thoughts I’ve decided to put a little bit of social pressure on myself. So this one is the first of four posts (aka a mini series) inspired by an Inside Intercom podcast called “Best Practices in Product“. Stay tuned for the remaining three…

“Jobs-to-be-done” thinking when launching new digital workplace services.

Bob Moesta (President of the ReWired Group and Jobs-to-be-Done architect) says in the podcast interview:

There’s actually no new consumption. They’re already getting the job done one way or another through a different category. (…) They always switch from something.

In corporate environments this is very much the reality every single time. I haven’t met one single organisation that would tick off statements like

  • At our company we don’t collaborate.
  • We don’t have any internal communication.
  • People here have no idea what we do or what we have done.
  • Our experts aren’t connected and we operate like lone wolfs.
  • We can’t produce positive business results because of IT.

Whenever I was allowed to work with people in transformational and change projects, the key driver was to make people’s life easier so they have more time for…

  • client interaction
  • innovation
  • knowledge management and re-use
  • social interaction & networking

It’s about relieving people from unnecessary effort. It’s about allowing people to be effective with their own resource, which might be an intrinsic motivator for the audience you really want to reach: the high performers.

Giving people options that are better than today’s way of doing things is not enough in the corporate context.

The reality is that there’s no more time in the world. You can’t create time, and so now they’re choosing to do Snapchat and not do something else. (…)

… Bob says in the context of explaining the effect of substituting one social media service by one that gets introduced later and triggers a particular user need or preference.

I keep experiencing the effect that potentially better options stay untouched or only occasionally used. From an outside angle the newly proposed enablement of individual or collaborative productivity seems a “no brainer”. The people, however, decide to stick to the old – cumbersome, time consuming but comfortably familiar – ways of getting things done.

In companies a new reference point, a new motivator, drives adoption – not a new tool.

The only way to address this is to change the context work is done in. This immediately becomes a leadership and management task. In order to guide people into new, ideally more effective ways of working, they need new motivators. The meaning of “jobs-to-be-done” has to change in order to allow people to evaluate the newly introduced option differently.

For example: if “capture the minutes of the kick-off” is the “job-to-be-done”, there will be almost no motivation to adapt new collaborative tools, that would at the same time help to manage task, track progress etc.. The new (and enforced) focus has to be “use the follow-up session to give feedback on results and progress and decide next steps based on our learning“. That way it’s clear, that attending the next meeting will require “being on the same page” and “transparency for how we’ve moved things based on the kick-off” (aka preparation…and when have you last been in a well prepared meeting?!). The minutes themselves won’t be very useful. Only the actions triggered by the kick-off, the individual contribution, and how things stand before the group re-gathers is now relevant. The minutes become merely the “documentation of our joint foundation”.

So when you work on introducing new digital services for your employees, it definitely makes sense to think about the motivators of adoption and change. Guide people into the new world of increased productivity and make them experience what it means to “get-the-new-job-done”, the one that makes us all better and more successful.

***

Next time: Telling your product’s story – why change management needs a solid, thought through and resonating story line for the people that are supposed to change.

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I am now a Freelance Coach & Consultant

I have toyed with this idea on more than one occasion. Encouraged by my network and my family, I’ve now taken the plunge into self employment and am a “gun for hire” for clients that could benefit from a “Digital Sherpa”.

On my re-worked website you will find information on what I can offer you, your people and your business. Please get in touch with me via the contact form, Xing, LinkedIn or Twitter if you want to know more.

In a nutshell I will be offering the following services:

Alignment of teams & digital initiatives

  • Strategic framework & “true North” for a project or program
  • Scoping & specification of a project/program (charter, plan, sourcing, roadmap)
  • Program & work stream design

(Read more)

Continuous team coaching

Support of project, management & leadership teams in keeping a complex program on track and implementing change.

(Read more)

Workshop Design

Development, design & facilitation of engaging, concrete and creative workshops for

  • Team building & alignment
  • (Business) requirements engineering
  • Change implementation & ambassador acquisition
  • Prioritisation & roadmap design

(Read more)

Inspirational talks

Well…some of you know that I love being on stage to inspire people and share my thoughts and ideas. I am happy to do this at conferences or in corporate environments to drive internal evangelism for change, digitalisation & the new ways of working.

***

I’ve even put together a more specific offering along a process of “Building the Base Camp” for a digital journey.

The following illustration shows where I connect to your digital initiatives & teams:

DigitalSerpa_Offering

(Click image for a larger version)

So…Hire me as your Digital Sherpa today. Limited supplies only ;o)

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Gluing distributed organisations together (& the associated leadership challenge)

Summary: My wife just recently shared David McGraw’s article “Communication Tactics For Remote Companies” with me. Reading it made me realise that it contains a lot of implicit “reason-why” for the current situation of the Digital Workplace in many companies. I want to build on what David has written about start ups which, in many ways, experience the same challenges as globally distributed enterprises. And I want to elaborate on the leadership aspect that should go way beyond preaching connectedness and start to take action and balance empowerment and motivation (or shall I say “gentle enforcement”) of the required behaviour.

First of all, I have met people who frown on a military past when it comes to business leaders. For those who mistake the military business to be a pure command & orders structure I can assure you: there is nowhere better to learn to trust people with your life. I am not American and I have served only for a very short amount of time. But the people I met and that were respected as well as high up the military ranks were empathetic, charismatic and trustworthy characters. It made me seriously rethink my picture of the leadership aspect in the armed forces.

David writes about three core aspects: “(…)

  • Why transparency, leadership, and even celebrating play a critical role
  • The value of consistency by formalizing communication channels
  • How employees and leaders might suggest ways to improve the current virtual environment

(…)”. Let me pick up on those and add my personal thoughts and a “Digital Workplace” spin on the subject as well.

Building a purposeful “we care about what others do” culture

The foundation for a successful organisation is a joint purpose. People need to understand the contribution they make, where it connects to what others deliver and how it’s a piece in the bigger picture. Simon Sinek is probably the best known speaker about purpose and “How great leaders inspire action“.  Seeking the “why” seems to be built into our DNA and is almost instinctive. Why else would young children persistently ask “why” when they are forbidden or asked to do something? Most parents will confirm that “just because” is the worst answer one can give in that situation. In large corporations it’s no different.

The same goes for “caring about what others do”. Leaders and managers need to make sure that success is not determined by delivering on individual goals and KPIs. Furthermore, and this has been a rule  of mine whenever I have been in charge of distributed teams, not being physically present should not get in the way of the success of others. It’s important to understand that personal freedom, for example the place one prefers to work from, must not be allowed to impact others in situations where input is required. A virtual meeting requires a proper connection and everyone to be able to look at the same shared screen. Frankly, I can’t count all the conference calls and virtual meetings in which attendees were in fact driving cars, walking through an airport or simply “just popping in but I don’t have my laptop with me”…it makes me palms sweat just writing about it.

Formalising the “us”

David writes about stand ups and distinct channels for sharing success, progress or even whereabouts. In my experience “celebrating success” is one of the most essential things that can act as glue for distributed teams.

However, I’ve just recently run an analysis for a large company to determine the performance of their intranet function for thanking others publicly and the results were rather modest. Even though it isn’t the usual “launch spike & fade out” scenario, the people distributing recognition were few and the adoption of the opportunity was almost exclusive to the HQ and main markets. Saying “thank you” hadn’t become part of the corporate culture despite the availability of a distinct channel just for that. Together, we determined quickly that the shortcoming wasn’t technical, it was simply the lack of leadership and management attention (and contribution) to this idea. Only very few intrinsically motivated people kept up the good spirit.

It is essential that a collaborative attitude is established, led and lived sustainably. In particular when companies grow (organically or from M&A), maintaining the spirit of common purpose and “we help each other” is what leaders have to really strive for in addition to securing effectiveness, productivity and growth.

Governance, or in my words: Simply knowing where to go for what.

In his article David writes about standardising the communication channels. Honestly, there is no greater challenge than this in global organisations. The fact that in today’s world a large majority of companies have been built from mergers & acquisitions leaves them with legacy, pride of the past and “not invented here” scenarios. There isn’t one single place to go for product knowledge. There isn’t one corporate channel that would deliver all (as in: no exceptions) formally required information. And of course there isn’t one single “organisational chatter” room, in which people meet and actually show interest in what’s going on across the globe, pro-actively, because they feel that it’s important to “stay in touch”.

In order to pull off the “Digital Workplace” – and by now I feel the field has agreed that it’s more a concept or an ideology than a thing – there needs to be a certain level of standardisation. We really really need the “this is how we do” governance. It’s required to create an environment of

  • confidence (I’m sure I’ve got what I need to be successful)
  • trust (We are all on one page and help each other) and
  • motivation (We can get anything done, because together we are strong).

3 Pillars for Success: Purpose. Care. Leadership.

The transformation from “how we used to do things” to “this is how we do things now” needs to be purposefully led.

People cannot be ordered to care about others.

Trust and motivation to work as a unit cannot be commanded, which connects back to my military reference from before.

It all needs to be carefully implemented and “lived” top down. In combination with a joint purpose and a “we care for each other” attitude, organisations might become unbeatable!

 

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The Power of Purpose and the Balance of Goal, Value & Leadership

Intro: Two colleagues of mine started working on a model for the “power of purpose”. Purpose is one of the key subjects at the moment when it comes to change, leadership & management. One of the most famous talkers about the power of purpose might be Simon Sinek. You can see his TED Talk here. My colleagues point out the need that goal, value and leadership need to be in harmony in order to create an effective sense of purpose. I’ve fallen in love with the idea straight away so I capture my take & interpretation on the early stage of their model on my blog, you can find their publication here on LinkedIn.

The power of purpose.

“Why” is what you need to answer if you want to determine the purpose for “how” you are intending to do “what. From a leadership angle the “reason-why” might be the most important answer to give anyway. In particular in times of change, when the awareness for a need for change is charged with the urgency created by markets, competition or overall eco system. You need to move and you need to move fairly fast.

Commitment, dedication and intrinsic motivation is what leaders and managers should seek in their organisation. They are strong pillars for a stable environment in which trust can grow and distribution of accountability and responsibility is possible.

Goal. Value. Leadership.

In their model, Christian Heraty and Kevin Hansen, imply that a harmony or balance of the three core elements

  • Goal (What are we trying to achieve?)
  • Value (What benefit will derive from achieving the goal for whom?)
  • Leadership (How is a common understanding for the journey ahead created and sustained?)

are essential for an effective purpose. This is essential if you perceive “purpose” as a key resource to success and you required the maximum effect and impact of it on organisation and culture.

Read their description on the model here. The following text is my personal perspective on their angle:

Where we fall short in so many instances…

1. Setting Goals

If communication is only successful when sender and recipient are aligned, I believe the majority of goals – or better the way they are delivered to the affected audience – are far from “clear”. Yes, our goal can be to “increase net sales by 20 million”, but as long as your not the highest person in charge of sales, it’s not really “concrete”. Set aside the fact that motivation is definitely not driven by such a statement.

There are various ways of setting goals. SMART is probably one of my favourites:
<S> specific
<M> measurable
<A> achievable
<R> realistic
<T> timely

In our day to day work at Infocentric we for example use a structure called “PO3” to frame meetings, initiatives or projects.
<P> purpose (why)
<O> objective (what)
<O> outcome (result)
<O> output (deliverables)

I believe there are even more way of driving a common understanding and alignment across teams, departments of even companies. They all have one things in common: it requires time, thinking and recipient orientated communications to get it right…all three not necessarily the strongest pieces in goal setting processes.

2. Make value understood

One of my key learnings in my time at Tieto was “Industrial Buying Center Management (IBCM)”. As part of a development program obviously focussed on empowering us to drive business. Over time and in particular in my work as a consultant one concept of IBCM has proven to be extremely valuable: the resonating value proposition (read the original Harvard Business Review article here).

Essentially the concept is simple: the more a value proposition resonates with the actual recipient, the more powerful it is.

In practice it means that the value for e.g. digital transformation is substantially different for HR, CFO department, Sales or Engineering. If you want to make sure that your initiative or change program get broad acceptance you need to cater to all relevant (or affected) parties.

In the context of purpose it is essential to convey “value” in a way that people can understand it and thereby buy into it as a core element. And just for the sake of mentioning it: people ain’t stupid. Whatever companies do, has one some level a commercial or otherwise business orientated sense – even for an NGO. I can only urge leaders and managers to not beat around the bush and show how “this is your value – and this is how it connects to the value for our company” transparently.

3. Leading purpose

For this one I have a very, very tangible example. The past 8 years I’ve spent in the field of Advanced Intranets and the Digital Workplace. I had to learn the hard way that the C-Suite “we need to function as one tree hugging and super productive family” efficiency story sounds different when the board room doors are closed. Suddenly efficiency isn’t much of a topic anymore. If work gets done in 8 or 11 hours is…well…a working level issue. And unfortunately past experience proves that they are right. People get stuff done…no matter what obstacles you throw in their way. That’s what makes us human.

In the board room “effectiveness” is like magic: grown in additional regions without growing staff at the same ratio. Sell more without more sales staff. Ensure that the resource applied to achieve a goal has it’s maximum effect.

Why I am telling this story? Because if there is a dissonance between message and reality, then conveying purpose will be almost impossible. It disables operations to create tangible and resonating value propositions to the board room. Because, in the example above, they think efficiency (= value) to reach growth (= the goal). For the recipients, however, effectiveness is the real budget magnet. This immediately puts value & goal out of synch and a potential purpose is dead in the water.

Together it all makes sense…

If you think about it carefully: it actually makes sense. You cannot make purpose up. You have to mean it. In order to be able to mean it Goal, Value and the means of implementing both through authentic and coherent Leadership have to be in place. Otherwise “purpose” is another way of “marketing” whatever message you want to bring across.

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My predictions for 2017 (*wink)

It’s the time of year again. All experts are gathering around the crystal ball to predict what we will be doing in the next 12 months. Of course I need to chime in because if you operate under the “Digital Sherpa” metaphor the “Shaman” isn’t that far off…

So here we go with my 5 best shots:

  1. All technology driven initiatives to digitally transform the mechanics of relationship management, business development or productivity will fail.
  2. “On premises” is dead. If someone tries to tell you, it’s not: there some personal stake in maintaining the legacy involved.
  3. We will see less Chief Digital Officers and more digitally empowered, mature and passionate people in leading and executing roles. It will become a very tough environment for consultancies.
  4. The artificial separation of “intranet” and “internet” will be torn down because it literally makes no sense.
  5. We will reflect on 2017 in December and make similar predictions again because corporate politics, power struggles and lack of disruptive thinking will keep things at a slow pace…no matter how quickly the field evolves.

Opinions?

Merry Xmas. Happy New Year. Make life count.

phil

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Social Chicken Network – The Need to Change the Foundation for a Collaborative Future

Summary: Margaret Heffernan’s TED Talk on “Forget the pecking order at work” inspired me to write this post. I’ve talked and published a lot about why Enterprise Social Network by itself don’t seem to really deliver the success people expect. Listening to Margaret’s talk I was quite baffled that research on chickens was actually able to draw some parallels to business life. So this article is about the need for a new kind of leadership – in particular around motivation & reward models – when you want to lay the foundation for a more “WE” driven attitude in companies.

I’ve now worked from almost 8 years in the field of the Digital Workplace and Advanced Intranets. Over the years my job has evolved from “making people desire IT” to “establishing a successful foundation for cultural change”. One of the most striking things in my line of work is the fact that the attempt to establish Enterprise Social Networks (ESN) sustainably seems to be so challenging. I am, however, not implying that there hasn’t been a company succeeding in the attempt to establish an ESN. Unfortunately the real (like in: substantial impact & cultural change) success stories are rare and in a lot of cases limited to distinct use cases such as R&D, Sales or Marketing/Communications.

We’re conditioning future leaders the wrong way

In her TED Talk Margaret Heffernan talks about an experiment with chickens. To cut a long story short: Creating an average chickens flock delivered a happy camper group of hens that after six generations even showed an increase in (egg laying) productivity. Putting only the most productive “power hens” in one superflock delivered…oh well…only three chicken still alive after they started pecking each other to death at some point.

Then Heffernan says “(…) But for the past 50 years, we’ve run most organisations and some societies along the superchicken model. We’ve thought that success is achieved by picking the superstars, the brightest men, or occasionally women, in the room, and giving them all the resources and all the power. And the result has been just the same as in William Muir’s experiment: aggression, dysfunction and waste. If the only way the most productive can be successful is by suppressing the productivity of the rest, then we badly need to find a better way to work and a richer way to live. (Applause) (…)”. (Source: Talk Transcript on Ted.com).

This goes hand in hand with my experience from requirements engineering & needs analysis. What people are looking for is enablement and empowerment for their own work. They want to be put in a place in which they are able “to get sh** done” with reasonable effort.

A new way: focus on productive work that you cannot deliver by yourself!

We need to change two fundamental things:

  • Empower people to focus on productive work and take everything away that consumes time for unnecessary tasks and actions.
  • Lead people towards collaborative success and create an environment (incl. incentive and compensation models) in which “WE” behaviour is rewarded.

It’s important to emphasise that neither improvement works without the other if you’re really looking for a proper leap in results and productivity. It’s a little like it is with technology: digital transformation is built on organisational, managerial and leadership change…but without a proper piece of software in the background, there is no “digital” transformation.

We need to introduce ways to “synchronise coffee breaks” all day long. Then we will be able to end up in a place Heffernan reports on on the TED stage: “(…) When Alex Pentland suggested to one company that they synchronize coffee breaks so that people would have time to talk to each other, profits went up 15 million dollars, and employee satisfaction went up 10 percent. Not a bad return on social capital, which compounds even as you spend it. (…)” (Source: Talk Transcript on Ted.com).

If you empower people without a change of the reward system…

… what you get is people with a lot of time at their hand. 20% of those will spend the time on figuring out ways on how to be the next VP and gain more organisational power. The remaining 80% will…well…do their job with less effort and find ways of “burning” the time until it’s time to go home.

If you lead people towards collaboration but don’t take away the productivity road blocks…

… you might drive people insane – in particular the good ones. There is nothing more frustrating than the right perspective, the right purpose and a feeling that the right behaviours is rewarded, but you cannot behave that way. Coffee breaks, personal networks and meetings can only deliver limited impact. We need the support of modern technology to take the pieces out of our day that keep us from delivering results and enrich it with new opportunities to reach out and combine our talent with the talent of others for the “next big thing”.

The power of purpose…

Just to wrap this up I would like to reference Simon Sinek as well. Basically it’s a must if you talk about #change and #leadership.

I strongly believe that leadership towards a more collaborative work and corporate culture will not be driven by the classic corporate goals. In an interview in the npr TED Radio Hour Heffernan talks about her witnessing a corporate meeting in which the joint objective of 60 mUSD. “Who get’s motivated by trying to achieve a 60 million Dollar profit?” she asks.

And it’s true, if you want to get people engaged and committed you need to provide more than just SMART goals in a financial sense. For that it’s worth to (again) check out Sinek’s talk on “purpose” on the TED stage.

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DWP: The Single Entry Point to the Truth

Summary: Even though the field has agreed (and I’m on board here) that there is no such thing as a “Digital Workplace”, we’re still trying to find a tangible description for it. Based on my most recent gig at Social Business Collaboration and a little new business pitch I am involved in I’d like to add an (not revolutionary but maybe helpful) angle to the subject. Let’s call it the “Single Entry Point to the Truth”, in particular acknowledging the fact, that there is no such thing as a “Single Source of Truth” either. So this article is about what the DWP could actually be…whatever it’s built on.

Learning from my work in the field

I’ve used the following illustration in my most recent presentation at the Social Business Collaboration in Berlin. And maybe it’s me or the stuff I am getting involved in…but no matter how high the ambition is around collaboration, social or innovative things…we always end up at the same thing: I just need my stuff…easy…personalised…please!!

whattheymean

I was just working on a summary of a business case development project and the outcome was exactly that. What the majority of people in business functions wish for, is one single place in which they will find all their reference and work material…no matter where it lives or who’s created/published it.

Now… Let’s accept a few basic conditions:

  • The Digital Workplace is no “thing” – it’s a metaphor to describe what we need in information and knowledge work to drive effectiveness, foster working out loud and make it easy for people to reach their goals.
  • There is no “Single Source of Truth”. Period. Depending on what the truth is, it might be web content, a document, a post, an email…name it. So that all of this can reside in ONE huuuuuge container…come on.
  • There will never be one single digital communications or information management channel. No matter how many “one intranet” or “one company” or “MyXYZ” initiatives we run, there will be other channels that pop up in parallel, after it or were there to stay in the first place.

If that’s the reality, what we need is the:

Single Entry Point to the Truth

It would be the…how did one of my clients phrase it: everybody’s good morning.

The first touch point that guides you through the day. It show’s what’s going on, where people are dependent on input or things that need immediate attention. It would be the place that is directly connected to the user’s work day and business context and allows functions like Corporate Communications to sneak (relevant) messages into that context.

entrypoint

It could be called an aggregation layer, a wrapper or a portal. The name doesn’t matter – as long as it hasn’t been burned by previous initiatives and is better never mentioned in public anymore (Boogie Man…Boogie Man…Boo…….).

What we create is something that contributes to effectiveness (happy executives) and efficiency (happy employees). It would take away the digging, searching and crossing fingers that I got everything I need to “do things right the first time”.

digitalchannels

And it would be the place that would pick up from the business logic, the co-creation, the projects, the iterative work and turn the final items into corporate reference material.

So…does anyone got any thoughts on this? 🙂

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Digital Transformation: Key Challenge & Winning Coalition (playing with relation & distance)

Summary: I got invited to give a little talk on Digital Transformation at a Swiss business school. As part of the preparation the guys provided me with a quadrant they use to locate initiatives around digital within organisations. Looking at the quadrant something struck me: I want to talk about “relational distance” of the digital roots from business operations for a moment…and maybe the root cause for where a lot of companies stand with the subject…so here we go:

A lot of my work and passion is connected to change management and leadership in the context of digitally transforming the more classic business models. I believe that companies that produce heavy machinery, furniture or chemical components won’t suddenly turn into the next Google, Facebook or Uber. In a lot if instances the vulnerability to disruption (unlike to Finance, Insurance, Trade & Services) looks different. However, I am not saying that they aren’t vulnerable but that it’s less coming from the re-invention of their source of business but from a change in the digital maturity of their competitive and market eco system.

AAAAANYWAY…

Because I am dealing with classic business models a lot I am frequently being asked the question: what’s the set-up that we need to make this digital thing a success? While preparing for my little gig at a Swiss business school I was confronted with the following quadrant:

quadrant_only

It’s a model the students use to locate initiatives for digital transformation or organisational development. Looking at it I realised something weird…and it’s weird because it has literally NO academical angle. It’s imply the position of where digital (no matter if externally or internally facing) has it’s roots:

quadrant

If you were interpreting the model from a pure “relations” and “distance” perspective, one could say: Marketing & (Brand) Communications has the least direct impact on the key factors (grey). In between “talking about it” are always

  • come up with new stuff (light blue)
  • get stuff done (green)
  • make sure stuff works well (dark blue).

If you now carefully look from where a lot (if not the majority) of digital initiatives are created, driven, led and maintained you could say: digital happens TO FAR AWAY from the actual business logic.

Even the role of “Chief Digital Officers” (or similar functions) have a strong, if not implicit or organisational connection to Marketing, Communications, Branding & Co. in a lot of instances. Not saying everywhere…but it’s not really far fetched, is it?

The Winning Coalition of “Digital”

Changing the perspective on the quadrant (aka tipping it) you could actually put the group of functions on top of it that would be critical to make digital a real success.

winning-coalition

Doing this, however, would require that all those representatives have understood what “digital” means for their building block of the business model (useful as well: business model canvas). Automatically the need for anything like a “Chief Digital Officer” would vanish because together they will be able to judge the digital potential along their value chain and act on it accordingly.

If you now put leaders on top that have the same level of understanding and believe for digital, you’d be in a very very good and promising place. You’d have the foundation for leading, implementing and evolving digital transformation directly connected to business model and operations: the Winning Coalition of Digital.

Maybe I will use this as an answer the next time I’m asked the question 🙂