Just a quick share of the slides that I used to present at the annual gathering of the international Digital Workplace and Intranet community at INTRAnet.Reloaded in Berlin.
Just a quick share of the slides that I used to present at the annual gathering of the international Digital Workplace and Intranet community at INTRAnet.Reloaded in Berlin.
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:
Merry Xmas. Happy New Year. Make life count.
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.
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.
We need to change two fundamental things:
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).
… 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.
… 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”.
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.
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.
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!!
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:
If that’s the reality, what we need is the:
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.
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”.
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? 🙂
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.
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:
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:
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
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?
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.
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 🙂
Summary: I’ve deliberately chosen the title to be a little *smile provocative. Of course I don’t mean it literally but where’s smoke there’s fire. So this article is about my very personal angle on the role of a CDO…more or less.
Maybe I need to say that McKinsey Quarterly isn’t my only inspirational source. However, I’ve learnt to appreciate their triggers to summarise some of my experience and complement it with their almost academical angle on my little digital world.
One of my colleagues at Infocentric just recently forwarded me a McKinsey article on “Transformer in chief: The new chief digital officer”. Reading the article I actually reflected a little on my perception of organisations that decided to install a CDO as part of their Digital Transformation strategy.
Let me make a brutal statement: Digital, Social, Transformation, Web… whatever Officer. Whoever decided to invent those titles gave in to two things:
Again, provocative…maybe it’s the core of my article and therefore its real purpose: I want to provoke!
McKinsey put’s the famous quote
If you digitalise a shit process, you end up with a shit digital process
(Thorsten Dirks, CEO Telefonica Germany)
into a different frame: “(…) Many companies are focused on developing a digital strategy when they should instead focus on integrating digital into all aspects of the business, from channels and processes and data to the operating model, incentives, and culture. (…)” (Source: “Transformer in chief: The new chief digital officer”, McKinsey, September 2015).
Digital Transformation means to embrace digital in all its, sometimes even disruptive opportunities. Disruption is nothing but the merciless elimination of something that was pushed into “outdated” by a new eco system anyway. Sometimes it happens to entire business models. Sometimes “only” an IT, communications or customer interaction strategy will be affected by it.
If you need some bearded guy with thick rimmed glasses that wears suit and trainers to tell you that you need to address the new requirements to your business model or strategy, you might have not done your home work…per se. Like in: the people that are in charge have somewhat left touch with the outside world and how things are moving forward. That’s a pretty rough sign in general.
Looking at my past years in Digital Transformation I can say with confidence that very rarely companies allow themselves to really (really!) learn from mistakes. Try, fail, try again, fail harder and then succeed, however, is something that some companies have used to re-invent entire industries. We know them as the “new economy”. And the old economy is traveling to them from all over the world to learn on how to do things differently.
Now, for doing things differently a lot of paradigms and “measures of success” have to change in the first place. “Doing things right the first time” is something that companies should strive for…when it’s about the core of their business logic. When it comes to change, transformation and evolution, well, you might need a couple of iterations. No matter if you’ve been in charge of process design for 34 years, if you hold three PhDs in science or if you have been a sales over performer in three consecutive years. Sometimes you just don’t know straight away.
I suggest that leaders and top managers start to use the phrase “I don’t know, I need to find someone who does.” more often. Because in an organisation with more than 50 people it’s pretty likely that there is someone who at least knows someone how knows. If you run a multi divisional, multi regional company…well, you do the math.
If leaders allow for bottom up change (not only preaching it, but actually nurturing it) then the phrase “I don’t know” can be magical. Suddenly you get the bits and pieces of your own DNA that could be the starting point of your change if you let it. Sometimes this is called “incubation”…but even that is more of a fig leave in too many cases.
For me “I don’t know” stands hand in hand with one of Franklin Covey’s 7 habits of highly effective people:
Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood.
It does not stand for weakness, disinterest or lack of competence. It’s merely the acknowledgement that real organisational power is built from a combination of many perspectives on the same subject. Like with a tribe…
Alright, this might sound a little like a sales pitch for my profession. Nevertheless, if I look at people that have told me: “I didn’t know, so I brought someone to our conversation that actually does know”, I immediately developed a lot of respect for them. And I am not talking about external advisors anyway. Imagine if board & strategy meetings would (at least partly) be open for the digital or digitally savvy portion of the company. If the own digital DNA (no matter how small in numbers or young in age) would complement the decades of business and industry experience to take the next leap. Complement, not replace or push out or compete with.
I have seen companies like Swisscom go on stage in a combination of HR leadership, experienced digital transformers and trainees. They showed how they, united as a team, take a stand for the transformation of organisation and business model. It was impressive and motivating at the same time.
I strongly believe that the winners of today’s competition for digital dominance will be the companies that don’t extend the board but transform the board.
You don’t need a CDO. You need a “C-Suite that is infected by and passionate about digital“.
Summary: Reflecting on my latest mandates and conversations I can definitely confirm that the winds in the field of Digital Workplace have changed. The subject seems to have left the hype curve. I believe we’ve even left the valley of disillusionment. When approaching the executive board, team efficiency and search time per employee don’t cut it anymore. Now effectiveness is the real deal. Enabling growth, competitive advantage and dominance in the war for talent is what budget owners resonate to. This blog post is about the new executive value proposition and how to build the right alliances to formulate and drive it.
Just recently I had an interesting conversation with a fellow strategy consultant. We talked about our experience in the field of the inside facing digital channels (my new favourite expression for the Digital Workplace by the way). In order to compare our point of view we used the model of the Gartner Hype Cycle to visualise our understanding. Here’s my take:
(Based on the Gartner Hype Cycle Research Methodology)
I strongly believe that we are now in the Age of Effectiveness. The time where initiative owners and project managers could convince their stakeholders based on social media metrics (number of blogs, posts, likes & comments) are kind of over. I have been in workshops myself where various user groups wished for “less social” and “more relevance” on the homepage of (really!) modern intranets.
In my last 10 initiatives we had to prepare a pitch to the board room at some point. In one of my first assignments I learned the hard way that an Executive Summary looks more or less like this…and if you don’t have the content available you won’t make it very far.
WHAT are you proposing WHY, based on which factual knowledge? What’s the expected BENEFIT and what are the consequences of doing nothing and what are the consequences of doing what you are suggesting?
Come straight to the point. A telco once told me about their 45 min meeting principle: if you don’t make it in 45 min you’ll never make it. Essentially this is the key guideline for executive proposals: after the 4th bullet they will lose interest… I am not kidding you.
Excuse my French, but don’t try to bullshit yourself through this one. Don’t make stuff up – they will see through you. Don’t throw “research” at them – they know that each company has it’s very own DNA. Don’t go with “<add major consultancy> says that <add your industry> has to <add action here>” – that will only work in pitches and motivation talks. Have your homework done. Have your insight on the actual reference points and needs within the organisation. Have back-up through at least 3 names that mean something to them where you can say “I checked with Steve…and he agrees with <add challenge here>”.
YOU might think that your proposal is “the next big thing”. Even if you feel like the saviour of mankind have your honest “we will survive even without it…maybe not as comfortable, but we will” in place. Again: don’t make up some weird threat to the company’s existence. Chances are that the folks you are presenting to have that covered already. They didn’t make it up there because they just knew someone. Probably the best advice is: be honest and realistic.
Efficiency? Simply: don’t. Employee satisfaction? Nah. Improved teamwork? Nup. Transparency and seamless information flow? Meeeep.
Don’t get blinded by executive motivation speeches and quarterly leader talk. If you pick up on their motivational and leadership messaging you will crash and burn. Not because they are mean but because it’s not in their KPI. That’s not what executive goals look like when they lead the business into a prospering future. This might sound harsh and very blunt but for the majority of organisations this is still true.
CAPEX savings and benefit. OPEX savings and effectiveness. Growth. Competitive advantage. Magic words to the executive ears.
Doing things right the first time…
That’s a quote of a regional president of a global industrial manufacturing corporation. His essence to argue for a Digital Workplace initiative.
You probably won’t need the actual Excel because it’s unlikely that you get access to the figures that you need to prove the need for change. But if you are able to NAME the right KPI and show how you have identified them and who backs up their relevance you are almost there…
Essentially: show the executives how you can make their life a whole lot easier in achieving their KPI through a well oiled and goal focussed organisation. Tell them what you can provide so that their “resource” can focus on the essentials and not constantly fight an uphill battle.
Again: the guys are up there for a reason. If you go all “pink roses” you’ll get some chuckle and a wink. At the end of the day this your key test. If your proposal is good enough, if it’s worth taking some (or even big) risk, you’ll be in for good. Stable. With a budget. No matter what the quarterly results will do to other projects!
Honesty and substance require alliances. Find the right people to…
I get often asked about “change management”, which in too many cases gets mixed up with introductory campaigns, fancy intranet names and leader talk.
Change Management starts with day 1 in the initiative. It starts by really WANTING to understand the people you work for and with. It requires to answer the question of “what’s in for me” not just for the user base but for middle management and executives.
You won’t get anything to the “adoption” state if you’re not able to make some people look very very good in front of their superiors. A lot of modern leadership evangelists might say that that’s a bad thing. However, if you think win/win and “nobody lose”, it’s not such a bad thing. Everyone deserves a little lime light and a pat on the back along the way, no?
Enjoy the ride. It’s become more challenging…but it’s become way more fun at the same time if you’re in for the long run!
With a lot of interest I’ve read Gary Hamel’s and Michele Zanini’s article on change published on McKinsey.com in October 2015 (http://goo.gl/2UbUaL). As part of their recommendation to establish a change platform instead of a change program they suggest to replace the old paradigms of change
with a more state of the art framework:
Part of this framework is a platform inspired (not copied from, I like that!) by social media technology. They don’t put the technology in the front row. They advise a change of mind on the executive floor. From change agent in chief to change enabler in chief. This new role is supposed to create the right environment and provide the right coaching for the organisation to speak up.
No matter how much I like the idea and no matter how much I would like to see large organisations change organically, the past years have made me re-think my belief that change can be solely driven from within. I’ve been an active part of change – in various roles – and I’ve worked and am still working with (in some cases pretty large) companies that want to drive change. From within.
I would like to share two perspectives that I would like to see as an addition to the article mentioned above:
#1 the biggest hurdle sits in the middle
Companies have managed to design a way of steering themselves that works on multiple levels of abstraction. The higher managers sit in the food chain the more abstract they look onto their share of responsibility. They way they are managed and measured is sometime even more disconnected from reality than the objectives set of the c-suite. They are the ones that always have to deliver the impossible.
Now change is nurtured and coached from above and activists are encourage to apply disruptive and innovative thinking. Everyone is allowed to work out loud and to form alliances for the greater good.
I would like to recommend that someone comes up with the model for “middle management change”. How can we turn them into activists? How do we enable them to not just rely on dashboards, punctual human interaction and brushed up reports? How to we turn them into coaches, guides, enablers, network facilitators and talent spotters?
I believe that without them in the front row change from inside-out will end up in the same spot as from top-down: a cul-de-sac.
#2 the right environment comes with the right set of KPI
Let’s not kid ourselves. We are talking about companies – in a lot of instances we are talking about public ones. As long as the executive floor and their direct lines do not turn organisations in collaboratively driven powerhouses nothing will change. As long as goals can be achieved individually (aka: alone), something’s wrong. Swarm intelligence in a company has to be nurtured and motivated…and evaluated and measured.
“What is the project of your community?”
This was one of my favourite statements at the 2014 Social Business Collaboration Conference in Berlin. It stands for something that has been seen separately over the past years: collective exchange and concrete measures and objectives.
I truly believe that our communities need projects. No matter if we call them change, innovation, research, development or thought leadership communities. They need a project because they happen in companies and they have to deliver their share of the deal.
This might sound all very harsh and black and white but I am intentionally trying to provoke here.
I am an evangelist for the future of information work. I am am fighter for the social media inspired workspace. I am an encourager of cross-functional and cross-border thinking and work. However, I don’t think that we will be able to do all this without the right measures and frameworks in place. Just unleashing the activists in an environment of freedom and thought leadership is not enough.
Thanks to being swamped with active involvement with my favorite subject I have again fallen silent on my sharing channel. For the ones who care: I am sorry. I makes me feel bad on the one hand. On the other hand I believe it’s the only way to come up with new and valuable content anyway.
Even though I have written about the subject on one of the other occasion the frequency in which questions on change and implementing new directions in information work has increased. The awareness for factors beyond design, technology and ambitious thinking seems to be stronger than ever. After digesting my past year’s experience and after resonating on successful and not so successful cases I decided to share the essence of my thoughts here as well.
I want to look at the subject from two essential angles. When I say essential I actually mean it. They are both (together) neuralgic point in organisational change and in particular when it comes to meddling with the way that intellectual asset is being dealt with in the future.
I’ve elaborated on the subject of motivation before. Nevertheless I feel the need to emphasise the strength of “moving away from challenges” again. On a few occasions I have been confronted with teams that had decided to motivate functional areas as well as executives with the glance on a bright and beautiful future. Everything at hand. Everything tailored. Everything social. What a great world.
If you have visions, go and see a doctor.
(Helmut Schmidt, Former German Chancellor)
What people couldn’t see in the vision was the impact on the current way of working and what it means for each individual in terms of commitment and responsibility to build the foundation for that vision. Dull and cumbersome projects such as information architecture, taxonomies, document management systems and life cycle concepts would be what the core teams would be confronted with pretty soon.
If you’re lacking motivation to actually go through that pain it’s only natural that initiatives slow down or are dead in the water almost from the start.
I every single case where future stakeholders across all hierarchical levels and functions were able to “dump” their pain points on the table things were different. Pain points. Not the wish list. Not early Christmas. The stuff that’s driving people nuts and the things that make life more difficult than necessary – for everyone involved.
What is preventing you from being excellent? What is keeping you from performing beyond expectations?
Answering that and prioritizing the impact of challenges on business results and employee satisfaction became a strong foundation for planning and release management in all projects. It was the anchor for the project to argue need & value. It was the best way to surface, which concrete (measurable) benefits would be created from investing in new ways of working and the efforts for changing established behaviour. It was much stronger than any vision and outlook that the team could provide based on analyst reports and industry benchmarking.
Just one comment: if you decide to go down that route you should take into account that it means transparency for progress. As soon as you’ve named the priorities and challenges that will be addressed in the early phases on the Digital Workplace evolution and nothing changes…it’s visible. Very, very visible. Because you have created a concrete reference point for change.
No. I won’t be repeating the change management mantras. I won’t be preaching the 8 steps of Kottler’s approach to organisational change. You’ve heard all that often enough. However, let me tell you what I have learned about executive buy-in.
You DON’T have buy in of your executives if they have…
I could go on and on. As a matter of fact your initiative won’t be going anywhere if your executives including the ones in charge of the core business operations haven’t formed the winning coalition and have actively worked on determining the “what” and “why” themselves. Like in: spent more than 2 hours in one room including active work, idea gathering and experience sharing.
Oh, and you don’t have the buy in of your executives if they do not listen to the operational level and nurture honest and candid conversation on what’s going wrong. Listen like in: attending workshops, tie off, hands-on writing cards and working on concrete (!) solutions.
Actually: if you have established a well-oiled lean management machine, chances are that your cultural foundation for changing the fundament of information and knowledge work might be quite right.
One last wake up call. If your initiative isn’t connected to business KPI that actually stand for management attention you might be dead in the water as well. Because you will lack the argument to maintain your budget in hard times. If you cannot prove that you are actually changing things for the better you are the first ones walking the line. And hard times are waiting ahead…no matter what the economical trends might be.
If you have the first angle on change management in shape chances are that you’re good to go to tackle the 2nd one as well. Because moving away from concrete challenges towards a better enablement of people and work excellence will deliver a lot of attention higher up.
Give your stakeholders all the good reasons to stick with you. Because you will make their life easier. At hands-on work and in the monthly Excel reports 😉
I think I have rarely been that nervous on stage… So first of all I have to apologize to Prof. Carnabuci for slaughtering his name after I made him my source of inspiration for the start of my talk… Secondly I have to thank the TEDxTUHH team for forcing me through endless rounds of rehearsal – looks like one or two additional rounds wouldn’t have been a bad idea. Anyway…here we go 🙂
PS: the balloon story…I would have liked to support it with a little drawing…but the pen said “no” 😉 the stones I am talking about are with me IN the balloon…in case that doesn’t come across