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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.

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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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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 🙂

 

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If you need a Chief Digital Officer, you’re probably doomed…

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.

Unfortunately we have to make you our Chief Digital Officer

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:

  • Our DNA is not able to embrace the digitalising world and we need someone with an (compared to us) attitude and unorthodox behaviour
  • Our Shareholders need to believe that we do something about the danger of disruption – we need a change on board level without changing anything

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.

Learn to fail

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.

The way out: “Leading” a learning culture

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…

Advisors are a sign that you actually care to learn

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“.

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The New Executive Value Proposition of the Digital Workplace after the Hype

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.

Moving on from inflated expectations and disillusionment

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:

IMG_0422

(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?

What are you submitting for approval?

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.

What is the proposal trying to address?

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>”.

What happens if we don’t do anything?

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.

What will the benefit look like?

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.

What’s the risk the executives will take if they follow your proposal?

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!

The importance of alliances

Honesty and substance require alliances. Find the right people to…

  • show you which buttons to press to get listened to (requires knowledge)
  • back you up when you make bold statements (requires loyalty)
  • lobby your proposal before you go through the gate of fire (requires experience)
  • keep your friends close and your enemies closer (requires empathy)
  • take risks in delivering proofs of concept and pilots (requires guts)

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!

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Driving #ChangeManagement; thoughts on #McKinsey #change platform article http://goo.gl/2UbUaL #socbiz #e20 #enterprise20

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

  • Change starts at the top
  • Change is rolled out
  • Change is engineered

with a more state of the art framework:

  • From top-down to activist-out
  • From managed to organic

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.