A TED talk I watched over lunchtime today inspired me to write this article. In the talk, Leah Georges talks about her take on how generational stereotypes hold us back at work.
I’ve embedded the video at the bottom of the page.
Assuming a “generational” divide is misleading.
When I started my journey in internal digitalisation, the field was heavily driven by the “the millennials are coming” theme. The fear of a new, digitally savvy generation at the workplace drove companies to introduce all sorts of modern technology tools.
Only occasionally, the workforce and future users were part of the process and asked for what they struggle with or where they believed to benefit from new digital support potentially. One fundamental assumption of all initiatives was the affinity of all young people to digital and in particular social tools.
This assumption has two main issues:
It creates the hypothesis that young people don’t need proper support when it comes to “digital at the workplace”.
It creates the impression that today’s talent, which is clearly older than 25, isn’t equipped to adapt or – god forbid – teach the use of modern digital tools.
Lack of purpose and change management
Frankly, if there is one generation, that will respond poorly to a lack of purpose and a proper framework to work in, it’s the digital generation. If there is one thing literature, trivia, TED.com and Simon Sinek teach us about the youngsters, then it’s the new emphasis on a sense in life as well as work life.
It’s not just the work-life-balance anymore that Generation X (= me) was/is striving for. Work has to have more purpose than just a monthly paycheck.
This need for purpose is particularly relevant in times of change, globalisation and internationalisation. The more geographically and culturally cluttered teams are, the stronger the common foundation needs to be.
Leaving out the mighty silver surfers
I can honestly say: I’ve met more mid-50s with great curiosity and will to learn than early-30s. If someone tells me that it’s the new generations that are solely driven by digital, I happily refer to my cousin (end 20s) who needs approx. two weeks to answer a WhatsApp text.
If we leave out the “older” generations in the change process, we don’t tap into two paramount pre-conditions for success:
Substantial knowledge on how business is happening in real life and the shop floor and what’s needed to unlock hidden potential #
A truly connected and experienced crew that knows their way around and can open doors we didn’t even know existed
So, let’s no longer base change and change management on generational stereotypes and assumptions. Let’s address the humans behind the age of birth and build a sustainable and robust feeling of belonging and “we”.
Enjoy Leah’s TED Talk, which inspired me to write this…
“We primarily work in analogue ways, using digital tools,” is what a client just recently told me. It was part of the reflection on the current situation and the question of why things haven’t gotten better with the availability of new ’tools’.
In another mandate, I could observe how people struggled with the adoption of ’new ways of working’. It didn’t matter that the level of commitment was (or better, is) incredibly high and that everyone had agreed beforehand, that the cautiously evaluated way forward was the most promising option.
In a third instance (the initiation of a new project) I asked the question “what does internal communication mean in your place?”. The answers of the core team quickly tipped towards information overflow, a cc-culture for email driven by fear and uncertainty and the lack of clarity for standards, practices and a common denominator.
The limits to individual bandwidth
All of the above made me realise, that the result of digitalisation combined with a globalised business world is pushing the limits of an individual worker’s bandwidth to the absolute limit. If there were a particular focus and limit to things people could do 20 years back, there seems to be the expectation that digital tools extend that ability x-fold – which they don’t.
Today’s business world puts so much on the individual’s plate that the day doesn’t have enough hours to cope with everything. The attempt to limit email use to business hours and stop people from burning out by being “always on” is only a symptom of that problem.
If there weren’t an insane communication overkill, there wouldn’t be the need to cut it off deliberately.
We need a different mindset to benefit from the digital promises:
Before we can indeed access what digital can offer us at the workplace, we need to change something…or better some things:
The way we use digital tools in the day to day work needs to be better agreed on a team level – we need to be more conscious for the common denominator for how to do things
Moving stuff to the next in line cannot be about ’getting rid of it’ anymore – we need to develop a more recipient focussed work and communication culture
Managers must accept that people don’t scale indefinitely, just because they are available – we need a culture that creates room for a life outside the email rat race (and no: enterprise social networks or persistent chat tools aren’t the answer)
The “we” needs to have room in corporate culture beyond mission statements and HR values – we need a more explicit emphasis on how we can drive things together (and no: a knowledge management tool or innovation community aren’t the answer)
Tools need to be part of the solution – not the answer.
Being asked, what my most successful project was so far, I had the answer straight at hand: a project, in which I was able to support a program team in developing a new way of staying coordinated and create transparency for what’s going on and what’s lying ahead.
Digital tools only played an enabling role. The success factors were a common language (terminology and structure) and a shared commitment to exchange and ’togetherness’ in the program. It was a human-driven solution that was only connected by tools.
Tools can create transparency for interested people.
Tools can scale capacities if people make sure that no one is left behind
Tools can bring people together, that care about being one team
Tools can make knowledge accessible and usable if people have the bandwidth to share and consume
Tools are never the answer.
Directives and functional training are not the answer either.
It’s a conscious agreement on how we will be doing things in the future, not just that we will be doing them. That agreement needs to be established, led, managed and be part of the future of work as much as all the digital nuts and bolts will be part of it.
Summary: This year’s SBC was primarily about change. Once in a while you actually got the feeling of being at a Human Resources conference. But as fairy dust there were a couple of presentations that stood out because they provided a new angle on a couple of things. Telenor reported on their experience with Facebook@Work. Jen Regruth Crites (@jen_k_crites) talked about actually “branding” a new IT solution. Laurence Fourcade from Kelios gave a striking presentation on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) in the Digital Workplace. Europa-Park shared the insight how social connects the “unconnected” bees with a new software called “BeeKeeper”. And I am only mentioning a product here, because I really like a few aspects of their approach because of my work for the industrial manufacturing industry…and without further ado, here we go:
We knew it for some time. Finally everyone is acting on it.
Let me keep this short and crisp: “social” finally got its emphasis in real life. The days of IT-driven initiatives seem to be over for good. Literally everyone on stage made it clear that without properly orchestrating the symphony of change management, SBC (or business IT in general) initiatives simply are destined to fail.
Leadership needs to believe in and sponsor the efforts
Senior and middle management has to play an active role in the process
People have to be guided and taken on the journey in order to allow the new ways of working to really take effect
And the journey of change isn’t one of “campaigns” and “visionary promises” anymore. It’s about tangible value and a close connection to what people need help with. It’s about empowerment and allowing talent to really contribute its value to what the organisation wants to achieve.
All success stories that were presented this year showed, how essential the three bullets above were. Henry Haijes from ABM AMRO even added a slight twist to the culture/strategy quote from Peter Drucker:
“Influential power is eating organisation power” says Harry from ABN AMRO at #wcsocbiz – love the variation of the culture quote 🙂
Same goes for driving change throughout the entire organisation. Paul from the European Commission actually have a really compelling presentation on what it means to make sure that everyone is on board.
The P&G heritage: branding as a success driver for IT tool roll-outs
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) in the Digital Workplace
Keeping the bees involved…
1. Facebook@Work at Telenor
John Alphonse gave a pretty compelling presentation about their “roll-out” of Facebook@Work. For me the story was particularly exciting because it was literally the first company to report on their experience. Essence: it seems to work really well after some serious ramp-up efforts.
x-silo insight facilitated by FB@Work
State of “collaboration” at Telenor
“Every employee should be part of each box” John said at the conference
After Facebook worked very(!) closely with Telenor to get all set-up for enterprise readiness and prepare of an official data security audit, an audit Telenor & FB passed in attempt #1, which is probably one of the most impressive things I took home from Berlin. Not though, that FB passed the test impressed me here, but actually the fact that FB actively worked with Telenor and used their help and advise to gear up for the requirements of the enterprise world.
The 2nd interesting angle John reported on was, that FB@Work actually started in the world of Telenor’s Shadow IT. You know Shadow IT: it’s what the official IT department cannot keep up with on people’s laptops, tablets and smartphones (…long live the cloud). Telenor, however, has decided that they want to be inspired by their Shadow IT and that they will keep investigating new options for business solutions that have been “tried” by voluntary guinea pigs.
As part of my World Café Hans Dekker (@hansdekker) from IKEA even suggested that it makes total sense to actually actively encourage Shadow IT. He believes that allocating accountability to people and putting them in charge of finding new and better options outside the standard governance is rather an opportunity than a threat. Quite frankly: I think he’s spot on. With a certain set of reasonable rules this might actually be the solution to one of the key challenges of IT organisations: herding cats.
Thirdly John added a little detail: communication, exchange & networking (formal, informal, project) happens in FB@Work – Documents are managed in SharePoint. Literally all vendors that were mentioned had their short coming in document handling. So Telenor employees were simply encouraged to post links to SP in the FB conversations:
In Facebook@Work the main part of conversations happens in (open & closed) groups – in contrary to the private version, in which the majority of posts are in the public/main feed.
I wonder if Microsoft ever considers the fact that they seem to stay (very) dominant in the “enterprise information management” part and that they should leave the field of “social glue” to the ones that know the real deal. However, after still not 100% delivering on a Yammer vision, maybe the acquisition of LinkedIn could add some momentum here. Who knows. Time will tell…
2. The P&G heritage: branding as a success driver for IT tool roll-outs
Jen Regruth Crites (@jen_k_crites) reported on how her Procter & Gamble learnings helped to support the roll out of a new IT tool. She simply asked the question: if a brand helps commercial organisations to differentiate and emphasise value, why shouldn’t IT departments apply this to delivering their “product” to employees. Jen answered that question with a striking presentation on how a well branded IT tool roll-out can make an impact: 6 months in the following KPI pretty much speak for itself:
54% of users recall the brand (starting from 3%)
375k EUR savings
83% Net Promotor Score
Active requests for MORE to the IT department
So FrieslandCampina (her gig at the time of the project) actually applied the Marketing 101 by the text book and even came up with a claim for the new UCC service:
Digital Meetings. Be there without going there.
3. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) in the Digital Workplace
Laurence Fourcade’s (Keolis Group) presentation touched my inner beliefs when it comes to the value drivers of the future Digital Workplace:
Driving content quality will deliver search experience.
Keolis really approached the submission of documents to the intranet from a SEO driven angle and they tried to drive awareness for content IMPACT. For each item readers (online consumption) and downloads are displayed. Doing this actually can help editors or content owners to understand if the information provided has any reach (or relevance) within the organisation. You could even go as far as “x readers, no downloads” could stand for “na, this isn’t what I was looking for” from a searching point of view. Combined with the search query we’d enter a complete new game of content relevance and quality management.
Laurence made it clear as well that the UX for the upload interface is essential to the success of the approach. Thereby she made clear, that AGAIN the people are in the centre of all thinking, because an easy and intuitive upload mechanism that enforces SEO relevant aspects has to be user centric. Thereby the user (here the editor) is clearly the success factor that needs to be catered to.
The fact that I had at least 3 other in-depth conversations on Enterprise Search and search in general at the conference shows that it’s still one of THE subjects companies are struggling with. And I am still flabbergasted by Estée Lauder’s guts to actually run a “re-work” of their search index…from scratch. It’s one of the presentations that will stick to my mind for quite some time.
4. Keeping the bees involved…
I’ve always enjoyed working for industrial manufacturing clients. To guide organisations that usually perceive digital transformation as the next SAP roll-out into the world and value of information and knowledge work is very rewarding… However, there is one key challenge that still hasn’t been addressed properly: how do we keep the blue collar work force involved? They don’t have a PC or a user account. They often don’ even have an e-mail address. Two things the majority of current solution require (as an either or) to actually get someone on-boarded to the party.
Anselm Müller from the Europa Park theme parks presented their approach to keeping the bees connected with a new software called “Beekeeper“. Authentication does not go through AD or similar services. It’s rather a “sign up” service, which gives full control over content and access to the maintaining organisation. In it’s core it’s a social network with streams, groups and all.
The adoption of employees at Europa Park confirms the expectations and now the organisation even considers to gradually say “goodbye” to its conventional intranet. I cannot wait for that success story to hit a stage…
So far for my little digest. The summary of my World Café session on “driving people and corporate value with the Digital Workplace” will follow soon. So, stay tuned…
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.
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“.
When I started working in the field, Digital Natives and Social Media were the key drivers for a lot of companies. Resonating on my most recent conversation I came to realise that things have changed. Organisations feel that current and upcoming business challenges require fixes in today’s productivity support. Retaining talent and unleashing their potential isn’t achieved through Social Collaboration alone. The entire subject has finally reached the hallway towards the board room. For good.
It has been a while since I found enough food for a publication. This article is inspired by three sources:
My latest conversations with management and executive stakeholders for Digital Workplace initiatives
Key take away in this article
Digital Business Agility requires the Digital Workplace – my thoughts on what enablement of individual and organisational instances means to hyperawareness, informed decision making and fast execution.
Employee Engagement is what changes corporate culture – an extension to a beautiful model that could allow us to manage expectations better and make potential and success measurement more accurate.
DWP has to become the ERP for information & knowledge work – my proclamation that enterprise resource PERFORMANCE will get us on the CEO agenda for good.
Digital Business Agility requires the Digital Workplace
Michael Wide defines Digital Transformation as follows: “Digital Business Transformation is Organisational Change through the use of Digital Technologies and Business Models to Improve Performance.” If you carefully look at the statement it allows the interpretation that organisational change is driven by technology. I am pretty sure though that it’s now what he is trying to say. Over the past years – and through countless “here’s a new productivity platform, it can do everything, be happy!” project failures – we have learned: people need guidance. They need to understand why things are changing and what their stake and role is in this new world. No matter how close we move business IT to commercial services and what people love on their tablet at home, adoption isn’t something that comes for free. By the way: it doesn’t come for free for the big internet players either. They invest billions in software development, user research and experience design… The majority of companies however still start to hyperventilate if a Digital Workplace project asks for 5 millions over 3 years. ERP projects for 120 million are fine though.
Michael also introduces the model of Digital Business Agility in his framework:
This is probably the strongest case for two aspects of the Digital Workplace:
Integration with the outside facing channels & social media
Corporate Social Networking
The fact that it is become more and more business (and success) critical to stay on top of market, customers & competitors requires scalability. Collecting information, enriching it from multiple angles and making it available to the right stakeholders at the right time is a foundation of the internal enablement of hyperawareness. The Digital Workplace has to close the gap between the “outside” world and the internal information flow. Hyperawareness is not just about speed though. It is about “making sense” as well. Just being aware of something doesn’t help if consequences and options aren’t clear. A Digital Workplace has to provide the mechanics to classify information in a meaningful way and provide the right internal context. The delivery has either to follow urgency/importance rules or be driven by relevance, which requires a clear profiling of individuals and organisational instances.
Informed Decision Making
Michael already makes hyperawareness and connectedness corner stones of informed decision making. The Digital Workplace has to facilitate the process and allow companies to stay able to take decisions even in the scenarios of
geographical distribution of key decision makers
continuous organisational change (e.g. consolidation or M&A)
distribution of essential knowledge across hierarchical levels
The Digital Workplace won’t solve any of the scenarios though. All it can do is to enable people to stay on top of things no matter what the surrounding conditions are. At this point I would like to emphasise that leading informed decision making in dynamic business environments will become a key skill of leaders and managers. Companies have to stop procrastinating. In too many instances I have witnessed the “the next one in my position can take the decision” syndrome. This isn’t helping though because the third element in Wade’s model is:
Today’s knowledge is tomorrow’s old news. We live in a time where a multi-day turnaround of customer requests, no matter if B2C or B2B, isn’t sustainable. Speed matters. It is driven by a new level of market transparency and the globalisation of markets. Customer’s aren’t bound to their local environment anymore. Today’s world offers a global market for goods and services – and jobs. If Fast Execution cannot be argued through customer value (even though it should) it can definitely be argued through employee satisfaction and eventually retention. Talking to business stakeholders and employees the main complaint is: speed of change. A lot of talk. No walk. Visions of a bright future and great opportunities have lost their leverage to keep people on board. In this context a little wake up call for change makers: talent and high performers are the first ones to leave after badly managed change, because they can. They will find and pursue other opportunities. One character trait of the new generation at the workplace is “mobility” – geographical and employment related. In an age where communication across the globe is better than before and hire-to-retire isn’t an option for the most, talent retention becomes a completely different ball game. This leads me to the second external source of inspiration:
Steve Smith’s article on “How Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs influences Employee Engagement”.
You can find the full article here. I’ve stolen the key image though, to have the reference point to my next thought right here:
expectation management on leadership and management level
potential & success evaluation
We have to make sure that executives and managers realise that the only way to unleash the intellectual power of an organisation is to engage with it. Engagement however can mean different things:
create the right environment for people to engage or achieve self actualisation
go ahead and be a role model; don’t expect bottom up change management for corporate culture
engage with the engaged and give them a voice and visibility so they can reach the level of self actualisation through impact
None of this can be delivered by a Digital Workplace but it can make all three hell of a lot easier and pleasant.
Potential & Success Evaluation
One of my key questions around a new service on the roadmap for a Digital Workplace is “What’s the expected impact? How big is the audience and – independent of its size – what’s its foot print in the company?”. It’s a false promise to believe that you can reach everyone. It’s a much better aspiration to only reach a few but make it really matter. Then success measurement will happen on a different scale as well. “Volume” (my most hated KPI in internal DWP measurement) suddenly has to be replaced by “impact”. It doesn’t matter anymore how many people join a community, how many likes a document has or how many shares a profile got. The substance deriving from the community and the effect of all the likes and shares will be way more important. This means that you can happily rely on the distribution Steve’s pyramid implies. If the upper two segments really kick it then you’re all good… Maybe one additional aspect: success measurement could go as far as measuring “transition” within the pyramid. Maybe moving people up the pyramid could turn into a nice management goal, couldn’t it?
Conclusion: The DWP has to become the EPR for knowledge and information work
If Digital Business Agility can be substantially enabled by the right services delivered by a Digital Workplace, if Employee Engagement can be facilitated by the right opportunities to express, connect and deliver impact of knowledge…where should we take it? I believe we should take it to the next level. Today, in August 2015, ERP projects to optimise process flow and standardisation in work execution still (and sadly) trump business productivity and communication projects. One reason might be the wrong way of putting it on the executive agenda. ERP stands for Enterprise Resource Planning. If we give the acronym a new twist and turn it into
Enterprise Resource PERFORMANCE
then we might be able to move up a notch on the CEO’s agenda. I’ve learned (the very very hard way) that EFFICIENCY doesn’t matter to most (not all though!!) decision makers. EFFECTIVENESS – the ability to grow without hiring – seems to be a much stronger argument.
Do things right the first time (aka re-use)
Utilise resource to the max and avoid “down time” (aka avoid admin overload)
Use resource where it work’s best (aka talent management)
Combine resource for economy of scale (aka connectedness)
I believe this is the new way to go:
Effectiveness – Performance – Growth
Let’s go…the board room awaits us!
(*) I felt the need to slightly disagree with the “I’ll leave if something much better comes a long” bullet of the engaged cluster. Gallup puts engagement before satisfaction as a key driver for employee performance and retention. So I didn’t believe initially that engaged people will leave that easily, not even for a “much” better opportunity. It would not resonate with the characteristic of people that consider themselves “vital to the business”. If you are really vital and then jump ship you might end up losing your face, which would get known beyond company borders. Then I looked at myself and my past business moves and I realised: engaged people do jump ship. Cautiously, but they do jump eventually.
Summary: I’ve spent the last 1.5 days with Digital Workplace practitioners and thought leaders discussing the connected enterprise and social media inspired ways of working. Once again I have left the venue inspired and with a lot of food for thought. However, I have to admit that there is a struggle with the transition to the next phase. Various conversations at the conference have confirmed this impression. We have definitely left the age of “technology driven” change (was there one…like ever?). Now we seem to be stuck in the phase of “awareness for the real drivers” of management buy-in, business value and strong business logic integration. Don’t get me wrong: there is momentum and the whole things feels like getting out of a really really tight jumper…you’re just waiting to finally pull it over your head and go: YEAH! AIR TO BREATHE!
My last two days were full of inspiration. A lot of it. In addition to the joy of listening to another of Jane McConnel’s (@netjmc) inspirational talks and her insight from her Digital Workplace research I finally had the honour of listening to one of Dion Hinchcliff’s (@dhinchcliffe) keynote. The two field (knowledge) heavy weights were complemented by practice and vendor presentations. Bayer Material Science’s CIO Laurie Miller’s (@lauriemiller44) presentation definitely stood out and her angle on connected experts has provided a new and strong value proposition to me that will come in handy in future conversations.
So let me start with this new value proposition as one of my key take aways:
The Personal Brand. Inside an Organization. Built on Expertise & Experience.
This one has struck me in a way that it’s quite annoying because it’s so obvious. Any industry that is in its core driven by IP (intellectual property) lives (sometimes even exclusively) of its talent. Looking back into my past in advertising in marketing I remember that client’s moved with their creative counterparts from agency to agency. About professional service firms (aka consultancies) we say that it’s “people business”. If expertise counts you don’t hire the firm, you hire (or rather borrow) the person and you will move the firm if the person moves, too From a corporate HR angle I really agree to the statement that “you don’t leave companies, you leave managers” – and they become known if it starts being a trend.
Athletes are brands due to their physical capabilities and performance. From a recent conversation I know that those brands are worth billions and nurture entire industries.
With the introduction of “social” to the mechanics of communication, collaboration & information flow within organizations we have changed the perspective from “outside” to “inside”. From a branding perspective we could – or actually should! – do the same thing when it comes to people brands.
As much as I believe that companies should measure collaborative success and joint value creation I also think (since today) that it would make sense to lead people towards creating their personal brand. Leading in terms of creating awareness, enablement and formal measurement, if we want to put the real beef to the bone.
If companies and their people managers are able to drive the profiling of high performers or subject matter wizards, we solve so many issues at the same time:
Capturing of intellectual assets and exposure to the organisation
Refinement and sharpening of people profiles as the foundation for relevance based delivery of information & communication
Improved retrieval of expert profiles (automated or manually)
My journey to find stakeholders and ambassadors for the “personal branding” business case starts today!
Social vs. Enterprise Collaboration
To be honest: I haven’t put much thought towards trying to actually separate the two. My strong belief is, that the fundamental business case (the organisational one) lies in the enablement of individuals and teams to successfully execute on core business processes and navigate through the company’s business logic. Well… with reference to the above I actually see the case for Social Collaboration as a separate thing. It derives from Enterprise Collaboration (EC) and is some kind of “spin off”. However, it’s not a layer but rather the glue between the protagonists of EC (and I am explicitly not calling it “foam” for the ones that were in Paris…).
Social Collaboration (SC) is a subject that has to be handled carefully because it’s not the free pass for the corporate Facebook (I’m not too keen to see it “at work” by the way) or the “social context will connect the dots” wild card. It will be the real art to make SC less “business” and more “people” but still have it sit on the same strong foundation (aka IA/taxonomy) and have a strong connection to the EC side of things in order to use assets that derive from SC in the context of the core business logic with ease (aka without media or UX break). Furthermore it has to be ensured that actual assets (e.g. documents) aren’t suddenly stored all over the place. This thought is definitely inspired by the slide @lauriemiller44 put up but maybe not 100% in-line with the content…
Anyway, this angle is food for thought for me…and I wanted to share it even though I haven’t digested it completely. Maybe someone else has something to share here as well.
Collaboration needs a meaning
@dhinchcliffe’s keynote was really inspiring and I could see so many things in there that I have stumbled across myself. What stood out for me was his recommendation to connect initiatives to business functions that can find value in the new ways of working quickly. (Right side of the following slide)
Essentially because the new opportunities that social and enterprise collaboration provide suddenly enable us to capture and enable things digitally that so far only existed outside of office, ERP and BPM.
To some extend this goes hand in hand with the search for purpose when it comes to “less formal” collaboration in the virtual space. @Judith_Will from BNP/Paribas Cardiff already said it in Berlin in 2014 at the INTRAnet.Reloaded conference: “What’s the project of your community?” I share her opinion that collaboration just for the collaboration’s sake doesn’t have much future in organisations that want to see some beef to the bone and ROI on their business productivity investments.
Another slide that Dion put up showed the potential evolution of collaboration (services) along the people or protagonist perspective:
It reminded me of one of my core (evangelizing) messages of the past few years. Because I believe that a lot of companies have jumped the stage of enabling “people with shared goals” in their approach towards the new ways of working. Inspired by impact and performance of Social Media in the outside world a lot of companies kicked of their enterprise 2.0 endeavors by connecting “people with shared interest & passion”.
That “interest & passion” however, weren’t the primary drivers for the majority’s work day was kind of forgotten in the process. I believe that this has been one of the reasons that enterprise 2.0 or social business initiatives haven’t delivered the substance in business impact.
A more general reflection on the content
Common denominators of almost all presentations – practitioner’s as well as vendor’s – were the following subjects:
Without executive buy-in enterprise 2.0 will be going nowhere.
We need change agents and ambassadors to drive and implement change.
Enterprise 2.0 isn’t a technology discussion. (Uhm…reality check: yes it is. In the end it always is. We just have to make sure that we have clarified the “why” and “what” before the CTO lets the “how” out of the box…pun intended).
We need to nurture conversation and exchange across silos and we need to break up closed space thinking.
So this leaves me with a major question:
What is preventing the actual digital transformation?
It was @dhinchcliffe again who might have put one essential piece to the puzzle on the screen: the transformation of business functions (and their processes) processes is essential in the enablement of the connected enterprises we’re so desperately seeking for.
A lot of the guidance is more or less “disruptive” to the old world. It could definitely create tension, competition and awareness for change. So my question is: who is the actual stakeholder group that we have to form a coalition with in order to drive the internal transformation and introduce disruption to what we know as “established and working”?
So I am closing this article with a simple proposal:
With social collaboration and enterprise 2.0 initiatives we intend to nurture the corporate dialogue and connect experts and expertise more effectively. Let’s find a way to get the stakeholders of the actual digital transformation into a conversation to speed up the process until the next conference…
Here’s my (pretty extensive…sorry) this week’s take on traits 1 to 4:
McKinsey says:The age of experimentation with digital is over. (…)To succeed, management teams need to move beyond vague statements of intent and focus on “hard wiring” digital into their organization’s structures, processes, systems, and incentives.
I have experienced the same over the past year. No matter which industry, size or mode of operations, almost all companies are done with their experiments on community building, social networks and virtual teamwork. Vision statements of “fully connected enterprises” and the “one big committed family approach” become less and less. They are replaced by initiatives going after business productivity, effectiveness and growth. It has become almost impossible to get anything off the ground with a proper connection to business logic and challenges. Just recently the extend of this new take on the subject became even more obvious to me. One of my clients decided to start a parallel stream on organizational change in order to adjust formal role descriptions to address content accountability in the context of an intranet re-launch. That change will be necessary to ensure that the new service is able to generate the desired long-term impact and value.
1. Be unreasonably inspirational
McKinsey says:Make someone accountable at the board level; create a stretch vision; measure digital value, not digital interactions
Let me start with the last statement. I think it’s time to move away from measuring internal digital services like we used to measure external social media in the early days. It doesn’t matter how many people are part of a community, how many blogs are out there or how many likes a document gets. In order to understand the value generated through connecting people and intellectual assets we have to surface the impact of those connections: less time used to do the usual work, more business generated through inter-departmental knowledge exchange on a client, shorter time to market by taking previous experience (and failure!!) into account. For that we don’t really need the stretch vision. We need the commitment to change. We need executives and middle management to accept and name shortcomings in order to address them. We need baselines that progress and success can be measured against.
To get that commitment, internal change and the Digital Workplace need board attention as well. As soon as “digital” gets connected to currently “non-digital” business logic executive buy-in is required. Otherwise initiatives are “dead in the water” from the start. However, I am not sure if one person on the board that is really committed is enough. I wish that all board functions would take on their stake and responsibility in driving and leading change. I agree that most of the time you need one disruptive person that keeps questioning the status quo and acts as the catalyst for change. Nevertheless, operations, finance, HR, marketing…they all have to play an active role in the internal transformation because they all will be affected short, mid and long term.
2. Acquire capabilities
McKinsey says: Buy scarce talent en masse; hire for digital skills, not industry experience; move into adjacent markets
What this statements triggers with me first is the fight for talent and the pretty common perception that the Digital Natives are the ones that we have to satisfy to ensure the corporate future. As much as I agree with the first fact – if it comes to attracting talent the beauty contest now happens on the employer side – I am a little more careful with the second one.
Companies do need people that live connectedness and that have no fear to reach out and interact with large, unknown audiences. We need the ones that see the bigger picture and that will not understand why individual objectives should trump collaborative success. However, we have to build the bridge to today’s key protagonists in the corporate value chain. The ones that have been indoctrinated to think “me” first and disregard the potential of helping others if it doesn’t suit the personal – or even worse: the top manager’s – objectives. To change their way of thinking will take time. They ARE the industry experience. The HAVE the yearlong work and relationship management experience.
To connect that existing asset with the tremendous and almost infinite potential that lies within the future of information and knowledge work is the key for success. It’s the key for growth, profitability and competitive advantage.
3. Ring fence and cultivate talent
McKinsey says:Protect digital talent from “business as usual”, don’t rely on existing HR models
Ok…”hell NO and hell YEAH!” to this statement.
Hell NO! Please do not “ring fence” digital talent. Turn them into catalysts, into change agents, into relentless drivers and nurturers of change. Please. Don’t create internal silos and competition between connected and digitalized departments and the old fashioned “they way we have it done for the past 30 years” ones. The ultimate power for internal changes does not lie within competition. It lies in helping each other to transform and go new ways.
Hell YEAH! goes to the HR piece of the statement. Even though it might sound harsh, I have to admit that looking back to my career I haven’t come across that many HR departments that acted FOR talent instead of AGAINST cost. A lot of conversations around the subject even give me the confidence that this perception is only limited to me. Too many HR departments act too much on the R than on the H side. They have been turned into risk mitigation and process/policy enforcement departments. There aren’t that many HR departments out there that have a dedicated accountability to interfere with “business as usual” and make sure that talent is identified and grown – even if it means to re-allocate people because they were hired for the wrong job (not the wrong company!!).
In the age of internal digital transformation HR departments have to take on new responsibilities. They have to help existing talent to transform and new talent to balance their will to force change with the abilities of the organization. They have to find a way to identify the connectors, the spiders in the corporate network, the ones that have the ability to lead without a title. Then we will have an HR organization in place that is an integrative and essential part of the transformation of companies in truly digital enterprises.
4. Challenge everything
McKinsey says: Don’t accept historical norms; question the status-quo; create a plan covering every function, product, business unit and location
There we go. Basically I should just say: yes, exactly. Nevertheless I would like to elaborate a key learning of my past years in the field. If you talk to executives they are happy to look ahead. Their job is to pave the way to the future or rather line out the goal to which a path has to be paved out. If you talk to the work force – in particular the high performers – you will get serious buy in and will to change and break the old norms. Change is good. Tomorrow shall be brighter than today.
Resistance comes from middle management. That resistance however, shouldn’t be mistaken for being “not willing” or “incapable” to change and break norms. The “need for and momentum of change” simply reaches them. Their objectives stay function focused and KPI driven in order to make it easy for their superiors to evaluate the course and steer the boat. Sometimes you cannot blame anyone for really…because why would you make your life more complicated than actually necessary, right?
If we want to “change everything”, if we want to have a “plan covering every function”, if we want to break down silos and old norms of thinking we have to manage our organizations exactly according to that aspiration. Make “my” success impossible if “our” success is hindered by it. Formalize it. Turn individual goals and KPIs into collaborative measures and objectives throughout all levels. Don’t think quarterly EBIT, think long term knowledge retention and utilization. Don’t allow talent to trickle form the organization as soon as it becomes clear that the “human resource” will be the core of the next savings round. Rest assured: the ones that can swim and are able to reach the next shore are the ones to leave first if the boat is clearly going down. You are always left with the ones that couldn’t be bothered in the first place.
I know I am asking a lot here. But I’ve seen this change and new way of thinking happen and I believe that we will see it happen a lot more in the future.
To be continued…
Next time I will be dealing with the left over three traits:
Another year has passed and it’s been an exciting one – what else. It would be weird to say that nothing has happened and that it has been rather dull. If nothing had happened on the professional front I could at least have reported that I have given up my Munich home base after 39 years to relocate to Switzerland.
But of course stuff has happened…
Over the past 12 months I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with people from various functions, industries, countries and age groups. In pure figures it looks a little like this:
My key learning from all the conversations, thought exchange and conceptual work in a nut shell.
1. Awareness for business productivity & effectiveness
Intranet and Digital Workspace are finally on their way (not there yet though) to be as important to companies as the digital tools connected to their actual business logic. The times where only ERP, CRM & Co. get executive attention seem to be over. Business productivity and effectiveness have moved much higher on the leadership and management agenda. However, the level of investment (aka long term commitment) in information and knowledge work isn’t yet matching the one for enforcing, standardising and improving process & task based work. It’s definitely on the right way but it’s still easier to bump the 120 Million to 135 for an SAP installation than to get 200 grand for a fully functioning prototype of an application that will affect people’s work every single day.
2. IT departments have acquired new terminology
For years IT and management publications have been writing about the re-positioning of the IT departments. It had been predicted that IT will move much closer to the business side of things and argue their value through contribution instead of cost reduction. In many instances I have experienced customer and user centric thinking, which had not just been fluffy marketing talk. The awareness that functionality and up-time don’t really cut it anymore is definitely there. A lot of IT managers have changed from “here is it all, pick what you want” to “we can do almost anything if you let us explicitly know what you are trying to achieve with what you’re asking from us”. Requirements engineering isn’t “feature evaluation” anymore. It’s become the “seeking to understand before seeking to be understood” in business IT.
3. The internal Facebook isn’t the strongest competitor to e-mail anymore
Not ONE single client I have worked for had the “social intranet” vision anymore. It’s now about stealing with pride from all the successful services in the commercial world. The “conversation stream” has moved into the 2nd row on a lot of concept designs appreciated by business stakeholders.
The strongest competitor to e-mail is now a comprehensive and coherent concept for sending and receiving information. It’s less about “connecting the organisation” than about “enabling the individual to keep track of importance, urgency and interdependence”.
Concepts for notification, indication & orientation are becoming more and more important in order to make sure that users will find their way through the increasing jungle of communication & data.
4. The “enabling” intranet seems to be the one that might turn it into something work critical
When I am asked what my vision is for the future of intranets and the Digital Workplace my answer is usually:
The modern intranet or Digital Workplace has to be something that is work critical. It has to cause turmoil if you turn it off. It has to enable individuals to do their job with substantially less effort in order to unleash their potential for collaborative contribution. The modern intranet will make it easy to navigate through the continuously increasing complexity of today’s organisations. It will help people to overcome functional, geographical and hierarchical borders. It will create clarity, comfort and confidence for the every day work and become a motivating factor. It will be valuable.
“Enabling” people to do their job in confidence is an essential part of that vision. Have everything at hand that is required to create a proper foundation for individual success will be an important corner stone for collaborative contribution to corporate progress.
5. If you’re looking for the right anchor for the Digital Workplace…look out for a Lean Management initiative
One of my clients has directly connected the Digital Workplace with an initiative to introduce “Lean” to their organisation (aka continuous streamlining by everyone being in charge to identify areas for improvement). Another business contact has managed to connect the Digital Workplace to tightly to their business logic that parts of the business won’t be able to operate during a down time. I personally think that “Lean” is the right place for modern intranets and Digital Workplaces. It bridges individual enablement and collaborative exchange. It nurtures “us” thinking and creates awareness for the value that everyone can generate by just going through the work day with open eyes. The Digital Workplace can be the channel to collect, distribute, refine and implement everything that is required to be more “Lean”. I like the idea and I will pursue this more explicitly in 2015.
Now I am really curious what 2015 will bring…
Everybody take cover! Here’s an ad:
Even though I might be annoying my followers I would like to use this opportunity to (again) advertise the Digital Workplace Gold Dust white paper in which I have shared a lot of my insight an learning of the past years. If you can be dared please visit my employer’s website and request your personal copy…and sorry again…
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.