by Carol Rozwell | April 22, 2013 | 3 Comments
Have you ever been in one of those situations where it was very clear the person you were speaking with wasn’t listening to you? A simple example of what I mean is that routine tete-a-tete that occurs when people first get on a phone call. Social convention tells us to inquiry about the other person’s well-being. The exchange that belies real attention to the routine goes something like this:
Caller 1: “Hello, how are you doing today?”
Caller 2: “Hi there, oh I’m doing great! And how are you?”
Caller 1: “Fine. Things have been going well today. How are you doing?”
The error of feigned interest seems more obvious when it’s written out than when spoken – the issue is that caller 1 didn’t really listen to caller 2’s response. Hence, they asked the same question over again. The supposedly polite social ritual of asking how their colleague was turned into a “do loop” because they were distracted. The unspoken message of the exchange is clear: “I am supposed to ask how you are but I really don’t care because I didn’t take the time to listen.”
This is a simple example but we all can think of many other dismissive situations that regularly occur in the workplace.
So why am I bringing up this trivial example?
Not a week goes by that I don’t get multiple announcements of some new approach for “getting the best out of your human capital” or “managing human capital for business results” or in deference to the current hype around big data “using analytics to increase human capital performance.” Yes, I understand it’s a commonly used term for the collection of employees that work for an organization, but think about the message it conveys. If management thinks I’m just another interchangeable piece of human capital, then why should I contribute my best efforts, my unique skills to my work?
Perhaps my visceral reaction to the term human capital stems from a summer job I had working in a factory as a QA inspector. There I was, indeed, human capital. It was piecemeal work and we were paid as long as we performed a minimum number of inspections per shift. Not more, just the minimum – as I was politely but firmly informed by a fulltime employee on the (single) occasion I exceeded the quota. (Well I was young and thought I was supposed to do my best.) It didn’t matter if I had a brilliant idea for improving the QA process or came up with a better way to perform a quality check, as long as I finished the minimum number of inspections during my shift. I was expected to be the human that carried out the work. (Hopefully that plant now has robots to do the work I and my other 20 benchmates did since we didn’t add any intellectual value to the process.)
Much of the work I’ve been doing lately into the new skills required of a socially centered leader (clients can read the Gartner research) points to the importance of valuing each person on our team as an individual. Perceptive leaders already know this, their experience taught them this lesson. What’s fascinating is that new scientific research now proffers hard evidence to support why we need to pay attention not to people as a group – “my team” – but to the individuals that make up the team.
Clearly, I’ve been influenced by some stellar researchers, authors and leaders who talk about the value of putting employees first (Vineet Nayar), paying attention to status (David Rock) and creating a greater sense of purpose (Dan Pink). A new concept I came across this week is Tony Schwartz’s assertion that we should focus on employee energy. If you have time, this presentation is well worth listening to, as is Dan Ariely’s talk about what makes us feel good about our work.
What I’ve learned is that today’s problems are better solved by people who continually bring their “A game” to work. There is still routine work to be done, but more and more often working through tough issues requires insight from energized employees willing to put themselves into their work. It’s hard to believe that calling people human capital and treating them as such will result in the level of employee engagement required for sustained business performance in today’s fast-paced, ever-changing world. In an information economy, a company benefits more from the contribution of insightful people than from nameless, faceless human capital.
Category: Change management Collaboration community Social networks Tags: Change management, Collaboration dynamics, communities of practice, Community of practice, Knowledge management, leadership, Organizational liquidity, Social networking, Social networks, socially centered leadership
by Carol Rozwell | March 28, 2013 | Submit a Comment
Yesterday’s New York Times article chronicled Justin Timberlake’s effective use of social media to sell nearly a million copies of his comeback album “The 20/20 Experience” in its first week out. This paragraph summarized the lesson:
“Yet the master stroke . . . was the personal touch that Mr. Timberlake brought to every aspect of the campaign, giving his fans the impression of direct contact and feeding them a steady stream of topics to amplify through social media.”
The key words for me are “personal touch” and “steady stream of topics.” Social media helped amplify the experience, but there was direct contact and a draw to keep the fans coming back. The other lesson described in the article is the planning that went into orchestrating the events that led up to the album’s popularity upon release.
How does this apply to social media in the workplace, you might be wondering?
Two things. There is the “leaders must use social” angle and the “wider net will catch more fish” angle. We’ll focus on the first one now and get to the second issue in another blog.
Lately, I’ve seen a rash of articles in notable journals urging CEOs and other leaders to “get social.” Most suggest that an executive’s presence on social media will help build a sense of trust with employees. This is possible, but only if those executives are trustworthy to start with and they can get over what my colleague Elise Olding mentioned in her blog as the tell – a communication style that is top down and directive.
So here is the opportunity for communications professionals or the social media teams who counsel executives. Assuming you are working with a respected senior exec, plan out the communication strategy and extend it into social media to engage in meaningful ways. Notice I said “engage.”
This may sound obvious. But it’s not. If I’m using social media, I’m engaging, right? Well, in a word, no.
I worked with a social media team that was struggling with this very issue. They were trying to create more engagement among the leadership team and the company’s employees. They thought a CEO blog could do the trick. Thankfully, they had gotten over the temptation to have the PR folks write the CEO’s blog. However, when I queried them on how willing the CEO would be to hear an opinion that differed from his own, I wasn’t so sure they were ready to move forward. I asked, “How will the CEO respond when someone tells him he’s wrong?” Groans. The consensus was he would not take it well and would expect them to get rid of the naysayer’s comment. My advice: hold off on the CEO blog thing for now.
Assuming you do have the right circumstances, you also have to give this new openness time to “take.” In an environment where management has been less forthcoming or where communication via cascaded emails is the norm, employees may view a sudden shift with skepticism until the leaders prove they really want a conversation rather than a monologue. It will be difficult for some leaders to hear the truth at first, but they must be prepared to listen and, hopefully, learn.
It’s also important to regularly test for resonance with employees – and not just the ones that are already in the inner circle. You can’t use social to make an aloof exec suddenly likable, but you can help an authentic leader’s messages get more traction. And what a way to get a sense of what people are actually thinking.
Category: Change management Social media Social networks Tags: Change management, organizational change, Social media, Social networking, socially centered leadership
by Carol Rozwell | March 13, 2013 | 4 Comments
Recently, I read an interesting article from MIT Tech Review which diagnosed why the social network Friendster failed – An Autopsy of a Dead Social Network.
The research done by David Garcia and colleagues at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich concluded that networks with a significant percentage of participants who had two friends were highly vulnerable to collapse. On some level, this sounds intuitively right. In my research into why social projects fail (Social Projects Require Project Managers to Think Differently), we identified a critical mass of participants as a critical success factor. It’s nice to see some research which backs up the point and explains the observation.
Coincidentally, I also had the opportunity to speak with Remi Kirche from Skyrock.com. Skyrock.com describes itself as a social network of blogs: a blogging solution which includes native communication tools and social features. What I found interesting about our discussion is the way Skyrock.com uses predictive analytics to give value back to its members. They find that people who have friends on the network get more value from the communities they join and they participate more. When someone comes into the Skyrock.com network, they can quickly develop friends. Predictive analytics lets Skyrock.com can see the communities and understand the interactions. This allows them to make recommendations to advertisers about which communities are a potentially valuable market for them.
There are a couple of points worth considering for those people tasked with rolling out social software solutions inside their organizations. Based on our research, we know that adoption of social tools is still a struggle. Simply giving employees social tools and waiting ‘to see what happens’ doesn’t work.
If we buy the premise that gaining active participation in a network is essential for its survival, then we need to help the participants figure out who might be worth ‘meeting.’ It’s quite similar to the real world counterpart of creating ways to ‘break the ice’ at meetings, parties and other face-to-face events. The sooner we get people engaged with like-minded people, the more likely they are to stay engaged and view the event positively.
This seems like an increasingly useful way to employ analytics: use the knowledge of affinity to quickly create connections. Give the network of workers with an affinity (aka work to get done) a place to meet and a reason for meeting. In addition to setting up the meet, use analytics to monitor the health of the interactions looking at measures such as frequency, duration and increase in connections.
I’m looking forward to continuing my research into this exciting topic.
Category: Change management Collaboration community Social media Social networks social software Tags: Change management, Collaboration, Collaboration dynamics, Collective, communities of practice, Metrics, organizational change, Social analytics, Social network analysis, Social networking, Social networks, social software
by Carol Rozwell | February 20, 2013 | Submit a Comment
One of the reasons I’m so fussy about some language usage is that we rely on words to convey meaning. One of the most difficult aspects of communication among humans is the fact that what I say may not be what you hear. Obviously this is not an audio problem. It’s one of interpretation. Words have different meanings depending on context. Take for example, the word ‘wind.’ Is it a noun or a verb? We’re not even sure how to pronounce it unless we know the sentence in which its used. It could mean a breeze or creating potential energy in a clock.
When we are trying to convey concepts – especially new ones – we must be careful which words we choose. Each of us interprets words according to our orientation and experience. Take the word ‘network.’ As a student of social network analysis, I immediately think of social network maps. They depict associations of people united by a common interest. However, someone with a background in infrastructure is more likely to envision circuitry, wires and cables.
The difficulty of communicating across disciplines is one of the reasons I dislike acronyms. So many of them can be mistaken for something else. This confuses meaning.
More importantly, the acronym obscures purpose and potential value. Think about a common situation in the technology industry. We create a program designed to bring about change. We give it a cool name intended to be a rallying point for participants. Then we make it into an acronym and everyone forgets what it stands for and why we are doing it.
Yes, acronyms are a nifty shorthand for busy people. I admit that. I’ve even used WIIFM in previous blogs. But if you are trying to sell people on a concept and engage them in bringing a good idea into reality, then take a tip from clever marketers – use words that enlist, encourage and excite.
Category: Uncategorized Tags:
by Carol Rozwell | January 2, 2013 | 2 Comments
I’ve been lucky to have had some very interesting jobs during the course of my career. One stint as an applications auditor gave me lots of insight that applies directly in my current role as an analyst. In short, my teammates and I interviewed application developers and the customers for whom they had developed the applications. We used the results of our audits to identify deficiencies, areas for improvement and sometimes even best practices. We tried to fix the problems through education and awareness. We put a system in place so best practices could be shared across the organization.
One of the most frequently encountered problems was the lack of a well-documented requirement definition. The result was an application that might have worked, but which did not meet the customer need. Pretty product but not very useful.
I was reminded of this job and what I had learned following a recent meeting. I met with a consulting firm that needed some help identifying why their collaboration initiatives had gone awry. They started off well – lots of participation and activity – but then lost steam. The goal was to diagnose what went wrong so they could relaunch with an approach that predicted more success.
Based on what I’ve learned from failed social software deployments, I’ve become a firm believer in the need to define a compelling and meaningful what’s in it for me (WIIFM). The trick is to define the WIIFM from the perspective of the target audiences. Notice I said audiences. Plural. That means that for most social or collaboration initiatives there will be many constituencies that must be served and they will likely not all have the same needs. My urgent and compelling need as an analyst will not be the same urgent and compelling need as my sales colleagues, even though we both work for the same company.
Getting to the WIIFM is not easy though. Most workers struggle to define what will help them get their work done better, faster, more easily. Subtler techniques such as storytelling, contextual inquiry and social network analysis help tease out needs better than formal interviews or data flow analysis.
So why did I recount this story? When I pressed the team tasked with rolling out the collaboration solution about the uses case examples and the compelling WIIFMs they’d collected, they told me their top three requirements were:
- Ability for consultants around the world to find each other quickly
- Social profiles
They get points for having asked the questions but not for having uncovered three urgent and compelling WIIFMs that would make people change how they do their work. The first item is a requirement that could be explored more fully but the second two are technology capabilities, not requirements. The essential fact about social and collaborative applications is that they are opt-in. If I don’t like it, I don’t have to use it. That’s why it’s so essential to identify the WIIFM.
So if you are tasked with implementing a social solution, make sure you really know what will motivate your target constituencies to use it. And make sure it “plays nice” will the other applications they must use to get their work done.
My best to you as we ease our way into 2013. Keep stalking those elusive requirements!
Category: Change management Collaboration community Knowledge management Social media Social networks social software Tags: Change management, Collaboration, Collaboration dynamics, Knowledge management, organizational change, Organizational liquidity, Social analytics, Social networking, Social networks, social software, Storytelling
by Carol Rozwell | December 13, 2012 | 1 Comment
This week I met with a variety of clients. In one session attended by 11 people, we started the meeting by asking each person to introduce themself and mention the questions they wanted me to cover. One of the attendees responded that they’d like to know what’s next. “What is the next thing over the horizon, as yet undetected, that we need to plan for?”
I’ve always been troubled puzzled and troubled by this question. I wonder why people search for the next new thing when generally they’ve made such little progress dealing with the current new thing. Social media is a case in point. Why wonder what the next black swan event is when our research shows that most enterprises are only at level two on the Social Business Program Maturity Model?
There are a few issues to consider. First is that by their very nature, black swans are not detectable before they become apparent. The definition of a black swan, according to Nassim Nicholas Taleb, the author who coined the term is “a surprise event that has a major effect.” So we can’t figure out many of the “what’s next” things by trying to the detect the patterns in past or current events.
The second and more important issue is how poorly most organizations respond when the unexpected happens. (Unfortunatley, most also don’t do that well when responding to an anticipated disaster either.) I think that’s one of the reasons people want to know what’s coming next – so they will have more time to develop an appropriate response.
But it doesn’t work that way.
The times we live in are volatile. The unpredictable happens. They are also filled with complexity. Situations such as the financial meltdown and climate change alert us to the extreme interrelatedness that affects us all. We must deal with wicked problems but we need new techniques and approaches to do this. David Snowden’s Cynefin model warns us that in chaotic times, we cannot rely on good and best practices. They won’t help us because they’ve been derived in times of stability. In times of high volatility, the best we can do is take action and observe the results. Best practices are not possible in situations you’ve never encountered before.
The desire to know “what’s next” is rooted in the belief that the longer the time available to develop a response to a new situation, the more manageable the situation will be. We recommend a different approach: increase your ability to deal effectively with constant change. If change is constant – and many will argue it is – then learning to cope with change in a way that causes less personal and business disruption is the critical skill. This is a concept we call “organizational liquidity.”
But who owns this responsibility, to “up” the organization’s capability to deal with change, its organizational liquidity quotient? Well that’s another issue. Effectively facilitating organizational change is frequently everyone’s responsibility – hence no one’s.
Organizational liquidity is a topic we will continue to explore in 2013. Gartner clients can read our existing research Organizational Liquidity: Change Management for Tumultuous Times. It’s time to update this research because the next new thing is right around the corner. If you have ideas about who should orchestrate organizational change or think your organization has a cool model for dealing with complexity and volatility, please let me know.
Category: Change management Collaboration Knowledge management Social media Social networks Strategic Planning Tags: Change management, Collaboration, organizational change, Organizational liquidity, risk, Social networking, Social networks, socially centered leadership, Storytelling
by Carol Rozwell | November 14, 2012 | 6 Comments
A colleague emailed me recently asking if I had any material he could use for a presentation he was developing. I didn’t have exactly what he asked for, but searched my stash of slides and sent back a few that I thought might be useful. It took a bit of digging, but I was able to get back to him within an hour from the time he pinged me.
I’m not sure if he found the slides useful or not because I never heard back from him. I know there is a school of thought that suggests responding to emails just to say “thank you” unnecessarily clogs up the inbox. But I beg to differ with this view. I know we are all busy people and I was just doing my job to share some material with him, but let’s just say the lack of an acknowledgement – a simple “thank you” – did not help him build any social capital with me.
I’d like to contrast this story with another incident that happened recently.
I was preparing a debut workshop for one of our events. As is our process, all presentations get heavy scrutiny from our peers to ensure they hit the mark. Since this was a new presentation on a new concept from new material, I had a few trepidations about it.
Late one Friday afternoon, I got a voicemail from my colleague suggesting that we talk about the presentation. My first thought was that he hated the material but was too polite to put that in writing and post it to the publication workflow system. So we arranged a time to talk.
When I got on the call with him, I was very pleasantly surprised. Not only did he like the material, but he had taken the much more personal step of calling me to talk about and offer his suggestions. That was so much more helpful than writing a response and emailing it. He built his social capital with me and he felt good about being able to help a colleague out. And you can bet I thanked him profusely for his help. And let his manager know how much I valued his input.
The point of presenting these two contrasting examples to remind us about the power of a simple “thank you.” Everyone works hard, everyone is stressed and everyone could use a little more positive acknowledgement for their efforts. I’m not talking about that overused “everybody wins a prize for something” concept that seems to have permeated many schools lately. I’m talking about the authentic appreciation that we, as caring human beings, can offer to each other.
Why should you take the time to do that, to thank people for doing their jobs? Well, because. Because it lets people know their work is noticed and because it makes you a happier, healthier person. In his research, Shawn Achor – author of “The Happiness Advantage” – describes how this works. His research shows that when people have a positive mind-set, performance on nearly every level—productivity, creativity, engagement—improves. Taking time to genuinely thank people for their effort is a part of creating that positive mind-set. And it works both ways. They appreciate the acknowledgement and you get the benefit of having bestowed the praise.
So thank you for reading my blog. Really. I’ll bet if you take the time to say “thank you” to three people today – and genuinely mean it – you’ll have a much better day. Find three things you a thankful for and let those people know. You’ll make their day, and yours.
A positive, socially centered leadership example at work. Clients who would like to read more about socially centered leadership can follow this link.
Category: Change management Collaboration Social networks Uncategorized Tags: Collaboration dynamics, organizational change, Social networking, Social networks, socially centered leadership
by Carol Rozwell | November 2, 2012 | 2 Comments
Symposium week is always a mad rush of 1-1 meetings, presentations, workshops and chance encounters. But this year it seemed more intense, more frenzied. Perhaps the fact that the facilities were bursting at the seams added to this impression. And then there were the incessant warnings of hurricane Sandy which you can’t avoid when traveling in Florida. As it turned out, when Sandy eventually made landfall the northeast on Monday she definitely left her mark.
Some years, the 1-1 meetings have a singular theme. That one question that everyone is asking. This year was a little different. The topic was the same – social media – but there were many variants. In the spirit of ”a picture is worth a thousand words,” I thought a wordle would be nice a nice summary of the topics discussed during my 1-1 meetings.
It doesn’t take a data scientis to figure out that social media was the dominant theme – or as my colleagues in the consulting world would say, the presenting problem. But should it be?
I’m surprised that so many questions are of “what should we do about social media” variety. The Gartner perspective is that you start with the business drivers and the organizational goals, temper this information with current external conditions and then determine where change is needed. With this background information, you are then positioned to ask the critical question that should guide your social business strategy: where are the best places for us to bring “1000 eyes to bear” to solve problems or uncover new opportunities.
The watchwords for social business are participation, transparency, openness and diversity of opinion. A systematic review of your business model looking for situations where those attributes would add value to current business processes is extremely valuable.
The most effective social business strategy is one that is specific to your organization, one that draws on the social attributes mentioned above and thereby enables you to better meet the expections your employees, customers and business partners have of you.
So in summary, don’t focus on social media per se, but explore how capitalizing on social concepts can make you a better business.
Category: Change management Collaboration community Knowledge management Social media Social networks social software Tags: Collaboration dynamics, Knowledge management, organizational change, Organizational liquidity, Social media, Social networking
by Carol Rozwell | October 5, 2012 | 1 Comment
During our most recent webinar on how to develop a social media strategy, we took the opportunity to poll the attendees about their initiatives. The three questions we asked are the same ones we used for previous webinars. This lets us draw some conclusions about the progress of social initiatives.
First, the questions and the responses.
Question: how would you characterize your organization’s social media initiative?
14% – We’re trying to figure out what to do, but haven’t implemented anything yet.
14% – We’re experimenting with social media internally.
25% – We’re experimenting with social media externally.
44% – We’re well underway with a number of initiatives.
3% – We’re old pros with social media.
Total responses: 150
Question: what is the top reason your organization is investing in social media?
32% – Strengthen customer relationships
35% – Enhance brand awareness
4% – Share information with business partners
26% – Help people find and work better with each other
3% – Meet CEO or board objectives
Total responses: 141
Question: who is leading your social media initiatives?
31% – Multiple people are leading different initiatives
34% – Marketing
11% – IT
12% – Social media steering committee
12% – Other organizations e.g. HR or PR
Total responses: 136
If you compare the results of the three polling questions to the survey we did just about this time last year, there has been some progress. More organizations are well underway with multiple initiatives (44% vs. 23% in October 2011). The top reasons for investing in social media remain the same: to build brand awareness or strengthen customer relationships (though one could argue these are tightly coupled). There is still the issue of multiple, uncoordinated initiatives and only slight more organizations have created a social media steering committee since last year. However, this year IT is responsible for social media less often.
We remain firm in our conviction that for disparate social media efforts to grow into an efective social business program there needs to be appropirate leadership and attention to organizational change. Based on my audience poll at my Social Business Program Maturity presentation at the most recent PCC Summit, most organizations still underestimate the effort this takes.
Category: Uncategorized Tags:
by Carol Rozwell | August 30, 2012 | 1 Comment
This has been a month of thinking differently. I’ve been working a maverick research project with my colleague Deb Logan. We’ve been delving into the characteristics that epitomize a socially centered leader. We contend that only socially centered leaders can ensure sustainable business performance for the organizations they lead.
This is not about sprinkling social software tools across the organization, it’s about sensitizing leaders to the need for authenticity, transparency and generosity. Clients can read the complete research note due out later this year and join us in Orlando for a workshop on socially centered skills.
I’ve also been working with my colleagues Bill Gassman and Rita Sallam on social analytics. Talk about a different approach for gaining and using insight gathered and synthesized from social media. The use cases are varied, everything from product sentiment (pretty obvious) to crisis and reputation management (emerging as important capabilities).
It seems like every few days there is a new vendor asking for a briefing. You can tell it’s a new market because the have the most interesting names, many of them similar to each other. I found this to be the case during the early days of e-business, too. Lots of braggadocio – every one is “the world’s leading vendor . . . ” even if they are not yet turning a profit and their customers are still mostly in pilot mode.
Another special project is one being led by Nigel Raynor. With colleagues Chris Iervolino, Thomas Otter and Rita Sallam, we’ve been poking at what happens when capitalism goes social – when the 99% gain the power to change an organizations business in very significant ways. The thought of this happening should make some command-and-control types cringe in horror.
So where is this leading? If you buy the premise that social business is disruptive and inevitable, then organizations need to think differently about manager-employee relationships and about how they engage all the bright, enthusiastic people in the organization in a more timely, fact based approach to decision-making.
That’s going to require some of us to develop some new “skill muscles.” We will need to become comfortable admitting when we don’t know something and asking for help. We will have to learn how to quell our human biases such as rejecting information that does not support our mental models. And we’ll have to figure out what all those pretty data visualizations are trying to tell us.
Hang on, this should be a fun ride!
Category: Change management Collaboration Social media Social networks social software Strategic Planning Tags: Change management, Collaboration, Collaboration dynamics, Collective, Community of practice, leadership, Rewards, risk, Social analytics, Social media, Social networks, social software