by Carol Rozwell | November 5, 2013 | 1 Comment
Social apps are still seducing leaders of social initiatives. The seduction of social is simple (and alliterative): because Facebook can grow its adoption to over a billion people without seemingly doing anything, if we just pick the right social app all our employees will start using it.
Employees’ need compelling reasons for using the social apps their organizations provide for them. But that’s only part of the adoption dynamic. And here’s a shocker: well-designed implementations do not have collaboration as the end goal. Nope, that’s correct. Collaboration per se is not the end goal. Well-designed implementations of social apps aim to make it easier for people to get their work done. They are focused and specific to each worker’s needs.
But even some thoughtfully planned efforts lose steam. When this happens, it’s useful to examine whether senior managers have a “do what I say, not what I do” attitude about the enterprise social apps. Because this is the stinging truth: if managers proclaim the need for collaboration, knowledge sharing and the like but are not actively demonstrating their belief in these principles by their activities in social apps, their words belie their truth attitudes. And employees, like petulant children, will pick up on this disconnect and emulate what their leaders do, not what they say.
It’s essential to help senior managers, as well as the sponsors of social initiatives, recognize what “support” means. With previous technology roll-outs it might have been enough to say nice words about how much better one’s work life will be when the new functionality is available. But social initiatives are different. Senior leaders must make sure their words and their actions are consistent.
Category: Change management Collaboration Social media Social networks Tags: Change management, Collaboration, Collaboration dynamics, leadership, organizational change, Social media, Social networking, Social networks, socially centered leadership
by Carol Rozwell | September 24, 2013 | Submit a Comment
I stayed at a hotel recently where the manager must have been very concerned about people stealing the irons. The hotel underwent a major renovation which included furnishing each room with an iron. Previously, you had to call down to the front desk and ask to have an iron delivered to the room if you needed your clothes pressed. Really quite a bother.
Now, each room has its own iron and ironing board. However, the iron/ironing board combo is not well designed. The undersized ironing board has the stand for the iron bolted on to the end and the iron is attached to the stand with spiraled cord, presumably so it would not be hijacked.
There are a bunch of problems with this approach. This means that you cannot lay out a normal size pair of pants on the ironing board. It’s too short! It also means the iron itself is difficult to maneuver because of the “don’t steal me” cord. And who would want to steal the minimally-featured irons hotels provide anyway? In all of my years of business travel, I’ve never coveted an iron I found in a hotel room.
So here’s a hotel that spent a boatload of money to provide an amenity for its guests, but made it very difficult for them to use it.
Unfortunately, there are many companies whose leaders do the same thing with their ideation programs. In speeches and emails, they proclaim a desire for innovative, new ideas to solve vexing problems but then they sabotage employees’ participation in these programs. Some of the commonly encountered worst practices are when:
- Ideas that are too different, too outlandish are ignored or, worse yet, removed from consideration
- Certain groups of people are excluded from participating in ideation campaigns
- Contributors don’t get feedback on the status of their submitted ideas
The challenges organizations face today are too complex to be solved by only 2% of the population, which is the case when critical decisions are made solely by senior leaders. That’s one of the reasons we’re exploring the freedom to contribute in Gartner Peer Connect. Social technologies open up a world of networking possibilities that are evident in our personal interactions, but they should not be limited to just those personal activities. Courageous leaders will want to exploit the knowledge of all employees to keep their organizations operating at peak performance. They want to break through that barrier of low employee engagement that prevents most organizations from becoming all they can be. Gallup’s latest poll on employee engagement found that 70% of American employees are not fully engaged and that this is costing the U.S. economy between $450 billion to $550 billion each year in lost productivity. Encouraging contributions to ideation programs not only surfaces amazing things, it also increases engagement and commitment.
We hope Gartner clients will join us in Peer Connect to share their thoughts and best practices for enabling a creative, engaging workplace where all employees are not just invited to contribute, they feel compelled to contribute because they know it will help the organization accomplish its mission.
Category: community Social networks Tags: Innovation, organizational change, Organizational liquidity, socially centered leadership
by Carol Rozwell | September 11, 2013 | 3 Comments
Many of us who took natural science courses during our undergraduate work were exposed to the story of the boiled frog experiment. The experiment showed that a frog sitting in a beaker of water would not attempt to escape if the water was heated gradually enough. The lesson we are supposed to learn from that story is that is we do not pay attention to the gradual changes in our milieu, we may suffer dire consequences.
For this reason, I find it useful to look back periodically and take notice of the changes that have occurred. By comparing “then” to “now” using specific examples, we can assess whether our response to change is keeping pace.
One area that concerns me is the progression of leadership approaches for a social business era. My Gartner colleague Deb Logan and I identified the concept of the socially centered leader in last year’s maverick project (Gartner clients can read the research). This year, we’ve been exploring how technology enables a deeper level of engagement for those leaders who espouse the characteristics of socially centered leadership. When we speak of the socially centered leader, we don’t just mean the manager whose position is assured on the organization chart. We also include anyone who is in any ad hoc leadership role. When you think about how much project-oriented work we all participate in on a regular basis, it’s easy to see that there may be as many as two to four times the number of informal leaders as formally appointed managers.
An interesting potential future for leadership emerged from the research. As organizations become more democratic, more and more employees will have the opportunity to be involved in the decision making processes of their companies or agencies. These will be important decisions – both strategic and tactical since presumably we’ve automated as many of the operational decisions as possible – not the inconsequential ones without any significant financial impact. Socially centered leaders exhibit a fact-based decision style that includes input from multiple sources. That much is a given. But what other changes might we expect as the workplace becomes more social and employees crave a level of freedom at work that they already have in their personal lives? Organizations fuss over “bring your own device (BYOD)” to work issues, what about “bring your own freedoms (BYOF)” to work?
Many of us have a large degree of freedom already regarding who we work with. As a Gartner analyst, I can chose to work with any colleague, anywhere in the world if it makes sense and will produce good research deliverables for our clients. We are not alone in this approach. I’ve spoken with many project managers who tell me they allow lots of flexibility for project members when choosing teammates. Pioneering organizations such as W.L. Gore, Menlo, IDEO and Morning Star have turned traditional practices on their heads.
The upshot is that we will increasingly get to work with the people we want to work with and avoid the ones we don’t. And we all know some of those people, don’t we? There are multiple ways these people-I-don’t-want-to-work-with folks irritate us. They hog the glory, don’t do their fair share, whine incessantly, etc. Whatever special type of annoyance they favor, we do our best to avoid working with them. They just don’t play well with others. They can’t collaborate. Everyone in the peer group knows who they are, yet management takes no action.
This is about to change.
I’ve been watching the slow but inexorable progression of social workplace tools that have to potential to expose workers who aren’t effective collaborators. They identify contributors and acknowledge people committed to the success of the team as a whole. I expect that as social businesses mature, the requirement to uncover and re-educate non-collaborators will increase. Most often, we think of the need to increase collaboration within and among peer groups. I predict this issue will become as important for managers and leaders as it is for individuals. We need to pay attention to this shift or become like the boiled frog.
And I’m not alone in my belief. MIX (Management Innovation eXchange) is hosting a challenge that explores autonomy at work. The discussion is underway. If you have some ideas of how to bring this future to fruition, participate in the Digital Freedom Challenge. This is an important change and we all need to be prepared.
Category: Change management Collaboration Social networks Tags: leadership, organizational change, Social networking, socially centered leadership
by Carol Rozwell | August 20, 2013 | Submit a Comment
Our research prediction paints a gloomy picture for the success of social initiatives. We expect them to fail to deliver the hoped for value 80% of the time. The culprits are an over-emphasis on technology and under-emphasis on behavior change (Gartner clients can read the complete research note)
The fact that so many leaders of social initiatives are seduced by social technology is easy to understand. They look at the rapid adoption of social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and assume they will see similar results. And if adoption will ‘go viral’ then of course there is no need to invest in tedious change management programs and training.
It is essential that social initiatives have a well-defined purpose. The business outcome needs to be compelling and complementary to the organization’s strategic objectives. That is a given. But simply stating the purpose only gets us so far. We also need to identify the vital behaviors that will allow us to achieve the desired outcome.
In their book “Influencer” the authors state that vital behaviors have three characteristics. The vital behavior:
- Leads directly to better results.
- Breaks self-defeating patterns.
- Causes many other positive behaviors to follow naturally.
Vital behaviors are actions, not results. But changing vital behaviors leads to results. So for more success with social initiatives, the critical changes people have to make in their work activities must be understood and any roadblocks to making those changes must be removed.
Sounds simple, but it’s not. Most of the diagnoses I’ve done on less than successful social initiatives indicate that this crucial step is ignored. The business case – or whatever justification approach you choose – must make it very clear how individuals and teams will work differently in order to achieve the desired outcome.
Let’s take one of the oft-stated goals of social initiatives as an example – knowledge sharing. Knowledge sharing is a fine and noble goal and the business benefits seem obvious. Increase in sales efficiency. Decrease in RFP response time. Improvement in customer satisfaction. Who could argue with them? Before these results are accrued, though, the people performing the work need to change how they work today and do something different tomorrow. What that change is, specifically, is the vital behavior.
- What does the sale rep do differently to be more efficient?
- What does the proposal manager do to get the proposal out sooner?
- What does the CSR do to answer the client’s question better and faster?
If these answers to these and similar questions are identified early on in the social initiative planning process, your efforts will be more successful, more quickly.
Category: Change management Collaboration Knowledge management Social media Social networks social software Tags: Change management, Collaboration, Collaboration dynamics, organizational change, Organizational liquidity, Rewards, Social media, Social networking, Social networks, social software
by Carol Rozwell | June 25, 2013 | 3 Comments
During 2012, I undertook a maverick research project with my Gartner colleague Debra Logan. We explored the evolution of leadership in a social world that we eventually called socially centered leadership.
The hallmarks of the socially centered leader are:
- Clear, honest, and credible communication that articulates intent
- Emotional engagement and personal generosity
- Fact-based decision style
Our recommendations to people who aspire to socially centered leadership are to:
- Elevate your team’s mission; articulate it simply, clearly, and often
- Encourage as much transparency as possible without breaking the law
- Prioritize and systematize genuine personal contact with your workers
- Stimulate experimentation, make and admit mistakes
- Develop a competency in collaborative decision making
The need for a more humanistic, socially centered leadership style are clear. The numbers tell us that high levels of employee engagement correlate with high organizational performance. We cited a number of examples of such studies in our report. Following the report’s publication, Gallup conducted its eighth meta-analysis on the Q12 using 263 research studies across 192 organizations in 49 industries and 34 countries. Within each study, Gallup researchers statistically calculated the work-unit-level relationship between employee engagement and performance outcomes that the organization supplied.
Work units in the top quartile in employee engagement outperformed bottom-quartile units by 10% on customer ratings, 22% in profitability, and 21% in productivity. Work units in the top quartile also saw significantly lower turnover (25% in high-turnover organizations, 65% in low-turnover organizations), shrinkage (28%), and absenteeism (37%) and fewer safety incidents (48%), patient safety incidents (41%), and quality defects (41%).
As part of our research we interviewed many interesting people. (My blog on the Vineet Nayar interview. Gartner clients can read the completed report Maverick* Research: Socially Centered Leadership)
This year, we are continuing our research by exploring how technology supports or subverts a socially centered leader. (This effort is complemented by work Elise Olding and Jackie Fenn are doing to study how a better understanding of the brain will change how we work.) We’ve interviewed a variety of wise people. We will publish research of our findings in September and conduct workshops at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo events in October and November.
So far, they’ve argued the side of the argument that technology can enhance the socially centered leader’s engagement with employees. I’m wondering if there are downsides to the use of technology to increase the engagement between a socially centered leader and their employees. What do you think? We know that technology cannot make up for a lack of the basic skills of a socially centered leader. But when it’s used with proper intent, can it be misapplied or even backfire?
Let me know what you think. Comment on the blog or send me a tweet @CRozwell.
Category: Change management Collaboration Social networks Tags: Change management, organizational change, Organizational liquidity, Social networking, Social networks, socially centered leadership
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 | 1 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