Carol Rozwell

A member of the Gartner Blog Network

Carol Rozwell
VP Distinguished Analyst
11 years at Gartner
21 years IT industry

Carol Rozwell is a vice president and distinguished analyst on Gartner's Content, Collaboration and Social team. Ms. Rozwell explores strategies that support the digital workplace. She is researching social networks, social analytics and socially centered leadership.Read Full Bio

Carrying “Customer Care” a Little Too Far

by Carol Rozwell  |  July 16, 2014  |  Submit a Comment

The Comcast brouhaha that made today’s news struck a chord. I’m all for taking customer care seriously. One of my jobs in a previous life was as a customer service manager. It helped me understand simple ways to truly improve the customer experience. So it’s difficult for me to watch as many organizations put processes in place that give the appearance of caring about customers but that are poorly designed or badly executed, or both. These actions scream a message that says “we only care how you feel if you remain a customer and continue to pay us money.” There is little doubt that money is the issue and any significant customer dissatisfaction issues will be ignored.

Here are a few examples of practices that appear to be customer oriented but really aren’t:

  • The company that makes offers to attract new customers that they do not allow existing customers to take advantage of, but then makes those same offers to ex-customers – but only after they cancel their subscription.
  • The company that ignores customer complaints, but then calls the customer to tell them how much they “value their business” when the contract is up for renewal.
  • The company that, in an effort to stay in touch with customer sentiment, makes contact via multiple channels but not in an integrated way i.e. company agent calls and talks with the customer but the customer still gets pinged via email by someone who is not aware the phone call took place.
  • The customer satisfaction survey sent out to every single customer for every single interaction regardless of how trivial it was.
  • The greeter in the store who can’t answer even one of your questions.

So what to do? The simple summary advice is to look at customer feedback as a way to not only improve existing processes, but to solicit ideas on what will become key differentiators. This means that responsible people need to collect and act on what they learn. Rather than being a source of irritation, negative feedback presents and opportunity. While this sounds like a cliché, it is in fact a proven innovation technique. The contention is that “lead users’ or “extreme customers” are already adapting products in ways that will eventually become mainstream. The faster an organization can pick up on these “long tail” customers, the easier it will be for them to remain competitive.

There is little disagreement that social media and the ubiquity of information potential buyers have at their disposal make it difficult for any organization to convert customer touch points into exceptional branded moments that drive loyalty and advocacy. But this is what every organization needs to do. And this is not just the responsibility of the customer service organization, it’s everybody’s job.

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Category: community Social networks     Tags: , ,

Starting Culture Change

by Carol Rozwell  |  June 12, 2014  |  1 Comment

There is a saying I heard many years ago about how to have the greatest impact when delivering a presentation. The advice is “tell them what you will tell them” “tell them” then “tell them what you told them.”

This advice applies to creating change as well as delivering a great presentation.

Quite often my client inquiry strays into the realm of culture change. Clients want to know how they create an environment where employees share knowledge, collaborate with teammates and think beyond just their own work practices to support activities that benefit the organization as a whole. They are usually starting from a belief that knowledge hoarding is more advantageous that sharing since knowledge is power.

Culture change is hard and it takes time. I don’t want to minimize the power of grassroots efforts, but to make culture change stick leaders and managers must model the behavior they want front line employees to mirror. This means that in order to establish the knowledge give-and-take of “I need to know something, can you help me out?” leaders must open themselves up to ask for input of issues they face. The issues can range from corporate dilemmas to personal effectiveness.

This brings us back to the presentation advice. Paraphrased for asking for input, “tell them what ideas you will ask for, ask for ideas, tell them what ideas you got and what you did with them.” This last part is particularly critical. It’s not enough to simply “open up” a dialogue and crowdsource ideas, reporting back on what was done with the ideas is essential for sustaining the openness.

Let me give you an example of how this can work on a less grand scale than wrestling an intractable enterprise problem to the ground. A colleague of mine works in an organizations that is putting a significant number of “middle managers” through a leadership development program. The goal is to help these people develop a more socially centered leadership style. My colleague’s been telling me about the progress of the program.

What I find exciting about the program is the “bookend” approach. It is similar to the presentation advice I mentioned earlier. Find out what each manager needs to improve based on crowdsourced input from direct reports, provide training to the managers so they can make some improvements, then have the managers report back to their direct reports what they learned and what addition changes they will work on making.

Here we have the cycle of openness that builds trust and, eventually, leads to even greater openness. This is the stuff that makes high performance teams out of good, but maybe not totally engaged, teams.

The broader lesson should be clear. To begin to change culture, pick a change leadership will work on and tell employees what that is. Take action. Expect a few stumbles along the way, but don’t let that discourage you. Then make sure to advertise the outcomes the changes produced and what yet needs to be done to get even better.

This sounds simple – it’s not. It takes courage. But since we know the hierarchical approach to management cannot support a dynamic digital business as well a socially centered leadership style can s, it’s best to begin the change now.

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Category: Change management     Tags: , , ,

The delicate balance between knowledge sharing and rules

by Carol Rozwell  |  May 1, 2014  |  Submit a Comment

One of the tenets of KM initiatives that rings true based on my experience is that knowledge sharing is a voluntary activity. In contrast to previous deployments of enterprise wide systems like ERP or CRM, creating a vibrant environment that fosters knowledge sharing using social software or collaboration tools depends on people freely contributing their intellectual capital. Remember, in my world KM stands for “knowledge movement” not “knowledge management.”


This is not to say that there can’t be rules around the knowledge sharing, but demanding that people contribute X number of documents to the knowledge repository does not produce the desired result. Instead of surfacing a large quantity of reusable information, a more likely result is a repository filled with marginally useful information.

So demanding people share their knowledge doesn’t work – but that doesn’t mean that setting rules or guidelines isn’t permissible. Encouraging people to achieve a specific level of sharing, particularly when it’s accompanied by mechanisms that allow others to comment on the value of the content, can be create a virtuous cycle. There is often a correlation between seniority and expertise that can be reused by new members of a community, people changing roles who want to learn something, and other similar scenarios. Setting an expectation of how and what knowledge should be made accessible and shared with others makes sense, especially when there is a baseline of how much content is typically produced. Providing the contributor with feedback on how useful the information is feeds intrinsic motivators of reputation and mastery.

It’s also permissible to provide guidelines on how information should be formatted as long as there is an explanation of why following the format makes sense. Anyone who has attended a Gartner event knows that our presentations follow a well-established format. In the recent past we’ve introduced some new formats. Why do analysts follow them? One reason is that some people just naturally follow the rules. But a more compelling reason that taps intrinsic motivation is that when an analyst knows that customers prefer a certain format, they will follow that format. If I care about making customers as satisfied as possible with a session, then I will strive to produce material in a way that is most useful to them.

In the future I’d expect to see tools that simplify the knowledge contribution process. It may even be possible to automate the contribution process. Of course, a high level of trust and transparency must exist for this approach to work. In the meantime, it’s fine for leaders of KM initiatives to set expectations. When people are told about the impact their knowledge had on the organization meeting its performance objectives, it makes the sharing that much sweeter.

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Category: Change management Collaboration community Knowledge management Social media Social networks social software     Tags: , , , , , , ,

Congratulations to the MIX Digital Freedom Challenge Winners

by Carol Rozwell  |  April 9, 2014  |  1 Comment

Over the past year I’ve had the pleasure of working with the dedicated folks at the Management Innovation eXchange (MIX) on the Digital Freedom Challenge.


‘The challenge kicked off in August, 2013. It posed a simple but disruptive challenge: how to give people the autonomy at work they crave without spinning the organization out of control. We challenged innovators to tell us how they would cultivate five freedoms in their workplace:

  • The freedom to connect with anyone anywhere in the world.
  • The freedom to contribute and to make a real impact on the basis of merit rather than position.
  • The freedom to create, to use one’s skills to improve and experiment without a fear of failure.
  • The freedom to choose where to work, when to work, how to work, with whom to work, and what to work on.
  • The freedom to challenge by speaking up, pushing back and taking an active role in decision making.

It was exciting to be part of the challenge. The participants’ submissions show that the idea of a digital workplace that gives workers autonomy is not some vague, futuristic vision but a reality today.

The five winners were announced last week. They cover a wide range of forward-thinking approaches that enable workers’ creativity and enthusiasm. Check out the stories on ideas such as::

  • Using social media to do work “in plain view”
  • Self-building job roles
  • Collaborative decision making
  • Creating time for reflection into work processes
  • Building the liquid organization

We at Gartner think that espousing the five digital freedoms is a leading indicator of business performance. Today, companies that capitalize on them are in the minority but before long, the freedoms will be commonplace in the workplace. And those organizations that ignore them will be at a disadvantage when it comes to maintaining an engaged workforce and attracting new talent.

My advice: be a catalyst for change. Kick off an exploration of how to exploit the five freedoms in your in your organization. Gartner clients who would like help setting up a workshop can contact me.

Think about how much fun it will be to go to work when your creativity is put to work!

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Category: Change management Collaboration community Social media Social networks     Tags: , , , , , ,

Data Is Like a Dead Chicken

by Carol Rozwell  |  March 4, 2014  |  2 Comments

With all the hype around big data, there is a misconception developing that more data is a good thing. This is wrong. Wise leaders of business intelligence and analytics initiatives understand that data is like a dead chicken. Once data is collected, it becomes a problem. It must be organized, reviewed, managed, updated and eventually discarded – all of which requires a thoughtfully designed plan. It requires effort and work. The energy required to administrate information of dubious value is just not worth it.

This leads us to two best practices:

  • never collect data you don’t plan to use
  • when you do decide to collect data, use it quickly before it gets stinky

For those who believe that more is better, this advice may not be well received. We’re conditioned to think that having more information, more ideas will give us a wider range of options to chose from. The leader of an analytics initiative thinks that the more parameters they measure, the better the decisions they will make. The leader of an innovation challenge thinks that the more ideas the campaign generates, the more successful it will be. Both are harboring a false assumption. Collecting data from multiple social media sources and tracks a myriad of metrics costs money, both in terms of a vendor’s product offering and the effort required to analyze it. Unless you a absolutely clear about the decisions you want to make and the input required to make them, the investment will be wasted. Experience tells us that the most successful innovation campaigns are those that are narrowly scoped and thereby produce fewer – but more actionable – ideas.

Using data before it gets stale and stinky is also important. This means there needs to be attention to both the collection of (theoretically) useful insight and its disposal. Many organizations make the mistake of keeping everything, forever. A wiser approach is plan to discard information at the time it is collected and stick to the plan.

Data is like a dead chicken. And unless it is used, it quickly becomes an albatross.


Category: IT Governance Knowledge management     Tags: ,

Do you see what I mean?

by Carol Rozwell  |  January 30, 2014  |  1 Comment

So often we use this expression as punctuation to a statement we’ve made.

“This is how I see it. (Insert declarative statements here) Do you see what I mean?”

It’s interesting that we use the word “see” when we ask whether the listener understands what we’re talking about, especially considering that quite often we are only using verbal statements or written text to express our point of view. Rooted in the use of the word “see” is an important notion. People really do need to see – meaning they must be able to visualize – what we are talking about in order to understand it. Real engagement and commitment – “buy-in” in corporate buzzword speak – requires comprehension on both an intellectual and emotional level.

This intense involvement is not always necessary, of course. In our professional lives there are plenty of situations where a worker simply needs to understand on an intellectual level what needs to be done. If I need to meet a client, the facts about where and when will suffice. However, if I’m meeting with a client to help them plan how to make their social networking initiative successful, then another level of understanding is necessary. They must be able to see, feel and internalize what I am suggesting, to visualize the concepts and interact with them on an emotional level. Without this additional cognizance, the understanding of the intentions behind a statement is reduced.


As we learned in the Socially Centered Leadership maverick research, communication that conveys intent is critical for employee engagement. A number of renowned business writers such as Gary Hamel, Daniel Pink and Jim Collins also cite the need for goals to resonate with employees, particularly during times of organizational change. This means that the language used to describe the change must help people visualize the change and how it will impact them. It must be powerful enough to engage them in the higher purpose the change aspires to achieve.

So watch your language! Draw a picture and create a connection.

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Let Me Show You What I Mean

by Carol Rozwell  |  December 16, 2013  |  Submit a Comment

Last week while I was out visiting clients, I had the chance to meet with a newly-appointed CIO. We met in his office which was adorned with two huge white boards on which he openly displayed the team’s priority projects and his musings. We chatted a bit about the importance of open communication and buy-in to successful outcomes.

I asked him whether he was getting any feedback from the team on the projects. He said that from time to time when people walked into his office they might comment on a thing or two. So I suggested that perhaps we might want to take his communication “show on the road” to get more input. By moving the whiteboard outside his office, any random passerby could provide input on the topic at hand. He could crowdsource ideas.

Today, he let me know he’d moved the whiteboard outside his office on Friday, posed a challenge and by Monday he’d started to receive comments. Even if this test doesn’t produce a “silver bullet” solution to the challenge he posed, it’s still a winner. He showed his team that when he asked for ideas and suggestions, it was not an idle request. He removed a potential barrier to contributing – the fear of walking into the boss’s office. And he showed them he has the courage to listen to any and all ideas.

This is a great story that dovetails well as we approach the end of the first round of the Digital Freedoms Challenge. As you may recall, Gartner helped architect the challenge, an exploration into how the five freedoms – the freedom to connect, collaborate, contribute, create and choose – are changing our workplace.

Please make sure to get your suggestions in by the end of this week, December 20. Just click on the link and submit your story or your hack.

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Category: Change management Collaboration Social networks     Tags: , , , , ,

Parents, you know this. They do what you do, not what you say!

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.

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Category: Change management Collaboration Social media Social networks     Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Are we clamping down on the wrong things?

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.

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The Boiled Leader – Digital Freedom at Work

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: , , ,