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.
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