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Is a Business Culture Change required to find value in Social?

I wanted to get out a quick post based on some great experiences this week. The interactions were on many different channels; Twitter, Email, Skype, Phone, Face-to-face, Groups, Blogs…all of which make for great engagement, learning and productivity. Or, with so many channels to watch, does productivity take a hit? My approach to work has changed, a lot, especially during the past year. That drives the question is will everyone be as willing to make the changes they need to, in order to bring your business into the future?

A strong influence on my thinking this week came from two sources. One was a very simple tweet by @designthinkers (Arne van Oosterom) where he said simply “Change is synonymous to future”. A very insightful 5 word tweet. My response was “then why do people look forward to the future, but hate change”? I am far from a student in philosophy, I could easily get myself in over my head quite fast. This was my lead-in to the IDC Directions conference in Boston yesterday. Thinking on this topic during my quick jaunt from Vermont to Boston. The conference was very good, and for those of you on the west coast, you can go the 2.0 version next week.

The subject that interested me the most (and the second major influence) was the Social Business track hosted by Michael Fauscette (@mfauscette) and his team from IDC.  Michael’s talk was a fluid, well presented session on Social Business – or more appropriately how to get there. One running theme throughout his talk regarded the platform – no, not technology, the people. Another running theme was about culture, the culture required to enable a Social Business (a topic that will come up at SugarCon as well). Since ‘people are the platform’ does represent a change and will be required to move us into the future, how do we enable this change, without disruption? Or, as little disruption as possible.

I should be able to quickly bring these two thoughts together

For the most part, people do like looking to the future (no, not all people all the time) but, there may be a bit of hesitation. The reason; because moving forward often requires change, and very few people really look forward to change. As Arne correctly (my opinion) pointed out to me, there is the paradox. If change equates to the future, but people like one, but not the other, where does that leave us? When you say “change” or “change management” alarm bells, defense mechanisms and barriers get thrown up quickly. However, in order for people to accept Social Business or Social CRM, there is going to need to be a change in the culture within an organization – the whole organization, not just sales, or support. Without a change, then it will simply become about technology and we will repeat mistakes we have made before.

How do you help people get past the hesitation?

The answer is simple, really. Make your teams, your people, your platform part of the process – and talk about the future, not change. If you listen to your teams, they will in turn become better listeners. People are social, they want to share, then they will lead the charge. Break down silos, enable, reward and promote people being social. Why, because they know your customers and it the right thing to do. Being Social is a state of mind and culture, it is not about technology. Focus on establishing value for all the constituents of your ecosystem, and then things will really come together.



Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Kathy Herrmann March 5, 2010, 3:14 PM

    Mitch,

    IMHO, the reason why people like to dream of the future is that it’s filled with possibilities…most of which skip over the “how you get there” part. The reason people balk at change is because any change, no matter how welcome, is stressful.

    There are three keys to help a company embrace change and they’re:

    * Leadership,
    * Planning, and
    * Communication.

    Leadership – Must be passionate about making the change and promote it throughout the impacted organization. They have to hold the vision for everyone else.

    Planning – It’s important to first know why you need to change. You also need to know how much change your organization can absorb at any given time. Once you understand both those key factors, you can fully devise the best way to implement change.

    Communication – People need to first know why change is needed and it needs to be made personal to them, even if the change is more of a global impact. If they see a personal gain in some way, they’ll be more willing to make the necessary sacrifices (and change always involves a certain amount of that). Only then can the organization’s leaders have folks’ attention so they can communicate the process of what will be required. And lastly, lots of follow up communication, with information and kudos about attaining interim milestones helps to maintain momentum.

    In terms of social, many companies will need to make modifications to their culture in terms of focusing on colllaboration rather than internal competition. A key factor, though, is so many people are hungry to do this and participate. The harder problem for many companies will be gaining employee (and customer) trust that the effort invested into collaboration will actually pay off.

    If leadership is going to taut the value of collaboration, then they have to live it inside the organization and outside in.

    • Mitch Lieberman March 5, 2010, 4:44 PM

      Kathy,

      Thanks for the comments!

      I agree wholeheartedly on the Leadership part, but not so sure about the next two. My suggestion is that the vision for the future needs to be carried out, but that the vision is communicated in a way that does not cause the stresses associated with ‘change’. If the vision is clearly articulated, then the teams themselves will be able to tell you what needs to be done. These might be changes, but coming from the team is different than telling the team what to do.

      If the Leadership paints the vision of the future, a good team will tell you how to get there.

      • Kathy Herrmann March 5, 2010, 5:17 PM

        I agree and disagree. I do agree the more well articulated the social vision is, the less stress it will cause people.

        However, you’ll do yourself a disservice if you believe vision alone will alleviate the stress of change, no matter how welcomed it is. It won’t. Some folks might be anxiety free but that won’t filter out across an entire organization. Some folks may flat out disagree with the vision too, no matter how well articulated and you’ll have push back from them, which also contributes to stress.

        As for planning, I agree involving folks within and below the leadership team are important to the planning process and to relieving stress. Social business can carry all the complexity of “regular” business because it can span across all departments and no one is a expert in them all. Additionally, such a multi-disciplinary team helps generate excitement across the organization.

  • mikeboysen March 5, 2010, 3:29 PM

    I don’t think a business can do this with a leader who not only wants it, but has patience and can build a framework for taking a company through reorganization that has probably never been done before. There are a lot of traditional business hurdles in the way. It’s an intriguing topic. I’m reading a book on the subject right now called Reorganize for Resilience. Guess what, it has little to do with “social’ but it covers customer-centered business design (reorg) where Social CRM could certainly play a tactical role.

  • correlationist March 5, 2010, 4:21 PM

    Mitch – I think you nailed it!! That is all I have to say :) )

    Cheers,
    Prince

  • spirospiliadis March 6, 2010, 11:22 AM

    The notion that change happens in itself is wrong in my opinion. When you tell people to think of the future and to change yourself or your thoughts for that future, you instill a fear because psychologically your trying to change to adjust accoordingly to a future that doesn’t exist.

    Without going into deep philosophical thoughts, i think the matter comes down to saying to people, unfold and align according to the vision of the company.

    Here’s the vision of the company and align yourself to that vision accordingly to your attributes, everyday then becomes that future, you wil unfold new perspectives, unfold new thoughts, unfold new ways of doing things, each day then becomes present and not thinking of some future that will never exist.