I had a blast presenting at the Headstart Morning Seminar as part of Internet Week Denmark, hosted in Aarhus this week. Since we have blogged about the major ideas I covered before here and here, I thought I would instead draw inspiration from the questions and reactions to the presentation that came after the session.
Although you mentioned plenty of case studies, there were no particular social tools mentioned. Which ones do you see most often in the enterprise and which ones are the best platforms for digital transformation?
The truth is that we have finally reached a point where the technology no longer defines what we can achieve in terms of digital transformation. Sure, the user expereince could be better, and integrating with other systems is a key success factor, but from the big platforms like Jive & IBM Connections, to the smaller point solutions like SlackHQ and Atlassian’s Confluence, what matters is that the organisation’s collaborative signature is matched by the underpinning technology that they have chosen. Once a company has embedded social technology in the flow of work (rather than leaving it above the flow, focused only on communicating better), then it is time to focus on enabling structures, cultures and practices that allow people to ‘Get Things Done’.
What is the impact of this kind of transformation on the role of leadership? How do you convince leadership that it is a good course of action?
Leadership involvement is an effective way of encouraging employees to adopt social collaboration platforms, new ways of working and new structures, but it also risks reinforcing some of the mindset and behaviours that these projects are trying to overcome.
Too often, senior leaders use social as megaphones to push one-way communications about things that have already happened, rather than to consult on what should happen, which gives little opportunity for employees to share their own insights and ideas, or to build on what others are saying or doing on social channels. We have seen many instances, especially where companies are only using a basic ESN such as Yammer and a CEO blog post brings people to the platform, only to comment “well done!’ or “great!” rather than engage in discussion.
It takes courage from leadership, and perhaps some coaching in new ideas and support to embrace new ways of engaging, but the potential rewards are huge – an internal social platform can enable a leader to develop a greater presence and level of influence within the whole network.
What about leaders in the public arena – how can your ideas about new structures change how they engage?
Just as leaders in big corporations need to adjust to the new role they have as their organisations move away from slothful, bureaucratic hierarchies towards flatter, leaner structures with new ways of working, so too leaders in the public arena will have to undertake a similar journey. Balancing the advantages of faster decision-making against the dangers of “group think” and developing a more conscious approach to leadership can bring benefits within the public arena where high levels of responsiveness are rewarded.
The role of marketing teams in digital transformation
As a marketing department, what can I do to bring my colleagues closer to the customer feedback? They never engage with the questions we get from social media, always telling us to refer customers back to the website. What would your first step be?
It is common for marketing teams to end up in this situation, since they sit at the edge of the organisation, and act as a conduit for the intelligence available from the marketplace, customers and prospects. This means that they should be key participants in helping to drive digital transformation throughout the business. But in reality, as they are sometimes not embedded in the mainstream of the organisation, or are not part of the operational business units, the intelligence they gather often doesn’t make it to those who need it. When you find yourself in this situation, the first step should always be to form an evidence base of stories, and where possible sustantiate the stories with data. Story-telling is a key skill for those wishing to influence the direction of the organisation, and should be seen as an extension of existing capabilities for the marketing team, rather than a brand new skill.
Follow on: After getting them interested and engaged in the feedback we get on social media, how can we begin to operate in a more connected way inside?
Creating a feedback mechanism, and a nominated person within each operating area, whose role it is to receive and triage the intelligence generated by social media can help to create more ownership of, and interest in, the customer voice. We have run a number of workshops around this challenge – what we call ‘Organising for Social’ – and a deeper description of our approach can be found here.
An area of overlap between the projects presented by Made by Many at the Headstart event and the work we do here at Postshift is the importance of incubating and enabling new teams rather than only pursuing conventional consulting work.
We have already written about our move away from the traditional consulting model to take on an enabling role. But we also know that incubating teams to grow new capabilities (be they in innovation, product or service design or new ways of working) is a tricky business. The auto-immune system of an organisation can kill off new practices that look or feel unfamiliar. We have developed a number of techniques to combat this autonomic reaction, which can be summarised as follows:
- find existing islands of good networked practice, and link the newly incubated team to them as an anchor;
- create a protected space for them to operate in;
- build a sustainable ecosystem of networked conatcts inside and outside of their existing team structure to ensure they have the support they need, one way or another;
- create a clear motivation and incentive structure to ensure that cross-competing priorities are minimised; and,
- give leadership the confidence to allow the new ways of working to operate under aircover until they are properly embedded.
It has a number of similarlities to the conditions found during M&A integration, and some of the advice and guidance on integrating teams during and after M&A can be usefully applied to incubated teams too.
Overall, from the questions and discussions after the session, digital trasnforamtion is clearly a hot topic for many organisations in Denmark as elsewhere, although few have begun to tackle it in anything more than a few discreet, pilot-sized pockets.
We’d love to talk to anyone with an interest in any of the topics mentioned above, especially is you are facing some of the challenges I have described. Please get in touch!