Cultural change and developing collaboration capabilities

Scott Anthony – president of Innosight (see some of my innovation related posts over at bmid) – compiles some of the drivers needed for organizational change, based on a panel discussion he moderated with CEOs from Dow Corning, Eastman Kodak, Procter & Gamble etc.:

  1. The need for a crisis or some kind of “burning platform” to motivate transformational change
  2. A clear vision and strategy … that allows room for iteration
  3. A recognition that transformation is a multi-year journey
  4. A need to put the customer or consumer in the center of the transformation equation
  5. The critical importance of demonstrating to skeptics that different actions can lead to different results
  6. The need to over-communicate to employees, customers, stakeholders, and shareholders

While I doubt that implementing social software in the enterprise profits much from a state of crisis (we need some careful planning and concepts which suffer from too much fuzz, social software doesn’t help turning the ship around quickly – at least not in financial terms, etc.), the other success factors make perfect sense. And they’re people centered success factors – highlighting communication, leadership and (customer) relations.

So it’s kind of disheartening when Susan Scrupski paints a bleak picture and perspective of the setting, the context and the understanding of organizational change for enterprise social software (“Corporate Antisocial Behavior: the Enemy is Us“):

I once heard from a Wall Street executive that he was no longer permitted to use the word “social” when describing 2.0 opportunities. It made senior management uncomfortable. Similarly, if there is more emphasis on social than networking, our clients raise the justifiable question of employee productivity. When we talk about collaboration and breaking down barriers with earnest information-sharing and knowledge harvesting, the conversation is more intriguing. But, realistically, can technologies engender cultural change? That is the $5 billion dollar question that will be answered over the next few years.

It’s 4,52 billion USD by Forresters account (btw, I’ve made a long german language comment arguing it’s actually a lot more). What stresses me out is this “being uncomfortable” – this is strange: Management is supposed to be people business, it is inherently social by all accounts.

Well, here’s my answer to Susan: It’s the social stuff that makes “Enterprise Social Software” projects both complex and worthwhile. Technology is easy to figure out, while it can effect interesting and complex changes. And some technologies can engender cultural change:

the way I see it is that social software is both a driver and an enabler (or infrastructure) of organizational change.

All the while this changing of work practices, routines etc. doesn’t come easily. So I’m glad I am a subscriber to the Anecdote newsletter, because I learned early that Shawn Callahan, Mark Schenk and Nancy White have published a new Anecdote Whitepaper entitled “Building a Collaborative Workplace” (pdf):

Today we all need to be collaboration superstars. The trouble is, collaboration is a skill and set of practices we are rarely taught. It’s something we learn on the job in a hit-or-miss fashion. Some people are naturals at it, but most of us are clueless.

Our challenge doesn’t stop there. An organisation’s ability to support collaboration is highly dependent on its own organisational culture. Some cultures foster collaboration while others stop it dead in its tracks.

To make matters worse, technology providers have convinced many organisations that they only need to purchase collaboration software to foster collaboration. There are many large organisations that have bought enterprise licences for products like IBM’s Collaboration Suite or Microsoft’s Solutions for Collaboration who are not getting good value for money, simply because people don’t know how to collaborate effectively or because their culture works against collaboration.

Of course technology plays an important role in effective collaboration. We are not anti-technology. Rather we want to help redress the balance and shift the emphasis from merely thinking about collaboration technology to thinking about collaboration skills, practices, technology and supporting culture. Technology makes things possible; people collaborating makes it happen.

This paper has three parts. We start by briefly exploring what we mean by collaboration and why organisations and individuals should build their collaboration capability. Then, based on that understanding, we lay out a series of steps for developing a collaboration capability. We finish the paper with a simple test of your current collaboration capability.

Looks like an interesting read for enterprise social software (who really need to understand change management deeply) consultants.

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4 Responses to “Cultural change and developing collaboration capabilities”

  1. [...] role of social software and collaboration technology in organizational change management (”Cultural change and developing collaboration capabilities“) I want to add Charlie Bess’ view on EDS’ Next Big Thing Blog. Here Charlie [...]

  2. [...] an Enterprise 2.0 culture will have a negative impact”. Hmm, I am not sure about that, to me culture is a journey not a destination, and I’ve seen discrete applications of E2.0 technologies without the culture being ready to [...]

  3. [...] culture is more of a journey than a starting point, nothing bad about this – you may very well change your organizational culture with 2.0 as driver of change. Not all pieces of an organizational culture need to be in place for good [...]

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