Crumbling infrastructure - change or be changed

Change or be changed!

There is a lot of talk about how 20th century organisations need to change to be successful in the 21st century. And when we say organisations need to change, we actually mean people, as they make up and shape organisations.

Change is a process, not an event

Change is a process, not an event. It is underpinned by a learning process, as depicted below:

The learning process visualised

The learning process visualised. (Source: Author)

The end of the process may be fuzzy and thus be without concrete end date. However, the learning process is coming to an end once a person has learned a new skill, behaviour or technology and is first consciously and later unconsciously applying and using it. Traditional IT change management has always been about the changing technology itself. Change requests are raised for new features. Communication is tailored towards explaining new functionality. The traditional change management process is often part of an IT initiative with a defined start and end date. Becoming a 21st century company is not purely about introducing new technology. It is about new work models, new (social) contracts between employer and employees, new behaviours, a different corporate culture and organisational structures. Unlike technology, this is all rather fuzzy.

In the past ten years many organisations have experimented with new (social) technology to address existing business problems. Many of them focused on the technology aspect, some paid lip-service to the importance of behaviour and culture, though few really lived it. Changing technology is something tangible and can often be implemented by a project team. A business case is construed based on the most disputable facts. And of course, a start and end-date is set, ideally within a short timeframe to deliver results and be predictable. Organisations did themselves a disfavour though, as these projects did not yield the promised results. Many of them are now going through the Trough of Disillusionment, rethinking and redesigning the early initiatives. Other companies have been more realistic and strategic (holistic) about their initiative to evolve from a traditional to a social (connected) business. It’s not about implementing a set of technologies but about becoming a 21st century business. A great example is the Robert Bosch GmbH in Germany. Joachim Heinz of Robert Bosch GmbH presented the journey of his company at the recent Enterprise 2.0 Summit in Paris. What is noticeably different to other companies is the realistic and holistic design of the change process. Joachim said that it will take between 7 – 10 years. It may sound like a long time, but again probably realistic for what the company is set out to do and based on what kind of actual change we have seen in the past 10 years.

Change or be changed!

Change or be changed!  When you listen to the conversations between E20 practitioners in general or at the Enterprise 2.0 Summit in particular it is often like preaching to the converted. But then they return to Planet Earth and reality kicks in. People immersed in their day-to-day work life don’t see the need for change, are afraid to change, have other priorities. Change or be changed. While it is a true statement, it immediately creates resistance because it is seen as a threat.  Change is a learning process as depicted above. The question is whether we could and should accelerate the process. So I asked this question on Twitter during Joachim’s presentation at the E20 Summit and it evoked pushback from people, whose opinion I value and trust.

Could and should we accelerate change?

Could and should we accelerate change?

With its strategic and long-term programme Bosch is actively facilitating the learning / change process. In a sense, it is also accelerating the process. Maybe it does take 7 – 10 years instead of 10 – 15 years. What we should not be aspiring to is to let change happen, especially when meeting resistance.

A Change Acceleration Programme

We can’t expect people to simply change. At the same time we often can’t afford to wait until people are willing to change. In a recent client engagement I created a Change Acceleration Programme (partly inspired by General Electric’s Change Acceleration Programme) to plant the seeds for change. Based on an overall strategy it comprised a large number of concrete tactics, nudges and messages to help people change. Some of these tactics and nudges were derived by applying the Influencer Framework (Amazon) for specific people (CEO, COO etc.) and roles within the 40,000 employee strong organisation, others based on my own experience from other engagements or inspired by other practitioners.  The initial tactics and nudges were targeted primarily at changing employees’ behaviour from ‘working in silos’ to ‘working out loud’. The better you understand the motivation and ability of single individuals the better (and quicker) you can help them change and learn new behaviours, skills and technologies. (Shameless plug: 21 of my fellow change agents of the Change Agents WorldWide network just published our first e-book ‘Changing the world of work. One human at a time‘). Below is just a very short list of change tactics that were part of the programme:

  • Supporting key company events
  • Reverse Mentoring (Video; Reverse Mentoring at Bosch)
  • Email-Free-Friday / Meeting-Free-Friday
  • Flow of Work integration (Desktop, Mobile, IM, Office, Email, ERP)
  • Ask Me Anything
  • When To Use What Matrix
  • Before/After Scenarios
  • Card decks for specific roles
  • A day in the life of…

Sometimes, your posters, brown-bag lunches, user manuals and other communication and education material is simply not enough. You will need to find more creative ways of nudging people into the right direction and facilitate the change process. The tactics above and their exact content and approach depend on the organisation and should therefore not be simply copied.

To sum it all up, I believe we could and should accelerate change by facilitating the underlying learning process and influencing behaviours. For that we will need to zoom into the individual and group layer, rather than talking about big-splash change that is orchestrated only on the organisational level.


© Picture Credit: Christoph Schmaltz

Engaging the workforce

16 interesting event formats to engage your employees

Many traditional businesses are exploring ways to adapt to the 21st century and become social businesses. A social business is a fancy word for a networked business or connected business. In the end it’s about networks and connections and its radical impact and mindshift to the way businesses have operated in the 20th century.

There are various ways of building and strengthening networks, including employee networks within companies. The idea is to tear down corporate silos, strengthen the corporate culture, improve employee loyalty, leverage the collective intelligence but also to have some fun! One of the most scalable ways is the use of an enterprise social network or social Intranet. It allows employees to connect with each other based on joint interests and work beyond all departmental silos, locations and hierarchies. Whilst the introduction and use of such platforms comes with its own challenges, it is still the most preferred method for connecting a company’s workforce because of its scale and value.

But actually there are many other ways and formats of bringing employees together. Carsten Rossi from Kuhn, Kammann & Kuhn recently published a great list of online and offline events (German) that have the power to bring together employees from different departments, divisions, hierarchies and locations of a company. Some of them can also take place on or at least can be facilitated through a company’s enterprise social network or social intranet increasing its usage. Since Carsten’s list is in German, but I find it interesting and valuable, I thought I would briefly list the ideas and events in English:

1) Corporate Commuter App
This app facilitates connections among commuting employees and allows them to organise shared rides from and to work. (Author’s comment: SAP has already developed an app that could be used by other companies.)

2) Top Chef
Employees of a global company that love to cook can show off their talent in the company’s cafeterias. Local recipes can be exchanged and discussed on a Cooking Community on the company’s enterprise social network.

3) WorldCafé “worldwide”
See link to Wikipedia.

4) Corporate Quiz Duel
This could be first facilitated online and quarter, semi and finals could be held in real life. Format could be similar to ‘Who wants to be a millionaire’ or similar.

5) Film Series
Based on a rough concept, employees in one office location create the first part of a movie and then pass the result on to the next office location. Progress and discussions take place on the enterprise social network or intranet.

6) Academy on the road
Employees that are traveling to other office locations present in Pecha Kucha style a project or innovations of his own office. All presentations can also be collected on the company’s intranet or similar.

7) ExOlympic Games
Instead of the usual company’s soccer tournament, the ‘Exotic Olympic Games’ are held. Activities could be for example Stacking or Mental Arithmetic.

8) Sandbox Days (inspired by Google Creative Sandbox)
Every company needs to address some big questions. Once a year it could organise a Sandbox day in different locations, where people come together to find answers to those big questions. At the end of the day the answers are presented to all participating locations.

9) Crowd Choir
Based on apps like Crowdflik groups / choirs could meet in different office locations and choreograph a previously chose song.

10) Citizen Day
Employees can talk about their social engagement outside work. On the company’s Intranet they can showcase their work through stories, photos and videos. Other employees can vote on the different engagements. The one with the most votes will be supported in a next Citizen Day.

11) Lunch Roulette
Why always go with the same colleagues for lunch? An app could help to pair people from different departments and roles to meet for lunch to learn about each other’s work. This could also be based on interests. (edited 27 Feb: There is an app for that called Mystery Lunch.)

12) Skill Swap
An idea by Clay Hebert.

13) Tracksuit Day (I would add it to the list)
The adidas Group organises once a year a track suit day. Employees are asked to come to work in a tracksuit. They can then upload their photos or videos and others can vote on them. This takes place on the company’s Intranet and has been a great success.

Some of the event formats above are clearly targeted ‘only’ at creating a stronger team spirit.  But there are others that can yield more immediate work-related results.

1) Corporate Barcamps
Similar to public barcamps this event format brings together employees to discuss various aspects of a pre-selected topic. Aspects are discussed and presented in various sessions organised by attendees rather than by a central committee. An extension would be to include partners, suppliers or even a completely external audience.

2) Innovation Slams
Employees present innovative ideas within a certain timeframe. These are rated and voted up on by others.

3) Jams
Jams can involve many hundreds and thousands of employees since they primarily take place online. Collaboratively employees work on predefined questions and challenges. Most jams are time-boxed between 24 and 72 hours. IBM has been a poster child for jams.


© Picture Credit: Christoph Schmaltz

continuous_improvement

Corporate website trend: From single launch to continuous improvement

Summary: Moving ‘from single launch to continuous improvement’ is the ninth corporate website trend we identified. This post is part of a series of blog posts in which we look at trends for corporate websites.

It used to be the case that corporate websites were launched and then forgotten about for the next five years until the site was dated and another relaunch was necessary. Of course, content changed, but functionality and information architecture were hardly touched in between the relaunches. As developments in the networked world move faster and faster, a single big-bang launch every five years is not a viable strategy anymore. Instead, we will see continuous improvements to corporate websites, more exploring and testing of valuable functionality for stakeholders.

To ensure continuous improvements are possible you will need to make sure that you have an appropriate technology platform. One that can be extended and customised without compromising the performance and stability.  There are hundreds of CMS options out there, both proprietary and open-source, making the right selection a challenge. If you work in the External Communication department make sure you work closely with the IT department to select the right platform. However, you should lead! Previous approaches were often only a tickbox exercise. Some IT departments would tweak the list of functional requirements in a way that the CMS came out first, that would best fit the IT landscape, could be best supported by IT or was in use at the company already. But that CMS might not be useful and usable for content editors that need to use the tool on a daily basis.

It is highly important to avoid making the CMS selection a tickbox exercise only. A hybrid approach works much better. Together with IT draft a list of requirements for security, licenses, compliance etc. From that you can create a shortlist of relevant CMS platforms. In a next step document so-called user scenarios. These are scenarios written in plain English explaining what a certain user needs to accomplish. You create these scenarios based on interviews with stakeholders. Here is one example that I used in a client project:

Henry is part of the <Company X> Corporate Communications team. Today he needs to publish a news item on the corporate website. He has prepared the content in a Word document including text, pictures and a table. Once he has moved the content from the Word document into the CMS he searches the media library for relevant assets, finds a picture and includes it in the article. A widget shows him related content, from which he selects one item. As with all <Company X> related content on the corporate website the article needs to be in German and English. In addition to the version in German, Henry creates an English version. He saves both versions and triggers a workflow (optional) that informs Alice, Henry’s manager, of new content in the CMS. She receives a notification and accesses Henry’s article.

This is a very common user scenario for content editors. When investigating different CMS platforms, ask vendors or your IT department to walk you and your team through such user scenarios using the different systems. That way you will get a much better feel of which system helps you accomplish the tasks best. Too often vendors and IT departments highlight functionality that is not relevant to your workflows and thus makes the use of the systems just more complex and cumbersome. Concentrate on what you need the system to accomplish instead of all the bells and whistles it offers. For my client we decided to go for a CMS framework instead of a complete CMS platform. It is more suitable for the requirements identified, does not incur additional license cost and provides the client with a platform that he can build upon in the coming years.

In this blog post series I looked at a number of trends for corporate websites. Many of them require a substantial mindshift. This shift and its implications will take time. It’s nothing that will be accomplished and implemented over night. If you are tasked with the relaunch or further development of your organisation’s corporate website you may want to consider the  trends discussed and start pushing the envelope. Start with expressing your organisation’s objectives and corporate communication strategy. What is it that you want to achieve? In a next step, research in-depth your target audience and understand how you can attract but also help them. Consider the corporate website trends I talked about in this series and start brainstorming relevant functionality. Some of those ideas might not be applicable right away, simply because your corporate culture or processes are not ready for them yet. Start with the quick wins, but plot all ideas on a timeline. That way you develop a roadmap that can be used for the continuous improvement after your last big-bang launch of your corporate website. Good luck and enjoy the ride!


This blog post is part of a series of posts in which we delve into the trends for corporate website that we have identified. The series:

  1. From static to real-time information
  2. From text to active content
  3. From channel to canvas
  4. From desktop to mobile
  5. From single source of truth to the provider of different opinions
  6. From destination to platform
  7. From providing information to providing a service
  8. From company centric design to user centric design
  9. From single launch to continuous improvement

© Picture Credit: Duane Schoon

UN Security Council

A change tactic for helping your executive management to work out loud

Summary: In this post I present a change tactic to help executive management see the value of their company’s enterprise social network without risk and time commitment.


Many employees only know the name of their CEO and that he probably earns lots of money. That is not much to trust him as a leader. In large traditional organisations the executive management is often far removed from the workforce. Once a year the company might hold a town-hall meeting, at which the management team lays out the company’s strategy and answers employees’ questions. The rest of the year the Internal Communication department prepares and distributes updates on behalf of the management team. Thus, in traditional organisations there is hardly any interaction and communication between the executive management and workforce leading to misunderstandings, mistrust and potentially disengagement. How do managers expect employees to trust and follow them if they don’t know them?

An enterprise social network or similar can help bridge the (communication) void between management and employees by ‘working out loud‘. In a previous blog post I talked about why managers, including executive managers, should be using such platforms. There are many others that highlight the necessity of the C-Suite to become ‘social’ (aka connected!). In a recent post I also wrote about very concrete first steps for managers to get started with a company’s enterprise social network.

And yet, some managers may still refuse to use such platforms actively, partly because of different reasons or excuses, e.g. lack of time, unable to see the value or other higher priorities. But rather than just giving up, maybe there is something that can be done to ‘nudge’ executive management and accelerate the necessary change? Two ideas that go into this direction are  ’Ask Me Anything‘ by John Stepper of Deutsche Bank and ‘Open up the corporate ivory towers‘ by Daniel Martin Eckhart of Swiss Re. In both cases the goal is to make executive management more accessible and certain decisions taken by them more transparent.  The initial investment taken by the management is low, but the value that can be shown is high.

Based on a similar thinking there is a change tactic I call ‘One day in the life of…’.  The title is actually inspired by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s novel ‘One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich’.  Thanks to Solzhenitsyn and his remarkably detailed narration, the reader can get a sense of the inhumanity and brutality that inmates of the Gulag prison camps suffered. Whilst many of them were not able to speak out, Solzhenitsyn gave them a powerful voice in his book.

‘One day in the life of…’ in a corporate setting is (hopefully) taking place in a different context ;). The idea is to open up a world to people which they usually don’t have access to.  It can provide a glimpse into the demanding but interesting day of people that employees know the name of but not much more than that. This builds trust and probably to a certain extent understanding of why certain decisions are taken.

How can ‘One day in the life of…’ work? It should be set up as a campaign supported by proper communication and also educational elements, since it is not meant to be done just for the fun of it but to help people adopt new behaviours and tools! One employee is selected to follow a senior manager or C-Suite member for one day to meetings, lunch, events (whatever is on the schedule). The employee uses the company’s enterprise social network or Intranet during the day to keep other employees updated obviously leaving out any confidential information. It needs to be ensured though that there is no censorship by anyone, otherwise the communication becomes inauthentic and not trust-worthy and is perceived as yet-some-other-internal-comms content. The employee can use #hashtags to update his status, so others can follow the conversation, ask questions or ask the employee to ask certain questions to the senior manager or C-Suite leader. Since asking a question on the enterprise social network or Intranet is in most cases not anonymous, it can be assumed that there won’t be any difficult or inappropriate questions. Quite the opposite, it might be difficult to get people to post questions. That is why it is important to facilitate this process carefully.

What does the manager gain? Well, let me ask you: ‘What does the manager stand to lose?‘ A skeptical manager can experience the power of using such platforms with very low (time) investment. There is not much he needs to change in his daily schedule if anything. At the same time he can get to know the platform and how he could use it himself. It’s a supervised learning by doing exercise. More importantly though, the manager might be able to earn higher trust, credibility and better understanding among employees. And hopefully, the next time he will use the tool himself to keep his employees informed of what he is doing by ‘working out loud’. Of course, this idea is also valuable for further increasing the use and reputation of the company’s enterprise social network or Intranet. Thus, a win-win for all!

Enterprise social platforms allow for and at the same time require new behaviours.  It is a learning process. However, sometimes traditional learning formats like videos, presentation, brown-bag lunches etc. are simply not sufficient to help with the first steps. If your managers and employees don’t see the value or don’t know how to use these tools for their own benefit, it’s time to explore new ways of learning and helping them to get started!


© Picture Credit: Christoph Schmaltz

from_company_centric_to_user_centric

Corporate website trend: From company centric design to user centric design

Summary: Moving ‘from company centric design to user centric design’ is the eight corporate website trend we identified. This post is part of a series of blog posts in which we look at trends for corporate websites.

This trend does certainly not only apply to corporate websites. In fact, this applies to any product or service in this world.  To be successful any product or service needs to be useful, usable, delightful and accessible. You may want to add affordable, but in the end people are willing to pay a premium if the aforementioned product or service characteristics are fulfilled.

Useful – is one of the key characteristics to make a product or service successful. In the past, product and service providers often assumed that they would know what their users wanted. Even worse, in some cases providers never even had an interest in why and how users would use their products or services. Look at Enterprise IT. Most systems are completely unuseful and unusable! This is changing. New disciplines like User Experience Design have emerged. It goes way beyond traditional visual design and usability approaches, as it places the user with all his needs and behaviour at the very centre. The same is true for service design, which follows similar customer centric principles.

What does this all mean when you consider relaunching your corporate website? In previous blog posts of this series I mentioned a number of interesting examples from companies and how they have implemented the various corporate website trends. These example may make sense to those companies and their audience, but maybe not for you. Therefore, user research has become a critical component in developing new products and services. There are different methods of user research from surveys and interviews to focus groups or even observing representatives of your target audience.

One of the most common and scalable approaches are anonymous surveys like the one from HP below.

HP_Feedback

HP – Invitation to participate in a survey on the corporate website

Designing surveys is a science in itself. You will need to evaluate the number of questions, the conclusions that can be drawn from the answers, the time people are willing to spare to participate and many other factors. Many survey providers offer packages including for surveying visitors to corporate websites. This should help to get you on the right track and you can build from there.

An anonymous survey is something that scales nicely, is affordable and depending on the design of the survey and overall number of visitors can provide you with supporting data points. It will hardly be the case though that insights gained from the survey will drastically impact your strategy or functionality. It can either be used on an ongoing basis to capture feedback and learn about potential improvements or for the relaunch of the corporate website to gather additional data points to support initial assumptions.

Interviews are another research method that allow you to go deeper on needs and behaviours of your target audience. It may sound strange at first to want to interview journalists, analysts or CSR professionals. Besides, you may refrain from doing so, because everyone is extremely busy. That is true. But most people can spare 10-15 min, especially if you already have a connection with them (e.g. journalists that cover your company often). They feel valued that you ask them for their opinion. And in the end their time might be excellent invested, as the new corporate website should help them in their job. Thus, a win-win situation.

Best to label the interview as a conversation and ideally pick it up when you need to talk to the other person anyway. What is highly important though is that you do not ask ‘What functionality would you like?’. It’s a hit and miss. Better to allow your conversation partner to explain how they work. If it is a journalist, how does he get ideas for stories? How do they decide which story is worthwhile writing? How do they research the story? Of course you can also ask what they like/dislike about your website or what other corporate website they like. Similar for other audiences like analysts and investors, CSR professionals, career seekers, consumers etc. What you really want to understand is their way of working and where you could imagine functionality to improve their way of working and interaction with you and your company (including through the corporate website). From that insight you can derive relevant functionality and design the experience the way it makes sense to the user.


This blog post is part of a series of posts in which we delve into the trends for corporate website that we have identified. The series:

  1. From static to real-time information
  2. From text to active content
  3. From channel to canvas
  4. From desktop to mobile
  5. From single source of truth to the provider of different opinions
  6. From destination to platform
  7. From providing information to providing a service
  8. From company centric design to user centric design
  9. From single launch to continuous improvement

© Picture Credit: Felix Cohen