All collaboration is not equal - contexts for collaboration
In discussing challenges to collaboration or identifying ways to help individuals and organizations to engage in collaboration more productively, it’s important to be clear about the contexts for collaboration.
Knowledge workers (and this includes leadership) inside organizations have to span these contexts and must
Jean-Claude Monney, Global KM Lead for Microsoft Services and Louis-Pierre Guillaume, Knowledge Manager at Schneider Electric, gave ample evidence of the major role communities play in each of their organizations in a joint talk at KM World in Washington DC on November 7. Both companies see the strategic value of communities, and have comprehensive management, support and measurement structures in place to ensure not only community vitality, but business impact.
Schneider Electric is a global specialist in energy management and efficiency technologies with 25B Euro revenue and 160,000 employees. The company has 130 communities with combined 24,000 members and 150 community leaders - 33 of those communities have been voted as very active. Schneider Electric put in place a comprehensive program a few years ago - called Communities@Work, it provides a framework that includes communities working with charters, supported by a collaborative work environment that’s animated by active community leaders, and aligned to common strategic vision provided by a business sponsor. Communities at Schneider fit within an overall landscape of knowledge management that include other methods - such as after action reviews and formal transfer of practices and mentoring programs.
Schneider Electric looks at the value of communities in terms of a ‘return on engagement’ not ‘return on investment’ model, according to Guillaume. They look at various indicators of basic community health, such as adoption and participation using platform measurements and community event attendance. They also use the NetPromoter model to assess engagement and use a simple survey to gauge satisfaction. Finally they also invest in publishing and promoting success stories and inspiring anecdotes to underscore the impact of the community model. What is clear as well is that employees are tapping into the power of community networks to galvanize expertise and resources for business opportunity. In one example, a community member catalyzed a response to a customer proposal for a mobile electric substation tapping into far flung expertise and market insight across the company. In another case, community engagement was crucial to the bringing the right resources and expertise together to win a large health care project.
Schneider Electric’s program further ingrains practice and community excellence by inviting all 24,000 community members to vote and recognize the most high functioning, high value communities. Thirty-three communities were acknowledged in 2013 for their level of member satisfaction and robustness - which allows smaller communities to be recognized for value and impact.
Knowledge management is strategic, says Jean-Claude Monney, the Global KM Lead for Microsoft Services because it’s the effective leverage of innovation. For Microsoft, Monney says, knowledge sharing, improvements and reuse drives efficiency, innovation, predictability and quality, in turn driving customer satisfaction. Many people confuse innovation with invention, but he sees innovation in collaboration.
Monney sees community of practice at the center of new ways for companies to obtain increased returns on intangible assets, to create value, and to lead. At over 21,000 employees, Microsoft Services is the largest division within the company. Eighteen thousand of those employees are members of communities from over 100 countries. The services division previously had over 100 communities, but they have recently focused it down to 70 communities of practice in four domains - technical, architecture, industry and business (i.e., risk management, delivery management). Over 1000 of the members are designated subject matter experts and an increasing number of members are joining from other parts of the company.
A key to the success of communities at Microsoft is the re-alignment of the company’s performance management system. According to Monney, the company used to have a five point rating scale that would result in workers competing with one other. At Steve Ballmer’s direction a few years ago, the company shifted it’s approach to a new, three-tiered assessment model that looks to evaluate the individual’s own impact, how the individual has demonstrated sharing knowledge to increase impact, and how the individual has shown that they’ve reused knowledge to increase impact.
A remarkable feature of organizational maturity in their approach is the commitment to community facilitation and leadership. There are seven full-time employees who function as community directors, driving the overall program, with 70 community leads that have community management a component of their job.
They’ve also developed a community health index to evaluate community membership growth, interactivity such as content sharing, rating and message posting, responsiveness and liveliness. Like Schneider Electric, the Microsoft approach seeks out and acknowledges community performance. They have a twice yearly collaboration and community award, with 150 submissions or stories submitted. The award is a team award and has to be a customer story, calling out how many communities they engaged with, what IP they used. A reviewing team selects ten top stories with three teams finally awarded on stage with the CTO at an employee event.
Strategic leadership that shifted culture also played a significant role in the depth of community success. The CEO at Schneider Electric, Jean Pascal Tricoire, in 2012 prompted a question to all employees via a community "What if Schneider knew what Schneider knows?", essentially to foster awareness and dialogue on the need to increase knowledge sharing, collaboration, and the need to move across organizational silos. According to Guillaume, communities became one of the top strategic initiatives for the company. This past year an additional 30 communities were established to help drive collaboration in business critical areas for the company. Like the performance management change initiated by Steve Ballmer at Microsoft the leadership actions at Schneider Electric invoked significant culture adaptions.
In a review I did of Mark McDonald's book The Social Organization a couple of years ago, I said understanding how to derive repeatable business value from collaborative community is an important senior management skill to master. Both Microsoft and Schneider Electric exhibit real mastery in this important new management capability.
The Enterprise Social Software (ESS) market is predicted for robust growth over the next few years. Companies are embracing and adapting to enterprise social networks - some may be considering it as a first-time implementation. Others may be looking to unify on a single platform after an era when social popped up in different business units or geographies. Some organizations are perhaps looking to move from on-premise to cloud-based services. Still others are looking to expand their strategies with more robust integrations or to rev-up their initial adoption efforts.
No matter where you and your company might be on the spectrum - whether looking to introduce or improve your enterprise social efforts, you’ll find something of value in a new workshop my colleague Carrie Basham-Young and I are delivering at KM World in Washington, DC., on November 4 from 1:00-4:00 p.m.
Social and collaborative technologies are key to empowering employees to transform the way they work, interact, and engage, enabling companies to catalyzing product and service innovation and deepening customer insight and relationships—in essence redesigning the way business is done. At the same time, an enterprise social network is inherently “human,” allowing people to be people by facilitating with technology the informal social connections that already thrive.
Implementing an enterprise social network can also mean rethinking workplace practices and a need for new governance models, leadership skills, and transforming the way we communicate. Our workshop will help you understand the key elements of an enterprise social networking initiative, from business case development to ROI and value-measurement principles to cultural and organizational readiness, through use case development, leadership skills and engagement, social network analysis, governance strategies, and adoption planning and ongoing engagement.
Get a comprehensive view of key planning elements and useful tools that have worked for organizations big and small. Targeted toward executive sponsors of social initiatives, community managers, and technical leaders of social product portfolios, this interactive workshop gives you the key elements to develop or tune-up your enterprise social networking initiative.
Enterprise social networks (ESN) and related social collaboration tools have made their way into enterprises over the past few years. User experiences have evolved to be more intuitive, the environments have become richer with integrations and new capacities such as gamification to support engagement and connection, Knowledge workers have adapted to more collaborative, transparent work practices (see Working-Out-Loud) Managers and executives have begun to explore how to express leadership and catalyze broad collaborative purpose across ESNs. This shift to wider engagement with ESNs helps companies enable a more nimble and adaptive workforce and unleash and apply knowledge workers' tacit knowledge and experience.
Yet there is often an area that lags significantly in these networks - a consistent work practice of activating and maintaining a robust individual network profile. One of the key benefits of social collaboration is that it supports a sense of personal connection of the individual to the content and a transparent, conversational approach to knowledge sharing and work activities.
While engagement and work has gotten more social, the way people are known in the network remains bound primarily by a sense of orientation to a reporting structure and identification of the people in that hierarchical reporting structure by generic job titles. Profiles are often linked to corporate directories that pull in job-title, location and reporting structure information.
Let’s take Jane Doe in this hypothetical example. Here we see Jane Doe as a Program Manager and she is third-level down from the vice president of supply chain. She also happens to be based in Los Angeles. Typically, her job title focuses on a ‘grade-level’ HR category. Here the emphasis is on her organizational identity and reporting-based ties.
What you can’t see about Jane, aside from perhaps a profile photograph, is information about her active role and current projects, nor her background, her range of tacit knowledge and her social capital outside of the hierarchy.
Enterprise social networks support rich profiles with functions not unlike LinkedIn to expand the sense of an individuals background, expertise, and social and knowledge graph. Let’s take a look at LinkedIn Profiles to expose some of the meta constructs that now apply within enterprise social networks.
LinkedIn has become the defacto resource to develop and manage one’s networked identity as a professional. Using LinkedIn, individuals can construct and groom their professional identity - creating a sequential account of their ‘assigned’ roles in their professions, but also their own story about those roles. People can validate their expertise through outlining their credentials - education, licensing and certifications, and even include samples of their work.
Professionals can also cultivate social, reputational and knowledge capital - not only through their own direct connections, but by receiving role-based recommendations, affirmations of their posted content and skills endorsements. LinkedIn members can also demonstrate the quality and robustness of their network, and activate connectivity through social sharing, commenting, 'like'-affirmations, discussion forum participation and group affiliations.
The profile in LinkedIn is the launch point for developing new connections and reinvigorate existing connections. LinkedIn has increased the variety of prompted affirmations (work anniversary or new job notice, or profile views reports).
Individual profiles and their connections are now assets in the network, and can be activated and mobilized for intent. Professionals use it to find out about companies and jobs, recruiters use it to identify talent, sales people use the network to engage in a social selling process, and anyone can use the entire network to do big data analysis of trending behaviors, job titles or expertise. The LinkedIn service supports search, research, direct engagement and outreach across the network. New mobile applications such as Broadli are being developed to let LinkedIn users drive the activation of their own network with purpose. Many professionals use LinkedIn - there’s over 300 million users (67% global) and over 100 million in the U.S.
Let’s take a look at how engaging with rich profiles can make a difference in a work place
In this hypothetical example, we have two individuals who, for very different reasons, need to know about sustainability, labor and environmental practice in the company supply chain. One is helping prepare the company's annual corporate social responsibility report, the other is coordinating an international trade mission. As they search the company’s enterprise social network, they come up with a key resource.
Here's how Jane Doe's profile becomes a rich resource for herself, her work, and her company.
While the corporate directory lists her as a program manager, she’s actually managing the company’s supply chain sustainability processes. She works in a complex, rapidly evolving domain, and she's a primary interface to external industry and policy bodies. She updates her profile at least quarterly, describing the focus of her work. Jane
Her activity stream is rich with commentary and observations about her many trips to Asia-based suppliers (she’s in LA due to the frequency of travel to Asia). She’s a member of the sustainability and innovation communities of practice and knowledge networks inside the enterprise social network, and so she’s a great connecter to other resources.
For today’s enterprise knowledge worker, a rich profile inside enterprise social networks is not just a one-time ‘form-fill’ exercise. It’s a connected, dynamic resource for the knowledge worker who becomes an active network agent. Their profile becomes a launch point for knowledge sharing and networking. It reflects the multi-dimensional facets of assigned roles, activities, external and internal projects and it becomes an important resource for talent discovery inside the organization. It's truly a 'future-of-work' practice and skill to develop.
See also slideshare
A Network Mindset: Practical Approaches to Everyday Networked and Collaborative Behaviors from a talk I gave at Columbia University, April 2014
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A significant benefit for users and organizations who employ social collaboration solutions such as enterprise social networking (ESN) is that it supports a more transparent, conversational way of working, enables more visible communication flows, and asynchronous yet interactive problem solving.
Organizations and workers struggle to address burgeoning workloads, to be able to create group cohesion and awareness for joint project work among globally dispersed teams, and often use static document production and email to collaborate on work and content production. Important comments or inputs are often buried in fractured email alleys and dead ends.
One of the major goals of more social ways of working is to enlist and open up the tacit know-how and experience that people possess. Workers have often been trained that they must do their work and bring back finished products to a group as ‘deliverables’. They can be concerned about being evaluated on generated their own completed work product before they expose the work to colleagues.
Bryce Williams, a colleague at Change Agents Worldwide came up with a brilliant shorthand description for this social modality, in 2010 - he called it 'working out loud'. Social collaboration allows knowledge workers to 'narrate' their work and helps them provide co-workers and team members a better sense of the immediacy and context of activities.
There's an important set of dynamics that is encompassed by 'working out loud' that also engenders a new set of behaviors and interactions. Here's a view to the flow of these dynamics and key engagement activities and results
Transparent, conversational flow of work - social collaboration brings a more natural human, narrative flow to asynchronous group interactions around workflows and business processes and surfaces perspectives of people working together on projects or artifacts. The transparency and persistence of conversation threads in social collaboration tools let’s groups and team more visibly co-create content, and share and receive feedback, not just ‘in the moment’, but most importantly, in the current context of the flow of work. The structure of many social tools let’s groups more directly connect their content to a dialogue around the work with commenting, feedback mechanisms and tags.
Content awareness and accessibility - Social collaboration tools are designed keep people in the flow of work throughout a project. The experience in social collaboration creates an awareness of content changes and current conversational elements. People can get a view to this flow of dialogue and work by using activity streams, tags, or alerts to other mediums (i.e. email). This awareness lets people bring in immediate comments or insights, or references to important resources. They can see where content has moved along a work flow and avoid working on versions of artifacts that are outdated. Connecting content no longer means attaching a document in an email. New habits for working out loud include using the tools to create awareness - tagging, using affirmation signals (like button), creating and using filtering mechanisms in activity streams, linking other content into conversational flows. Developing awareness skills includes actively setting and modifying alerts and filter options.
Network-based group cohesion and connection - most social collaboration tools support ways for people to create rich and robust profiles. Organizational directories often simply features contact information, obscure job titles, and perhaps reporting structure. Rich profiles helps an individual create an awareness of their background, work projects, their social roles in the network (answers questions, subject-matter-expert). Bringing a deeper, richer set of information about an individuals experience and background can be used by teams to quickly orient to one another, as they move from project to project, gives everyone a greater context of the talents and expertise accessible to the team. The variety of interaction options also supports dynamic, open ways of connecting the insight and knowledge that people bring to the work process - sharing updates with microblogs, or comments, creating and contributing to discussion forums.
Knowledge building - as the work and conversations build and remains transparently persistent, access to group knowledge also builds. Important insights, viewpoints and problem-solving dialogue is not just retained, but can be viewed more relevantly in the context in which is was applied. The work flow process becomes a vital social learning process.
I've observed and facilitated these dynamics in companies I've helped and worked with over the last few years, and I'm using them every day in the with colleauges Change Agents Worldwide communty. I've seen individuals, groups and organization take up 'working out loud', to truly transformative effect with organizational agility, more relevance and empowerment in daily work experiences, and real business results.
This year's KM World (#kmworld) conference was titled "Building Collaborative Organizations: People, Platform and Organizations," and in the stories and talks at the event, it's evident that companies and organizations have moved past the vision moment to reaping rewards, tranfsorming culture and helping guide the way for other organizations. It's a combination of culture, leadership, models of learning, and effective adoption of social tools, underpinned with focus on bringing it all to contextual relevancy.
Culture - Changing the Stripes of the Elephant in the Room
It's a commonplace that each organization has their own culture, but in my experience it's often like the elephant in the room - people walk around it, see only a piece of it, even operate as if it isn't there.
Yet there's one thing that seems to be fairly common amongst work cultures around the world - disengagement. In a talk at KM World on November 8, Dan Pontefract, Head, Learning and Collaboration at Telus, noted the level of engagement is alarming low in companies in the U.S. - Aon Hewitt says engagement is only 20% - Gallup indicates 30% of American workers are engaged, with only 13% engaged worldwide. The lost productivity of disengaged employees Gallup estimates costs the U.S. economy $450-550 billion. What is engagement? "the state of reciprocal trust between the employee and leadership to do what's right however, whenever and with whomever." Putting social technology in the hands of disengaged employees won't alter the culture - and as he says, "without culture, there is no collaboration, no productive, positive or panoptic use of technology."
Telus, according to Pontefract had static, mediocre levels of employee engagement a few years ago. Under his vision and leadership, the company has developed comprehensive cultural models, processes and practices. Now the company's rating for employee engagement now the highest in Canada and in the top 1% globally according to Aon Hewitt. That culture transformation is outlined in his recent book Flat Army that addresses all aspects of company culture, from leadership to collaborative work dynamics to social tools and virtual environments. Telus' leadership philosophy is "Open, Collaborative, Connected," and embodied in fifteen attributes of the connected leader and "CLAM" the Collaborative Leader Action Model
Leaders are helped to develop their skills to become a connected leader and actively practice this mode of leadership. But it's also a participative leadership model with leaders contributing and not just consuming information, and becoming skilled at networking within and without their organization.
Telus has a connected learning model with formal, informal and social learning, and an array of tools to support all aspects of the model. Their Habitat social environment is a place for ideas, jams, photos, 'my sites', blogs and wikis (Confluence) and portals (Sharepoint). A virtual space, Telus Collaboration House (developed in partnership with Avaya) lets people gather and participate in a virtual world environment, and is used for 'fireside chats' and where all new employees go for on-boarding as they are issues 'passports' and acquire badges as they move through their orientation. Telus is also using SAP Jam to provide activity streams, video sharing and micro-blogging. Their company leadership program is now on on Jam, with 750 people working through a one-year curricula. Telus is also using games to help employees understand how they might interact in their company stores.
Building the behaviors and providing a range of participative tools allowed them to internally crowdsource their "Customers First" project which generated the top four promises the company was going to make and keep to their customers. As Pontefract noted this kind of exercise would typically be conducted at the senior executive team, who retreat for a period of time in a conference room, and then announcing the results 'fait accompli' to the employees. When Telus launched this effort in April 2012, they had 1100 team members engaged, with 1600 submissions, and over the course of six months winnowed it down to four.
The culture is the competitive advantage for Telus. What Pontefract and Telus has done is to make that culture explicit, collaborative, coherent, relevant and meaningful to all levels of the company, and to their customers.
Pontefract indicated engagement is now 83% after three years. He also noted that in the telco industry overall in Canada last year, customer complaints had gone up by 26% - however, Telus' complaints went down 27% over the same period, and the company did a two-for-one stock split recently. Now, Telus, like Unisys, is taking their insight, knowledge and practice to market - they've just created a Transformation Office to help other organizations with their collaborative culture.
Lee Rainie, Director, Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project gave the broad outline of the era of networked individualism we're living in at a talk at KM World (#kmworld) on November 7. Based on extensive research and now published in a new book Networked: The New Social Operating System, Rainie says it's a cosmic level story about how technology has turned people into networked individuals - a new social way of living in the world that substantively different from the basic social units of our ancestors. It's made information social, turned workplaces and is driving organizational models for the enterprise towards networks.
One impact that has been that many institutions have lost measures of trust in the world, (the exception being the US Military and local institutions such as firefighters, librarians and nurses), and that trust has shifted to personal networks. Trust is being transferred from big organizations, hierarchical organizations to personal networks. Influence has shifted influence personal networks - people rely on friends more for recommendations, opinions, perspectives for activities, purchasing decisions, political points of view, etc.
These networks are differently composed - they are segmented, pod-like and layered (we have many more associations, friends, aquaintances than our parents/ancestors) including being able to incorporate what Rainie calls "consequential strangers" - these are not strong ties, or even weak ties, they are now players in your network. People that call on you, or follow you, or that you may reach out to you. One's personal networks through social media, therefore, perform new functions - they become sentries, evaluators, and your own personal audience - as we become broadcasters, getting direct viewing and feedback for one's life happenstances and events.
But it is not just a technological story - there are other drivers towards networked individualism - changes in family life, divorce, delayed age for births, blended families (s different way of extending one's personal network). There's also significant business structures and labor shifts - freelance economy, increasing contingent forms of labor, crowd-sourced labor pools. And transportation and living patterns are splaying out our networks. Friends live in different neighborhoods, different parts of the country.
There are growing identify shifts - including politics and religions. Network individuals are cobbling together their political affiliations away from formal parties or views (they are independent). Forty-four percent of Americans identify with a different religion from the ones they grew up with - with 1/5 of believers claiming 'none' indicating that while they may feel spiritually oriented they don't want to declare a religion. People function more and more as networked individuals and less as group members with their social ties and events organized around the individual rather than a social unit such as a family or neighbhoord school.
But it's the big technology trends that put all this on fast forward. One of those trends is the pervasive deployment of broadband to the home with 70% of American households having broadband, up from 3% in 2000. People are now spending more time online, but not just 'consuming' content but creating and activating content in new ways - they watch more video tell their stories, rate and rank things, make comments and give feedback. According to Rainie, 2/3 of adults and 3/4 of American teenagers are now broadcast creators of content - this range of online engagement - responding to the world, contributing and broadcasting content has dramatically overturned the media ecosystem.
Of course there's the always the connected story of mobile - 91% of Americans have a mobile device, 56% have smartphones and 34% own tablet computers. There are more mobile subscriptions than members of the population of the U.S. - 326.4 million in 2012 (up from 302.9 million in 2010) -- while the population is 319 million.
This leads us to be hyperconnected - Rainie say. Here's the demographic breakout of participation in social meda.
* 61% of all adults
* 43% of seniors are on social networks
* 78% 30-49
* 60% 50-64%
* 89% of young adults
One of the trends of social networking in older adults is that they are reconnecting with ties from their childhood or youth - a factor Rainie calls "Restored Latent Ties" (or as someone mentioned to him 'Resurrection Ties'). And while older adults often expressed dismay at how youth and young adults seems willing to expose a great deal of ther personal life on social networks, he says that the older adult population are now joining health communities online and discussing a great deal about their ailments and medical issues, and getting emotional support and friendly advice and recmmendations from those interactions. People are also interactcing across generations - 56% of parents of teenagers have friended their children on facebook
The nature of networked information
If you've read David Weinberger's book Too Big You Know you know we're living in an information age that's different from linear created information patterns and practices. Now information is pervasively generated, consumed and is actively participatory, social and linked and becomes more personalized via new filters. Rainie noted a recent USC School of Business report that this trend is only going to intensify.
This will require networked individuals to be more discerning - and ironically due to the need to filter and focus on a manageable set of network ties, there may be more limited serendipitous encounters due to information overload. People may also be doing more horizontal reading - i.e., scanning, not finishing articles and filtering at a more horizontal level. The question becomes - are people living in information bubbles, only getting reinforcement from sources in that bubble?
The new social operating system is affecting the world of work as well. It's not about being in one small bounded group in a hierarchy. Many people are now doing simultaneous work on multiple projects, in multiple, distributed teams and with multiple "bosses" and heavily reliant on technology for communication and coordination. Rainie characterized this as moving from a traditional 'fishbowl' of shopfloor or cubicle cities to a networked switchboard model - where the individual is the orchestrator of things.
The benefits of this emerging model is that it can surface extra information, allows organizations to apply talents where needed, brings in mulitple perspectives and solutions, allows the enterprise to be more fluid and nimble and potentially more innovative, supports diversified, better decision-making. But there's also problems with trust, focus, coordination, loyalty, extra effort in managing a complex flow, and institutional memory lapses.