Do you really want to ‘break down’ the silos?

October 13, 2012 § 8 Comments

Many companies restructure departments or indeed the business because they see dysfunctional behaviour and put it down to their current structure, with the silos driving that behaviour.

There was a purpose to creating your silos

My question is; should they be destroying silos, or simply breaking down the behavior that inhibits sharing of knowledge and collaboration between the silos?

Silos are often seen as a major problem in organisations, however, like most things, they are more complex than that. Silos in organizational structures are a deliberate action to deliver a focused dedicated group of people who are working towards a specific goal.

The downside for many organisations is that an unintended consequence of these silos is that this dedicated group becomes isolated from other areas in the organization or even the customer.  This perceived or in fact real isolation generates the bad publicity that most of us see about silos, further reinforcing negative perceptions such as: refusing to share, cowboys etc.

To ensure clarity of the real problem there are a couple of questions that need to be asked before you head down a path of fixing what is seen as broken.

  • Firstly consider what was the objective in creating silos in the first place?
  • Then consider what is your objective in breaking down silos? What are you actually trying to achieve?

Once you are clear on these you can then begin to understand how you might approach this.

Don’t fall for the mistake of a restructure as your solution if what you need is silos to collaborate and share knowledge. Especially when you still require them to focus on their core objective. Solid data tells us that 70% or more of change initiatives fail so you don’t want to be introducing major change like a restructure in your company unless that is the best solution.  You want to make sure you get the best RIO for what ever it is you decide to do.

Thanks to for the image

Consider facilitating the business requirement that you want, alternatives such as Communities of Practice, Peer Assist activities, Site Visits to explore activities or processes and systems within the different groups, are all solutions designed to address the business requirement of dysfunctional silos.  They are also a hell of a lot cheaper than a restructure. Helping the silos understand how their work flows interact and impact with other silos is key, take them on the journey of how the different areas and roles connect and the inter dependencies they create. These and other such activities, some facilitated, some not, are all best practice ways to generate understanding, create a common language, suspend judgment and build trust.

The best way to achieve this outcome is to involve the people themselves in understanding the problem and coming up with the solution.  A great tool that I have used to assist in achieving the engagement and commitment necessary to set the direction for success in collaborating across silos is the Reverse Brainstorm.

Of course the obvious enabler for the mix in todays connected society is social media. Unless you want to make a mistake many organisations fall for, don’t just include it in the equation without proper consideration of how it will enable your outcome.

Once these factors are introduced into the equation, if you enable and nurture the ongoing dialogue you can build a richer understanding of the benefit of collaboration and sharing, which will deliver energetic interaction across silos.

8 reasons why Social Media fails in organisations Part 3: no understanding of Culture, Communitites and Barriers

August 8, 2011 § 8 Comments

Following on from my previous post on the topic of 8 reasons why Social Media fails in organisations Part 1: No Strategy, Governance or Ownership and 8 reasons why Social Media fails in organisations – Part 2- Business Requirements and Resourcing how to get it right it is now time to visit the last post of this series. No understanding of Culture, Communities and Barriers in organisations, and what can we do about that.

These topics may be last but they certainly are not least.

6/ Fail to understand their culture – so we know that 70% of change initiatives fail ,we also know that if you bring in culture that figure rises to 90%.  What that tells me is that we still don’t understand much about culture in organisations today. That being said, it seems many organisations are still falling into the trap of using the same old approach that failed with their other projects when they are introducing Social Media. I would like to have a conversation here about helping them try to do it differently.

It seems to me that there are a few things that Leaders in organisations could begin with that could chanSolution looking for a problemge the dynamic and key to this is to find out what is the culture already in this area.  Most organisations have it happening already and so if you find out where it is occurring organically it will help you understand where the opportunities are. Remember it is not about a solution looking for a problem.

Some tips to begin your inquiry include:

  • Involving your people in the dialogue before, during & after,
  • Research what they are already doing in this space,
  • Don’t assume based on demographic data that it wont be relevant for them.  Check out stats on these infographics about demographics.

Would love to hear some more tips that people have found helpful in this space.

7/ Fail to nurture the communities – Social Media has this title because it is inherently social, both in how it is developed and used. To often they are set up like a project, prescribed process, ticking boxes and allocating tasks they often over structure and smother what could otherwise be a thriving community. There is more than enough anecdotal evidence around today to safely say your Social Media communities flourish best when they are stewarded effectively and treated like a garden. Nancy White has some great experience to share about this environment.

Basically there are some key things that you can do

Let them know that support is there if they need it and then get out of their way.  Keep in touch to make sure you have the opportunity to learn from them and share their successes.

8/ Fail to understand the Barriers – It is important that practitioners find ways to assist the leaders in our companies to see ways around the barriers and explore the possibilities of Social Media. A great way to help you achieve that is to educate and involve leaders in the dialogue to help them understand how much of the hype is just myths.

When it comes to barriers to the staff adopting these tools companies today are looking to approaches like Reverse Mentoring to help them. Delloite have a digital mentoring program that is a good example of how it not only reduces the fear of the tools but also creates an opportunity for a reciprocal learning and trust building environment that otherwise may not occur between the staff and or  generations.

No matter what your functional role is, leading a collaborative Social/Digital Strategy development for your organisation is a great value proposition.  Involving your peers from other functional groups as well as the employees, especially those already doing something in Social Media in the company will maximise the chances of success for both the communities and business.

I am interested in your experiences and ideas on this topic.

8 reasons why Social Media fails in organisations – Part 2- Business Requirements and Resourcing how to get it right

July 27, 2011 § 5 Comments

Following on from my previous post on the topic of 8 reasons why Social Media fails in organisations Part 1: No Strategy, Governance or Ownership it is now time to visit the areas of Business Requirements and Resourcing levels around the introduction of Social Media in organisations.

Fail 4/ Don’t understand business requirements – We have all experienced the technology approach of a “solution looking for a problem”. This can be the CEO who read it in a Qantas magazine, the IT person who is passionate about wikis saving the world, or any other enthusiastically misguided individual in a position of power who thinks they have ‘the answer’. The biggest problem is so often they don’t know the real problem they believe they are solving. If you want to minimise your risk of failure you need to collaborate and include your people, your customers and your suppliers/partners in finding out what the needs are that they have.  Remember People first as in our framework from the first 3 reasons why Social Media Fails in Organisations – it is called the POST framework.

  • People
  • Objectives
  • Strategy
  • Tools

Fail 5/ Don’t understand or provide resources – Many organisations heading down the Social Media path make the mistake of enabling the tools and thinking that old chestnut of “build it and they will come”.

This is a recipe for failure that has been replicated year after year since we started to implement technology platforms into our organisations. We know that 70% of change initiatives fail  so it seems fairly obvious that we need to approach this differently.

We need to have a realistic understanding of the actual costs of setting up, engaging and nurturing the communities and networks to enable them to be sustainable for the short and long term. There are steps outlined here in our Social Media Field Guide Masterclass preview presentation to help you understand some of them.

Some other steps are, to build the project/change plan and budget for any new initiative like the implementation of Social Media, by clearly understanding the requirements and benefits to the Business. If we do this effectively we have the foundation as well as the ‘shield’ to protect the project should cost cutting come along searching for low hanging fruit. If you have clearly identified the benefits ‘that will only be achieved if implemented correctly with a strong collaborative change strategy’, you will have a much better chance of protecting your budget. Its all about demonstrating clearly managed expectations around benefits, timings and outcomes.

Some further steps that you can use in your project/change plan include:

  • Work with the people to set up the community/network,
  • Educate and clarify for the community roles and responsibilities necessary in these communities and networks,
  • Allow time for key staff members to establish, nurture and sustain the community
  • Keep informing stakeholders and managing their expectations.

Developing and enabling social media communities and networks internally is a relatively inexpensive way for an organisation to learn how to do this. We can then learn from those internal communities, This then enables organisations to leverage off that learning and connect effectively with the clients and partners that are key to the success of their business.

Just to test what was going on around support roles for Social Media, I google’d Social Media Co-ordinators and got about 15,500,000 results (0.14 seconds).  I am hoping there are a lot of internally focused people in this mix to ensure we engage our own people and apply those learnings where ever relevant

We would love to hear your ideas and experiences in failures and examples of how to get Social Media right in organisations…

Experimenting with the possibilities of Google +

July 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

There has been a lot of hype about Google + over the last few weeks.  Some 103,000,000 results in 0.24 second when i used a well known search engine to check the activity🙂

When Google bought out Google Wave I was one of many people who played with it and found it had lots of possibilities. Its a bit sad that they decided not to continue with it but hopefully they learnt enough from it that we will get to experience more of those type of tools in the future.  Because of the Wave experience some have been a bit hesitant to explore +, but i can only share my experience here and encourage others to get onboard and have a play to find out for themselves.

I was invited to join at the beginning of July and what with the other things on my plate i didn’t do too much about it. At a conference last week in Sydney I finally started to play with it and find there are lots of possibilities and would like to share some of the functionality that I experienced with you:

Google + circle

complements of Mashable

Circles – After a bit of prompting from the person who invited me i started playing with setting up my ‘circles’ – that is where you set up groups or lists of people that have similar interests. The drag & drop functionality here is pretty cute. Having circles enables you to chat or post comments to particular topics that a given circle is interested in, instead of ‘spamming’ followers with topics they find irrelevant. You can target your audience – say IT circle only, or IT and Work colleagues, or just everyone so you set it to Public.

Stream – this is where you post, to me it comes over as a cross between twitter, yammer and even a bit of a blog of you want it to be (all be it short term posts).  At the conference twitter went down, so Cory Banks (the person who invited me to +) and I decided to play with Google + instead. I decided to experiment using the stream capability as a real time blog post so that those who were unable to be at the conference could read and continue the conversations. You can make your own decision about how that works if you look at my slide share presentation on the speakers I posted on.

It has a +1 button which is obviously their answer to the Like button on facebook, seems to work fine.

Hangout – looks pretty cool, whilst the conference was on Cory went on Hangout and had a video conference with a couple of guys in different places in the States. He went on the chat function with his head phones on so he could hear them speaking whilst he interacted silently – ever the early adopter.

Huddle – is like setting up a group chat or messages to individuals – of course there is an app for that, have only played with that a little bit but it certainly has potential for collaboration

Of course there are other functions available on Google + but these were the ones that we explored on the day and i thought it would be good to share them and find out what other experiences people have had with this and other functionality that they have used.

8 reasons why Social Media fails in organisations Part 1: No Strategy, Governance or Ownership

July 18, 2011 § 5 Comments

Last week I was in Brisbane Australia having been invited to share insights that we have learnt in the development of our Social Media Field Guide Masterclass. I was invited to present to two different groups of practitioners whilst i was there, one was a group of HR and OD practitioners, the other a group of KM practitioners.

In each group there were a smattering of people who were fairly savvy on social media, the KM crew more so than the HR people.

Where I am starting to see the level of interest and need to know more growing in “how can social media be used within and across organisations to enhance collaboration and networking?” Some are even getting the idea of how to use it effectively to connect and collaborate with customers and suppliers.

One of the biggest hurdles for many organisations is around the HOW?  This fear of the unknown freezes many organisations into inaction or even outright banning of these tools. Sadly, many organisations haven’t worked out that with the mobility provided by smart phones, banning just ain’t gonna work, not to mention the distrust message they are sending to their employees by not even entering into a dialogue on the subject.

So to continue to engage in the dialogue I am doing a series of 3 blog posts covering 7 of the top reasons why social media fails in organisations. These are certainly not exhaustive so I look forward to hearing your experiences and examples along the way.

Fail 1: No strategy
When there is fear in an organisation around social media the default position is either not having a strategy  or denying it completely by banning or heavily restricting acces to Social Media.  No strategy may in fact be the strategy but best to be explicit about it. As people so often do, they find workarounds to enable them to work the way that makes sense to them.  The stats you will find in the slideshare presentation about the Field Guide will give you an insight into just how much people really like communicating and connecting with these tools.

One approach we use to make sense of developing a strategy is to use the POST framework. This structure helps you keep the right priorities and order in the development of your strategy:

  • People,
  • Objectives,
  • Strategy and then
  • Tools.

Fail 2:  No governance
The lack of understanding or belief in the myths around the governance of Social media creates many problems for organisations. It’s a bit Henny Penny really, when email was introduced many believed it had no place in an environment where people were working :s.  We know that email can be a real pain, but seriously could you have got by without email as a work tool?  Social Media is just the latest version of this evolution.

Companies like the ABC here in Australia are finding that their email usage is reducing with tools like Yammer on the rise. Many organisations fail to understand they already have the governance requirements in place to deal with Social Media. Where organisations have created volumes of what not to do with Social Media they have very low engagement if any at all, and it quickly ends up in failure.  The ABC Social Media Policy is a One Page document about what you can do (not what you cant). They recognise they already have all the policies and safeguards in place (we will discuss these a bit more in the Barriers section in an upcoming post), all they need to do is to help their people join the dots.  Another great example of communicating the Social Media Policy to help join those dots, is the Department of Justice in Victoria’s You Tube video. It’s awesome the way they have used the tools themselves to explain the Policy as well as demonstrate the possibilities of the way it can be done.

Fail 3: No ownership
So often the question of who should “own” Social Media in organisations comes up. I believe no one should own something as truly organic as the “socialness” of your people in the organisation. That being said, no matter what your functional role is, the opportunity for people who understand this space is leading a collaborative Social/Digital Strategy development for your organisation. It’s a great value proposition for any connected practitioner.  By involving your peers from other functional groups as well as the employees, especially those already doing something in Social Media in the company, you will no doubt maximise the chances of success for both the communities and business by modelling what it is you are trying to nurture and learning along the way.

I look forward to discussing more of the reasons why many organisations fail over the coming weeks. Watch out  for our upcoming posts to generate conversations around: Business Requirements, Resourcing, Culture, Building communities and Barriers.

Please join us in the discussion we are interested in your experiences and ideas of how to get it right on this topic.

Reverse brainstorms to kick start change

February 27, 2011 § 2 Comments

Stream of consciousness by jurvetson

Why are organisations consistently so poor at implementing change.

One of the reasons for this seems to be lack of confidence of how to manage change.- In organisations today we are very experienced with quantitive data but not so much with the people issues. One hypothesis (whatever the drivers) is management think it is their role to have all the answers.

Of course there are many more reasons why change fails and I would be interested to hear some of your ideas by comments via the link above.

Research on change management consistently suggests engagement and involvement of employees are key ways to shift from failure to success.  This has to be one of those situations where the term ‘uncommon sense’ applies.

The question for today is – How can we assist leaders to engage employees around the given change whilst generating commitment to the future?

Last year we developed a tactile tool that can be used with leaders and employees to assist in co-creation. Our short YouTube video will give you an overview of the cards and the principles behind their design.

To assist some leaders in change for sustainability, I recently conducted a Reverse Brainstorm session using the Change Management cards. I thought I would share the process and reflections here.  Reverse Brainstorm is a powerful way to unpack issues and build a way forward, the cards offer a different dimension providing content that gives a basis for conversations that need to occur.

Our question for the reverse brainstorm was “how do you undermine the organisational change initiative currently going on to ensure it fails?”.

The group of about 20 on 3 different tables selected their change initiative based on shared experience. There was a variety of experience in the room for people to draw on about bad things that happened to them or others around organisational change. The butchers paper was quickly filled with examples to undermine change.

They were then introduced to the cards and given an understanding of how to use them during the exercise.

Then with a pack of the cards per table they were tasked to collaborate to “build” a way to implement the change so that the issues they identified in the brainstorm “did not” happen.

They were not told how to do this, the group was experienced enough to provide their own structure based on the potential of the tool (Change Management Cards). With a less experienced audience you could create a more structured approach to use with the cards.

Group One looked chose to begin with the Joker cards and identified the key cultural or systemic issues that contributed to creating their problems. They prioritised and selected half a dozen Joker cards and went through all of the Tool cards selecting tools/approaches that they thought would be useful in turning around the issues identified.

Group Two looked at the issues they had identified and using the Tool cards worked out which tools may be useful to proactively ensure the issue didn’t happen in the first place. They also had conversations about the role cards and the importance of the roles identified to overall success.

Group Three struggled with the percieved lack of structure, (an example of leaders uncomfortable with people issues who see it as HR’s role and therefor avoid it). Left with that tension, they finally decided to use the Process Cards as a structure for their change initiative. They then allocated Tools (from the tool card suite) to relevant parts of their process where using them could make the most difference.

Feedback and learnings for the groups

There is no one way to change – each group needed to process and develop an approach that worked based on their experience and goals.

We don’t know what we don’t know – using the cards or similar resources they realised they could broaden their scope and have more informed conversations to identify appropriate ways to achieve their outcome. Also the more the people you involved who knew about the different dimensions of your business the better

Group three realised they did well in the planning and review phases of the process, where they struggled was in the implementation phase. They realised that their review outcomes were consistently poor because they really didn’t know very much about implementation and engagement.

The key insights they gained were about the possibilities of co-creation with their people, realising they could get a much richer outcome tapping into the collective wisdom of their people. This session also created an understanding of how to engage with their people and begin the process of co-creation.

What have you really signed up for? 10 questions to test your psychological contract with your employer

February 13, 2011 § 5 Comments

jour328 by Guillaume Brialon. Courtesy Flickr Creative Commons.

Recently the concept of the Psychological Contract has been bubbling up for me. The key contexts that it has been coming up around are for people who are changing roles, and where change is occurring within organisations.

To assist those unfamiliar with the concept I will use a basic Wikipedia definition;

“The psychological contract represents the mutual beliefs, perceptions, and informal obligations between an employer and an employee. It sets the dynamics for the relationship and defines the detailed practicality of the work to be done. It is distinguishable from the formal written contract of employment which, for the most part, only identifies mutual duties and responsibilities in a generalized form.”

What this means is that when we join an organisation, we get a paper contract. We may have conversations about the role in more detail, or not. We usually have expectations drawn from our past experience with organisations, our perception of the organisation we are entering, or just influenced by our own life experiences in general.  Very often it is the unsaid conversations that could clarify the contract (be it paper or Psychological) that would then enable us to understand exactly what is happening and if it is a fit for us and them.

I believe that there are a number of reasons why those conversations are not had and I have included some of them below, I would be interested in your thoughts and or experiences as to why you think they do or don’t occur:

  • perception of the hierarchy of the organisation and relationship to authority
  • management should not be questioned – this perception can be held by both the employee and/or manager
  • self image of the employee and their ability to voice their questions
  • the employee not understanding that the role and environment that is “sold” to them may not exist as represented
  • concerns by the employee based on the job market that they should take this job rather than testing if it is a good fit for their skills and values

To explore this as a change management concept today I will share an example of a psychological contract at the recruitment phase of employment, and in my next post I will explore one later in the life cycle of employment when an organisation is undergoing change.  The reason for sharing the two different perspectives is to reflect on how change or even perceived change can significantly impact the ability of an individual to deal with that change both at the time of change and into the future.

In our first example relating to recruitment, when a new employee comes on board its safe to say that they are keen to get on with the job and make a good impression.  If they join the organisation and the role and environment are what they expected, they are motivated and can get on with the job.  If however the role and or environment are different to what they expected or were “sold”, you already have a problem.  Their commitment to the contract is now influenced by the organisations ability to deliver on it. Some people finding themselves in this situation intuitively understand the concept of the psychological contract, of course they may not use that term but they know its more than a bit of paper.  At the point where this occurs they usually step back to take stock of the unexpected situation, and make a decision as to the fit given the additional information that they now have. Usually they then make a choice as to if they will stay or move on. This is easier for them given their perception that the contract has been already broken by the employer.

Others individuals who may have different life experiences, self image or personal circumstances are not aware what has occurred. Some may even have experiences that are reinforced yet again by this situation and half expect it to happen anyway. What occurs then is they often don’t go through the process of analysing what has occurred, or looking at the gap of promised/expected and delivered.  These individuals are still a problem for the organisation, in fact they are a bigger problem than the individuals described above. The reason why, is because they don’t take stock of the situation and they don’t process the fit and make a choice. They become prisoners within the organisation, and sometimes they find others like themselves and can create quite toxic pockets of culture that many organisations find difficult to deal with.

Recently a friend of mine was chatting to me about a role that I had recommended him for. He was unsure if he wanted to move from the life of consultant to employee.  He enjoyed his freedom to think and be creative and was concerned that an “employment” relationship may change that.

His concern was “what will i be doing when I get there?” Naturally because of his capabilities reflected in his resume, it would be reasonable to assume that the organisation would see a fit with his skills and experience and offer him the job because he was the package they were looking for. Or is that reasonable?  Unfortunately even though many organisations attempt to find a match so often this doesn’t happen.

We discussed the concept of the psychological contract and given he was in a situation where he was unsure if he wanted the role or not, it seemed the perfect opportunity for him to explore it in more detail and have the conversation that so many people and organisations don’t have.

The type of questions that you can ask in this situation include:

  • what percentage of the role will be thinking vs doing? is that percentage expected to change over time?
  • how much travel will be expected of the role?
  • is there scope for working remotely? what support is provided for this if any?
  • what are the average working hours expected of people in this type of role?
  • what type of budget does the role have?
  • what tools are used within the organisation to support the function?
  • what understanding and skill level exists in the immediate team? – in the organisation generally?
  • is the organisation open to innovation for tools and processes in this area?
  • is the organisation risk averse?
  • how does the organisation typically cope with change?

There are many other questions that can be asked and we would love you to share them below.  The interesting thing about asking these questions is that depending on the organisation, going back to them and asking them these things could be seen as refreshing and showing initiative, or challenging and taking a risk. When discussing this issue with my friend we agreed that if the organisation/manager was challenged by him asking these type of questions, then it probably wasn’t a fit anyway.

So the outcome for this individual is that he had the conversation, it was well received and he took the role.  The opportunity for him and the organisation is now to keep these conversations going to maintain the relationship and the motivation.  If the organisation cant keep up its end of the bargain of what is now a very clear “complete contract” (as much as is possible given the openness of both parties) then the individual will be able to take stock and make an informed choice about his future.

In my next post i will explore the Psychological Contract a bit further down the employment relationship cycle and look at how we create prisoners through poor change management practice.

I would love to hear you comments or questions about your experiences with this type of situation.