Social Then. Social Now. #NewWaytoWork

Ibm_px_xt_colorWhile I’m certainly not a proponent of holding meetings for the sake of meetings there is value in getting together face-to-face with co-workers, colleagues or clients to ruminate, ideate, and, perhaps, innovate. Hearing a voice, looking someone in the eye, and making a human connection adds richness and depth to any working relationship.

That being said, the typical “team meeting” is not necessarily the optimal manner in which to accomplish any of that. Over the course of my working life I’ve attended my fair share of excruciatingly painful meetings and recently got to reminiscing about how – not that long ago! – the process usually went something like this:

  • The manager sent an email requesting agenda items for the upcoming weekly meeting; this email chain quickly grew to massive unwieldy proportions.
  • 85% of the invitees replied; the annoying ones used “reply all”
  • Based on the newly projected length of the gathering the manager decided to hold a ‘working lunch’ (11 AM – 2 PM).
  • She then sent another email asking everyone to choose a preferred food item (lunch to be delivered!) from an attached menu.
  • At least two team members responded (“reply all”) and reminded the manager of their food allergy and/or their need for a vegetarian/low-carb/fat-free option.
  • The day before the meeting the manager emailed the agenda to the team and, inevitably, several people requested changes or additions thus resulting in yet another lengthy email chain.
  • One hour before the start of the meeting the manager (or her designee) printed 15 copies of the agenda and all supporting documents (collated and stapled).
  • The meeting began at 11:15 (when the last straggler finally arrived) and lunch was delivered at 1:15 by which time all in attendance were famished. Despite agreements to end on time the meeting dragged on until 2:55 PM.
  • The next morning the cycle began anew.

Note: Naturally before the widespread usage and availability of email (i.e. back in the dark ages when I started working) these tactical planning maneuvers occurred through a combination of telephone calls and memos delivered via inter-office mail.

Obviously, all of this tomfoolery occurred before any actual productive work was done.

Lunch, however, was usually good.

Social Then. Social Now.

Fast forward to 2015 and the new way of working includes social workflow in an entirely different fashion. Organizations are using Enterprise Social Networks (ESN) to communicate, collaborate and work together in a whole new manner.

This is not just taking broken and ineffective processes and layering technology on top of them in some approximation of workflow optimization. Rather, incorporating ESNs and Online Communities in the workplace is about replicating the social and personal interactions that we crave as human beings while using technology to support and enable work. It’s removing the ridiculousness of that 3-hour team meeting yet maintaining the personal interactions and relationship building fostered by gathering together (even virtually) with a shared purpose.

While ESNs offer analytics, dashboards, and repositories for data and documents, many also incorporate video, messaging capabilities, and networking channels that promote real-time interaction. It’s pretty cool stuff; I was once part of a team that implemented an ESN to drive communication and cross-functional collaboration and we saw an increase in both the sharing of tacit knowledge and innovation focused on both short-term project completion and long-term planning and revenue growth.

As a member of IBMs #NewWaytoWork Futurist Group I recently received access to the latest IDC Study entitled: Worldwide Enterprise Social Networks and Online Communities 2015–2019 Forecast and 2014 Vendor Shares. If you want to read it (there’s some interesting information) you can download the report here with a quick registration. Also a shout out to our friends at IBM; they’ve been named the Worldwide Market Share Leader in Enterprise Social Networks for 6th Consecutive Year by IDC.

Bringing the Horse to the Water

Just because we build it – or implement it – doesn’t mean they’ll come though. Horse to water…am I right? If there’s a story I’ve heard many times over it’s “we reviewed products, vetted solutions, purchased a technology, and trained employees. But no one’s using it.”

Implementing anything new into an organization requires that a few key things occur; the initiative must be championed at the highest level while simultaneously being embraced and promoted by employees in the trenches who are gaining the benefit. Are change management skills required? Absolutely. Which sometimes becomes a challenge for leaders and HR professionals who, let’s face it, have often been the slowest ones out of the gate regarding technology; something they’ve viewed as inherently complex, frightening and creating transparency with which they’ve never been comfortable.

Remember though…those leaders and HR folks got just as nervous, once upon a time, about instant messaging, cell phones and email. (I have to go where and check what? I have to keep it open all day?).

Have you implemented an Enterprise Social Network? Thinking about it? How did you reinforce behaviors or promote new actions? What lessons did you learn?

Let’s discuss!

Note: follow IBM Social Business on Twitter and check out the #NewWaytoWork tour; events are scheduled for all over the country!

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