Author Archives | michael.murray

About michael.murray

An Associate at Booz Allen Hamilton, I am passionate about helping our clients succeed. I am also keenly aware of what social media can (and cannot) do for my clients, which have included the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Energy, and Labor.

My background in change management, social media, and strategic communications allows me to look at the behavioral side of the social media spectrum in order to encourage the adoption of these tools. My experience includes engaging stakeholders through social networks, wikis, blogs, micro-blogs, websites, intranets, and discussion forums.
To encourage adoption of these technologies I implement change management best practices such as developing a shared understanding of the problem and creating a guiding coalition to champion the change.

Everyone’s on Facebook, Why Aren’t They on the Intranet Too?

Thanks to all who came to my presentation at the ACMP 2011 conference – as promised you can find my entire presentation here!

In the fall I wrote a guest post entitled, “But I Don’t WANNA Change” about using change management techniques to encourage the adoption of social media within organizations. Over the past six months, I have seen how many people are interested in this topic, and I will be discussing it again at the Association for Change Management Professional’s conference May 1-4. One thing I have learned, however, is that even though social media is sweeping the world, that doesn’t mean your internal platform will engage your employees.

Social Media is Fast

Collage of social media icons

Photo Credit: Flickr, myretailmedia

Over the past five or six years we have seen a societal transformation take shape. Social Media has forever changed the way the world communicates. At the root of that change is behavior change; the idea that people had to learn to start doing something in a new way. There are always those early adopters (think Twitter users in 2007, Facebook users in 2004), but generally large-scale adoption of new communications tools takes years, often decades (think radio and television) – until now. Social media has raced across the globe in just a few years, with billions now taking part.

Social media has even had time to have what I call ‘nano-changes’ (nano as in rapid changes within a larger change). In the last several years we’ve seen a remarkable shift from blogs and discussion forums to instant update platforms like Twitter and Foursquare. There has also been a substantial move to mobile technology.

Behavior Change is Slow

A turtle slowly plods along

Photo Credit: Flickr, jhoward413

So how does understanding this information help you build a successful internal social media platform? Because to unleash the power of social media you have to understand human behavior. We are social creatures, but businesses that assume our social tendencies will ensure the success of a new collaboration platform are gravely mistaken. Why? Because they underestimate one crucial human behavior, we are social creatures AND creatures of habit. Change is hard, change is work, and getting people to change behavior requires significant effort.

These platforms often fail because:

1. They are poorly implemented and explained
2. Users don’t have a clear understanding of why using the site will help them
3. Leadership doesn’t lead by example and engage users via the platform
4. The tools don’t provide meaningful, updated information
5. They weren’t designed with the end-user in mind, so the user interface is complicated or confusing
6. They don’t continue to evolve

Here’s my take on each of these issues.

1. Solve a specific problem: A poorly implemented and explained IT implementation will always fail. (And make no mistake building an internal collaboration platform is an IT implementation.) My previous post has some detail around this particular issue, but one point reigns supreme: build the platform to meet a business need. Define the goal clearly and help employees understand how this new platform will achieve that goal. Is your goal to train employees, improve morale, or communicate more effectively to a global workforce? Define the goal, then design the platform to achieve it, and then communicate the hell out of it!

2. Clear vision: If users don’t understand what it is or why they should use it, it’s because the vision for the project was not clearly articulated. Take this example:

We are designing a web portal that through a user authentication process will enable simultaneous global interactions in a safe, behind-the-firewall employee collaboration platform.
OR
We’re creating a secure website where our employees can collaborate, share ideas, and inspire one another.

Articulating the vision is leadership’s responsibility, and the first step is to make certain people understand the critical elements. The second message clearly explains what it is, who it’s for, and what the benefits are, without using jargon.

3. Lead by example: If your CEO is still sending mass emails to everyone instead of launching the latest firm initiative via the new platform, then employees are receiving conflicting messages. Not only that, but if leadership is noticeably absent from the blogs, discussion forums, or communities created in the new platform then they are not reinforcing the use of the tool by modeling the behavior they expect to see – the employee thinks, ‘well the boss doesn’t use it, why should I bother to learn how?’

4. Content drives adoption: If people find the content engaging, informative, and useful they will return, if they don’t they are history. There are two parts to this: first, the content must be provided in an interesting manner. Don’t just post the company’s newsletter on the platform – make it interactive, use the discussion forum to determine the content for the next newsletter, etc. Second, the content needs to be consistently updated, which means you have to allocate enough resources to make sure the platform stays relevant and organized.

5. User first! It is always surprising to me how often the simplest (and arguably most important) issue is lost in the myriad of technical details – if the user experience is poor, they won’t use the site. Very few people will take the time and money to do a full, extensive usability review, but there are other options. First, there is ‘do-it-yourself’ usability that can be quite helpful. Steve Krug has a great book on this topic that has practical tips that really can improve any website. Another solution is to launch your new platform in beta, tell everyone it’s in beta, ask for their honest, candid feedback, and then (here’s the trick) listen to them! People are MUCH more forgiving of a new platform if they can see the site improving and evolving, which brings me to my last point…

6. Evolve, evolve, evolve: A platform that doesn’t grow with the needs of its users, no matter how well promoted it is, will ultimately stagnate and die. You don’t have to have a complete overhaul every six months, but you do have to continue to provide your users with more value. The other key here – don’t just add stuff, go back to your business drivers and add the stuff that reinforces those business objectives. Ask users what features or functionality they would like, and if it’s technically feasible give it to them.

Each of the issues above are core change management principles: creating a sense of urgency, articulating a clear vision, leading by example, and gathering feedback to continually evolve are all crucial steps to ensuring a successful internal collaboration implementation. It’s not build it and they will come, it’s more like build it, do all of this hard work, get them involved, and then they will come! But hey, better that than yet another wiki that no one uses, right?

Michael Murray is an Associate at Booz Allen Hamilton, where he has helped clients use social media to engage people around the world and in the office across the hall.

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But I Don’t WANNA Change!

How many of us have thought (or said) those words? Whether we like it or not, social media has changed the way we communicate and interact with other people. For some that change has been exciting for others it has been exhausting, but for anyone engaged in social media, they have already accomplished one thing – they have changed their behavior.

Clay Shirky has an excellent quote in this short video, where he says, “A revolution doesn’t happen when a society adopts new tools, it happens when a society adopts new behaviors.” This has become a sort of mantra for me – it’s about changing behaviors, it is not about getting people to use a wiki/blog/social networking site, etc.

I recently gave a presentation to a regional International Association of Business Communicators’ (IABC) conference in Philadelphia. The subject was using change management methods to encourage social media adoption within organizations. I was excited to share my ideas about something that I felt way too many social media enthusiasts overlook – the fact that if you expect people to adopt new tools, what you are asking them to do is to fundamentally change their behavior. To do that effectively within an organization you need to use change management.

Dr. John Kotter wrote a revolutionary book in the 1990s called Leading Change. The principles of that book can be found on his website, and what I like about them is that they are universal truths. This isn’t some convoluted graphic model that shows 47 change management processes running in parallel. (Can you tell I hate those?) These are basic principles about human and organizational behavior. It doesn’t matter if you sell shoes, computers, or services, these truths can help your organization transform.

For the IABC presentation, I took Kotter’s principles and applied them to encouraging social media adoption within organizations. During my presentation there were two key questions that really brought home the specific challenges people are facing.

“How do I get my boss to understand that we can use these tools to find new customers?”

Like any good consultant I answered the question with a question. I asked, ‘do you know what social media tools your potential customers are using?’ The answer was no. My advice to this person was – do some research. Don’t just tell your boss, hey, there are people out there using social media and we can sell products to them. Do your research and prove it.

Before you can complain that your company won’t engage in social media, you have to clarify to your boss that there is something tangible to be gained by doing it. Remember, engaging customers is good, but increasing customer loyalty, selling more products, improving customer service – these are ideas any company can get behind.

“My company launched a wiki, but no one uses it. How can I help get people to understand the value of it?”

This is a sad, true statistic – 68% of IT implementations fail. I asked a few follow-up questions, but the gist of the issue was this – IT built it, the communications team wrote an internal memo about it, and that was it. They expected people to just start using this new tool. Of course there were some early adopters (there always are) so the initial results were encouraging, but after a few months usage was way down and no one could understand why.

The answer was simple – you asked people to change the way they behave without giving them a reason to. You didn’t you answer the question “What’s in it for me?” but you also didn’t use change management. Expecting people to change their behavior without understanding the reason for the change or the tangible benefits to them is not realistic.

Here are some key principles to change management, derived from Kotter’s eight common mistakes:

Develop a shared understanding of the problem you’re trying to solve – remember urgency lives where problems exist

  • For social media the key is making sure you are addressing a fundamental business need. Is the goal to train employees, improve morale, or communicate more effectively to a global workforce? Determine the business need and get everyone to agree on it and then you can start talking about solutions.

Gather senior executives, middle management, and junior staff to be the guiding coalition

  • This cannot be a ‘top down’ approach. Gather support from each of the tiers within your organization by helping them understand how this solution will help them. Talk to them about the things that matter to each of them – don’t think one message will work for three different audiences!

Get the naysayers to participate in building the strategy

  • Be sure to engage the traditional naysayers (IT, Legal, etc.) and the late adopters in your organization early and often to address their concerns. You may just make them believers, but at the least you will understand their concerns and reduce their negative influence

Develop a concise and clear change vision – 5 minutes or less!

  • Employees at all levels have to understand what the change is, why it’s happening, and what the goal is. If your boss can’t communicate all of that in 5 minutes, how can he or she expect the employees to talk to each other about it?

Communicate the change vision over and over and over…

  • Consistency is everything – this is no different than any communications strategy. Analyze your audience, develop your messages, and deliver them in multiple ways consistently to build awareness.

Set small, achievable goals to gather momentum

  • Don’t try and do everything at once. Launch one component, get feedback, make improvements, and add functionality. This will show employees that you are listening and building this platform to meet their needs.

Understand this is evolutionary, there is no touchdown dance, just achievement of milestones

  • As you begin to get good news about early adoption, it is easy to sit back and relax on messaging, on rolling out the next feature, etc. DON’T – that is a sure way for the effort to ultimately fail.

Make the change part of the fabric of the organization

  • A key to the success of these enterprise 2.0 solutions is to embed them in the culture. Use the discussion forum to launch initiatives, use profiles to staff projects, use document storage as the only place to find materials. Make the site indispensable to your employees to ultimately have long-term successful adoption.

Remember this key fact – changing behavior is hard. How many times have you tried to lose a few pounds, quit smoking, or stop working on the weekends? Change is difficult for people, so you have to help them understand why changing their behavior will be a good idea for them. Make it about the individual and the organization – do that and you have a chance to really make a difference!

Michael Murray is an Associate at Booz Allen Hamilton, where he has helped clients use social media to engage people around the world and in the office across the hall.


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