Tag Archives: cm

Are You a Corporate Rebel?

March 6, 2012

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One of my new favorite sites is www.rebelsatwork.com/. Started by Lois Kelly and retired deputy director of intelligence for the CIA, Carmen Medina, the site is meant to give corporate rebels a platform to share their stories and ideas and help more corporations and big organizations succeed because of (not in spite of) their rebels. 

What's a corporate rebel you ask? According to the Rebels at Work site – 

You hear about innovators in start-ups all the time. Rebelliousness and restlessness are accepted qualities of entrepreneurs. But what about people on the inside of big organizations? How do they blaze new trails and find ways to change business as usual. What are their characteristics? What makes them tick? How do you find them? Could they be an untapped resource for creating more innovative, engaged corporate cultures?

Good rebels also tend to be outstanding employeesThis idea of a "corporate rebel" has always resonated with me because I've always been known as the squeaky wheel, the guy who was never satisfied with doing something because that's the way we've always done it or because the boss said so and the guy who was never satisfied with doing what everyone else was. I've annoyed many a manager by acting almost like a three year-old at work, constantly asking why? Why not? And why can't we do that?  So when I saw Carmen and Lois' site, I recognized that I wasn't alone, that I wasn't crazy for trying to challenging and trying to change long-held assumptions and policies in corporate America. So when they reached out to me on Twitter to share my story being a corporate rebel, I jumped at the chance. One of the questions I answered for my rebel story was, "what advice do you wish someone had given you earlier in your career?" I said: 

"The biggest piece of advice I wish someone had shared with me is to be yourself and be yourself all the time. Don’t listen to the people who tell you that you have to talk a certain way or dress a certain way to advance your career. Don’t try to be someone you’re not just because you don’t see anyone like you in the levels above you. Understand the unique skills, experience, and characteristics that YOU bring to the table that other people don’t have. Don’t assume that just because you’re a junior level employee that you’re at the bottom of the ladder and you have to go up. Look at it like you’re filling a different role, an important role in the organization. You bring strengths to the table that senior leaders don’t – you’re not jaded or cynical, you’re still full of ambition, you’re more likely to take risks, you’re better connected to the rest of the staff, etc. Understand and properly value your strengths."

You can read my full rebel story here, but I would encourage anyone who works in a big government agency or a big company and finds themselves frustrated by the bureaucracy and the inertia of the status quo to bookmark the site and visit it often for inspiration and encouragement. Making change happen in a big organization when you don't have a "Vice President" or "Director" after your name is incredibly difficult. It requires rebels who know how to be disruptive without being insulting, who can offer solutions in addition to identifying problems, who can energize others others to follow, not hold other people back, and who are almost optimistic to a fault. 

If you're the type of person who asks why? why not? how come? what if? or can we?; if you're the type of person who just can't accept "because that's the policy" as a reason for doing something; if you've ever found yourself emailing suggested changes to a corporate policy to your boss solely because you wanted to, you may be a corporate rebel. And guess what? Not only is that ok, you're probably one of your organization's best employees. In fact, most corporate rebels also share many of these nine traits of outstanding employees, so if you feel like your rebelliousness is being punished instead of rewarded, I wouldn't worry – I suspect the job market for an outstanding employee is pretty good :).  

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But I Don’t WANNA Change!

November 1, 2010

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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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Do You Have What it Takes to Change Government and Create Gov 2.0?

September 8, 2010

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Image courtesy of O'Reilly Conferences on Flickr

As I’ve said many times before, Government 2.0 isn’t about technology, but what that technology enables. When the TSA rolls out an initiative like the IdeaFactory, developing and implementing the technology is the easy part (disclosure: my company has supported the IdeaFactory project).  When the GSA implements the Better Buy Project, getting UserVoice up and running was probably one of the easiest tasks on the whole project.  No, when a government agency decides to use technology to try to become more transparent, participatory, and/or collaborative, the technology isn’t what’s keeping the project leads up at night.  The hardest part of all of these initiatives is figuring how to change the way the government operates.

Managing change in the government is HARD, much harder than in the private sector. Leadership and, consequently, leadership priorities are constantly changing as administrations change. Because of this, employees suffer from change fatigue (if you don’t like how your department was reorganized, wait a year and it’ll change again), middle managers don’t invest in the change themselves, and leaders all too often push forward with their own agendas and goals, current organizational culture be damned. It’s no wonder we’re still talking about how the best way to create Government 2.0 – we’ve been way too focused on the easy part of this, the technology.

But if changing the government is so difficult, then why have some government leaders succeeded in bringing effective changes while so many others have failed?

To try to answer this question, Booz Allen Hamilton teamed with Harvard University Professor of Public Management, Steven Kelman to identify the common methods—the best “leadership practices”—used by successful government executives to transform their agencies and achieve mission goals. By studying 12 federal cabinet and sub-cabinet level agencies from the administrations of former President Bill Clinton and former President George W. Bush, the study determined which organizational strategies worked best for delivering effective, meaningful change in government—and which did not.  More than 250 interviews were conducted with federal agency leaders and their employees, career executives, congressional staff, unions, media, customers, and interest groups.

So, why are some government leaders able to innovate and reinvent themselves and others stagnate?  At this year’s Gov 2.0 Summit in Washington, DC, some of the findings from this study were discussed at the “Do You Have What It Takes to Change Government?” session. If you’re responsible for a Gov 2.0 initiative, here are some of the key findings that you should keep in mind as you attempt to change government.

  • Use a collaborative strategic planning process – This isn’t going to happen via a memo or directive alone.  If you believe that your employees will become more open or collaborative because the boss said so, think again. Involve your employees in the strategic planning process. Sure, it takes a little longer, but you’ll be surprised at what you’ll learn and your employees will have some ownership in the change instead of feeling like they’re being told what to do.
  • Develop performance measures – what does success look like?  Can you explain how becoming more open and collaborative will help your agency/team/department/group/division better achieve its mission?  Ten thousand Facebook fans isn’t a goal – your goals should be tied to your organization’s goals and objectives, and your employees should be judged on their ability to achieve those goals.
  • Be proactive in building relationships with external groups – Your agency doesn’t exist in a vacuum.  Identify other groups who may be impacted, positively and negatively, and proactively go and meet with them.  Talk with them, listen to them, and involve them wherever and whenever you can.
  • Re-organize if you need to – Assess the current organization and determine if you can achieve your goals within the current structure. Are there impenetrable stovepipes? Are there too many layers of middle management? Are there personality conflicts and “turf-guarding?”  Don’t be afraid to shake things up and move people around.
  • Focus on 2-3 goals – The majority of successful leaders in the study had 2 or 3 goals that were action-oriented and quantifiable. Unsuccessful leaders typically had jargon-filled, tactical, action-based goals that described the effort, rather than the outcome. Gov 2.0 goals should be focused on an outcome – improving customer satisfaction levels or decreasing FOIA requests by making more data available online, etc.  Unsuccessful leaders typically use goals focused on an action – “implement a new knowledge management system” or “use social media more effectively.”

Here’s the full presentation as it was given at the Summit:

 

http://www.whitehouse.gov/open/innovations/IdeaFactory
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Interested in Being at the Tip of the Spear? Be Prepared for…

April 18, 2010

41 Comments

 

Image courtesy of Flickr user Percita

Over the last three years, I’ve met a lot of people who are their organization’s social media evangelist, lead, POC, pioneer, ninja, guru, etc., and I’ve met many others who are aspiring to take on that role.  Hell, I even wrote my last post to help those people get started.  While it’s easy to get caught up in all the hype that often follows the people in these roles – the promotions, the raises, the invitations to participate in selective working groups, the personal branding, the ability to make your living using Facebook and Twitter – I’d like to take this opportunity to help balance out the expectations.  The following statements aren’t necessarily good or bad, but they do paint a more realistic picture.

So, if you’re itching to become “the guy” at your organization when it comes to social media, be prepared:

  • To be expected to know EVERYTHING about social media, not only about Twitter, Facebook, and wikis, but also all of the policies, trends, statistics, and laws too
  • To know who else in your organization is also involved with social media and if you don’t, why not
  • To encounter people who assume that because you’re on Facebook or Twitter while at work, that you’re never actually busy with anything
  • To justify the return on investment (ROI) of  all the time you spend using social media
  • To get dozens of emails from people every time a there’s a negative, controversial media article discussing the risks of social media (you should have seen how many people pointed to the Wired article came out showing how terrorists could use Twitter and told me, “see, that’s why we shouldn’t use social media)
  • To be always on, all the time. No matter what meeting you go into, there’s always a chance that you may have to give an impromptu presentation
  • To have people constantly asking you for your thoughts on the latest social media-related email/blog/memo/article/news/interview that came out
  • To justify your existence to your managers when there are organizations who outsource their social media for a few cents per tweet
  • To get inundated with requests like this – “I just read [insert social media link here]. Do you have like 30 minutes to meet with me so that I can ask you some basic questions?”
  • To see your work (even within your own organization) turn up in other people’s work without any attribution
  • To be told that “all this collaboration is great, but what real work have you accomplished?”
  • To change teams and/or organizational alignment at least once

I’ve encountered all of these situations to varying degrees over the last three years, and at times, I’ve felt frustrated, excited, nervous, entrepreneurial, scared, sometimes all simultaneously, but through it all, I’ve always felt proud to be on the cutting edge of changes that need to be made. I’ve never wondered if it was worth it, and I can definitely say that I’ve always felt challenged and stimulated through it all.

If you’re considering being at the tip of the social media spear within your organization, make sure that you’re prepared…for everything.

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