Monday, 22 September 2008

Culture 2.0: viral, beta, collective sense making, long tail-PART 1

Part 1: Collaboration and the enterprise’s DNA: a cultural mutation, as opposed to evolution, may be what is really needed.

By Leandro Herrero

Collaboration between employees as an organisational goal is hardly a new topic. So why is that today, when ‘social observers’ say that ‘collaboration is the real hot topic’ they do so without the expected red face of ‘déjà vu’. I’d like to examine what I believe are the key parameters that are driving a new enterprise agenda where collaboration is not just at the core, but ‘the core’. Consider these two corporate weather storms

Technology gone public

Storm one is what I call ‘technology’s gone public’. In the old days, email was a sophisticated communication tool that you had in the office, whilst a fax machine was something of a luxury that only sophisticated people had at home. Today, online, real-time talking-to-anybody-anywhere is something that everybody, sophisticated or not, can do from home whilst real time social networking (tools) in the office is something that only sophisticated companies have. Web 2.0 and the likes have shifted the collaboration power from the enterprise to home, from big IT departments to a free download from your bedroom, from training manuals to plug-and-go use. The new(er) digital generation of employees are ready to embrace social networking and mass collaboration, if only they had the same tools in the office that their teenage daughters have at home. Some of these companies do have Web 2.0 tools but they are stuck on Culture 1.0.

Continue reading here

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Whipping up a storm with disruptive communications

Posted by Lee Smith, co-founder of Gatehouse and chair of CIPR Inside, in his blog Talking Internal Communications

September 17, 2008
Whipping up a storm with disruptive communications

I've been reading Leandro Herrero's latest book, Disruptive Ideas, and he's got me thinking about the potential we communicators have to transform our organisations from the inside-out.
This book, which I highly recommend, builds on the thinking and methodology outlined in Leandro's earlier work, Viral Change, which I've discussed here before. It proposes a menu of simple ideas which could, if implemented in the right organisation and the right way, fundamentally change the fabric of organisational life - by changing the behaviour of individual employees.
Like Viral Change, Disruptive Ideas is built on the premise that at the heart of every organisation is a small group of highly networked people (change agents if you like) who hold the key to spreading change virally - like an infection. He sees organisations as non-linear and argues that small interventions (disruptions) can have a massive impact. Butterflies and hurricanes. Leandro also believes that the only way to change an organisation is to focus on changing individual behaviours; there is no culture, only behaviours. It's fresh and extremely compelling stuff.
The book itself proposes 30 such small interventions - 10 relating to structures, 10 to processes and 10 to behaviours. They are all extremely powerful yet exceedingly simply ideas.
Here are a few of them that relate directly to our own area of focus (you can read more about these in the hard copy or web-based open book):
Team 365: the team that (almost) doesn't meet - create teams that are 'always on'; that get things done without waiting for the monthly team meeting; that collaborate, share and take action in real time. Use meetings instead to create social glue - to talk strategy, to talk behaviour, to celebrate success.
Face it, don't email it - encourage face-to-face interaction; reduce email clutter; use emerging channels like blogs and wikis to encourage collaboration and reduce email traffic. Stop emailing people who sit a few desks away.
Less Powerpoint, more stories - switch from presentation to conversation mode; kill the slide deck; identify, capture and share real stories about real people doing real things
Go to source (and turn the volume down) - stamp out rumours quickly and decisively by going to the source; decrease the noise coming from the negative, vocal minority; listen to the grapevine; use facts to tackle half-truths.
These four suggestions will give you a flavour of Leandro's thinking and approach, which I'm right behind.
So what else can we as communicators do to 'disrupt' our organisations? If we are the butterflies of the corporate world (excuse the metaphor), how can we start the flapping that will trigger an internal hurricane?
The four ideas above are a good start - hinting at the massive potential we have to revolutionise the workplace. And there are many more of these communication-related interventions that we can drive and influence and that could, collectively, turn our organisations upside down.
I was interviewed recently by Sean Dodson at The Guardian and we got talking about social media as a disruptive technology. I hadn't given the subject much thought at the time, but I have done since. I have no doubt that social media channels - blogs, wikis, social networking sites, etc - can be used to trigger deep and fundamental change inside organisations. They can bypass the hierarchy, boost transparency, stimulate grassroots conversations, identify issues, give the silent a voice, reduce email traffic, trigger action. What's more, if adopted and championed by those all-important change agents, these tools could help spread the virus of change at lightening speed.
Building on Leandro's point about storytelling, I would also argue that injecting more emotion into internal communications has hurricane potential. Much of what gets communicated inside organisations (at least formally) is hard, rational and emotionally hollow. But that's not what how we operate as humans. We think, feel and do - and our communications should reflect this by ensuring wherever possible that it has a rational and emotional component - and, where appropriate, prompts action and behaviour change. Hearts, heads and hands.
Likewise, visual communication is hugely powerful and under-utilised in internal comms. The use of colours, icons, photographic images, charts, visual metaphors and learning maps can get messages through quickly and clearly, cutting through the jargon, gobbledygook, clutter and spin that too often dominates communication at work. Yet all too often we fall naturally into the habit of churning out more words, more bullet points.
These are just a few top-of-head examples, but I'd love to hear your thoughts....
PS- if you'd like to hear Leandro speak, why not book a place at the CIPR conference on Monday 29 September - see my calendar for booking details.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Why you should consider infecting the employees in your organization

Why you should consider infecting the employees in your organization

Melcrum event explores the concept of viral communication in the workplace.
After much anticipation, Melcrum hosted its third members only event in London this week. Members from all over Europe joined their peers for breakfast at London's New Connaught Rooms, to network and learn more about research into peer-to-peer communication in the workplace. The audience heard case studies from the new report Viral communication in the workplace, on how organizations including easyJet, Pfizer, Sun Microsystems and Deloitte have "virally infected" employees with enthusiasm and interest in process/culture change programs and various other new initiatives.

Members heard from 3 experts in this area of research:
Kieron Shaw, internal communication specialist and former head of research at Melcrum;
Dr. Leandro Herrero, CEO of The Chalfont Project consultancy and pioneer of Viral Change™; and
Nigel Edwards, UK internal communication manager, Pfizer.

A radical change in internal communication

Having worked on Melcrum's research reports from 2000-2005, Kieron Shaw (pictured, right) felt he'd covered every aspect of internal communication had reached all his conclusions about it. Thinking that there was nothing new left to explore, he went traveling for a year, only to return to what he called "radical change".
"When I left Melcrum, they'd just launched a new report called Top 10 New Technologies for Internal Communicators, which explained in very basic terms what a blog was and what a wiki was and so on.

When I came back a year later, I saw a radical change in the way people communicated with each other, and everyone was going crazy over social media. It was an exciting time. There was democratization of communication, and no more hierarchy," said Shaw.
"I saw a radical change in the way people communicated with each other. There was democratization of communication, and no more hierarchy."

He went on to look at various case study examples of viral communication being used in organizations, including the Deloitte film festival, which saw employees making their own creative video clips about how it felt to work at Deloitte. These were distributed around the organization and published on YouTube. The clips were used as a recruitment tool, as well as to build the employer brand.

Social media is not essential to viral communication Shaw also highlighted that while viral communication has been pushed or even facilitated by social media, the two shouldn't be confused. Like Novo Nordisk has demonstrated, messages can be communicated virally without any use of technology at all. The Dutch Pharmaceutical company created three "secret societies" to build influence and engagement. The communication team deliberately kept information from the workforce, bar members of these 3 small societies, who were under strict instruction not to disclose information – even if asked by colleagues. This secrecy aroused employee curiosity and interest to a level that a standard corporate email or strategy meeting would never be able to attain.

We've always known about the employee grapevine - so what's changed? Both Shaw and Herrero agreed that employees have always been talking, and communicators have indeed long been considering how to tap into their conversations. But they said that the tools that now exist make it both easier and more urgent to understand informal employee conversations, and pick out the key influencers to help spread messages about organizational changes.

According to Shaw, the initial message still needs to come from the CEO, but it then needs to be discussed, peer-to-peer, in order for the message to stick, and be internalized by employees. This, he said, is what the viral method is all about.

Make accountability fashionable

Herrero argues that employees communicate in clusters. He likened the way they influence each other and the way messages spread, to how fashions spread – by just a small number of influential people.

In an organization, it's easier to reach more people with a small number of influentials, than thinking that everyone is the same and will process messages from the top in the same way.
"Within organizations, we need to aim to make things fashionable. We want employees to think 'hey - it's fashionable to be accountable, innovative, and work as a team!'," he said.

"Organizations need to talk less and do more. The best culture change management program is where the words 'culture', 'change', 'management' and 'program' are silent."

Talk less do more Herrero ended his presentation with a key thought: "Organizations need to talk less and do more. The best culture change management program is where the words 'culture', 'change', 'management' and 'program' are silent."

Video diaries

Finally, Nigel Edwards described how Pfizer armed selected employees with cameras to make video diaries of how they felt during a major culture change program.
Ten employees were selected with geographical spread, job roles and seniority all taken into account. They were asked to record their feelings and thoughts in a very informal, frank and simple way, over the first three months of this change being put into practice.

These diaries were published on the intranet and also put on DVDs and distributed to the entire organization, just before a conference was held to formally discuss the changes and the progress so far. The whole concept was carried out in a very non-corporate, informal manner, with very little editing and moderation done to the video.

Trust needs to be mutual "We trusted this to grow and it did. The diarists were like soap stars at the end of the 3 months. Employees felt reassured that someone like them was going through similar challenges and difficulties during the change," said Edwards.
"The fact that we were confident about making their criticisms public within the organization, and were giving them the freedom to honestly say what they felt, encouraged other employees to trust the organization, and also to talk more about their concerns. It was also an extension of an important aspect of the culture change, to be rid of hierarchy and be more transparent and flexible."

"We were giving them the freedom to honestly say what they felt, which encouraged other employees to trust the organization."

But Edwards warned that if yours is a command and control organization, then you should probably avoid a technique like this. "There has to be will and freedom to operate if this is to be successful," he said.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Going Viral

Sue Tupling ( has posted this. Sue is a UK based comms specialist. Sue's business, Changeworks Communications, helps organisations improve performance and make change work through transforming communication and initiating behavioural change programmes

Going Viral
2. September 2008, 19:31

Whilst managers are important in the communication of change and in modelling behavioural change, they also play a criticial role in opening up dialogue within the organisation. Managers do not always have the coaching skills to open up coaching conversations, even less so to encourage those crucial conversations (instead of shying away from them). If managers can be coached to open up such organisational conversations, dialogue, involvement and engagement will follow soon enough.

Coupled with this, viral change is an innovative and highly effective new approach to managing behavioural change in organisations. Essentially, a small set of non negotiable behaviours are defined and a process to encourage and spread these behaviours is adopted. These behaviours are imitated, endorsed by a small network of people, and this spreads new ways of doing things, quickly and effectively. Its strength lies in peer to peer networks, supported by dialogue and conversation, to create sustainable changes and spread and internal ‘infection’ of success.

The approach, masterminded by Leandro Herrero, relies on the organisation behind the org chart. 75% of work conversations occur in the social networks and collaborative space that are active behind the scenes. And relies for its ‘infection’ on the small number of people who have LOTS of connections (we all know one of those).

Coupled with use of metaphor, storytelling, logical levels of change and other tools, this is truly a powerful way of changing culture in a positive (and almost fun) way within a few months (honestly).

You can find out more at the Chartered Institute of Public Relations internal comms conference. Go to our facebook event: