Monday, 21 January 2013

3/10 It’s about you, and between you (not us at the top, not the leadership team)


Un-managing change

10 lessons from Obamaland to the design of large scale behavioural change in organizations.  Viral Change™ in action series

 

10 reflections on the conditions for large scale change  as practiced by Viral Change™

by Leandro Herrero

3/10   It’s about you, and between you (not us at the top, not the leadership team)


In one of the multiple accounts of the 2008 Obama campaign, David Plouffe, then campaign manager , now senior adviser in the current 2012 Administration, wrote in his book ‘The Audacity to Win’ about the importance of the grassroots movement. This may seem obvious and indeed common to many campaign and political strategies. What was different ( and it is today) in Obamaland is the extraordinary emphasis in the transversal, tribal, ‘people like me’ (see previous section)  connectivity and collaboration. Put it simply, the message was a persisting, its is about you talking to other people like you, not about Barack Obama talking to you. Of course Obama did talk to them, and indeed with superb rhetoric. So they were not short of top-down messages. But the campaign itself de-emphasised that at the expense of ‘you and between you’.

The 2012 Democrat campaign outnumbered the Republican one by several factors of magnitude in ‘local clusters’ and their ‘local organisers’. The ‘total numbers’ were less relevant that the clustering and the sense of belonging. It was about ‘them’: those local communities, local offices, local groups and the communication and connectivity between them. Then, technology comes in of course to facilitate it, and indeed it did (the ‘republican technology’ was well behind and for all purposes failed, there is not nicer way to put it)

We in organizations tend to dismiss a bit this tribal (‘its all about you’) element in favour of, perhaps,  it’s all about the objectives, or the strategy, or the guidelines form the top or even the vision. Obama and Co also had objectives, strategy, guidelines an vision but seemed  to say, don’t get distracted, focus on that vision but it is really, really, really about you: how you discuss it, what it means for you, what you can do, how you can bring in others.  This may seem obvious to many. Usually these are the people who would say that ‘things have changed a lot’ and the new organization is really bottom up. Let’s call a spade a spade. This is the exception.

 In our Viral Change programmes we focus 75% on the grassroots, bottom up ‘people like you’ and ‘it's all about you’ engine of change and 25% on the top down messaging. Messaging is very important indeed but it is very easy to steal air time with messaging and forget everything else. Messaging is the ‘push’. Viral Change™ orchestrates the ‘pull’. The more protagonists the grassroots are, the greater the scale up of behaviours.

We bring technology in (if we can and) Enterprise Micro Blogging systems such as Yammer play a fantastic role in the tribal connectivity. Again, many people get fascinated by the technology and forget that collaboration is a behaviour not  technological feature. In other words, connectivity is not collaboration.

A great deal of the ‘Communication industry’ spends a lot of time on the quality, quantity, effectiveness, measurement, channels etc  of messaging.  For obvious reasons! But communication is not change or engagement per se and it needs a good ‘pull effect’ to expand and multiply the message itself. Top down communicating systems follow an attrition model: big at the top, small in results. A good learning from the political strategists of Obamaland is that no matter how much of top-down communication they could provide ( and Mr Obama did!) what really was going to matter was that transversal, local clustering, ‘it's really about you’, grassroots organizations. Obama campaign was extremely successful because it was not a campaign but a social movement.  Viral Change™ orchestrates these social movements inside the organization and in the macro societal world.  Oh well, Obama did not call us but  the Viral Change was published first  in 2006 – maybe somebody …

 

NOTES

Some of the differences between the campaigns and camps are well summarised in this Pinterest collection http://pinterest.com/infographics4u/2012-elections-infographics/

David Plouffe’s ‘The Audacity to Win’ was published by Viking in 2009

 
Viral Change™ is described in two books, Viral Change™: the alternative to slow, painful and unsuccessful management of change in organizations (2006,2008) and Homo Imitans, the art of social infection. Viral Change™ in action  (2011) by Leandro Herrero

 

Viral Change™ Global L.LP. PO Box 1192, HP9 IYQ, United Kingdom

+44 (0) 1494 730999




Viral Change™ is a trademark

Next: 4/10

Neither top down, not bottom up. Grassroots and polycentric

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

It’s tribal (people like me, one of us), reinvent the organization chart (2 of 10)


Un-managing change
10 lessons from Obamaland to the design of large scale behavioural change in organizations.  Viral Change™ in action series
 
10 reflections on the conditions for large scale change  as practiced by Viral Change™
by Leandro Herrero
 
[2]
 
Let me introduce you to Walter. Walter is a  91 year old World War II Veteran from Maryland  who can be found with a cell phone in his hand  in a video in one (or many) of the Obama campaign sites. He is fighting a new war. His ammunition consists of a laptop and that cell phone. He is in his house and is calling people from  a list shown in the laptop’s screen. I suspect neither the laptop not the cell phone is his. He is following a script (also on screen) and is calling people of his age (more or less). One of the first things he says after hello, I am Walter, is ‘I am voting for Obama’. I will deal with the significance of this expression of ‘intention to vote’ in another post.


 Walter is campaigning. He is talking to his peers. He is not talking to 20 or 30  year olds. He is engaging with people (from the list) who from the other side may hear and feel Walter as being ‘one of them, ‘somebody like me’. Technically (for us in the business of large scale change, Viral Change™ ) he is exercising ‘peer to peer influence’.

 The power of peer to peer is underestimated in organizations. Not that it is unknown, after all we all have heard or used the expression ‘peer pressure’ but this is where the ‘curiosity’ stops. People  don’t know what to make of it, and, incidentally, it always sounds bad…

Now get yourself a copy of the Edelman Trust Barometer. The Edelman company produces an excellent annual report on trust (organizations, industries, geographies…) and year after year, with some minor variations, the lowest source of internal organizational trust (for the purposes of ‘believing’ what’s going on with your company) is the CEO. Let’s be kind. It means the top hierarchy, not that absolutely charming and well mannered CEO who is on TV from time to time. The highest source of trust however  (with a glitch in favour of ‘academics’ last year)  is ‘people like me’, that’s it, people like you and me, one of us, our horizontal tribe, the ones we talk to everyday and talk football or cricket or baseball, take the children to similar schools, more or  less same age, ‘my mates’; you may be one rank above me or two, or below, but that does not really matter around the water cooler, or the cafeteria, or in the car park. My peers.

 And here is the beauty ( and the trick). If my super-Vice-president comes to me and tells me that we have to go South, I will say OK, and perhaps I may even ask why, but, I’ll go South. He thinks South is good. The CEO thinks South is good. The Strategic Plan says that South is good.  I am not sure about South. Actually I think South is a lousy option. Why South for goodness sake!?

 f you,  my peer, mate, water cooler friend, car park talker, school run share, last night football absorbed, tribal member, colleague in the same division, free mutual psychotherapist and somebody ‘I do know well’ comes to me and in the middle of a football,  or school or holiday or dreadful journey conversation say to me, ‘by the way, we really must go South’, my brain may be suddenly aroused out of the unexpected and I may even have one or two questions such as ‘ are you on something?’ but the chances of me believing that, at the very least, South is now a very reasonable, maybe even extraordinary destination, are very very high indeed, a few hundred points above the same message coming from my Super Vice-president.  I expected him to support South, I did not expected you to let me know your belief in South with the same sincerity as our twenty other conversations. Call it trust (Edelman does) or legitimization or comfort to me, South is very credible.

 If on top of this you say to me not only that ‘we really must go South’ but that you are actually going South yourself, the chances of me doing the same are even higher. And most of this process may even be unconscious. Our mind has a wonderful Reverse Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the neuronal system and we may even end up ‘really’, ‘seriously thinking’ that North was really very very silly after all.  Psychologists call this ‘cognitive dissonance’ which is a fancy name for saying  that we tend to produce comforting feelings to our decisions even if they contradict our previous thinking (‘I am terribly late, well the concert was not that good’)

 
The power of peer-to-peer is formally called to arms in Viral Change™ programmes whether inside the organization or in the public arena. One of the  sub-chapters of the book Homo Imitans reads ‘ youth to youth, granny to granny’ to make the point of this transversal power. Decades of traditional management have largely ignored this in favour of the top down, hierarchical, cascaded down tsunami of information and guidelines. In terms of behavioural change, and large scale behavioural and cultural change in particular, the score is Peer to per 10, top management nil. Obama campaign managers have understood this. Walter understands this. Walter is thrilled to be asked. The 78 year old young fellow at the other end does not mind to hear from Walter. Walter is,  at that crucial point of human interactions,  more credible than Obama himself.

Nothing in our traditional view of the organization let alone the supreme representation of the corporations’ plumbing system, the organization chart, says anything about the Walter-to-Walter mechanisms. In fact, they are ignored. The emphasis is you to your direct reports, your direct reports to their direct reports and so on.  Ditto in public sector, societal campaigns. Traditionalists work doctor to patient, social worker to dysfunctional family, priest to immigrants, and community leaders to gang members. Viral Change™ activists work recovered patient to patient, ex-dysfunctional family to dysfunctional, settled to immigrant and ex-gang member to violent group in the streets. Viral Change™ Activists 10, Traditionalists nil. OK, 1, or 2, or 3, in a good day.

In  Viral Change™ we reinvent the organization chart, we work with Walters and we orchestrate bottom up, grass-roots, polycentric leadership, change of ways of doing, fixing of problems, and  shaping of new cultures.  The CEOs, C-anything of our client organizations in Viral Change mode love Walters and are thrilled that Walters are the real leaders.  Obama loves Walter.


NOTES


The Edelman Trust Barometer has its own page at http://trust.edelman.com/

Viral Change™ is described in two books, Viral Change™: the alternative to slow, painful and unsuccessful management of change in organizations (2006,2008) and Homo Imitans, the art of social infection. Viral Change™ in action  (2011) by Leandro Herrero

 
Viral Change™ Global L.LP. PO Box 1192, HP9 IYQ, United Kingdom

+44 (0) 1494 730999

ukoffice@viralchange.com

Viral Change™ is a trademark