After a nice Thanksgiving break, I decided to catch up on some Social Business research such as the recently published IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) study, “The Business of Social Business.” I will refer you to two great overview posts summarizing this study: Todd Watson’s and Adi Gaskell’s.
I’d like to focus my post on two main points that stood out for me.
- Organizations are increasing their investments in social business, but yet, they remain unprepared and uncertain, with 74% of those surveyed citing that they are unprepared for the necessary cultural changes and 67% saying they are unsure about the impact social business will have on their organizations over the next three years.
- Less than half (48%) of the C-Suite supports social business and less than a quarter (22%) believe that managers in their organization are prepared to incorporate social business into their day-to-day practices.
Building on point #2, other researchers, such as Andrew McAfee (@amcafee), Principal Research Scientist, MIT Center for Digital Business, also see the middle management layer as a “make it or break it” stakeholder group in a social business transformation.
In the Feburary 7, 2012 MIT Sloan article “What Sells CEOs on Social Networking,” McAfee is quoted as saying “…I also get the impression that there’s kind of a middle layer that has traditionally been the signal processor, both up and down, and some of them don’t want to see that role go away. The middle is very often a conservative place in organizations. The challenge is that the top can be sincerely interested, and there can be a lot of frontline people who are sincerely interested, but it’s what happens in the middle that can determine success and failure.”
So how do you bring Middle Management onto the success train?
1) The IBM IBV study mentions that it’s critical to incorporate “social” approaches into traditional organizational change management frameworks to fully support your social business transformation. This diagram offers some specific suggestions that can be used with frontline, managerial and executive employees to effect cultural change.
For example, ensure managers get exposed to and trained on the items that their staff is expected to learn. That way they can coach their teams more effectively.
2) Repeat, repeat, repeat. Remember that not everyone understands the reasons for change the first time you say it, or cares as much as you do. To again quote Andy McAfee from the MIT Sloan article: “One of the things I’ve learned to do in the past six years is to just keep going slow, to re-explain the reasons to do this, to re-explain what’s going on, and to not to get frustrated because everyone doesn’t find it as cool as I do. Of course they don’t.”
3) Uncover root causes. If you’ve tried a number of things to get the management layer on board and they’re still resisting, do some investigative work to surface the underlying issues. Some examples to consider include:
- Are senior executives sending mixed signals such as saying “I don’t care how you get your work done, just get it done,” or “Do as I say, and not as I do.”
- Are rewards, recognition and compensation for managers aligned to create behavior supportive of social business?
- Do managers have the right skills to make the changes expected of them? Are they being allocated the time in their schedules to develop these new skills?
- Do they even know how to coach their staff appropriately on the new social business processes and tools?
What do you think?
Is middle management going to “make or break” your social business change efforts. Connect with me @jennifer_dubow or feel free to leave comments here.