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Disclaimer: The views expressed on stopthinksocial are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Oracle.
Sunday
Nov282010

« Stop with the excuses not to be social »

I am asked this question a lot "How do you get executive management buy-in to bring social into the organisation"? The answer is simple - I don't...

This sounds like an arrogant response but it's not intended to be. Let's be honest here, in these particular tough times your executive management won't particularly care about being social in their organisation, they care about increased revenue, better margins and keeping costs to a minimum.

If you can prove that being social in the workplace can have a direct impact on your revenue, margins and costs then you have a good argument to go into that boardroom and sell them the concept.  The problem is that it is extremely difficult to find a direct linkage.

So how can you make being social in the organisation actually work?

The answer is simple - approach it from the bottom up!

Whilst your executive management could try to enforce it in their organisation, it's actually the people on the ground that really need to take advantage of the benefits and it is these people that you have to sell the concept to. Prove it works to them and your executive management will have to sit up and take notice.

But remember, being social in the workplace is an evolutionary thing combining both traditional and social working methods in how we interact and engage with one another. It's about working smarter, being more effective and increasing efficiency, but more importantly than that it is about the change in mindset.

Whilst I was presenting to an executive board recently one of the board members made a great point:

"Social technologies can really help but it comes down to fundamentals of our sales people wanting to share knowledge across the social network. As David said, it's about the change in mindset that we have to address, the technology can only facilitate the process"

So don't get too focused on acquiring executive management buy-in before starting the social movement in your organisation as the chances are they will not understand it or support it. Instead focus on your vision and the benefits that a better socially connected organisation can bring and start building it from the bottom up. You might just be surprised at the reaction and the results...

Reader Comments (6)

I remember originally disagreeing with you but experience has shown that you are absolutely right!

First I talked, presented and argued myself blue in the face to absolutely no avail and then I simply started to do what I was talking and presenting about the whole time. There are two things going for the grassroots approach. First - as the mainstream catches on, people are becoming more and more curious about what going social actually means and how it can benefit them. Secondly, the sheer volume of information that is thrown at you by working in "a silo" leads people to look for solutions as some point in time anyway and THAT is when they begin to engage with the people that they know are already working socially. Even externally - now that the numbers are growing and the mainstream is catching on, all of a sudden my executive management is beginning to take notice. It is all a matter of time!

December 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNicole Forna├žon

Fully agreed David (and also Nicole, above).

The "you must have senior management buy-in" tenet assumes that senior management have The Power.

However, even in large corporations arguably the power is likely to be in the hands of only a handful of people at the top of the tree.

So why waste time on getting on board what is essentially 'middle management'? Indeed their thinking is shaped around the classical parameters such as cost, revenue, markets, and not least corporate obedience.

Time is scarce and imho you're much better off spending it on looking after the grass roots.

A point well made in the above post.

Gradually a new generation of companies (with different leaders) will emerge.

December 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLuc Glasbeek

Social Media has taught us to be more social, simple, but true. In my case, for example: now I know the good value of social media and the good impact it has on business and on the day to day activities, so I am really excited in showing/engaging many others so they can participate as well. I mean, as in other big movements in history (The French Revolution, America's Independence War, etc, etc) a change in mindset must come from the bottom up, involving as many people as possible, no doubt about it.

So I fully agree on the approach "from bottom up"- let the people talk, of course, but I would add something key to that approach- and even more important when trying to sell the concept to management-: make a special effort with those who bring revenue, your sales force. I am not talking about differentiating classes but about putting special stress on the critical areas of the organisation. For some reason I believe we don't always put much attention on the sales force when spreading the message (or at least the impact is lower than in other areas).

And this comes quite convenient to my next thought since I disagree with that it is "extremely difficult" to prove management the value of Social Media (difficult yes, but not extremely difficult). And there are two reasons for this:

1) That when I hear "extremely difficult" I don't see a real chance for it to come true unless something else unexpected occurs (and this is not going to happen since in an evolution process like the adoption of the social concepts by the organisation does not lie on "disruptive accidents"), and

2) Because I cant believe that all the work we are doing (amount and quality) doesn't have a direct/demonstrable reflect on the business and because for the time being I am very sure of that we can consider some good metrics for Social Media (http://bit.ly/gfXeP7) -open for debate, yes, but you never get the best measurements from a process from the very beginning of it!

December 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPablo

@nicole if something works then people will sit up and take notice. As an early adopter you have led from the front and people in your organisation are now wanting to take from your social tree of knowledge. It's important to continue to get senior management buy-in but just don't let that be a barrier to stop you moving forward, which in OU you clearly haven't. Nice job....

December 10, 2010 | Registered CommenterDavid Christopher

@luc thanks Luc. I agree, a different style of management / leadership is appearing (Charlene Li talks about Open Leadership in organisations and she isn't too far away with her vision). This is maybe the problem, that there is a reluctance from senior management to move to this new style of leadership as they see it as a relinquish of power.

December 10, 2010 | Registered CommenterDavid Christopher

@Pablo that's a good point. Targeting those who do actually bring in the revenue is important. If you can make it work with them then the hard sell with senior management maybe not quite so hard. However, I did experience a problem in this area.

A sales team were using OraTweet (a twitter style interface behind the organisations firewall) to share knowledge of deals real time with other members of the extended sales team. Worked a treat. However the same solution was applied to the senior management team of that part of the business and it didn't work. Why? With social principles, one shoe does not fit all. You cannot take one social process that works in one area of the business and then just apply to another. The P.O.S.T methodology from Forrester has to be applied (i.e. People > Objectives > Strategy > Tools). The tools is the last thing you apply.

The point of this post was not to dismiss the fact that you need to continue to seek senior management buy-in (cos you are right - you need to do that), but instead don't let that stop you from moving forward with implementing the social evolution (which some call a revolution) in your part of the organisation.

December 10, 2010 | Registered CommenterDavid Christopher

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