Change in a top-down fashion

Once upon a time change of corporate culture was implemented as requested. It was driven by a mix of external pressure and of internal desire to get a company or institution up-to-date. There was the awareness of an issue, followed by the definition of a vision and the development of a list of actions. It was enough to impose change from top to bottom since everyone was more or less ready to meet the new needs.

Today, change management is more complex. More forces come into play. The change in a top-down fashion no longer works alone to lead to the foundation of a new business culture.

In the face of accelerating changes, staff members have begun to lose confidence in their managers. Too many trials, too many efforts put into never-ending battles. Middle managers suffer from lack of support. Employees have doubts, question governance models. They want to be more than just a part of the change and to play a leading role. Trade unions seem to have lost the battle of the digital age. We also see a clash of generations and cultures. People have different expectations, opposing views on the right rewards and on their responsibilities. Some want discipline back whereas others speak about holacracy.

Society changes fast, faster and faster. Everyone is a media and can create an international company in some clicks. Power seems to have shifted hands. It can no longer be business as usual.

In this new context, one question is in everyone’s minds: how to create a culture of change, a start-up like organisational model?

I am convinced since a while that successful change management in times of turbulence has something to do with influential marketing. This is how you can make sure that desired values and behaviours spread within an organisation.

So, let me ask a few questions which are fundamental to drive change successfully in a modern organisation:

  • Who are your internal influencers today?
  • How do you identify them, and follow their conversations?
  • What tools do you provide so that they can influence better and faster around them?

Take some time to answer these questions, and let’s go back to the topic soon. Until then, for those of you who are already on holiday: ENJOY 🙂

Thinking outside the box

We reach our creativity’s peak at the age of five. What is wrong with our ability to be creative afterwards? Do we become essentially passive minds, accustomed to working in one way? Do we still have the ability to see things in a different light?

In the era of social business, our leaders want ideation and more conversations. All this requires from colleagues to become more entrepreneurs and able to think outside the box.

The good news is that we can learn again how to boost our creative spirits and see the world with the eyes of a five-year-old child. As community manager of an internal social platform, I had to find ways to stimulate the collective mind in such a direction. I would not want people to just sit behind their computers and say “there is nothing for me here”. Here are some of the things you could do, if you had to lead a similar initiative:

  • Some have a natural tendency to be unconventional. They will always look for ways to invent new uses. Give them that power.
  • Some will be happy if they get from your platform an ability to gather around them. Support them. 
  • As the attention span can be short, always think about ways to diversify activities in the platform. 
  • Make your activity feed look like a symphony – break the rhythm.
  • As a basic rule, when rules are clear, people are more keen to contribute. So, remind these rules on a regular basis.
  • In any circumstance, play collective.

Why is the corporate world going “social”?

  • Why are organizations massively introducing modern social collaboration technologies?

According to professional research, collaboration traditional tools are not that effective: staff spend 50% of their time searching for information, and on average, take 18 minutes to locate each document (Gartner). For an organization with 1,000 people, addressing the related time wasters is tantamount to hiring 213 new employees (IDC and Adobe 2012). On top of these productivity issues, only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged (Gallup, 2013).

For all these reasons, it does not make any more sense to invest only in them. Moreover, it is widely recognized that organizations need to adopt the modern social collaboration technologies, which have entered the market since 2000s. Using these tools has led to significant improvements in employee productivity, strategic alignment, talent management and job satisfaction in companies such as BNP Paribas, Orange, Proximus, Deloitte or Adidas, or in government administrations, such as the European Commission or the UK Government.
As the world gets more complex, the corporate sphere is going « social » to simplify processes and increase performance.

  • What are the latest trends and innovations in the field?

Office 365, Confluence Wikis, Google for Work, Slack, Facebook at work, Jive, Chatter, IBM Connections, Zimbra, BlueKiwi… are some of the internally hosted solutions and cloud-based softwares available on the market. These technologies evolve exponentially!

From my own experience, cloud-based softwares have less technical limitations than internally-hosted solutions and are often more cost-efficient and elastic. But to each virtue, its corresponding vice, they are also considered less secure.

Until now, there is not yet a single product that is the best-of-breed with all features that satisfy all needs. Employees will always request the latest technologies available on the market. This is why it is often better to go for an eco-system approach, where functionalities will be integrated as the new needs emerge. The aim of any organization should be to offer a “one stop shop portal”, a real digital workplace for both informal and formal contents.

  • How can we be best equipped to overcome the challenges related to this topic within our organization?

The adoption of a new social collaboration tool often implies a change in the way employees work.  In working environments where collaboration is limited and characterized by silos, successful cross-cutting collaboration requires a cultural change within the entire organization.

Staff will only use the new tools if they are guided towards them with a clear purpose and vision, as well as a clear understanding of the benefits and code of conduct. You will need to count on change agents, who will accompany small and large changes, in a positive way, facilitate conversations, and train employees at every level. In order to energize the collaboration, some supporting strategies and behaviors will be necessary. Obviously, a lot of efforts will be required during the transition period, but the return on investment can be high. 46 percent of workers say their productivity has greatly or somewhat increased because of social media use in the office (IPSOS, 2014).

This post was originally posted in IFE Learning Lab, Management and Innovation blog on 15 June 2015.

Fighting Digital Distraction

Staying focused on a single task is difficult these days. I usually have such a strong ability to focus on work. You could come to my office wearing a green wig I would not see it. My former colleagues used to make loads of different jokes about it. Still, it happens to me to suffer from digital distraction. I cannot imagine how others – with less capacity for focusing – cope with it.

I am more and more convinced that multitasking kills creativity. And so I think it is necessary to find ways to stop the digital distraction. Here are a few tips, which I hope will be useful to you:

  • I don’t use anymore pop-up messages for incoming emails
  • I never have more than 3 internet tabs open at the same time
  • Unless I really need to be connected to my e-mails, I check my e-mails only twice in the morning, twice again in the afternoon and once in the evening.
  • The first thing I do when I connect to work is to check out my emails and social media accounts or other collaborative platforms. Then, I will connect to my social media accounts again in the morning only if I have a little time to spare. For example on my way to a meeting with my mobile phone, in a waiting room, etc. It is not a distraction, it is a way to keep me busy while I’m waiting for something else.
  • I also use Hootsuite, which allows me to manage my accounts in a powerful way.

To me, new technologies bring a lot of great benefits to keep in touch and work in a more efficient way. But they can also be big time wasters. This is why I believe we need to show a little discipline in the way we use them. They will only be good if used in a proper way. What are your tactics to avoid digital distraction?

Public and global by default

A government has a lot to gain by being public by default. With intelligent use and good design of digital technologies available, it is finally possible. Any government can open the door to any contribution, in an efficient way for minimal costs.

The general public can change Europe. Or at least citizens can follow closely what is happening and get that essential sense of transparency. Experts can also contribute more and better. Digital technologies will simplify historical, rigid processes and will allow them to join conversations at every step from all parts of the globe. More and more, with the increasing use of digital technologies, things will be made easier. Initiatives with amazing impact are already observed in the domain of education and culture, health and digital Europe for instance.

Before the world was private by default. You had to add people to your communication. Now the world is public by default. This is the other way around, you need to remove people from your communication. This shift provides a great opportunity to connect citizens back to the institutions in a significant manner.

To contribute to a better Europe, you only need a computer with the right connection. There is no limit. What power and what influence we can have. This has never been more possible and more true.

The European Commission has recently tested EU open policy-making. This is a great new game which gives you the possibility to design future european policies. “Public by default” should continue to bring amazing opportunities. Are you ready to grab them?

About the art of networking

On average in France, women have 50 people in their networks and men have 72 people. A survey conducted by HEC Management School revealed these figures a few days ago. These are rather small numbers when you think that this activity is essential for the success of any career.

For 59% of executives, networking requires learning and technology. More than one in two believe that maintaining a network requires considerable efforts. And 73% of them do not think they have the time to build up a good network. From my own experience, the art of networking is far from being superficial, it is a quick to learn activity and the cost is low. But the relationships you will have created will be dear throughout your entire life.

These are basic principles of the Art of Networking:

  • Win-win philosophy, networking does not mean “selling”.
  • Good listening and questioning skills.
  • Clear communication, a good understanding of the people you want to meet, proper use of the media and language.
  • Straight profile, you need to be able to tell who you are and what you do in a few words.
  • Promises kept, which means being realistic about what you can offer.
  • Regular contacts, with a quick message from time to time.

Contrary to common beliefs, networking does not mean going out every night. You can include this activity in your daily lives in a simple manner. Digital tools, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Meet-ups for instance make it easy for you to develop your network. Just show a little creativity.

Any job is a combination of needs and solutions. Your network will play an instrumental role in getting things done in this complex world. Develop new bonds outside your traditional circles and you will be able to access ideas that may not be part of your natural groups’ thinking.

Positive in every circumstance

It may seem obvious but to lead change, a positive attitude is an absolute must. It is essential to believe in what you need to achieve and never let show any doubts. Others will test change agents all the time which I think is fair.

  • Always show confidence and desire to do more, with a growth mind-set. Always be available to others.
  • Listen more than you talk and learn how to question behaviours and routines in an efficient but gentle way, inspired from coaching techniques.
  • Surround yourself with those who also believe that things can change. Grow an internal network of positive change agents. Don’t do everything alone.
  • Use positive language, and avoid phrases such as “if you do not change, you will not survive.” Be specific about the kind of change you want to see, use visualisation techniques.
  • Put great energy and efforts into accompanying small changes, they will have as much impact as large ones.
  • Bypass people who do not seek to understand and who want to block at all costs.
  • Be a facilitator of change. Do not be in control, and start to learn a lot from others.

Accompanying a profound change is rewarding for oneself – if one applies to respect some basic rules above to get to the vision. I wish you a fruitful journey!

Winds of the old days

In the old days, internal communication services generated information, with little input from staff. Employees were rarely, if ever, motivated to contribute to more than their jobs.

In the old days, turnover was rare and thus, little knowledge management discipline needed. Some were deleting their email right after a long vacation. Some others were destroying all copies of their deliverables before they retire. And at that time, we could see the same mistakes again and again.

In the old days, it was expensive to test performance. Thus the good worker was one who was coming in early and staying late in office. We could see strange behaviors for this reason. Some employees were hiding themselves behind screens in their small offices. Whereas some others were running through corridors or meetings all their days to remain visible.

The winds of the old days blew away parts of our knowledge and engagement, but we will still find good things to say about our good old ways. And they are plenty of course!

We may also start to improve a terrible situation – only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged (Gallup, 2013). Digital makes it possible to foster improvements by providing each individual – not just some – an unlimited influence. And many things too expensive for any business are finally processed at low cost. Such as surveys, evaluation, knowledge management and idea generation.

Today, we hear talks about staff engagement, staff as ambassadors, right to fail, and transforming cultures, and it feels good.

Good times for givers

Five months ago, I decided I would take some time to develop myself more. I wanted to get to know better the trends, meet always new people and organizations, and share my discoveries in this blog. Time flies, and I always find myself running after it. Although I do not share as much as I would like to, I hope my quick updates are still useful. In this one, I highlight some of my findings. You can always ask me any question, give me any feedback or request stories.

  • In a lot of organizations – at least those which perform well, humans are back at the centre of work, that is something exciting. I see organizations caring about their workforce, as never before. Many initiatives take off. This is a beautiful journey full of opportunities. I am happy when I see people sharing, more and more, inside and outside with their stakeholders.
  • Some conversations bear more fruits than others. But how to make sure they all do? I still see how hard it is to let go off command and control for more empowerment. In this period of change, organizations try to move the cursor from hierarchies to networks mode. And some find it more comfortable to control conversations. From my experience, the more you control, the less you get. Why do you think the weather is such a natural topic between strangers? If you need to yield business outcomes, it is even more important to invest into building relationships.
  • Are you making the best of your network of givers? Givers want to take an even bigger role in your company. For instance, they want to define the vision and to innovate services and products. They also want to spread the word about its achievements, and solve problems. Different tactics are possible to make the best of their energy, and to make this energy viral across your organization and around. Givers are a treasure hidden.
  • Implementing the vision is still the hardest piece to achieve. Why do senior managers struggle with cascading their vision? I see three main reasons for this. First, if you expect a change of behaviours from staff, then managers should act as role models. Employees will not take all the risks alone – only a few audacious will. Second, you need more examples to define the vision. You need to make sense of the desired change. A strong belief is not enough. And you need to give concrete demonstrations of how this is going to work in practice and offer support along the way. Finally, the top-down approach alone does not work. Organizations need to start a transversal approach, for similar business functions. And a bottom-up one – for better accountability.

Good times for givers that will play an instrumental role in leading your company’s future. Start the treasure hunt and “educate” them while making them grow. If you don’t care about them, their disengagement can also become contagious.

A sense of emergency

People have long invested in and developed expertise in working practices which led to successes. Why would they need to change?

Over the past years, many organizations implemented new working tools and expected new routines. There was this sudden emergency to change, and there was no longer enough time to explain why. You cannot expect that the entire workforce will adopt new behaviours, because the tools are there. You will have to open an internal discussion about resistance and develop a campaign around the bad reflexes.

No one can ignore our changing environment any longer, this is the world where we all live and not just a trend. Organizations need to make clear that digital is important for everyone:

  • Digital media will surpass “linear” TV as main media channel in Europe. Developing digital skills should be as important as the fight against illiteracy.
  • Building customer loyalty has become a big challenge. Employees have a key role to play. They will become true ambassadors of their company’s culture. But, managers find it hard to empower people and to let go off command and control.
  • It is no longer a question of shouting louder on the web. People must learn how to develop more conversations, and how to use the power of networks and communities. But it still seems so difficult to stop pushing for more engagement.
  • Finally, fast adopters of technologies and new usages influence the routines of our future. There is a strong need to listen more to their ideas, with a view to stimulate innovation which is driving the modern entreprise.

And so, despite a sense of emergency to change, there is also a strong need to pause and discuss to make sure the move will make sense to all.

“Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature’s inexorable imperative”, H.G. Wells.