Anyone who has spent any time in the enterprise 2.0 business - for me, it's been five years - will admit this, if pressured: by far the greatest challenge for the market is not corporate fear, cluelessness, or laziness - the usual scapegoats. The challenge is something far more elusive: getting people in the company to adopt the program meaningfully, persistently, and scalably. The truth is that many enterprise 2.0 programs fail to gain traction because they actually require work. In the enterprise, culture matters, and culture is not something you can easily add, game, or integrate, like the latest 2.0 widget.
But that's where the consensus ends. A large number of businesses have not been able to move forward with their enterprise 2.0 programs for lack of confidence on the right way to approach culture. One side of the consulting world has spoken up rather aggressively, with the message that culture can be addressed with something called "change management."
Here are a few things that I observed work well, sometimes with the support of people in the consulting community who see the need for a leaner, meaner approach.
It might seem like a rather obvious place to start. But many businesses jump on enterprise 2.0 projects without first asking what their constituents are actually doing. What tools do employees, partners, and customers use? What are they using them for? Think broadly about these two questions before conducting your "audit" - a fancy word for listening - because we tend to think narrowly about social media.
First, we tend to exclude services and tools that de facto are social, but because they originated in an earlier era, they do not enter our minds in this context. Second, we tend to exclude activities that are not directly related to communications and collaboration, but yet might have value to the enterprise social network.
Several years ago, when I was in the consulting business, a large telecommunications company asked my agency for general recommendations on their social strategy. In our audit, we discovered that while an overwhelming number of people inside their ecosystem were loath to contribute or comment on blogs and social networks, a great number spent time networking with peers on LinkedIn groups. Neither the tool - LinkedIn - nor the activity - professional development - made the initial list of things to examine in our audit. But after this small discovery, the project moved on a faster track for the company.
If the insights from the audit are good, an effective next step is to share them with managers in the company. Done right, this exchange of information does several things at once. First, it makes visible to the top of the organization what's happening at the grassroots. Second, it educates managers on the range of immediate tools and ideas it has at its disposal (recall the little epiphany we had at the telecommunications company). Third, it helps stimulate conversation about how the company might support a promising trend.
Some time after staffers at Best Buy began demonstrating the power of employee-driven communications - best evidenced in the now famous Blue Shirt Nation - my former agency prepared a number of documents, videos and other artifacts that essentially held a mirror to the organization (see Charlene Li's "Open Leadership" for more color and detail). This exercise helped pave the way for other projects at Best Buy that had the support of management. As many early thought leaders in the Enterprise 2.0 world have noted, the most successful projects start at the bottom but meet at the middle, with support from the top of the organization.
Sometimes, the mirror takes the conversation to another place: how the programs that a company strategically decides to support might have a catalyzing effect on the entire company and its ecosystem. In the world of political marketing, we've learned how a few very diverse groups - e.g., women, Latinos, progressives, conservatives - can rally to a cause, despite their differences.
Recent, I looked at how the 2010 elections inspired a number of operatives - on the Left and the Right - to court the big unwieldy Latino metatribe. Similar opportunities exist for large companies with diverse constituents who might come together if only they understood their part in the company's social agenda. Best Buy's Twelpforce - a big part of the company's public brand - comes to mind, and there are perhaps a few others that demonstrate this principle.
But a company may not even need to go there to enjoy the benefits of 2.0, nor will it need to spend much time to get something meaningful started. Best Buy and other companies that are featured at industry conferences as case studies all got started by listening, thinking and supporting.
That's the fastest path to adoption today, and I don't see anything better on the horizon.
Photo by nkzs