Saturday, 31 October 2009

From human to social capital


I’ve got an article, ‘Building Human into Social Capital’ in the new issue of Strategic HR Review.

This is an excerpt:


Building social capital

But what about social capital? This is another outcome and refers to the connections, relationships and conversations between people working in an organization. The differences between this and both human and organizational capital are important, as each need developing in different ways.

Social capital is developed by paying attention to how people are relating to each other – to the spaces between people on the organization chart. However, social capital is highly intangible and the links between it and the activities that develop it are complex and distant in time and space. It is not something that is easy to measure or develop and, because of this, it tends to get ignored.

However, the point of performance in most organizations is the team, not the individual. So it is social capital, rather than human capital, that is the greatest enabler for competitive success. Consider these two examples to illustrate its role:

  1. Developing a culture of innovation. Changing culture depends on having a big idea and aligning everyone in an organization around it. However, this is not just about behavioral and attitudinal change. Encouraging people to be more innovative is also about helping them create new types of meaning about their work – and meaning is established through conversations with other people. So if you change the conversations (part of the social capital), you change the meanings and, therefore, the culture too.
  2. Knowledge management. Many businesses have tried to manage the explicit knowledge residing in their databases but a lot of these organizations are now realizing that much more important is the tacit knowledge in their peoples’ heads. Knowledge management in this paradigm is about connecting the right people and enabling them to participate in effective conversations (social capital again) to share and build on the knowledge that exists.


See the journal for more from the article (or keep tuned to this blog for more of the same).


Technorati Tags: Social capital,Strategic HR Review,article,Jon Ingham


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Friday, 23 October 2009

My Social Media in Business presentation


Social media: First Violin (not the whole Orchestra!)

This is the presentation I gave at the Social Media in Business conference earlier today.

Jon Ingham Smib Presentation
View more documents from Jon Ingham.


The key points are that:

  • Organisations create value (and drive competitiveness) through social media by focusing on capability, particularly social and relational / customer capital
    • Not by focusing on the technology
    • Not by focusing on business results
      • Saying “we need to think about the behaviours resulting from the technology” is still focusing on the technology!


  • We need to be able to articulate the type of capability we want to create (ie what are the groups, connections, relationships, behaviours, conversations etc)
  • Once we have done this, we should be able to look forwards in the strategy map / value chain to estimate the business impacts of having this capability
  • And look backwards to identify the organisational processes that can be used to create the required capability (and which may, sometimes, be supported by social media).


Although the afternoon sessions was designed to to focus on measurement, I didn’t get time to do talk about this – or I think really, I forgot – it would have only take another few seconds to have said:

“Measurement is easy – it’s setting objectives (articulating the type of capability and identifying the most appropriate processes, tools and interventions) that’s hard”!


And ROI is just a calculation based on the Investment and Impact stages of the value chain.


Technorati Tags: SMiB09,social media,business,competitive advantage


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Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Social Media in Business interview


I’ve been interviewed by Benjamin Ellis in preparation for Friday’s Social Media in Business conference:




Technorati Tags: Social media in business,SMIB09,Benjamin Ellis,social capital,competitive advantage


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  • Thursday, 15 October 2009

    Visa Europe: What do you want to be when you grow up?


      Did you get through yesterday’s rather monster ‘HR in the Social Business’ carnival?  Well, apologies, but I think this is going to be an even longer post… (it’s well worth reading though!)


    I recently attended a great event, ‘Delivering Outstanding Performance’, organised by Michelle Lawton from Consult HR and ‘MOK’ from The Innovation Beehive.

    Opening the event, MOK suggested that to contribute to their employers’ success, people need to be clear about what they want to be, who they are, and how that fits with their organisation.

    We then had a presentation from Derrick Ahlfeldt, SVP HRM at Visa Europe with a case study from his organisation that demonstrated these points. In fact, Derrick’s story provided a great demonstration of much of what I’ve been blogging about here over the last couple of years too.

    So I’ve gone a bit to town in describing Derrick’s presentation – and have also provided some notes / links to previous thoughts that support and occasionally challenge some of this case study:


    Visa Europe story

    My perspectives (NOT Derrick’s necessarily!)

    As an association, Visa Europe is about developing the whole market (the European credit card business) through collaboration.

    By 2004, following a major restructuring and re-engineering, people had initiative fatigue. There was a need to re-engage people and gain additional discretionary contribution.

    Since then, the company has been working to become a ‘Peak Performing Organisation’.

    Derrick didn’t present it like this, but I’d suggest that collaboration is Visa Europe’s mojo. External collaboration is clearly critical to the company’s success and I think they understand (implicitly at least) that because of this, internal collaboration is equally as important.

    A major part of this shift has been creating an environment in which people are put at the centre of the organisation – an environment in which people don’t feel they are ‘being done to’, but are ‘doing it for themselves’ – ‘making ownership and accountability personal’.

    Visa Europe has clearly been ‘putting human capital first’ – treating people as providers of critical human capital rather than simply (human) resources (my Strategic HCM blog is all about putting people and human capital first).

    This is absolutely appropriate for an organisation whose mojo is about collaboration as people will need to take accountability in order to trust each other in order to support collaboration (the other way of saying this is that building human capital is a pre-requisite for effective development of social capital… - see below).

    Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saachi and Saachi, suggests that a ‘Peak Performing Organisation’ has a ‘sense of family’ within the team. This has been another part of Visa Europe’s recent shift.

    Visa Europe has also been developing social capital around a sense of family. Again, this is absolutely appropriate for an organisation whose mojo is about collaboration (my Social Advantage blog is all about developing the right social capital to support an organisation’s mojo).

    This shift has been supported by documenting:

    · An inspirational dream (“to be the world’s most trusted company”)

    · Shared spirit (“what makes Visa Europe different to other organisations?” eg competitive yet collaborative, trusted, multi-cultural family)

    · A common set of beliefs (eg empowering and investing in the individual, nurturing the dynamics and diversity of the Visa family)

    · The “Greatest Imaginable Challenge” (an extraordinary stretch target which is unique to the organisation and inspiring to its people)

    · Focus

    It took over a year to “wordsmith” this document in order to ensure that everyone was comfortable with it.

    I think this process demonstrates the need to develop a solid push behind whatever a company is trying to do (whether this is articulated through a BHAG, mojo or something else) as a way of translating this intent into organisational capability.

    I particularly like the way that Visa Europe’s shared spirit and common beliefs blend human and social capital (competitive yet collaborative, individual and family).

    I presume the “Greatest Imaginable Challenge” which Derrick didn’t want to discuss is Visa Europe’s BHAG. But note that this is developed from the mojo (an inside-out approach) rather than the other way around.

    I also think Derrick probably under-sold the work he and his team did to socialise this document – in my experience, the process of creating a joint ‘vision’ for the organisation is more important than the document it produces. It’s about creating a shared mindset, rather than a wordsmithed document!

    The ‘Peak Performing Organisation’ programme

    My perspectives

    The programme currently consists of two phases:


    Phase 1 - Individual

    Visa Europe has made participation in this phase of the ongoing programme voluntary in order to create a different dynamic from the past.

    This phase consists of:

    · Plenary introduction sessions (in the first year of the programme, Visa Europe ran three events, each with 150 people, which was helpful in getting the programme started – they now run just four smaller sessions per year)

    · Three small group sessions (6-8 people) facilitated by an inspirational player (someone who has “been there and got the T-shirt”)

    · Development and communication of a personal values-story, identification of implications and creation of an action plan


    The key questions that individuals consider in this values story are:

    · Given you are this person and these are your skills and talents, what can you bring to this organisation?

    · How does this link? (are you doing what you wanted to do when you grow up?)

    · Are you in the right job and the right organisation?


    (A volunteer kindly described for us his story – including his ‘home me’ and his ‘CV me’ – explaining that once he had identified his talents from this story and discussed this with his group, his ‘CV me’ became the ‘real me’ – the distinction was removed:

    “I’m now more passionate and enthusiastic for everything I do in life directed to what I’m good at and would like to do anyway.”)

    I think this phase of the programme provides a really nice (whoops – sorry MOK) explanation of a human capital vs a human resources approach.

    Ie the phase is about employees as individuals, not the business. However, there is a limit to this.

    Derrick was keen to stress that employee empowerment should not lead to organisational chaos – employees still need to do what the organisation needs them to:

    “It’s about understanding what the opportunities are and trying to do more of what they want within their existing or another role”


    (Or as MOK described it, it’s about “total freedom in a gilded cage”.)

    I’d suggest the next stage might be to open the door of the cage and see what happens…


    The phase also starts to develop social capital too (via sharing values stories within the team).

    There are some really good examples (eg Herman Miller) where sharing this type of information has had a very powerful team boosting effect.

    Phase 2 – Team

    In this phase, a whole team is taken away to consider:

    · Alignment – the team purpose, customer dreams and nightmares:

    o The team as a whole considers what they want to achieve

    o They then get some customers in to describe what keeps them awake at night

    o The team discusses what it wants to achieve for its customers


    · Values – realigning purpose based on customer input

    · Implications – barriers and challenges for action planning


    Another good approach – this time to develop social capital. But could it be even more strongly based upon the existing capabilities of the team (what the team can do rather than what customers currently need)?

    The results

    My perspectives


    People have generally been very positive about the change. However, disbelievers are tolerated as long as they do the job they are expected to do. And some people have left the organisation.

    I think people are always going to leave organisations during a transformation like this. And if they’ve left with a better perspective of whom they are and where they should be, this can only be a good thing for them, and is probably a good thing for the organisation too. If they’ve left because they’ve found the whole thing a bit too ‘fluffy’ then I think that’s a shame for them.

    But I’m convinced that doing this sort of thing will gradually become part of everyone’s normal expectations.

    Since 2004,

    · Survey completion rates have increased from 83% to 96%

    · Overall engagement has increased from 72 to 90%

    · External customer satisfaction has increased from 6.8 to 8.1


    There are other positive statistics too, but what the Chief Executive says is also important are the stories and what he’s seeing in the organisation.

    The CEO’s focus on both quantitative and qualitative evidence is totally appropriate. Not everything that’s important can be measured, and I think this applies particularly to organisational capability, ie to both human and social capital. However, clearly when something important can be measured, it makes sense to measure it.

    And what’s behind Visa Europe’s success? I’ve discussed the role of mojo, organisational capability / human and social capital and making a solid investment behind this. The other two aspects that I believe are particularly important are:

    · Alignment – between each of these different concepts and Visa Europe’s programmes and practices

    · Best fit – the things that Visa Europe has been doing won’t apply for all organisations, but they apply for this organisation, with its focus on trust and collaboration, superbly well.


    So the message isn’t do what Visa Europe’s done. It’s applying the same level of insight and sharpness to your own organisation. And if you do this, you should gain the same levels of Human and Social Advantage too.



    Phase 3?

    We didn’t talk about this at all, but I’d suggest Visa Europe’s next step is towards even greater liberation of individual employees and of teams.

    Derrick explained that as a result of the first two phases, Visa Europe is now confident that every person and every decision is linked with a golden thread to the organisation vision.

    That’s great, but it still sounds rather too top-down?

    I agree that they do need to manage performance against the organisation’s vision and objectives (top-down) but they would also benefit from taking ever greater advantage of the potential residing in each of the company’s employees – leading performance instead of just managing it (I’ll be talking about this in Greece next week) – ie bottom-up.

    At the team-level, I’d suggest that Visa Europe continue to build social capital – perhaps by emphasising links across teams (bridging capital) as well as within the teams (bonding capital).

    So I’d suggest they look at different opportunities that will help them do this – recognising that these may range from organisation development to social media; social events to reward practices; and social network analysis to facilities design.


    Note - and I’ve emphasised this quite a few times - that the ‘social business’ (if this is what Visa Europe is) isn’t just about the use of social media.


    So, for example, Michelle described a nice example from the BBC where people have been given the opportunity to go and experience different areas of the organisation for a few weeks (“the hot shoe shuffle”).

    Note also that this isn’t in any way supposed to be criticism of Visa Europe’s story. They’ve done much more than most organisations would even dream of. I’m just explaining the direction I personally feel they should go.


    Anyone else any suggestions for Derrick?


    Thanks to MOK and Michelle for the invite to the event, and to Derrick and his IT colleague for the story.


    Photo credit: Joe Mabel

    Technorati Tags: Derrick Ahlfeldt,Visa Europe,MOK,Innovation Beehive,Michelle Lawton,Consult HR,Kevin Roberts,Peak Performing Organisation,human capital,social capital

    This post is cross-posted at Strategic HCM.



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  • Wednesday, 14 October 2009

    The HR in the Social Business Carnival



    My previous carnivals - the super s*** one (I don’t want to offend anyone this time around!), and the Italian one, were both ‘implicitly themed’, ie I drew out the theme from the posts that were submitted to me.

    However, in the last edition of the carnival, we were asked to think about an explicit theme (talent management in the improving economy), so I thought I’d be a bit more explicit here too.

    And the thing that has been exercising my mind recently is ‘the social business’.  Partly because there’s been a lot of commentary on it recently (see below), and partly because it relates very closely to the focus of my new(ish), or at least less well known, blog: Social Advantage.

    So, I’ve asked that contributors to this carnival might like to submit posts relating to HR’s role in the social business, or at least “posts that have a social networking aspect to them, eg anything about teams (team performance, team reward etc), HR and web 2.0, social psychology, social network analysis, etc)”.

    And we’ll start with this – the meat of the carnival:


      HR in the Social Business

    So what is the ‘social business’?  Most of the bloggers contributing to this carnival will know, but most other readers probably won’t – as discussion has been largely confined to the blogosphere so far.  If you don’t know, check out my post Views on HR News: HR’s Role in the Social Business at HR Zone (free membership required).

    Jo Jordan continues the theme with Give HR a strategic stake in business with social media at Flowing Motion.

    Matt Alder considers Social media and HR – arch enemies or vital partners? at Recruiting Futurology.

    Anne Marie McEwan posts on Second Wave Smart Working: What Role HRM? at the Smartwork Company blog.

    Gautam Ghosh posts on Tomorrow’s HR professional at Gautam Blogs.

    And Jessica Miller-Merrell describes HR & the social media battlefield at Blogging 4 Jobs.


    If you want to learn more, then yes, you can learn about social media using social media, but you can also learn from conference attendance too.

    Mark Bennett discusses (social and community) Thinking at HR Technology 2009 on TalentedApps.

    And Michael Vandervort shares his learnings from IZEAfest in Be a Guru, Not just a Swami! at The Human Race Horses.


    Then we’ve got some posts looking at specific social networking sites

    Sharlyn Lauby posts on Facebook games and its business applications at Restaurant City on the HR Bartender.

    BP Rao posts on another social network: 43 Things at A Social Network To Achieve Goals on People at Work and Play.

    Steve Boese posts on IBM’s social network, Beehive, in Work and Networks at his Technology blog.

    And Stacy Chapman builds on Steve’s post, noting the use of Social Networking Data in Workforce Planning at Strategic Workforce Planning.


    Convinced this is something HR needs to get involved with yet?  Well, check out the following posts as well:

    Lance Haun writes Let’s Stop Talking About Social Media Experts at Rehaul.

    John Agno considers The Way We Communicate at Coaching Tip.

    Andy Headworth suggests Social media stops talk. Here are ten ways to help you build that conversation again at Sirona Says.

    Susan Heathfield highlights a disturbing trend recently, asking Do You Snoop Online On Prospective Employees? at Guide to Human Resources.

    And responding to the same issue, Laurie Ruettimann warns against being a chump in Question: Social Media, Employers, and Passwords at Punk Rock HR.


    The most obvious application of social media within HR is in recruitment, and we also have a few posts on this:

    Amit Bhagria asks Is Social Networking an Effective Recruitment Strategy? at the Young HR Manager.

    Peter Gold describes How job boards killed job ad creativity and how Twitter brings it back (maybe) at the Social Workplace Blog.

    Cathy Missildine-Martin responds to Dear Job Seeker in Human Resources at Profitability through Human Capital.

    Susanna Cesar asks Will you be ready to recruit when the recession ends? – including through technology - at Recruitment 2.0.


    But of course, the social business isn’t all about technology, and The HR Store answers a manager’s question about real (vs virtual) world teaming in Team member skips meetings regularly.


    Ready for the mustard? (English of course – or British at least)

       Other UK HR blogs

    We’ve already had quite a high proportion of social business related posts from the UK, and we’ve got these additional contributions too:

    First of all, have you heard about the Times journalists rant against the HR profession recently?

    Rick asks If HR is so crap, why does it continue to exist? at Flip Chart Fairy Tales.

    Graham Salisbury also addresses this issue but then moves on to ask What keeps American HR Managers awake at night: the thought of bare legs at HR Case Studies.

    Other stories include the one about Mike the Rooster.  Heard it?  Bay Jordan tells all in Crowing Management at Zealise blog.

    MOK focuses on Innovating in the Global Recession at The Innovation Beehive.

    And Nick Jefferson suggests that There's Just No Accounting For HR at Jeffersonia Unlimited.


    Time to get the party started?

      Leadership posts

    Mick Collins posts on Leaders are Expensive, but Poor Leaders Cost Exponentially More at InfoHRM blog.

    Wally Bock provides The Third Grade Teacher Model of Leadership at Three Star Leadership.

    Steve Roesler helps managers and HR pros to think diagnostically about Coaching? Three Choices To Consider at All Things Workplace.

    Dan McCarthy describes What HR Wants From an Executive Coach at Great Leadership.

    And Mary Jo Asmus responds with What Executive Coaches Want From HR at Aspire CS.


    Strategy post the recession posts

    Frank Mulligan posts on China Recruitment - All on the Up (Slowly) at Talent in China.

    Amit Avasthi discusses Beyond the Recession at HR Bytes Blog.

    And Gireesh Sharma notes some Post-Recession Challenges of Talent Management at Talent Junction.


    So there’s good news in Chindia at least!


    Measurement posts

    Alice Snell posts on talent analytics in Staying, Going, Returning at Talent Management Solutions.

    And Jay Jamrog and Mary Ann Downey post on the Future Trends of HR Metrics at I4CP’s Productivity Blog.


    Reward and Engagement posts

    David Zinger provides The 14 Keys of Employee Engagement.

    Chris Ferdinandi discusses Sick days, flexible work, and the law of unintended consequences.

    Anne Bares posts on Top Three Reward Strategies for 2009 at Compensation Force.

    Paul Herbert emphasises that Reward Programs are NOT About Manipulation at Incentive Intelligence


    Other HR stuff

    Lisa Rosendahl asks Do I Look Like A Dinosaur To You? at Simply Lisa.

    Mike Haberman asks Should Recruiting Get the Boot? (from HR) at HR Observations.

    Chris Young encourages you to Take Ownership For Your Own Professional Development at Maximizing Possibility.


    A few late revellers:

      People and companies posts

    Melissa Prusher posts on Ten Minutes with John Sumser – Industry Expert at Devon Group’s blog.

    Vishveshwar Jatain posts on Career lessons from Barney Stinson at Benifys blog

    And how many times did you come across references to Zappos in these posts (there’s at least a couple)?

    This is just part of a bigger trend according to Jessica Lee at Fistful of Talent who asks whether we should love Zappos (this is actually a two-part post:

    First Tim Sackett discusses How Zappos Ruined HR ...

    And then Kris Dunn follows up with If I Drank All the Zappos Kool-Aid, Wouldn't My Teeth Be Green?).


    That’s it (finally!).  I hope you liked it!

    You’ll have noticed that following Becky Robinson’s lead in the last leadership development carnival, I have provided contributors’ Twitter usernames above and hope you will find these useful.  And like Becky, I have also created a group so you can follow all the Twitter users who contributed to this carnival… see


    Next time, the carnival calls in with Sharlyn Lauby at the HR Bartender.


    Photo credits: M.Minderhoud, Infrogmation (1, 2 and 3) and David.

    Technorati Tags: HR Carnival,Social Business

    This post is cross-posted at Strategic HCM.


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  • Monday, 12 October 2009

    Social Learning (Talking HR 020)


    Groundswell learning styles   So Talking HR is finally back with a new show on Social Learning.

    What’s that?  Well, in the show I started to define social learning as something more than just the use of social media to support learning.  But I’d now like to elaborate on this (I didn’t want to go on about this before or this one point could have taken over the whole show).

    My main point is that learning has always been social.  So social learning can’t just be the application of social media.  But it has to be something different to what learning has been before.

    This is a similar argument to the one I’ve used t suggest that HR 2.0 and management 2.0 are approaches aimed at the development of social capital.

    And I’d suggest that learning 2.0 is probably about social capital as well.  But I think it’s about one form of social capital in particular – and this is ‘the learning organisation’.

    I read somewhere that when the learning organisation first became popular (via Peter Senge and others), it wasn’t really achievable.  Social media has made it much more so.

    But I’d suggest that there’s an important distinction between learning that uses social media, and learning that aims to create a learning organisation.

    The other way of looking at this, which I also mention on the show, is that when we talk about social learning, we really should mean social learning, ie learning of the social unit (the team or the organisation as a whole) and not just learning socially (generating, co-creating and sharing content, collaborating etc).

    It should be about developing a common understanding, a common way of doing things, a new culture even, between people in a team.

    This is the real reason that social learning is so important.


    I also attempted to link Honey & Mumford’s learning styles with Li and Bernoff’s social technographic profiles (the ladder from Groundswell – pictured).



    Listen to the podcast and read the show notes at Blogtalkradio.  You can download the podcast to your hard drive or play it streaming from the web.

    Subscribe to the show at itunes.

    Talking HR is hosted by Krishna De and Jon Ingham and you can contact them with your thoughts and feedback about the show at talkinghrpodcast(at)



    This post is cross-posted at Strategic HCM.

    Technorati Tags: Social learning,learning organisation,Talking HR,podcast,Blogtalkradio,Jon Ingham,Krishna De


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  • Carnival of HR in the Social Business




    The new HR carnival will focus on HR bloggers’ posts that have a social networking aspect to them – eg anything about teams (team performance, team reward etc), HR and web 2.0, social psychology, social network analysis, etc.  It will be posted here, and at Strategic HCM,on Wednesday.

    If you’ve got a blog looking at HR in the social business, I hope you’ll submit a recent post to be included.

    Please send your submissions to info [at] social [dash] advantage [dot] com by midnight Pacific Time on Tuesday 13th.

    Tuesday, 6 October 2009

    3 modes of web 2.0 implementation


         I’ve posted previously (1,2) on the challenges of implementing web 2.0 / social media.  However, there are actually three separate modes of implementation, each with their own set of challenges - and organisations need to be clear about which of these modes apply to them in order to identify and prepare for the appropriate challenges:


    Mode 1:   Technology inspired implementation - an example of what I refer to as ‘value for money’ (in the value triangle)


    Organisations often introduce new technologies in order to keep abreast of new development and opportunities.  This happens particularly frequently with social media as there is so much hype around its benefits.

    So, for example, an organisation may launch a new internal social network, hoping perhaps to encourage and enable more internal conversations (maybe even as an alternative to going undercover?).  Or it might introduce a wiki to replace document distribution in order to improve knowledge sharing, productivity etc.

    However, there is usually no real link to the business strategy behind using social media in this way.  But this doesn’t mean that it’s not a useful thing to do.  And it may also provide an important basis for using social media in the other modes.


    Implementing social technologies in this mode is best done by introducing the appropriate system across the organisation (to maximise participation), and making it easy and attractive for people to get involved, for example, by letting them use it to support personal vs business needs, and enabling use of pictures and videos etc.

    Once people have got used to this technology, the organisation may then go on to introduce another web 2.0 system in the same of a different mode.


    Social media is also often introduced this way, ‘under the radar’, when there is no business sponsorship for any other use of the technology.



    Mode 2:   Business driven programme support – an example of adding value

    The second mode is one which social media is used to meet particular business needs, for example to improve collaboration or innovation on a particular business project.

    This doesn’t mean that the implementation can’t include personal applications, but the main focus is on the business.


    In this mode, social media is best introduced by using one or a combination of systems, probably with a particular group of employees, in a way that very clearly supports the identified business need.

    It’s much more likely that social media will be introduced as part of a major business programme when in this mode.  But the business programme should focus on the need which is being met, rather than the technology that is being used.


    • Microsoft Academy Mobile (I’d argue this was about a business need because Microsoft needed people to up to speed with this for external as well as internal reasons.)


    Mode 3:   Creation of organisation capability – an example of creating value

    This mode is quite similar to mode 2.  But here, the focus is on the intangible capability, the type of social capital that is being created.

    It’s likely that the programme creating this social capital will receive an even bigger launch, will involve all or at least most people in the organisation and that social media will form a much larger part of this programme, than in option 2.

    It’s therefore likely that culture change will be central to this.



    Photo credit: Henningklevjer

    Technorati Tags: Web 2.0,implementation,BT,Microsoft,IBM,Cisco


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  • Monday, 5 October 2009

    HR’s responsibility for social capital / media


    609px-Who_is_responsible_not_me   The new Leadership Carnival is now up at Mountain State University’s Leader Talk.  Becky Robinson has assembled a fine collection of posts (including mine on the Undercover Boss), so do check them out.

    Most interesting to me is a post by Sharlyn Lauby, the HR Bartender: Is Human Resources Capable?

    Referring to a post by Chris Kieff at 1 Good Reason – Social Marketing, Sharyln considers whether Marketing or HR should be responsible for social media in their organisations.

    One reason for having this blog is to get away from HR, so I’m not going to dwell on this, but my main thoughts on this are:

    • Someone, other than the Chief Executive, needs to take responsibility for the accumulation of social capital in an organisation
    • Many HR functions are already developing separate / more strategic roles focusing on human capital – it makes sense for this role to also take responsibility for social capital
    • The major challenge in the implementation of social media is behavioural, so this also gives HR a role
    • However, social media also has a focus outside the organisation, which is not within HR’s remit, and there is obviously a technological aspect too, so IT and Marketing also have to be involved
    • So, HR should take responsibility for social capital, including how social media is used to develop this.  I’m less fussed over who actually has operational responsibility for social media, but probably IT.


    You may also want to check out this previous post on this as well:


    Photo credit: Achim Hering

    Technorati Tags: Leadership Carnival,Mountain State University,Leader Talk,Becky Robinson,Sharlyn Lauby,HR Bartender,Chris Kieff,1 Good Reason – Social Marketing,HR,responsibility,social media



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  • Friday, 2 October 2009

    At MLab with the Undercover Boss


       Earlier this year, Channel 4 broadcast two documentaries / reality TV programmes featuring senior execs, suitably disguised, spending time with members of their workforce in order to better understand the situation on the ground.

    I saw both shows and was impressed with the openness, integrity and attitude of both Andy Edge from Park Resorts and Stephen Martin from Clugston Group.

    But broader opinions were divided. Kris Dunn at the HR Capitalist was one of several bloggers questioning the efficacy of, and particularly the environment that had enabled, this approach.

    “Could your CEO go undercover to figure out what was going on within the front lines of your company? I've got a couple of reactions to that.  First, if they could do that, the fact that the visibility of your CEO is that low might be part of the problem.  Notice I said "might", because there are multiple ways you could spin that....

    So, here's the point when it comes to the CEO going undercover.  Not only did Martin go undercover, but he's going to make a TV show about it.  That raises the ante in the minds of employees.  It's one thing to go undercover, but now you're making a TV show about it.  So work with me here: in the eyes of the employee - you came undercover, brought a film crew under false pretenses, then documented the stuff that was wrong.”


    Kris’ post was actually made before the show, and I thought I’d wait until I’d watched the programme to respond to it. Of course, I then forgot to do so. However, I’ve just sat through a presentation made by Martin at MLab - Gary Hamel and Julian Birkinshaw’s Management 2.0 think tank. So here goes.


    Taking a decentric view

    Some background first of all (the following section provided my summary of Julian Birkinshaw’s presentation):


    In their meeting in Half Moon Bay last year, Birkinshaw and Gary Hamel asked their band of revolutionaries to score the series of challenges they had developed (and which then led onto Gary Hamel’s Moon Shots) in two ways:

    • How important is this? (and most people scored the challenge between 8 and 9 out of 10)
    • How much progress have you made (and people scored it between 2 and 3).


    The challenges for which there were the greatest difference between importance and progress were:

    • Depoliticise decision making
    • Reduce fear and increase trust
    • Retrain managerial minds
    • Dramatically reduce the pull of the past
    • Expand and exploit diversity.


    They had over 1000 qualitative comments explaining the problems in meeting these challenges and in reviewing and coding these, they identified the following main barriers:

    • Limited bandwidth: not enough time and too few resources -19% of comments
    • Old and orthodox thinking- 15%
    • Disincentives to act – fear of change, executive self interest -14%.


    What these barriers make clear is that management is the problem and the solution.

    One of the reasons for this is that in general, we have little insight into the feelings and views of the people we are managing (fear, confusion, disinterest and distrust all get in the way).

    So how do we overcome this lack of insight?

    Birkinshaw suggested that we do this by taking a decentric view of the world – trying to understand how management is being perceived from the employee’s POV.

    (Evidence for this lack of insight is provided by the fact(?) that the only management books which have been written from the employees’ perspective are ‘Dilbert’ and ‘Who moved my cheese?’!)

    This is where Stephen Martin steps in.


    The case for going undercover

    Martin explained that when he was first approached to do a reality TV show he said no, but the opportunity to gain an understanding of his workforce was just too great.  Normally he feels as if he is in an ivory tower – everything gets filtered through levels of management. He needed to understand how the business was going from employees perspective.

    One example Martin gave us was a pay cut that Clugston needed to make recently.  HR had tried to explain this by sending employees a letter!  The business hadn’t understood how this action would be or had been interpreted by its workforce.


    So, was this a good idea or not?

    Both Martin and Edge, and their businesses, clearly gained from their experience.  Martin identified some previously unknown talent, and made some significant changes, for example around their apprenticeship programme.  Edge, if anything, experienced even deeper revelations, starting the programme thinking that staff simply needed a pay rise and finishing it with a deeper appreciation of the other things that Park Resorts could be to engage and recognise its staff.

    But does this justify their deception?

    In an ideal world. certainly not.  But many businesses do many worse things with their staff.  If going under cover can help develop a better / decentric perspective on a workforce, and reduce the other damaging things they do, then I’d suggest this may be a worthwhile trade-off.

    Of course, the aim must be to go beyond this.  Asda is a good example.  Their former HR Director, David Smith, who also presented at the event, explained that he always used to spend one day a week talking and listening to his staff.

    It needs a level of trust to be able to do this.  But I think it shows that there are even better opportunities than going undercover.

    Others include:

    • Develop a culture focusing on role vs grade so that people get used to communicating openly
    • Create a shadow Board
    • Find opportunities for reverse mentoring (eg on the use of social media) to encourage two-way relationships
    • Encourage un-moderated social networking within the organisation.


    What other ideas would you add to this list?


    See my other post on the MLab Engagement event:


    And posts on the previous MLab Management 2.0 event:


    Technorati Tags: Management Lab,MLab,Gary Hamel,Julian Birkinshaw,Undervover Boss,Andy Edge,Park Resorts,Stephen Martin,Clugston Group



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  • Thursday, 1 October 2009

    Don’t get made sick by the social


    775px-Ambulance-interior I’m looking forward to joining Bertrand Duperrin for a pre-Enterprise 2.0 summit (ie the European conference) video call later on today to discuss the impact of national specificities on enterprise 2.0 adoption.

    One of the things Duperrin is going to be discussing is that “the word ‘social’ makes execs feel sick”.  This reaction is something I’ve noticed quite a few other comments about recently.

    In his Enterprise 2.0 book, Andrew McCafee explains why he rarely if ever uses the word social when discussing Enterprise 2.0:

    “The adjective social is often applied to the technologies discussed in this book. This label is accurate, but unfortunate. When some managers hear talk of social technologies, they immediately think of technologies that facilitate activities like happy hour, fantasy sports league drafts, and office gossip. They hear “social,” in short, and think it means not work-related, or time wasting, or productivity-draining.”


    And commenting on this in Stowe Boyd's post on the Social Business, Tammy Erickson notes:

    “‘Social’ is perhaps accurate, but it is also an unfortunate choice of word for the technology and certainly for the enterprise. In the business world, “social” just doesn’t resonate — and whether we like it or not, it connotes a level of frivolousness that doesn’t encourage business people to grapple with the serious challenges ahead.”


    Yes, but.

    I agree with Bertrand’s, Andrew’s and Tammy’s concerns, and I’ve experienced similar reactions myself.  I’ve also posted on Cisco’s preference for business (rather than social) networks.

    It’s often useful to avoid the ‘s’ word.  And with my clients, I often do so myself.

    So we introduce social applications below the radar.  And we pretend that the social business is just the same as what’s been going on before.  And that’s fine.

    Except that it isn’t (the same as before)!  And organisations aren’t going to get the full benefits from social media, and they’re certainly not going to become social businesses or gain Social Advantage, unless they’re comfortable with the Social.

    We need to help our organisations understand.  Business is personal.  Business is social.  Get used to it!


    Technorati Tags: Bertrand Duperrin,Andrew McAfee,Tammy Erickson,Stowe Boyd,social


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