This Is *Your* Ninth Day – Humanise Work #CAWW

I can hardly believe it’s been almost 3 months now since I became independent and, yet, it feels like it’s been like that for ages. Somehow I’m starting to feel like the transition period is coming to an end or, perhaps, even, it never started in the first place. Things have been moving along so fast that there hasn’t been a dull moment whatsoever. The learning experience has been par to none. The massive, and rather drastic, change from having worked for the last 17 years in one of the largest IT corporations out there (IBM) to running your own business, on your own, can be quite something. All along, I knew the uncertainty would be here to stay with me for a good while, yet, the excitement keeps trumping that very same uncertainty, specially, when all of the current work around constantly building the pipeline for new work is starting to pay off as well. But if there is anything that I have been grateful about all along, since I made the move, was joining a very special group of rather talented and very smart folks who have made it worth while for me, all along, coming to work every morning: Change Agents Worldwide. Why? Well, because we may be on the brink of witnessing our collective ninth day. And we need to be ready. Are you?

Yes, that’s right. I thought, in today’s blog entry, I would take the chance to share with you folks one, of the many!, reasons as to why, a few months back, I decided to go and join Change Agents Worldwide as a Solo Change Agent. It’s all about our common vision of humanising work, of living through, day in day out in our daily work routines, how we feel the future of work would be like, except that instead of waiting for 3 to 5 years to see it coming along, we all, collectively, gathered around to make it happen today as we continue to build an uncompany.

Essentially, it’s been about having us explore, first hand, what it would be like what we preach and talk about with much passion and dedication. In a way, we feel we are tasting our very own waters to perhaps show and demonstrate everyone, starting with ourselves!, that it is possible to define the future of work today, after all, making it more human, networked, hyperconnected, smarter, collaborative, open, transparent, engaged. That it is something that begins with each and everyone of us, knowledge (Web) workers and change agents. And that it is a journey we all decided to begin as a group effort where we may not know exactly what the final destination may well be, but we all feel that what really matters is not necessarily that very same final destination, but the journey itself.

That’s what my good friend, and fellow Change Agent, Kevin Jones, did recently when he put together this incredibly inspiring and thought provoking video clip (that lasts for a little bit over 3 minutes) under the rather suggestive heading “Humanise Work: The Ninth Day”, where he comes to reflect, and pretty accurately, too!, on the current poor (literally) state of things within the corporate world and the realisation of what the future of work should be like, and, exactly, relating, pretty well, what motivates and inspires us, Change Agents, to come to work for every day. Take a look into the embedded video clip below and see what you think. Is that the kind of world we would want to live in, the industrial world, that is, or is it time to put a stand on things, think AND do different:

 

So why am I posting about this today, you may be wondering, right? Well, it’s as a result of a good number of conversations I have been having with people, mostly face to face, when they bring up an issue I am pretty sure vast majority of independent freelancers / consultants / advisors / coaches / facilitators, etc. etc. may bump into, if not already, when they start to potentially do client work and the killer question comes up: How are you planning to scale?

It’s a question that doesn’t have a straight forward answer. Or maybe it does. Context and the ever growing complexity of work would probably matter now more than ever. Things are changing quite a bit. Disruption is happening all over the place at a more rampant pace that perhaps anyone out there could have had anticipated all along. Yet, the reality is that question on scalability will have to find a pretty good answer, and very soon, as we are progressing and moving forward, relentlessly and with no turning point, to that so-called Freelance Economy.

Like any economy out there though, specially, nowadays, we all know there will be a number of different issues and problems coming up over the course of time that would put the Freelance Economy to the test, yet, the potential and the opportunity for redefining the whole concept behind meaningful and purposeful work are very real and are here to stay. Never mind re-introducing a whole bunch of concepts that looked like we may have forgotten them over the course of last few decades, but that Kevin graciously reminded us all about on the second part of the video clip shared above.

Thus, again, how are we going to scale in today’s ever growing Freelance Economy then, you may be wondering, and escape that tumultuous uncertainty everyone keeps talking about? Easy. Through our networks. In my own personal case, through Change Agents Worldwide. My primary, core network to get work done in an open, collaborative and transparent manner through a common set of core values we all believe in and share dearly. We know and understand fully we can then scale even further beyond, any which way, through our very own extended networks across the world, co-building, nurturing and cultivating a whole bunch of various different partnerships, as my good friend, and fellow Change Agent, Rob Paterson, blogged about beautifully a little while ago when he explained why he joined CAWW as well.

And best part of it all? It is that for all of us, fellow Change Agents, it’s a continuous learning experience, where we have embraced and live through, day in day out, that good old mantra Harold Jarche blogged about a while ago on “Work is learning, learning is the work”. But you know what is an even better part of this whole new experience and exploration of what the future of work could look like? That you, too, could come along, today, and join us, hire us, play with us, or even start a new adventure with us and eventually help us help you humanise the way we work.

The Ninth Day is coming … Are you ready for it?

 

Written by Luis Suarez

Chief Emergineer, People Enabler and Charter Member of Change Agents Worldwide and a well seasoned Social / Open Business evangelist and 2.0 practitioner with over 15 years of experience on knowledge management, collaboration, learning, online communities and social networking for business; and has been living, since February 2008, a (work) life without email challenging the status quo of how knowledge workers collaborate and share their knowledge by promoting openness, transparency, trust, sustainable growth, engagement, connectedness and overall smart work. He can also be contacted over in Twitter at @elsua or Google Plus


 

[Oh, before I let you all go, and if you can, come and join us on May 29th at noon EDT on a webinar that fellow Change Agents Joachim Stroh, Simon Terry and Kevin Jones will be hosting around this very exciting topic: “Creating a Vibrant Social Network Employees Will Love”. Check out this link for more information and registration details and we certainly look forward to seeing you all there!]

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How the Client Experience Defines the New ROI of Social Business – Finally, A New KPI in the Making

If you have been reading this blog for a little while now, you would notice how there is a certain topic that keeps coming back time and time again, as one of my main key focus areas I have always felt would help advance our overall efforts of pushing the boundaries of our various different social business transformation journeys: the overall client experience. And I am not talking about the traditional concept behind a customer. To me, everyone is a client in some form or shape: your very own colleagues, your managers, your executives, etc. are also even your clients. You keep serving them for whatever purpose through your specific cooperation and collaboration efforts. They are also the very same ones that keep you employed for many years to come, just like any other customer would do. Are you paying attention to them as well just as much?

While I was at IBM, working during those 17 years in multiple internal projects within 6 different business units, one comes to realise that even though you are working on the blue dollars (vs. the green dollars), there is always something you can do to focus on that client experience: delighting your clients. That is, help them achieve their goals and objectives, address and fix their potential business problems, and eventually help enable them to excel at what they are already rather good at. It’s an interesting, and a rather fascinating experience altogether, because, amongst several other things, it always manages to keep you sharp, in your toes, about the client value you can provide, even to your peers. To the point where, to me, it became my new KPI over the course of time in terms of how I would value and measure the success of my own work across organisation(s).

How delighted are your customers with your own work over the course of time is probably as good as it gets, whether internal or external, in terms of proving and demonstrating your value and overall contributions, so when the smart folks at CMSWire invited me to write an article around the whole topic behind “The Search for ROI in Social Business” I just couldn’t help writing about the need, for me (Perhaps for you, too), to create that new KPI that would help me successfully identify whether I am on the right track, or not, in providing value to the customers I interact with, specially, now even more so that I am an independent trusted advisor and have shifted focus from internal into external work. 

That invitation from CMSWire to write that article has also helped me frame something that has been in my mind for a long while, whenever I embark on the conversations of how do you measure the value of your own Social Business initiatives, and whether it’s time to go deeper, moving further beyond the overall low hanging fruit of just measuring the usage of social technologies. To me, we are witnessing the unique opportunity of not only going more in-depth into the overall value proposition of Social Business, but perhaps re-define a new KPI around the client experience which, more and more, gets defined itself by the overall employee experience.

In case folks may have missed that article over at CMSWire, I have now taken the liberty of also reproducing it here below, so you can all have a look and comment on whether there is a need to go deeper and reframe altogether new KPIs to help evaluate more effectively the overall customer value propositions around the Social Business Transformation journey or whether we should just stick around, with the easy part, i.e. with the low hanging fruit. Something tells me we shouldn’t, but I would let you be the judge of that sentiment while going through the article itself… 

How the Client Experience Defines the New ROI of Social Business

“I remember when things were just getting started with Enterprise 2.0, then Social Business, how we were all trying to prove the business value of social technologies and even our very existence as 2.0 practitioners in the workplace. Do you remember how tough it was to justify yours to senior management? How things have changed since then ….

Fast forward to 2014, and while the conversation around measuring the business value of Social Business persists and is perhaps more relevant, the focus and intent of the questions have shifted. There is no longer a need to justify it, but rather an opportunity to evaluate the maturity of different initiatives as you progress on the Social Business journey. No one can deny the impact of social technologies at the workplace anymore — and that’s a good thing. We have *finally* moved on.

Beware the Low Hanging Fruit

The dialogue has evolved, although we may at times still have the impression we are running a circus, as Carrie Young brilliantly indicated in “Social ROI = Return On Insanity” This happens when we stop thinking outside of the box and the inertia kicks in that’s so pernicious in the business world: only measuring the low hanging fruit.

This is far too easy. Measuring the usage of social technologies at the workplace is far easier than the significant impact on the overall business outcomes. This is where the real challenge currently lies. I have advised clients all along that to measure the business value of your social business initiatives you should aim higher than the low hanging fruit for your critical business KPIs. The ones you have cared about throughout the years, perhaps decades. These provide the opportunity to truly change your business through the digital transformation.

There is also an opportunity to rethink how we approach these KPIs. In the Social Era it remains a challenge to measure emerging 21st century business models with a 20th century mentality. And that is where the circus begins…

There may be a better way. Let’s explore it.

A New KPI

The main business goal of most companies is no longer to just profit per se (although still a major driver), but essentially “to delight their customers,” as Steve Denning would say. Each of us can remember very well when the last time was that we had a delightful experience as a customer, and more importantly, when we didn’t. I bet our first reaction was: “Wow! What a delightful client experience. I wish I could repeat it again!”

And that’s essentially what we want for our customers — to improve their overall client experience. But in order to do that we need to aim at improving the employee experience as well, and that’s when problems arise. Very few people would deny that the client experience is defined by the employee experience. Happy employees = happy customers. It’s good for the business.

Unfortunately, employees are not very happy. Recent reports from Gallup claim that only 13 percent of employees are engaged at work worldwide. Yes, let me pause there — only 13 percent.

That essentially means that your business is being run by only a slightly over 10 percent of your employee workforce. If that’s not a worrying sign, I don’t know what is. How can we possibly define the client experience as delightful if employees aren’t there in the first place? Want to find a new business KPI that matches today’s No. 1 business problem? Look no further: employee engagement (commitment, involvement, compromise — whichever moniker du jour you favour).

I strongly believe (and always have) that Social Business can reignite a disengaged workforce, while also helping reengage vendors and clients. The apathy is permeating beyond your employees to your customers and business partners. We need to do better. We need to do MUCH better.

It’s a challenge to strike a renewed sense of purpose, meaning and more effective way of getting work done when employees lack a strong sense of belonging, of feeling appreciated, trusted, respected and valued. When you enable your employees to think and act differently through emerging social technologies — giving them autonomy, flexibility, responsibility and, above all, ownership of the work they do — you start to realize you’ve entered a different league when measuring the business value of Social Business.

Measuring the usage of social tools is helpful for clarity and awareness, but don’t stop there. Go deeper. Work with your knowledge workforce to co-create new KPIs based on their employee experiences. Chances are high they know better than you whether they are doing the right job with clients based on their interactions with them — out in the open, working more publicly and transparently, working out loud. Success will be their new reality when they reengage to delight their clients.

Showing the Way to the 21st Century

One of the many worthwhile examples that demonstrates how this can be done is TELUS, a national telecommunications company based in Vancouver, British Columbia. Dan Pontefract, Chief Envisioner at TELUS, confirmed its employee engagement rates increased from 53 percent to 83 percent and that it correlated this to an improvement in business outcomes — a.k.a. revenue. I know what you’re thinking — wow! From 53 percent to 83 percent through applying and embracing social technologies and a new kind of leadership, Open Leadership.

That’s just one example of many of how we can aim higher to strike a balanced, measurable set of outcomes to prove the ROI of Social Business. We need to stop paying for the circus and get down to action. The *real* action.

So, who wants to jump the shark and move into the 21st century to become a successful Socially Integrated Enterprise? This is your new ROI: start by improving the client experience through the employee experience.

The rest is just a distraction and one that should be avoided. At all costs.”

 

Written by Luis Suarez

Chief Emergineer, People Enabler and Charter Member of Change Agents Worldwide and a well seasoned Social / Open Business evangelist and 2.0 practitioner with over 15 years of experience on knowledge management, collaboration, learning, online communities and social networking for business; and has been living, since February 2008, a (work) life without email challenging the status quo of how knowledge workers collaborate and share their knowledge by promoting openness, transparency, trust, sustainable growth, engagement, connectedness and overall smart work. He can also be contacted over in Twitter at @elsua or Google Plus


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From Adaptation into Engagement by Luis Suarez

Language matters. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself about how important it is to build a narrative you would feel rather comfortable with when interacting with other people, whether your peers, your customers, your business partners, even your competitors. It’s something that has been in my mind over the course of time in terms of how we get work done more effectively through these digital technologies. You see? I cringe a little bit every time that someone mentions the word “drive” (Specially, when you are not in a car!), or “adoption” or the combination of both: driving the adoption (of Social Business). So whenever someone invites me to help inspire a new narrative within their organisation(s), as they embark themselves on the so-called Social Business and Digital Transformation journeys, it’s an opportunity that I just don’t let go that easily. Why? Well, because having a good, representative narrative on what matters to you and your business is no longer down to some fancy words, but more down to actions. Essentially, walking the talk, leading by example.

That’s why when the European Commission invited me last week to go to Brussels, and spend a couple of hours with a representative group of middle managers, to help them understand the role they would need to play, when embracing digital technologies, adjusting accordingly their management and leadership capabilities to the new reality, I just took the opportunity to demonstrate how important having the right narrative would well be for their own efforts to become a Socially Integrated Enterprise. Regardless of the organisation or the management layer.

So, instead of driving the adoption of middle managers from the European Commission, we talked about business purposes and how social technologies could act as a rather valuable and unprecedented enabler towards achieving a certain number of goals. We talked about the need to move away from adoption and into adaptation, understanding that they are the group that, beyond early adapters, everyone else is looking up to when embracing these emerging social tools while at work. 

You see? While most people out there would consider that middle managers are the main hurdle or obstacle towards the successful adaptation of businesses to this new way of hyperconnected, networked, smarter work, through social networks, here I am thinking, instead, they are your best ally beyond the first and second wave of “early adapters”. Most people may not realise about this, but middle managers are the social bridges within organisations. They are well connected to people down the trenches, while, at the same time, they keep close ties with those on the top. They essentially talk to both groups. They understand the needs and wants from both groups. They know, very well, how to get the most out of each of them, and if they have traditionally been perceived as rather static, hierarchical and overall disengaged, is because they have always been perceived as the main problem, when they are eventually the solution.

Middle managers are that specific group of practitioners, because, yes, they are also practitioners, just like you and me, that have been caught right in between this digital revolution of social technologies just as disengaged as everyone else. So when looking into a business purpose or problem to tackle with the emergence of Social Business employee disengagement is just as good for them as for everyone else. Remember, currently 87% of today’s knowledge workforce, according to Gallup’s recent research, is disengaged at work. So if you have got a group of 100 middle managers, that means that about 13% of them are the ones executing on the work they have, because they feel motivated enough to make it happen. The rest will just continue to struggle along generating perhaps even more disengagement amongst the rest of the workforce. And that is the main business problem we are currently facing and why we need to keep inspiring a next generation of leaders, not just senior or executive leaders, for that matter, who are willing to change their own narrative and understand that effective leadership in this so-called Social Era is not about empowering people around you, it’s about enabling those around you.

It’s about helping them understand how, as a leader, you will be offering your own help and support to provoke that transformation. How the time for command and control, or micro-managing your employees is a thing of the past. How to become an effective leader you would need to acquire a new set of skills and capabilities that would help you transform yourself from being just another middle manager doing their (disengaged) work into the new kind of Open Leadership that’s very much needed to help re-engage a knowledge workforce that right now is on the brink of collapsing on its own. 

That’s why words no longer mean anything on their own. That’s why actions do mean everything. That’s why leading by example, walking the talk, exhibiting those new leadership capabilities and competencies would help you, as a (middle / senior) leader, understand the new dynamic of what it is like thriving in social networks, being part of the pack, one of the nodes, one that can act as the main catalyst to connect the dots across the organisation understanding that the days for the good old strict and rigid hierarchy are well numbered and how it is time to transition into a hybrid approach of combining both hierarchy and wirearchy to then eventually transition into a wirearchy inspired organisation. 

A lot has been written in the past about the critical role that middle managers play when embarking on the Social Business Transformation journey. However, they also have got business problems of their own that they would need to solve first, as my good friend, and fellow CAWW member, Simon Terry quoted just recently: “Middle managers like to complain about being squeezed by pressures from above and below. Their organisations love to blame them for all the ills in the place”. Perhaps it’s now a good time to understand that we should probably stop blaming them for everything that has gone wrong in an organisation and, instead, help enable them to understand their new critical role in the leadership ladder to become the social bridges to effectively make change happen. 

How? Well, probably by exhibiting, through actions, not words anymore alone, a new kind of leadership capabilities, associated with the whole notion around both Social Business and Open Business under a new, rather specific, framework: Open Leadership. To that extent, a little while ago, I put together a presentation at Haiku Deck where I captured my interpretation of what those new leadership traits would be like putting them in context about the main business purpose behind them when embracing the emergence of social technologies at the workplace: eventually, re-engage the knowledge workforce. Yes, to me, still, and by far, our number one business problem in today’s business world, whatever the industry, whatever the sector, no matter what organisation.

Can you imagine the huge potential of transforming our work environment from having just barely a bit over 10% of the employee population doing all the hard work, where we are just about to enter the stage of mere survival, to eventually have a much much higher level of purposeful participation and overall engagement? I know how plenty of folks have been talking all along about social networking’s capabilities to democratise the workplace. To me, it goes well beyond that. It’s about that unique opportunity to democratise how we work, how we connect, collaborate and share our knowledge more effectively, so that we can get work done without all the unnecessary stress and ill-behaviours we are currently exhibiting that are managing, little by little, to destroy everything that we have been building up over the course of decades, and, to such extent, that’s the main reason why middle managers are the main enablers of that transformation journey. 

 

From Adaptation into Engagement. From being blamed from all sides for everything that goes wrong, to become the catalyst enablers helping transform not only the way we all work, but also, essentially, the corporate cultures we breathe in day in day out. After all, they always had the authority to act. Now they just need to show what Open Leadership truly means in the connected workplace and demonstrate it accordingly, not only by their words alone, but also by their own actions, too! 

 

Written by Luis Suarez

Chief Emergineer, People Enabler and Charter Member of Change Agents Worldwide and a well seasoned Social / Open Business evangelist and 2.0 practitioner with over 15 years of experience on knowledge management, collaboration, learning, online communities and social networking for business; and has been living, since February 2008, a (work) life without email challenging the status quo of how knowledge workers collaborate and share their knowledge by promoting openness, transparency, trust, sustainable growth, engagement, connectedness and overall smart work. He can also be contacted over in Twitter at @elsua or Google Plus

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