A Social Org is a Conversational Org

I talk a lot about a social organization and James Tyer and I will elaborate in our book, Social By Design, but I thought it would be helpful to share what we mean. A social organization is a conversational organization. And yes, all types exist and are encouraged as knowing people on a deeper level aids in work relationships. However what orgs need is work conversations and not just those that help work get done more effective and efficiently but conversations that continually challenge HOW work gets done, to improve it for the benefit of company, individual worker and culture.

These conversations spur innovation and creativity. Work is the object that social forms around. But for work to be critically discussed, the processes and protocols, those written and unwritten must be revealed. It’s only with transparency and openness that people can see and contribute in meaningful ways. therefore it’s openness and transparency can enable a social organization to exist.

The 702010 Learning (Department) Model

I’ve always felt L&D as a department was kind of forced into that space since that’s how traditional organizational design works; skills, tasks, departments, etc. But unlike Accounting or Marketing, “learning” doesn’t play nice with ROI. We have also come to accept that “learning” doesn’t come in one flavor, i.e. training. Most, however, subscribe to the idea that people learn in doing their work, finding information, chatting with peers and experts AND then from training. Yet most L&D departments are made up primarily of training professions. This has to change.

Where many have gone wrong with 702010 is in treating it as a learning model and trying to build to some arbitrary percentages, i.e. “we need to be learning informally 70% of the time!“. No, 702010 as I’ve noted is more a principle or rule like gravity. It just is, deal with it. And maybe the best way to deal with it is by using it to build the best of kind L&D department, The Modern Learning Department.

If the majority of learning happens in and through the work we do, then organizations would be wise to invest most heavily in KM methodology and technology. Additionally, they’d need to provide new incentives and capability to help people move newfound ideas more easily into their public sphere. Incentive changes to be in reward, recognition and success measure changes as well as a reposition of management to be focused on support and growth. To do this there would then need to be significant IT and Org Design skills in this new L&D department. Next, if people learn much in social exchanges then the org needs to better invest in community management capabilities, internal comms and communications/social technology, as well as coaches and mentors embedded in the various workflows. And finally, to a lesser extent, training. If compliance box-checking is required then, of course, you need ID and elearning skills. But if not, traditional training and trainers will be the smallest part to make up this new model for L&D.

With the right mix to meet the real ways people learn, organizations can break free of the defaults we’ve seen for decades; training-centric.

To recap, A Modern Learning Department:

  • 70% (Most) KM professionals, Org Designers, IT
  • 20% (Much) Social Tech, Community Management, Internal Comms, Coaching and Mentoring
  • 10% (Some) Trainers, ID’s, eLearning Developers

Social Leadership: Encourage, Support or Model? Pick One.

Three ways leadership can advance social in their organization are through encouragement, support, or modeling. Let’s say if you have to have leadership pick only one, which would it be?

I’d argue it’s modeling. Here’s why.

By the very connotation of the word, Leader, Leaders lead the way. They go first. They don’t direct, they don’t point and tell, they do. You could be CEO, Sr. Division Manager or occupant of cube 31. If you do, and people follow, you’re leading.

When you’re consciously and strategically advancing org social, you have to model and here’s how it can look:

Explain to your followers (peers, reports, employees, etc) what you would like to see them do, why, and then ask them for their support in YOUR efforts to do the same. Tell them what barriers you may have and ask them what theirs are. Then discuss all openly.  In one fell swoop, you’re in it. You’re sharing, you’re inviting collaboration, and you’re modeling how to blow through silos.

Modeling is encouraging. Modeling is supportive.


Every Leader is a Follower Too

Let’s be honest, when people say “leader” they really mean manager or someone in the c-suite. Next, people think if these folks could become better listeners, build trust, reveal their failures, do the thing and everyone will follow, etc. then the trickle-down cultural effect will be amazing. Well, it’s not. Like you, I’ve been reading this kind of stuff 10x a day, every day… for like 10 years now. So why aren’t leaders changing? Why isn’t this new way the norm rather than the exception by now?

Here’s why. It’s the system. Either the system they subscribe to or the system that’s imposed on them. The system is just org design things like rewards, recognition, measures, value, etc. A simple truth is that most “leaders” got to where they are by understanding these systems. They mastered them. Now YOU want them to change and go against the system that sustains them. Your efforts at influencing might get some small actions but once they deviate too much or too fast, especially in the very large orgs, the system will pull them right back.

Maybe we’re aiming for the wrong target. Maybe we should focus less on trying to directly change individual behaviors and first focus more on the systems they follow. So if the maxim is true that every leader has followers, well then even a “leader” is a follower of something. Aim a little higher.

Is Your Organization Being a Hypocrite?

Corporations are psychotic, was a general sentiment I shared in a Twitter exchange with Paul Joycelyn the other day. However upon examination it’s far more accurate to say companies of all sizes can be hypocrites. Just look at what they say and do on the outside? Are they applying the same on the inside? Is your org hypocritical?

  • It’s important to build relationships with customers and partners which takes compromise and being trustworthy. Are you being equally as open to ideas and acting with sincerity to those you lead and manage?
  • Listening to the market to learn their wants and needs. Are you listening to employees for the same?
  • Recognizing that talent is everywhere and extending the enterprise is seen as critical. Are you recognizing different skills within the org and creating new opportunities for the people you already have?
  • Delighting customers with easy to use/ “just works” products is paramount. Is the same passion being applied inside in the form of a clear alignment of work to goals, effective tools, and providing work with purpose?

These are all easy to address. Just point the same energy, the same customer strategy towards your own people. Bring the outside in and the inside will better drive the outside.