Month: July 2012

Why Brave is my new favorite movie.

This is not a tech, marketing, product development or social media post. Its a personal opinion piece that I felt like writing. As a woman in science and later tech, I’ve always had a funny relationship with feminism, but felt it was easy to ignore it for the most part – only occasionally educating the hopelessly ignorant, but otherwise not identifying with it or caring much about it. This was probably a mistake on my part, and I have a collection of gender lessons i’ve learned the hard way, but this isn’t about that.

Feminism is again highly relevant – and by that I mean its changing and there are a lot of very interesting ideas and widespread discussions in the realm. There are even some men participating in the discussion. Twenty first century woman – at least in this part of the world – now have basic right to pursue whatever we want – as long as we are prepared to shoulder all of the burdens ourselves. This is in some part demonstrated by the small firestorm of the Atlantic article “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” earlier this month, and the appointment of Marrisa Meyer as CEO of Yahoo, joining the female leadership ranks of Virginia Rometty at IBM, Arati Prabhakar ofDARPA and Cheryl Sandburg’s  board of directors seat af Facebook. And then of course there is Hilary, one of the feminine heroes of our generation.

I never considered myself a feminist – I didn’t think I needed to. I was a physics major, then a software engineer. I was the only girl in the room for a the first half of my career, and often even now. My feminist fires were kindled by my daughter’s surprise, at the age of 6, that a woman was the pilot of our United flight from Dulles to SFO. I was beside myself that I had allowed her to have developed this gender -biased view of the world at such and early age. Not to mention that my marriage (like all women I know who have careers and children) was turned upside down by my assumption that we’d be equal parents -in stark contrast to his unexamined Ozzie and Harriet fantasy. This required – and still does – much discussion and re-education and far too much compromise on my side.

So, a few months back, my son and husband decide we need a Terminator marathon – 1, 2 and 3 in quick succession. You may recall that in T1, Sarah Connor is helpless and weak. But in T2 we see something that most of us had never seen from Hollywood (or real life)  before. A super-buff, independent, strong (albeit a little over the top), self sufficient, feminine, clever woman whom everyone else is looking to for leadership. Even the Arnold is submissive to her command. Her escape from the insane asylum is awesome. But not as awesome as her arms. She kicked ass and took prisoners. My family got an earful from me on how radical this was on film in 1991.

Then in 1992  something really surprising came to mainstream hollywood – Rene Russo joined Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon 3. She was very feminine. She was very beautiful. She wore really great clothes – that weren’t tight or skimpy – the kind we started buying at banana republic en mass. She outsmarts and out-fights Mel Gibson, then seduces him. In short it was a hoot, a riot and a good time for we college girls.

Much later we have Thelma and Louise, a great movie about women, but not exactly about powerful women – more about desperate women. Don’t get me wrong – its a phenomenal movie. There are some others in between and since, of course, though not as many as you’d think.  I’m not a feminist historian or much of a film buff, so let me know what  important watershed mainstream hollywood feminist movies i’ve forgotten or never even saw.

Contrast these movies with the girl movie of my childhood. My kids influence what I watch these days more than any other factor, and when they adored Glee, I thought perhaps they’d also like Grease – which I hadn’t seen since it was new. Seeing it again, i found it jaw droppingly anti-feminist. A young girl likes a guy, who doesn’t like her back in front of her friends because she isn’t cool. So she drops her identity and values and takes up leather, perms and smoking to get the guy. Eek. I suppose at the time it came across as liberating a nerd into the post-sexual-revolution world, but now its just cringe-worthy.

Since having my own kids I’ve, of course, become a kiddie movie maven. We saw some progress away from the helpless disney princess mold as we got Mulan – the warrior, and whatever the girl in Shrek’s name is who at least wasn’t a pushover. But finally, finally, finally, we have Brave. In addition to showing the first wild, woolly and incontrovertibly beautiful curly hair we’ve ever seen in animation (they had new software written just to animate her hair, which I think should win best supporting actress), we have the first princess fantasy that is truly a girls story. It is not about her rescue or a quest for romantic love. Most significantly – and I can’t emphasize this enough – she does not get married in the end –  because this story is about her coming of age, not her coming of bride. Interestingly the Katy Perry movie, is pretty similar. So now our daughters inherit some feminine narratives that are not only about romance. I hope our sons do too.

So – tomorrow its back to the geeky stuff.

Why aren’t more of us doing a good job, and what does social business have to do with it?

This is a cross-post of this month’s CMSWire article.

There is much said about employee engagement these days – how it is essential to great business outcomes, and how it is often shockingly low. Gallup’s 2009 statistical analysis across multiple studies show pretty radical correlations between having engaged employees and corporate outcomes. 

Comparing top-quartile to bottom-quartile engagement business units resulted in median percentage differences of:
12% increase in customer loyalty/engagement
16% increase in profitability
18% increase in productivity
25% reduction in turnover for high-turnover companies
49% reduction in turnover for low-turnover companies
49% reduction in safety incidents
27% reduction in shrinkage
37% reduction in absenteeism
41% reduction in patient safety incidents
60% increase in quality (defects)

There’s another avalanche of writing and advice on how to engage employees, and another slightly smaller pile that heckles some of that advice, with deservedly sharp humor.

A quick tour of the of the employee engagement issue, would begin with the research findings work of Tower Perrin and Gallup. From there, there are two fast and fantastic TED talks (these are among the most popular talks and they aren’t new, so you may have seen them already.) The first is Daniel Pink’s Drive.- which talks about what motivates people at an individual level. The second thing to look at is Simon Sinek’s talk on how great leaders inspire action, which talks about how to align people with an idea.

What is employee engagement?  There are several excellent definitions, but it amounts to whether an employee cares about their job enough to collect the energy and focus required to do it well.
So – if engagement is roughly the equivalent of doing a good job (it is at least the attempt or desire to do a good job) , then what does it take to do a good job? Badges? Employee recognition? Picnics? Yammer? I’m not knocking those as contributing to good environments, I’m just sayin. Those are frosting, not cake.

Here’s one way to look at it. Doing a good job requires the ability to do the job, a reason to do a good job, and (perhaps counterintuitively you’ll say) the permission to do a good job.

1. The ability to do good work.

This obviously has several components.
From the individual, it demands a fit of skills and thinking.
From management it requires a clear understanding on what it means to do a good job, as well as the opportunity to ask and learn
From the IT and Structure of the organization . It means providing the appropriate tools, colleagues, and resources to do that job
In this context, a socially oriented business both provides excellent communication and collaboration tools, as well as an environment of trust, transparency and a learning orientation.

2. A Reason to do good work

All the talent in the world – and all the effort, will do little to help you if there’s no focus or alignment. At best you’ll get random good work that doesn’t amount to much. At worst, you’ll just get half-hearted attempts that peter out quickly. In many ways, this is the true promise of social intention-driven, mission focused work. The vast majority of us want our work to matter, we want it to be great, we want to be recognized for our mastery, to paraphrase Dan Pink).

3. Permission to do good work

Many of you will squawk here and say the only permission you need is your own. And I am certainly a subscriber to the “do the right thing, take responsibility, work hard, and things will sort themselves out” philosophy. But in fact, in many organizations decision-making is opaque and uninformed by the organization, mission is poorly reasoned and expressed and processes are somewhat arbitrary. Such organizations actively, if unintentionally, quash good work. The process doesn’t allow for it, or a lack of clarity around goals and decisionmaking processes renders it irrelevant. After a few swings and misses (or dozens), your employees aren’t going to bother coming up to the plate anymore.

So maybe permission to do good work isn’t the best phrase here, maybe the phrase is affordance. Does your company value good work, understand how to identify it, promote and enable it? Your company may be promoting collaboration, and that helps, it may be providing a social intranet, and that helps. But if decisionmaking happens in a board room, and when decisions are announced, they aren’t explained – or aren’t authentically explained, and the work of your teams is therefore struggling to support somewhat mysterious goals. Or if when someone points out an obvious problem, and people blink and say its unfixable – for whatever reason then you are effectively withdrawing permission to do good work.

Employee Engagement and Social Business
If you are striving to be a social business, you may have any number of motivations, including shareholder value. (another motivation is just making the world a better place, or some measure of pride) A social business is one where structure and processes exist to enable people to do great work in service of a vision or mission that is valuable to its customers. The other kind of company begrudgingly accepts employees as the cost of doing business and customers as a source of revenue.

A social business is constantly discussing, refining and finding opportunities in their mission. The best application of a social intranet is to ensure the transparency of reasoning and decisions, and to involve the organization in it as a trusted partner. A Social Business leader is giving context to their trusted team about the decisions that are being made, their constraints, and their multi-layered meaning and impact.

Shared mission, mutual respect, trust, and commitment to continual improvement – these happen to be the four hallmarks of a collaborative team. Perhaps they are also, and more deeply, the context, the permission, the oxygen we need to do great work.

The best is yet to come.

You want to be a social business? The 9 boxes you need to check.

ImageIf you are reading this, then you have probably been thinking about and working toward incorporating social technologies and philosophies into your business (or other people’s) for a couple of years. There is endless material on the topic available for your reading and viewing pleasure. It can be complicated. It can be overwhelming, but it can also be fairly straightforward if you think about it from the right perspective. This is a list designed to help get that straightforward perspective – to take stock before diving deep into the details.

Here I present to you, in its entirety, the list of entities and issues you need to consider in order to be a social business, from the most tactical to the most strategic. I’ve chosen 9 for this list. Please do share your candidate for #10.

1.    External Social Networks
What? You know – facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Slideshare, among others.
Why? That’s where the people are, that’s where the conversation is taking place, that’s where it is easy to get left behind. That’s where you generate enough trust, interest, relevance, credibility to get people to engage with you. In this way you also get to know the needs of your markets more intimately, stay abreast of industry trends, and understand your partners and competitors, if you’re into that kind of thing. You also, if you are the right kind of person in the right kind of organization, can keep the edge perspective that might just give you the next breakthrough idea.
Who should be involved? Anyone in your organization that has anything to do with customers, PR or marketing. So, traditionally, that’s marketing, some of R&D, customer service, and the PR team.
What do I need to do about it? First you should be there. You should get out there and listen, and then participate. You should have (at least one, but not too many)corporate presence in each of the relevant networks, and you should have appropriate strategies – including social media catastrophe plans.

Next, you should consider social marketing/consolidation automation and crm tools, like Wildfire or the newly acquired Vitrue. Listening is crucial with something like Radian6. Ensure your customer service department is out there, listening and armed with something better than “ thanks, please open a ticket on that” I’ll say that Verizon twitter customer service is knock-your-socks-off good. Last, you should consider some killer content that is exciting, meaningful and multi-media. If you can write the paper, do a slidedeck. If you can do a slide deck to a video, if you can do a video, do an infographic. Make meaning all the time.

2.    Your website
What? You know, It’s that digital place you may, or may not, have been neglecting recently. Does it have a place for people (rather than GranitecorpMan) to express opinions, thought leadership, news or other stuff?
Why? All roads lead to Rome (where “Rome” is your website). Your social activity is wasted if there isn’t a destination that can aggregate all the information and activity, and provide deeper information and involvement – even the chance to “buy now”. Can facebook be that destination? Not really. At least not yet. (are we doing geocities backwards now? Jeesh).

Who should be involved? Mostly the marketing team. You’ll also need an excellent design and human factors crew. And if you really want to do well here, you need to be doing this with at least one eye glued to your customer experience map.
Also the sales team. Your sales team is busting your chops for more collateral, right? Kill all those birds dead with this stone. Your website IS your collateral. Maybe some of it is behind a login, if absolutely necessary.

What do I need to do about it? Don’t boil the ocean. Start small, do well, and grow. Plan for constant change. Design for constant change, implement for constant change, and then change.

3.    Mobile
What? Your phone. Or your tablet. What would your customers like to have when they are where they are? Is that an app, a mobile site, or just a mobile optimized email?
Why? Where do you get most of your mail first?
Who should be involved? This is usually some hybrid or variation of what you already offer online. But you’ll need to decide – is this a value prop on its own? Is it marketing? Is it customer support? Know what you need, then pull the team in.
What do I need to do about it? At a minimum, recognize that email goes to phones first a lot of the time. Then you need to start thinking differently. In what way does the sensing capability of people in the field important to your value proposition? In what way can you offer important information to a person in a certain time, place and context?

4.    Private social networks
What? You know, communities.  Communities of customers, communities of partners, other groups you want to be tightly synched with.
Why? You probably have one or more of these private communities already. Are they active? Are they any good? Are you paying attention? Because these will be your best chance to nurture your best customers and partners on an ongoing basis so that everyone stays happy (and revenue positive).

Who should be involved? R&D, Customer Service, Sales, Others as appropriate .
What do I need to do about it? There are plenty of technologies for this. You should get one, and begin encouraging your customers and employees to engage and chat there. You should have a community manager (we can show radical differences in effectiveness when these communities are actively cared for).

5.    Intranet
What? That (probably) crappy internal website you have that’s always out of date, has terrible navigation as well as the expense report forms and the employee handbook.
Why? Because the more your organization can act like an organism, the more fluid, innovative, coordinated, cohesive and effective it will be. Your organization needs reliable, universal access to 1) shared resources, 2) processes and 3) one another. Your team needs to stay on top of what’s going on in the rest of the organization and have an obvious and convenient place to go with questions.

While most businesses these days start with number 1 on this list, in its the continual awareness of corporate activity and place to ask questions that are the most important items on this list. You must not skip or ignore it because it might be hard or cost money. It is not OK to have the worst possible tools for your team. Its a waste of money, and worse, your employees can tell that you don’t care about them if you are skimping on their core tools. Can you imagine an organization that failed to provide email or internet addresses for its knowledge workers? Failing to provide an excellent intranet is in the same league.

Who should be involved? HR, Employee communications, Department heads, the CEO, R&D and IT. If you are a large organization with people in more than one location, your intranet IS your organization. If you don’t agree, just go sit in a corner somewhere while the rest of us build a business without you.
What do I need to do about it? Understand the basic requirements.
–       A place to share information – ie next gen shared file systems, often known as Enterprise Content Management.
–       A place to share news, events and calendars
–       Some kind of blog and wiki capability.
–       Some kind of microblogging (this creates ambient awareness and a fast response mechanism)
–       Content management and sharing on a global level as well as a departmental level.

6.    Team collaboration
What? While some people believe that intranets are collaboration spaces, they are misinformed, or perhaps have never actually worked on a project with a team. Intranets are a way to connect and circulate with a broad community of the organization. Real work needs a more focused approach. You may find my discussion of the three types of collaboration helpful if this runs counter to your intuition.
Why? Teams need dedicated shared workspaces. They need a way to organize, communicate, aggregate and iterate on work without wasting valuable time and energy focused on the logistics of it. With those tools they can actually spend the majority of their time understanding the problem, generating answers and delivering solutions. Critically importantly, these shared workspaces also capture work as its being done, so that the know how and resources are collected in such a way that they are findable and reusable.

Who should be involved? Anyone in your organization that might have to work as part of a team of any kind.
What do I need to do about it? Ensure that you have really good, usable collaboration software. Ensure that teams can form seamlessly, that it is connected with your intranet so that work and expertise are discoverable in context throughout your organization.

7.    Your purpose and narrative
What? You must answer the question, “Why do you matter?” You must answer it at the emotional, intellectual and rational levels.  You must answer it for your team and for your market and for your customers, community, ecosystem and society. And it must be the same answer for all parties.
Why? Yes, that’s right. Why. Because without this you will never be more than mediocre. Without this your team won’t care, your market won’t care, and you’ll need to rely on financial manipulations for success. Be important. Be the best at something. Be relevant. That is the key to getting people to work for you, give you money, sing your praises.
Who should be involved? Those who wish to be involved. This should be lead by your very best thinkers, who should plan to invest several months in the process. These thinkers can be in your marketing, your tech or other departments. If you’re lucky, they are your founders, or perhaps your “re-founders”
What do I need to do about it? You need a narrative hierarchy that acts as the basis for your thinking, decision-making and communications of all types. (Want one? Ping me.).

8.    Your organizational design
What? How you decide things, take action, interact with the world, develop and deliver value., allot responsibility, compensation and lots of other stuff.
Why? Command and Control is withering in the face of self-actualized employees, improved communications tools and complex, even wicked environments and problems. Evolve or die.
Who should be involved? Every last soul, but a superb leadership team. When control wanes, leadership, purpose, collaboration, integrity and commitment (the big brother of accountability) reign.
What do I need to do about it? First you need to hire people whom you trust. Then you need to trust them. You need to think about what the best way is to create a shared purpose, and enable those people to do what it takes to realize that purpose. You need to coordinate, communicate, make decisions and act. This is not an event or a decision; it’s a process of discovery.

9.    Curiosity (sometimes known as Big Data)
What? Big Data is not actually the fact that we have a ton of stuff. Big data is the recognition that nearly every action now leaves a digital footprint – via web, mobile, or other transaction, and that an infinity of wisdom is waiting for people who are able to enquire against it.

Why? exactly.
Who should be involved? IT, along with every curious and questioning, learning mind in your organization.
What do I need to do about it? Understand what data is available to you internally and externally. Get to know the tools of inquiry. Analytics tools, mapping tools, database tools. Ask questions. Ask more questions. Expand your access, your tools and your inquiries.

So – how does this list help?
Social Business is an important term, and a critical goal, but it remains poorly and inconsistently defined. There are philosophical definitions (organizations that focus on empowering people to do great work) and practical ones (organizations that use facebook). In the end, however, you need to look at how you are connecting with the stakeholders in your ecosystem, how you are making use of those connections and to what end. A truly social business will have well considered answers to all of them. We’re all somewhere on that journey, and learning fast.

The best is yet to come.