This is a typical question I got very often ever since my company Environmental Resources Management (ERM) has received the World's Top 10 Best Intranet Award.
'Dear Bonnie, We're now looking to re-launch our intranet as part of a wider projectalso involving our website and extranets, and in advance of this I had one particular question I wanted to ask you. I can foresee that there isgoing to be particular aversion from key members involved in this project to the use of various web2.0 technologies, particularly the useof social media internally...'
Here is my thought which I have shared with many colleaques whom I met in conferences. Simply speaking, I think we are not only asking our employees to change, we are also asking the leaders to change.
Projects often hinge on getting the buy-in of senior managers. As important as it is for end users to buy into a system, they often look to senior leaders and follow their lead. If senior managers use and rely on the intranet, in encourages the rank and file to do so as well. I wanted to make sure that the managers understood this imperative prior to launch of the new site.
Before the launch of ERM's intranet, Minerva, I conducted a workshop with the top senior managers to prepare them for the launch. The focus was not merely to train them to use Minerva, but also to discuss the new leadership required to truly embrace the intranet.
During the workshop, I offered them two options: (a) you are in it; or (b) you are still in it. The point I was trying to make was that the leaders had to be committed to supporting Minerva, and its range of Web2.0 features. They could not delegate the need for change. I was trying to make the point that they had to change themselves and lead by example and most importantly use the tool themselves as well.
Let me share some of the highlights of the leadership workshop:
- Be prepared for the consequences: Allowing employees to share and communicate openly and online comes with its pros and cons, so leaders/managers really need to be prepared for the consequences. On the one hand, it can allow new ideas and lead to innovation and on the other, it will surface diverse views, dissent and challenges also, challenge people in power. Many organisations out there are struggling with the latter and have decided to 'suppress' and/or 'manage' these diverse views and have failed to implement Web2.0.
- Embrace Web 2.0: To embrace Web2.0, the organisation has to open up communications and promote the following ways of working:• New ideas / input• Praise / Support• Innovation• Engagement• Dialogue• Clarification• Deeper understanding• New learning• Multiple perspectives
- Be prepared for the challenges: The organisation has to be aware of the challenges that come from an open and transparent communication culture. Some of the key words to describe those challenges include:• Diversity• Challenge• Dissent• Sub-groups• Surprise• Uncertainty• Emergence• Unable to plan too much• Less control
- Be prepared for challenging dialogue: Since the launch of Minerva, ERM has seen some controversial dialogue in the CEO’s blog. Some comments were direct and blunt while others outlined gaps they see which can hinder company’s growth. The negative comments could be hard to hear especially when they are posed in the public intranet space.
In a case where members of staff are not willing to share their views publicly, they are encouraged to email senior managers directly. This has also resulted in leaders having to face the questions and find ways to make improvement.
- Accept the “inconveniences”: ERM leaders truly believe that in order to grow the business to the next phase, we must connect all the ‘brains’ within the organisation, and use them to serve our clients’ needs. It may come with some ‘inconvenience’, but the leaders truly believe the benefits can outgrow them. Our leaders are still learning. Most importantly, they are willing to learn. They see this as a way to increase competitive advantage and to allow ERM to deliver world-class solutions to the clients.