Sunday, June 14, 2009

KCUK2009: How ERM uses Intranet 2.0 to address the economic recession?

In the recent KCUK2009 conference, I prepared 2 examples on how ERM used Intranet 2.0 (simply speaking, 2 online discussion forums + a CEO blog) to faciliate global dialogue to address the economic recession. From the tweets I read, I know that my audience remember this tag line: To make Intranet 2.0 work, we need Leadership 2.0.

So how did ERM do it? What did our leaders do? I have shared 2 examples. The first one is about supporting the business goal of growing sales. The second one is about supporting the goal of keeping staff informed and maintaining staff morales during tough times.

In the first case, ERM leaders use an online discussion forum to gather clients intelligence from any client-facing staff worldwide (who share their ideas, insights, client intelligence gained after face-to-face meetings). The insights shared on the forum are reviewed on a monthly basis to inform decision making (e.g. refine existing services, roll out new services etc.). What ERM clients like is that our consultants bring with them these global insights and discuss with them during their face-to-face meetings. Our clients find them extremely valuable to help them to see a broader picture (such as how other companies are struggling as well and how other companies overcome tough issues) and they love the value that ERM has added as a truly connected global company.

In the second case, ERM leaders (Global CEO, regional CEOs) conducted two global 60-min online dialogue (similar to IBM Jam) with all staff using an online discussion forum on our intranet's homepage on 15 May. The Global CEO first initiated the conversation 6 weeks ago on his CEO blog, posters were circulated to all offices to raise awareness and invited all staff to join one of the 2 sessions. If any staff wanted to submit anonymous questions, they can send the questions to the facilitator (i.e. me) or submit online (and by doing so, their names are attached to the questions). Our leaders welcome our staff to pose tough questions, and as a facilitated, I posted the unedited question online for the senior leaders to answer. Our senior leaders made the time available, but have not prepared any 'corporate speech', they sat in front of the computer terminal, digested the questions and typed very quickly and provided 'uncanned' candid answers on the fly. Feedback from staff have been positive as they have gained a broader understanding of the businss situation and learn how they can play a part to overcome the economic recession. The leaders have learnt from the staff as well, some questions being raised were not the questions on their radar, and they seriously took them on board to inform future thnking.

Back to the tagline: To make Intranet 2.0 work, we need Leadership 2.0. What kind of Leadership2.0 does ERM leaders demonstrate? In short:

  1. Willingness to solicit input from any staff worldwide (regardless of ranks, years with the company, anyone, anywhere)
  2. Willingness to listen to things which can be hard to hear and ready to be surprised
  3. Willingness to learn from the staff and make adjustment in decision or refine future direction based on what staff have shared
  4. Willingness to try new online communication tools to engage, going beyond their comfort zone
To me, the willingness of ERM staff and leaders to learn and grow together is amazing. Have we made mistakes, could we have done it better? Yes, definitely. I feel there are ways to faciliate the dialogue better, to have deeper conversation, to design the tools/interface better etc.

Have the staff got all the answers they need? Our leaders managed to answer 95% of the questions submitted. Are the answers what the staff want to hear? Some answers are tough (because the economic reality is tough, e.g. cost cutting is a reality that staff need to understand). The conversation is not designed to help the leaders to give answers that staff like to hear; nor for staff to ask 'happy' questions that leaders like to hear/answer.

I believe a good dialogue is that when we all come out from the dialogue, both sides develop better understanding of one another's viewpoints and even though we don't agree (or like) an answer, knowing how we come to our viewpoints help build understanding within the company, espcially when times are tough. A number of staff have got in touch with me and asked 'could we do this in good times as well?'

No comments: