Let Strongest Need Drive Development of Social Business Communities

By Ethan Yarbrough posted 12-21-2010 00:40


Consider this: who should drive the formation of social business communities within your company? Who should be responsible for promoting communities and nurturing them and cultivating the connections that can form within them?

I believe that the group that has the most significant vested interest in seeing the community succeed should be the one nurturing it.

A Thumbnail Case Study: Community and New Business Development

Jason is the VP of Client Services at my company. He’s the guy leading the team responsible for generating new leads and landing new business.

Part of Jason’s strategy for lead generation includes dramatically expanding the number of employees empowered to identify and initiate leads. It should not be solely the responsibility of the sales department to identify new business opportunities, he says. And I agree. Yes, if a sales team member hears about a potential project that sounds a lot like a project we’ve already done, he wants that person to act on that awareness, speak knowledgeably to our ability to do the work and thus secure the lead. But Jason also wants any web developer in our company to be able to do the same, or any project manager or business analyst or HR administrator. Anyone.

To support lead identification, Jason wants to build better, wider-ranging and more persistent awareness of the work the company is doing for customers and what expertise exists within the company at any given time.

Jason’s goal is to increase the number of people with awareness of the work we do and to increase the depth of their awareness.

I need to pause here to say: that was my goal in 2007 when I rolled out my first, and failed, attempt at professional communities within Allyis.

Here, however, is the subtle but significant difference in Jason’s strategy versus my own:  I created a community for project level workers to share information with other project level workers. My community’s goal was to help employees solve problems on their own projects by finding and talking to people working on other similar projects.

Jason’s goal is different. He wants to increase the number of new projects by making people more aware of current projects.

I wanted people talking to each other about the projects we were working on for the benefit of those same projects. Jason wants people sharing information about the projects they are working on for the benefit of our effort to more efficiently land new projects.

My focus was the projects we have. Jason’s focus is the projects we want.

Both are legitimate goals. But my effort came up against the fact that our employees often work onsite at client locations for months at a time. And in those client environments, they have other sources for the answers they need. There was little incentive for them to participate in our community because their needs were being met by the client communities.

In Jason’s approach, though, the group charged with nurturing the sharing of information within the community will be the people who need that information the most: his business development team.  They are separate from that project-level work and they have nowhere else to learn that project-level information except from the people doing the work.  They need to extract knowledge from the project-level employees so they can represent our work in business development situations. The more knowledge they can extract, the more successful they will be. Their need will produce the energy to sustain activity.

The Fundamental Truth of Enterprise 2.0 Change Management

Need drives change: This is a fundamental truth of change management, whether Enterprise 2.0 or anything else: behavioral change is cultural change. For culture to change, there has to be a driving group within the culture that wants to change. And for people to want change they have to need  that change. It seems obvious, but it is often overlooked.

If you want to drive change within your organization, put the change project in the hands of the people who need the change the most.

I’ve talked about one use of community in this post: a better informed employee population to help us in accessing more leads and generating more business. To be clear, that is our particular goal for our community. I don’t want you to take it as a statement of what all communities should be about. The key is to know for your own company what needs exist that could benefit from more community connection. Who has the most to gain from seeing the change succeed? Then build your community effort around addressing the unique needs you’ve identified and put the responsibility for cultivating change in the hands of the people who most need to see the change succeed.

#knowledgemanagement #communities #emergence #Socailbusiness #enterprise2.0