Change: Evolution or Revolution

The following is a guest post from Simon Terry, the CEO of HICAPS (Australia’s leading health care and payments system) and a passionate advocate for the use enterprise social in developing new ways of working and leading.
Disruptive change always feels like a revolution. When things are moving fast and you are constantly surprised and threatened by the pace of change, it is easy to feel like the world is being overturned. The opportunity with social media and particularly enterprise social is to engage with change and improve your organisation’s ability to manage the rapidly changing environment of work.
In a generation, we have gone from a PC on every desk sounding ambitious to wondering how we manage a world that is always on, social, connected everywhere, and leveraging dramatically increased volumes of information and analytical power. The way we work has changed but in many ways we are using management models and approaches to work that come from an industrial age.
Will we face evolution or a revolution in our ways of working with all this change?
My perspective is that it will continue to be an evolution, but one that occurs at an exponential pace wired by networks of people sharing practices and successes. Social media and enterprise social tools are accelerating the rate of exchange of information. We could be on the verge of major change. [Link to my industrial revolution blog] If you are not paying attention, all this change is going to feel like a revolution.
These changes in work will also feel like a revolution when it shows us the limits of some of the current models of management. Leading management thinkers like Gary Hamel are asking questions on what will be the future of management and can organisations adapt.
However enterprise social tools reveal this directly. When we open channels of feedback and see genuine two-way discussions in our organisation, we often learn that we don’t have the control that we think we have using traditional management techniques like hierarchy, silos and direction. Almost all organisations complain of issues with engagement, communication, strategy execution, alignment and other issues arising from a workforce that makes its own decisions. The little revolts happens all the time but less publicly, passively and without the ease of a network to connect to similar views. As our workforces become more engaged and motivated, it becomes even more important to realize that control must give way to building purpose, context, influence and debate. Realizing that some of our current models aren’t as effective as we think creates dramatic changes in our approaches.
Adapting to these changes is not going to happen in your organisation without leadership. We need leaders to drive the process of monitoring the environment, developing new skills and fostering the experimentation in new ways of working. Most importantly of all leadership will be required to manage and support people through an environment and disruptive change
Leveraging Social Networks can help
Enterprise social networks can help organisations to follow and leverage these changes in five key ways:
  • Improve monitoring: the more people you use in your organisation to scan the environment, to look and share changes that they see, the less likely you are to be surprised by the pace of change. Social media and enterprise social are ideal tools to monitor the environment in and around your organisation. Know you have effective tools to allow people anywhere across your organisation to see something and share it internally.
  • Network your organisation: do you know what your organisation knows? Do your people know how to find information and key contacts? The world around is networked. You had better network your own organisation to improve its effectiveness to connect and share.
  • Accelerate your experiments in new ways of working: Want to explain the rationale or background to an experiment? Need to find volunteers for an experiment? Need to share progress? Want to ask for ideas or suggestions on improvement? An engaged enterprise social community will be able to assist in accelerating all of these tasks.
  • Empower and enable leaders in every role: If you centralise decision making, your organisation will struggle to adapt to the pace of change. Too little information and context will flow to decision makers and it will take too long to respond. All forms of social media can help you better train, inform and empower local leaders at every level to contribute to the changes required. McKinsey and Company has recently outlined some of the key skills that need to be fostered in this article[LINK]. Skills like storytelling, sense making and designing change in much more social work processes are critical to the environment we now operate in. All of these are on our capability lists for leaders but social just throw each of these into much higher relief. We need to learn new skillls to be effective as social creeps into our environment and all our relationships.
  • Build an open, collaborative and innovative culture: Culture is the ultimate element of strategy. Building an open, collaborative and innovative culture will help your organisation adapt to this change. Using yammer to create a vibrant conversation about sources and drivers of innovation and change for your organisation can be a powerful way to accelerate your adaption.
Organisations need to make a decision to change with the rapid & networked evolution of work. Tools like Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook and most of all Yammer can help your organisation improve its ability to adapt by engaging your whole organisation in finding, sharing and responding to the changes. Otherwise you might just be left wondering what just happened.