This superb infographic from http://www.emergency-management-degree.org reveals the power of social media to help with crisis management. Note that Youtube has surpassed 1 billion unique monthly users.
Over the last few decades communication channels have multiplied and in some organisations, communications have improved, but for the vast majority, workplace communication is still a major impediment to both organisational effectiveness and individual well-being. What are the solutions? How will the breakthroughs come?
The foundations have been laid. The Internet has been with us for almost 25 years. Edward Freeman articulated stakeholder theory back in 1984. The publication of In Search of Excellence in 1982 focused people on the significance of culture. We have come a long way in the architecture of communication, but how are these developments manifest in organizations? Have they fundamentally changed our communication for the better, or is the residue of our old hierarchies still blocking significant progress?
This is the theme of our 2013 Conference in Wellington on 2, 3 December – Waiting for the Communication Revolution.
How do we evaluate the quality of organizational communication given these innovations? Here is an attempt to identify what good communication looks like in a 21st Century organization. This organization will be characterized by:
- clear purpose and values
- a focus on value creation for stakeholders
- its people building warm relationships with those they frequently work and engage with
- diversity is encouraged, diverse voices are heard
- communication is transparent
- technology and intent encourages sharing of information and knowledge
- there is a orientation to learning
- social media is a organisational asset.
What do you think of this list? What’s missing? What organisations do you know that manifest these qualities?
While many are wary of employees spending too much time on social media, some great businesses are showing us how social media can enhance business. This video features Erin Lieberman-Moran from the Great Place to Work Institute.
Note that Erin recognises a high level of trust as the enabler for businesses to use social media effectively.
Social media and crisis communication
Ethical Corporation’s July 2012 report researches how companies respond to consumers and activists in a crisis. While the full report, with a price tag of £695 targets corporate customers, the Ethical Corporation provides some great information along with this excellent infographic.
Earlier posts in this series introduced organisational learning and explored why the practice hasn’t had much traction in organisations. This post offers tools for learning processes.
1. Suggestion box blog
In this cartoon by Harvey Schwadron – an employee outside the boss’s office drops a suggestion into the suggestion box. Unfortunately, the suggestion box has no bottom and the suggestion falls into the resignation box directly underneath it. In organisations that don’t learn well, suggestions are ignored or, worse, those offering them are treated as troublemakers. Try a suggestion box blog – the blog administrator can receive suggestions and publish them, or enable the person making the suggestion to post directly. If there is an open culture, the blog can be open so others can comment. Responses or contributions from the company’s leader will add to its credibility.
2. After action review
Richard Pascale describes the after action review (AAR) in a HBR article Changing the Way We Change. The practice emerged in the US military and is used after military action or exercises to enable learning. Suspending rank is the key feature of the AAR as it encourages participants to review events in order to learn. The process is based around four questions that can be adapted to any organisation and is especially useful on completion of events or projects.
- What did we set out to do?
- What actually happened?
- Why was there a difference?
- What activities do we sustain and what activities do we improve?
3. Stupid hour
Learning doesn’t come easy when we take ourselves too seriously, or we are driven by the need to look good. Dorothy Marcic, in her ground-breaking book Managing with the Wisdom of Love, advocates a ”stupid hour” where staff get together, perhaps at the end of the week and ask “what are we doing that is really stupid?”
4. Lean thinking
Lean thinking, modelled on Toyota’s processes, provides scaffolding for learning by creating multifunctional teams to surface opportunities for improvements (OFIs). Here is more detail from a post by Alex Twigg.
Some years ago Portland Cement near Whangarei changed their remuneration system from an over-time based system to a total remuneration system. Overtime hours were annualised and employees were expected to work up to 51 hours for their annualised salary, but could go home if they finished the work. This changed employee behaviour – under the overtime system, they would welcome breakdowns, as they would have to work longer, and therefore make more money. But under the annualised system, they were incentivised to work more smartly. As an example, loader tyres used to be frequently damaged by limestone rock. Employees wanting to get home quicker, welded wings onto the loader buckets to clear rocks away from the tyres. The employees got to go home earlier and the company saved money. Annualisation effectively opened up avenues for learning.
Appreciation is arguably the noblest form of communication. Too often, workplace communication focuses on fault-finding – concentrating on what is wrong, rather than what is right. When people are frequently criticised, over time they cease any meaningful communication with those who are criticising. This creates the antithesis of learning. In an environment of appreciation, people feel safe to make suggestions. Here is a link to an earlier post that elaborates on appreciation.
the communication spectrum
7. Undercover boss
The TV show Undercover Boss features businesses in the U.K., the U.S. and Australia. Across diverse businesses in these three settings, a consistent experience emerges – when the “boss” gets to know the people on the front line, they typically learn to appreciate what the workers do and return to their C.E. role much better for the experience. The C.E.s often enact employee suggestions, or include the employee in a project team. Here is Directv’s C.E. Mike White, talking about his undercover boss experience.
8. Learning from customers with social media
When I wrote this post about social media in February, this year, Stabucks Facebook page had almost 20 million likes. Now, 11 months later it has more than 26 million. Not all will provide useful insights for Starbucks, but any complaints can be quickly identified. Twitter serves the same purpose.
9. Values for learning
As with any other sustainable development in businesses and communities, better learning processes are underpinned by enabling values. Values that align well with learning include openness, honesty, integrity and appreciation. They are also the antidotes for defensiveness. You can probably think of others.
Do you consider your organisation is skilled at organisational learning?
Less than a year into blogging, I am getting a glimpse of its potential. I thought it might be useful for those of you considering the blogging option for personal creative expression, stakeholder engagement, or as an option for a business website.
The free option first
I started, as many do, by opting for a WordPress.com site. This is WordPress’s free option where they host your blog on their site. This blog is a WordPress.com blog – if you look at the name, you can see the WordPress name in the URL.
With what I know now I wouldn’t take that option. But it did give me a great opportunity to learn about blogging and a platform to get my ideas out there. I started with infrequent posts in August 2010 and received an average of two page views a day that year. In February, I started posting more frequently and from January to April the average monthly page views were 4, 6, 13 and 41 respectively. If I maintain the momentum I have established, I will easily clear 5,000 page views for the year. But I fully expect to exceed that acknowledging the steep learning curve I am on. If I compare that to my previous publications – my book Better Business for a Better World in 2000 and articles in academic journals, blogging wins hands down as a publishing platform. Granted, many of the blog visitors might not linger long, but on the other hand, others have engaged and recommended the blog to friends.
In March, I purchased another hosting plan with OpenHost for $NZ6.99 a month. Just ten days ago, I installed the WordPress software on my own site www.stepstosustainability.com. The WordPress software includes free themes to customise a site, but I chose to purchase a theme from www.elegantthemes.com as I wanted a professional and hopefully eye-catching site. In just over a week, I have the site up and running. It is still a bit rough, and I haven’t customised a logo yet, but it is working very well.
Static and dynamic
WordPress’s versatile software enables a site that is both static, supplying a stable presence for the site, and dynamic, with the inclusion of a blog. It has features important to me – I am able to embed video and, using a WordPress plugin (free third-party software to “plug in” additional features) each blog post has a group of buttons to enable readers to share posts through their social networks. This image shows the main static page in the top row. It includes a link to the blog. The main categories of the blog appear as blog menu items in the bottom row.
Blogging for stakeholder engagement
Large companies such as General Electric are using blogging for stakeholder engagement. In the wake of the Japanese tsunami, GE was in the firing line, as they made the Fukushima nuclear reactors. Many GE engineers have been blogging for some time, and when the tsunami placed GE in the spotlight, those engineers were ready to engage through blogs. Mitch Joel identifies seven types of company blogs.
Using WordPress software for your website
For small and mid-sized companies and not-for-profits, WordPress’s software is ideal as a website to provide those static and dynamic features mentioned earlier. Traditional websites have generally required a massive pre-launch investment, and then typically decay in relevance over time. With a blog website with static pages, the approach can be different, with less investment in the infrastructure, but more investment in engaging and keeping content current. What I don’t know, is how well a blog website can handle databases, but I suspect plugins will take care of that.
There are three zones of skills:
- Most computer users can reply to blogs or forums and interact with social networking software.
- Others get to know how to use software interfaces, such as those of WordPress. There is a bewildering array of things to learn, but there is also lots of online help. I have used Moodle extensively, (a learning management system). This exposure has helped and I can now make sense of html (a computer code).
- The more techy stuff requires higher degrees of expertise. If you don’t have these skills, you need to have access to them.
So for a tiny financial outlay, I now have a website I am happy with, and I am confident it will meet my needs as the website develops. If you are considering developing a blog, please share your thoughts.
Here is a link to a post from the TopRank website by Dave Folkens. A brief extract:
” At a minimum, this should be on the radar for any business that cares about how its brand is viewed. In the Harvard Business Review study mentioned earlier, a stunning 75% of the companies in the survey said they did not know where their most valuable customers were talking about them. Twitter is a real-time opportunity to listen in on the conversations of 200 million users. Setting up simple searches allows companies to hear comments that could go unnoticed if ignoring this social channel”.