Thursday, February 10, 2011

Social tools in the workplace... when they fail and why

Jane Hart has written an excellent article about the top-down implementation of social tools for workplace learning and why that approach is doomed to failure. As she points out, top-down is the traditional approach for implementing a new initiative, but in respect of social media for learning:

  1. Those that are already collaborating, sharing and learning with one another, will resist attempts to force them to use other social tools or platforms in order to track and control what they are already doing. This may well push their activities even further underground.
  2. Those that have yet to experience, understand and feel comfortable with social media will not want to be forced into sharing and collaborating when they are not ready for it, and are likely to resist attempts to make them do so.
Hart suggests a more bottom-up approach. Providing support to those who already are sharing and collaborating with one another. I would also recommend a performance management attitude that gives kudos to those who are seen to be supportive of their colleagues. In this post in December, I talked about the value of the enabler within your team. Give these people kudos and the space to 'do their thing' and you stand to gain a great deal. As Hart's article says, "autonomy is a powerful motivator" and "better results come from getting out of the way".

I wonder how many managers have considered that the biggest barrier to excellence in their team's performance might be their own attitude to people management (and people, come to that).

It's funny how these things go in waves, because yesterday, Aliza Sherman published an article called 5 Reasons why Corporate Social Tools Fail. Top of the list for her is the lack of a social culture. As she says, mandating the use of x and y tools isn't going to change anything if you don't already have a culture of mutual support and collaboration within the organisation. Too many organisations make this very mistake. It's not about the technology. The technology is a just a conduit, a tool. You can give your 17 year old a car - that won't make him a competent driver! But, if he is already a driver, having his own car will enable him to do so very much more.

It has to start with culture. So we find ourselves back at Hart's article which identifies the need for more autonomy and more getting out of the way. Less micromanagement and more belief in your people.

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