How Good Is Your Social Business Governance?

Gavel GovernanceIn our research and client work at Altimeter, one of the most misunderstood issues we see is social business governance. I’ve seen it defined as everything from social media policies and risk management to organizational structures. My colleague Ed Terpening and I just published a report on how to think about governance – and in particular, the crucial role it plays in supporting strategy (download here).  Strategy and governance are natural partners: Strategy lays the groundwork for new opportunities while governance ensures safe execution, managing the risk of change.

Yet our research found that only 16% of organizations feel that governance is well understood and deployed. Many organizations can’t answer crucial questions such as: Who owns social? How are key decisions made? How do we organize to execute social? How do we manage risk as we scale social across the organization? Left unanswered, organizations face significant risks, including threats to brand health as the result of inappropriate or disjoint social practices. More importantly, organizations can’t truly scale social into a business strategy unless governance is addressed.

Our definition of social business governance is:

An integrated system of people, policies, processes, and practices that defines organizational structure and decision process to ensure effective management of social business at scale.

How Does Your Social Business Governance Stack Up?

The report is filled with data, sample policies, checklists, and case studies. In the end, you need to ask yourself how your social business governance actively supports the execution of your strategy. The capstone of the report is a social business governance maturity map, which I’ve included below. Where does your organization fall on this chart?

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We’d love to hear where you are in your social business governance – and to contact us if you have any questions or need help with your governance roadmap. My report co-author Ed Terpening is far too modest to toot his own horn so allow me. He led Wells Fargo’s social media efforts for 7 years from its inception in 2005 until he joined Altimeter two years ago. At Altimeter, he’s helped numerous organizations design governance systems along with their social business strategies. You’ll have a chance to talk with me and Ed in an upcoming webinar, on Tuesday, December 9th at 10am PT. Bring your questions as well as your best practices and war stories – we’re looking forward to learning together with you at the webinar, and in our continued mutual quest to master social business governance.

Lessons from the Fall of the Berlin Wall

Charlene Li chisels at the Berlin Wall, November 11, 1989

Charlene Li chiseling at the Berlin Wall, November 11, 1989

25 years ago, I was living in Amsterdam watching the events unfold in Berlin, as the Wall Fell. I saw history in the making on the TV and wanted to be there to witness it. I bought a ticket and took the night train to Berlin, arriving early Saturday morning. I found a youth hostel, deposited my luggage, and joined the throngs of people wandering around West Berlin. Many were from East Berlin, getting their first look of the other side of their city in decades.

The city was relatively quiet — except for the persistent ching ching ching ringing in the distance. It was the sound of hammer and chisel in the hands of hundreds of people, taking a chip of the wall, of history.

I joined them along one section of the wall, borrowed a set from someone and got a few hunks to take home. I have searched in boxes for years to find those pieces, last sighted when I moved to California 13 years ago. I’m resigned that they are gone.

Wandering around, I saw a troop of Santa Claus impersonators, standing on the wall in front of the Brandenburg Gate, belting out Christmas Carols. This was the same place where President Ronald Reagan issued the challenge, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” There were scenes like this all over the West Berlin, people walking around in a dazed, disbelieving state. Could this be real? Will it last? What will this mean for the future?

In the dwindling light of the day, I wandered over to Checkpoint Charlie and did the opposite of what everyone else was doing — I went into East Berlin. I wandered the streets and made my way to the other side of the Brandenburg Gate. It was there that I realized that they wall wasn’t being torn down. It was being “chinked” down and had been for years. It was the building force of refugees and dissenters in Eastern Europe that finally pushed open the Iron Curtain. It was a people’s revolution, and the realization by the East Berlin government and border guards that they could no longer contain it.

I’ve had the chance to visit Berlin several times since then, roughly about every five years or so. The physical transformation is startlingly — nothing is recognizable and the gleaming newness of East Berlin draws the tourists and crowds. All that remains of Checkpoint Charlie is the museum. And the Brandenburg Gate is a traffic thoroughfare.

As someone who watches and writes about the changes and transformations cause by technology, it’s a good reminder that behind every major transformation like the Fall of the Berlin Wall are people. Transformation do not happen on their own. Technology does not transform. People do. It’s up to the leaders of the organization to recognize that the transformation is happening, with or without them. And if they really are looking out for the best interests of their shareholders/stakeholders, they will tear down the walls that hold back digital transformation and find ways to be more open and transparent.

Look what happened to Berlin when it opened the gates — it became whole. My hope is that organizations and leaders will find the courage to open up as well.

My TED Talk: Leading in the Digital Era

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I crossed an item off my bucket list when I gave a TED Talk at TED@IBM on Sept. 23rd. The event was part of the new TED Institute, which partners with companies to create TED-curated events.

The title of my talk was “Giving Up Control: Leading in the Digital Era”. One key data point from Gallup that continues to astound me is that worldwide only 13% of people are engaged in their work. It’s higher in the US, standing at 30% but that’s still terrible!

I believe that a big reason for this is that we don’t give enough autonomy to, and respect the growing agency of our employees, especially for the Millennials who crave purpose and meaning in their work. The hierarchies that exist in our organizations were designed for a bygone era where efficiency and scale were paramount. But today, speed, innovation, and creativity are the sources of competitive advantage.

Companies have been responding, deploying collaboration platforms and enterprise social networks to connect people throughout the organization. Shrinking the distance between previously siloed departments, or between executives and the front lines sounds great — unless you’re a middle manager.

The biggest problem leaders face in the digital era is that power and influence are being decoupled from titles and organizational structure. So how can you be an effective leader? Here are the three things that organizations can do:

  1. Create a Culture of Sharing. Instead of hoarding information to be powerful, leaders have to become facilitators who accelerate the sharing of information across a networked organization.
  2. Encourage the Practice of “Followership”. The size and quality of your network, not your title, determines how much power and influence you have, and thus, how much you can get done. If employees could build their “followership” across the organization and even outside the organization, then even if their titles or jobs changed, they could still be highly effective. This creates tremendous security that allows these managers to make tough decisions that might otherwise jeopardize their livelihood.
  3. Ensure Networks are being used to Make Meaningful Decisions. People are smart — they won’t devote time to engaging unless they know it’s going to make a difference. The biggest mistake I’ve seen organizations do when trying to transition into the digital era is to use these new tools to create the equivalent of a digital water cooler — talking rather than getting work done. No wonder they don’t last! Get leaders to pay attention, make key decisions on these networks and people will come.

What each of these has in common is the need to give up control. In the talk, I shared the journey I’m going through as the parent of teenagers, as they push for greater autonomy and trust to make their own decisions. In our work, if we truly want to have an engaged workforce, then we’re going to have to lead differently, and establish a new kind of relationship and trust that’s created and deepened with these digital tools.

I’ve embedded the slides and script of my talk below. In a few weeks, the video of my talk will be available and I’ll embed that here as well. I hope you find these materials helpful in your journey to become a leader in the digital era.

Blogging as a State of Mind: Reflections on 10 Years of Blogging

people in the information spaceTen years ago today, I wrote my first blog post, entitled “Blogging as a State of Mind”. I still vividly remember the moment — my palms were sweating as I pressed the “Publish” button on my Typepad blog for the first time. I was excited, but nervous about what was going to happen. What would people think? What if I made a mistake?

What happened was that I became completely transformed by the interactions and relationships of people I’ve met through my blogging and subsequently, social media activities. I’m eternally grateful to everyone who has encouraged, supported, and engaged with me — I have grown and learned so much. [Read more…]

Content Marketing Software: How to Make Smart Choices

If you are involved in any shape or form with content marketing, you know what a big headache it can be for your organization. It extends beyond the Marketing department — Sales can’t get detailed, localized information to salespeople in the field. The social team needs more granular, atomized content produced multiple times a day. Customer service spends excessive time tracking down information to find that it’s outdated. And even HR seeks out relevant content in its battle for top talent. And rarely is there a centralized group that leads a coherent content strategy for the organization.

Against this backdrop is a dynamic, ever-changing landscape of vendors — hundreds of vendors with more emerging every day. [Read more…]