February 6, 2010
social networking

Micro-Blogging is Good for Leadership, Good for Your Culture

Inside the organization, a dilemma now exists and is rapidly taking shape.

Employees want to connect with one another. Reasons are plentiful, including but not limited to the following:

  • Increasing job demands > less time to get it all done
  • Global workforce redistribution > 24 hour clock syndrome
  • Cross functional – cross pollination projects > less formal/hierarchical teams
  • Formal information overload > email & intranets are being ignored

Micro-blogging is starting to become a very effective way in which organizations can mitigate some of the aforementioned points. The problem, however, is that due to the rise in popularity of Twitter and its consumer driven use as a life-casting tool, the inherent company benefits get lost in the shuffle.

First of all, let’s discuss technology. I personally don’t care what tool, application or technology is being used to drive enterprise-wide micro-blogging, but it must be secure and ideally it’s behind the firewall.

Stand-alone options such as Yammer, Present.ly, Socialcast and Socialwok (amongst others) have cloud-based and internal VPN instances that you can deploy, but again, I argue that you should bring this functionality inside of your organization for reasons concerning intellectual property and security. Mike Brevoort does a good job of comparing these four tools over here.

Of course, if you already utilize platforms such as Confluence, Jive, SharePoint, IBM Lotus, Salesforce.com amongst others, there are built-in micro-blogging or status update features. Incidentally, the stand-alone options mentioned above have been, or are trying to integrate into the larger collaboration platforms. (this is a smart move in my opinion)

So what has this got to do with leadership and culture?

My main point is that micro-blogging will become a way in which we can flatten the organization. This will drive a missing connection between the field, the front line, the individual contributor, the manager, the director, the VP and the executive suite.

Today, employees are normally ‘heard’ when they are in team and project meetings or individual 1-1 sessions. Occasionally, they chime in on discussions in town halls, or potentially through ratings and discussions on the company intranet or wiki.

When micro-blogging enters into the equation, the connection can be so much more powerful. “Senior Leaders” can lurk, listen and actually get a stronger sense of what is going on in the company be it opinions, ideas, issues, etc. Individual contributors can not only contribute and be part of the dialogue, they can ‘hear’ the opinions and ideas of their peers (not necessarily in their team or even business unit) as well as the senior establishment of leaders.

This can do so much for the organization in terms of leadership and culture, including:

  • Better understanding of what is going on in the organization across many teams & projects
  • Personalizing the aura of senior leaders
  • Seeking opinion before decisions are made
  • Driving engagement and the feeling that everyone’s opinion matters
  • Providing information that is timely, be it formal, informal or in fact social / community driven

Micro-blogging, by virtue of its definition, has an additional benefit which is the fact the updates are short, concise and succinct. It forces everyone (whether at the low or top end of the company food chain) to carefully think through their update or response.

To me, it’s a natural example of both informal and social learning.

Are there any risks?

If security is sorted out, the risk as I see it is if employees use the tool as a life-casting option. But, as an organization matures in the 2.0 world, it’s my belief that this will be less of an issue and micro-blogging will become a natural part and indispensable piece of the connected workplace.

On Twitter, (obviously an external example) I follow the CTO of Cisco (Padmasree Warrior) and CIO of BT (JP Rangswami). Their external Twitter micro-blogging tweets are transparent, open and shed personal light on their obviously senior roles. Sure, some of their tweets are life-casting in nature (this is Twitter remember – it’s external) but if they are in fact using internal micro-blogging tools at Cisco and BT, imagine how connected they are to their org, and what their employee population might be saying about their leadership?

That’s a culture I would want to be a part of.

7 Replies to “Micro-Blogging is Good for Leadership, Good for Your Culture”

  1. Totally agree. We’ve been using our own microblogging system Communote for about 16 months now, mainly within project teams. The second most important use case is, however, leadership. I see the following aspects here:
    – including teams and individual employess in decision processes
    – make (junior and senior) management acitivities more transparent within in the company
    – make operational problems and opportunities visible across management levels
    – give also those collegues a better chance to be heard that sometimes don’t get this chance
    – better integrate teams that work at other sites into the company affairs
    Microblogging has changed our internal communications quite a bit, even more than Groupware, Wikis and Sharepoint did before.

  2. Can’t help myself here, Dan. Have to comment.

    I’ve been saying for several years that “managing by blogging around” (MBBA .. remember the old Managing By Walking Around ?), and now micro-blogging, would do more to change culture and make leadership development theory more real-in-practice than the deployment of lots of expensive leadership development course work, organizational climate and culture surveys, etc. There’s a quote somewhere on the Intertoobz from a prezo I did at the 2003 CIO Summit in Toronto saying pretty much exactly that 😉

    Good on you for taking up the gauntlet.

  3. @Dirk: 100% agreed. Your additional benefits are on the money, and more so, it’s great to read about something that’s actually happening in an organization. Kudos.

    @Jon: what can I say – you continue to be ahead of your time. 😉

  4. “That’s a culture I would want to be a part of.”

    Dan, I heartily agree with your sentiments. But I seldom see senior leadership (or even my immediate manager) make use of social media tools. Yet we continue to hear about low levels of employee engagement and lack of recognition. If leaders would participate more (as consumers and producers) in their company’s social media channels, perhaps this would do much to contribute to a more open and connected culture.

  5. Dan – well said, and said in Feb 2010 :). I was thinking today about another “implied” reason that senior leaders might consider getting on the E20 train – and it’s a reason that’s much less altruistic than those we’ve cited.

    Simply put – to differentiate yourself. The E20 savvy and engaged exec seems to be in the minority. To me, this spells opportunity.

    Thanks for your post,
    Mike Strand


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