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.

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