Bridging the Knowledge Sharing/Problem Solving Divide

problem-solvingWorking across organisational boundaries

One of the most frequently cited reasons we hear for implementing an enterprise social network platform is to “enable our organisation to better communicate and collaborate across organisational boundaries”.

The real objective is to let information and knowledge flow more freely to solve challenge business problems. This is the point where the focus changes from generic SHARING to business focused (problem-) SOLVING:

ps

We’re previously introduced this maturity framework that incorporates the 4 stages of Simon Terry’s model, and in a recent discussion with Simon he shared with us with some constructive insights that he has drawn from the application of his maturity model.

He indicated to us that:

“Up to SHARING, people are just engaged in social exchange. It is chat. That can be entirely internal to the ESN and not connected to the business. Beyond that point they are delivering benefits from collaborative work. Moving over that transition and understanding the behaviours beyond that point is essential.

Simon then proceeded to describe the key things to consider in the ‘SOLVING’ stage as:

“Value chains and projects and their relationships to the silos captured in your Cross-team collaboration widget”.

In this post we will therefore review the SWOOP ‘Cross-Team Collaboration’ widget and give you insights about how this can help you in your enterprise social adoption efforts. Together with the recently reviewed Influential People and Response Rate widgets they collectively support the ‘SOLVE’ Stage.

solve

The Cross-Team collaboration widget identifies the levels of interaction between selected organisational dimensions. The most common use is to identify interactions between the formal lines of business.

Two representations are offered:

  • The matrix view shades the intersecting squares by the relative interaction levels. The diagonal represents intra-unit interactions.
  • The map view (see below) more succinctly illustrates the degree to which different units are interacting.

collab

If you have created a cross-enterprise group, or community of practice, it will tell you the degree to which all divisions have been engaged. If you have a corporate initiative that has been launched with a topic hash tag, it will also tell you the degree of cross-divisional engagement.

In a typical hierarchy, we would anticipate that most interactions would occur inside the formal structures, or between divisions along a defined value chain e.g. marketing interactions with sales. Cross organisational groups or teams are usually formed to facilitate interactions across the formal lines of business, for example a Supply/Value chain.

The Cross-Team Collaboration widget provides a view into the degree to which these cross organisational teams are effective. While interactions between formal departments is the most common, geographic location is also a popular dimension to explore interaction levels.

What is the Business Imperative?

It is the apparent inflexibility and poor responsiveness of the formal hierarchy that motivates many organisations to adopt enterprise social networks. Formal hierarchies are designed for efficient execution of pre-determined processes. However, CEOs are now looking for more than this. David Thodey, the former CEO of Australia’s largest Telco, summed up the sentiment by indicating that he wanted to short circuit the entrenched communication channels. He wanted his management team to be able to have authentic conversations with staff at all levels. Similarly, we recall a statement made by a former CEOs at BHP Billiton, an industrial resources conglomerate that was very process driven:

“Silos are not bad, this is how we get work done. We just need to dig some holes in the sides!” (please excuse the mining analogy)

Another of our favourite thought leaders is Heidi Gardner, a former McKinsey consultant and Harvard Business School professor now lecturing at Harvard Law School. She has spent over a decade conducting in-depth studies of numerous global professional service firms. Her research with clients and the empirical results of her studies demonstrate clearly and convincingly that collaboration pays, for both professionals and their firms. In her book Smart Collaboration, she shows that firms earn higher margins, inspire greater client loyalty, attract and retain the best talent, and gain a competitive edge when specialists collaborate across functional boundaries. The Cross-Team Collaboration widget enables you to measure if this is actually happening, and is one of the most important widgets connecting business outcomes with the adoption of your enterprise social network.

Specifically, in terms of problem solving, there will be problems that traverse the business unit boundaries. For example, a customer support problem may appear to be an operations problem, but perhaps the genesis of the problem is with Sales or Marketing, by how a product or service was represented to the customer in the first place. Also, supply chain problems are by definition, inter-dependent and cannot be solved by a single business unit. The Cross Team Collaboration widget can signal whether these cross-business unit problems are being addressed as a shared problem. If a cross-business unit problem has been hash tagged, it is also possible to use the SWOOP Topic tab to identify where the participants in the tagged problem solving activity are coming from. Are they appropriately cross-business unit?

Summary

Bridging the ‘sharing’ to ‘solving’ divide requires a stronger focus on what the business is trying to achieve. What are the key problems or challenges that must be met? What are the specific and identified collaborative interactions between the different organisational units, that will be required to solve them? The SWOOP Cross-unit Collaboration widget, along with the Response Rate and Influential People widgets have been designed to help you bridge the ‘Sharing’ to ‘Solving’ divide.

This post continues our series on key SWOOP indicators.

 

Why we Should Worry about Response Rates in Enterprise Social Systems

Why we Should Worry about Response Rates in Enterprise Social Systems 

response-rates-cartoonThis post continues our series on key SWOOP indicators. We have %Response Rate as a key performance indicator for organisations embracing problem solving and innovation within their Enterprise Social Networking (ESN) platforms. Difficult problems require deep dialogue, discussion and debate to be effectively solved. A response to a posting is hopefully the beginning of a constructive discussion, hence an important indicator of the degree to which an organisation is predisposed to solving problems online. Our ESN benchmarking of close to 50 organisations has the average response rate at 72%, but with a large range from a low of 32% to a high of 93%. response-rate-chartresponse-rate

The Response Rate widget identifies the percentage of posts that have received a written ‘reply’ and/or a ‘like’, for the period selected. It will also identify the % posts that have received no response; a measure that community managers need to monitor closely. The timeliness of the response is also reported.  

The Response Rate widget is available at all SWOOP reporting levels, from the individual, right through to the Enterprise overall. While not all posts are framed as problems, the response rate does reflect how responsive an organisation is overall. A response is a tangible signal of value received. In the absence of specific value stories, it is the most direct measure of value being facilitated on the ESN platform.  

For the individual, a poor response rate can indicate that your postings are not framed appropriately for attracting a response. For a group, a poor response rate may indicate a lack of a critical mass of members, or inadequate community management. 

Business Imperative 

It sounds obvious, but before problems can be solved, they need to be shared. Sharing a problem can be construed as a weakness. When senior management openly share a problem, they run the risk of ‘losing face’. Isn’t solving difficult problems what they are being paid to do?  Yet it is the senior management that need to lead the way in generating a culture for collaborative problem solving. As David Thodey, the former CEO of Telstra told us,Management don’t know everything…we have been guilty of releasing poor policies that have taken us years to recover from’. Thodey used the ESN to share problems that new policies were required for, and then getting feedback before finally releasing a new policy. 

The first challenge therefore is to develop a culture which respects that sharing a problem is not a weakness but a strength of character. Think about using hash tags to monitor problems posted, and their journey to a hopeful resolution. Once problems are shared freely on the ESN, the Response Rate measure can be used to measure problems solved. Many of the online technical forms are established specifically for tracking problem resolutions. There is no reason that the ESN cannot be used in a similar way. 

 

Influential People – SWOOP Style

 

In this series of articles, we are profiling each of the SWOOP Analytics Widgets by referencing them to the Enterprise Social Maturity Framework, that we introduced previously. The SWOOP analytics widgets are designed to guide our end users through each stage of the maturity journey. The ‘Influential People’ widget is seen to be most valuable when you are looking to solve difficult problems and/or driving new innovations to positive outcomes: 

enter-collab-3

influential-peopleInfluential people, as the name suggests, are those people that are best positioned to influence others through their interactions. Platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter typically use the popularity of content published to measure influence. In LinkedIn’s  case, profile views contribute strongly to your perceived influence. SWOOP uses a different basis for measuring influence, drawn from the science of social network analysis (SNA). SNA bases influence measured on the size and nature of one’s connections. An individual’s influence in SWOOP is measured by the size of their personal network.  

Your Personal Network Map, which can be viewed on your  personal tab, is a visual representation of your full network. At the Group, Business Unit or Topic level, influence is measured by an individual’s network within the Group, Business Unit or those engaging with a given topic.  

img_0101

A network connection is formed when you interact with someone online. It could be a ‘reply’ or ‘like’ you have made to a post, or vice versa. Activity levels are not considered; only the unique connections made.  

Business Imperative 

If you want to influence the activities of a group of people, the most efficient way is to engage with those that are best placed to influence them. Influence propagates through relationship links. Enrolling the influencers in your target audience can accelerate the change that you are seeking. You can aim to become an influencer yourself by looking to expand your network within your target audience. If you are identified as an influencer yourself, it is important to use your privileged location in the network to bring others into the network i.e. being the Catalyst/Engager, ensuring  diverse points of view are accommodated. 

Influencers can play a big part in helping their organisations to become more responsive. Their central position in the network enables them to become important role models by being personally responsive to problems they see. Influencers need not be able to solve the problems themselves, but they are ideally placed to identify those in their network that can.