Social Business and Organizational Culture: Be the Change!

First, here’s the definition from World English Dictionary:
organizational culture
— n: the customs, rituals, and values shared by the members of an organization that have to be accepted by new members


Why does organizational culture count?

If you are buying, implementing, using, or even contemplating enterprise social software, somewhere along the way the topic of organizational culture is going to come up. One reason is that when you implement social technologies, like it or not it brings to light your organization’s culture (good, bad, and ugly).


Another reason culture comes up is because there is a ripe opportunity to shape your culture when you implement social. Since you’re establishing a new place to communicate, collaborate, share knowledge, and locate expertise, you can establish processes and guidelines that espouse your ideal “customs, rituals, and values”. In fact, the MIT Sloan Management Review has found that businesses that are making the greatest progress toward becoming a socially connected enterprise focus rigorously on four interrelated areas: leading social culture, measuring what matters, keeping content fresh, and changing the way work gets done1.


So what’s my culture?

In order to understand your organization’s culture, there are several different models you could consider using: Cameron and Quinn’s Competing Values Framework and The Denison Model come to mind if you’re interested in really digging in.


I’ll also share a few questions you can consider that we use in our cultural assessment (from the Adoption Framework). Ask yourself these questions based on how things work today, but also based on how you’d like things to work in the future:

  • How do people share knowledge and collaborate today?
  • Does management reward knowledge sharing?
  • How would you like to see behaviors, attitudes and feelings change to meet your goals?
  • What is the average age of the users and global workforce?
  • How many languages and geographies will be involved in using the system?


What can I do?

If you’re helping to implement or manage your social business software, then you’re in a great position to ask yourself these cultural questions, and work to incorporate cultural change into your project strategy. If you’re not in a direct position of influence, you can still make a difference…


Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” If you’re interested in being part of a successful social business, I suggest you try applying Gandhi’s philosophy as you do work, make connections, and seek information in your enterprise social network. Demonstrate your ideals by working the way you want others to work – post documents in public communities while they’re in draft and invite feedback – not just the final version. Challenge norms you want to change – post a poll to see what others think about an existing process. Insert fun when you think it’s missing – request a community for all the cyclists in the company to swap notes on gear and plan rides. Seek expertise and answers to questions – search for the person with “SharePoint” knowledge and ask them your question –even though you’ve never met. Publicize your successes – post a note about completing a long-standing project and thank those involved.


If you haven’t seen our eBook: 10 Tips for a Healthy Social Enterprise, take a minute and check it out. It’s full of great tips on ways to make sure you’re getting the benefits you seek from your enterprise social network. And regarding culture, check out tip #3: Foster cultural courage – it’s key.


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