Friday, October 19, 2012

Organizational Social Media

Another fantastic piece from IWB.  .  He notes that business are not nearly as good as individuals at using social media and speculates as to the reasons why.  Here is what he says, and my human factors perspective.

First, he cites a Forrester Report which found that while many companies have social media (Facebook pages, Twitter feeds) and many of them use it to identify customer service problems that they can fix in a one-off way, this is hardly strategic, systematic, or integral. 

What he recommends is that companies use social media to create an open, knowledge sharing, learning organization that combines employees, customers, and value chain partners.  But they don’t/can’t because they have tunnel vision focused on shareholder value and have trouble expanding this to a holisitc vision of customer value and society value. 

So here is my diagnosis.  Throughout my career, I have been exploring how organizational management (both explicit and even more importantly the implicit influence of culture and behavior) affect the metrics where employees put their focus, what activities they spend their time on, and how much effort (physical and cognitive) they put into each one. 

The no brainer part, which we see in jobs as diverse as space shuttle launch engineers and manual laborers, is that employees focus most on what is being observed and evaluated.  The textbook version of this is that they focus on what drives their official performance evaluation and wages.  I have been promoting the more tacit influences of peer pressure from coworkers, cover my ass pressure from immediate supervisors, and self-identity resonance.  I believe that these have even stronger influences, but either way they are both important.

So where does the success of social media come in?  For these initiatives to work at the level that IWB is hoping for, it has to fit into both kinds of drivers and saliently enough to make a difference.  Public companies and even many private ones have to maintain their quarterly earnings per share.  It is just easier to use lean, six sigma, and other cost cutting measures that have obvious and quick impact on the bottom line.  How, when, where, and for whom is creating a learning organization going to do this?  And how will we know?  And how will we know who to give credit to?  Or more importantly, how will mgmt. know to give ME the credit?

Here is where we need to implement serious human factors.  I envision a performance dashboard that helps employees visualize how a simple task today could propagate over time into a tangible benefit.  It would have to be stochastic because you never know for sure that a good tweet is going to bring a customer back.  Or helping a co-worker in another department deal with an internal issue.  Or sharing a lesson learned on one project with a supplier working on a different project for a different customer. 

What would this look like?  I need a little time (years?) to spec something like this out.  But I suspect something along these lines is needed to reach IWB (and my) hopes for changing organizational performance for holistic, integrated, strategic social media.