Tagged: social business

Seventy two (ii)

I won’t tease this apart in detail here, but suffice to say you’ll notice how it assumes the death of the command and control hierarchy of the traditional firm. It emphasizes the opportunity to equip every individual with tools to help them determine and articulate their needs, desires, knowledge, skills and values in ways that are useful in working out how best to come together to do stuff of mutual value.

At Attenzi, we’ve begun to move away from our traditional hierarchical structure to flatter and more autonomous but still very much aligned and accountable teams, looking to our improved performance management capabilities for sensory feedback. Of course, some organizations have pursued this kind of structure before us, but interesting qualities and opportunities emerge in our social business context we think that help make it all happen more reliably, transparently and productively.

Attenzi is becoming a network, slowly but surely.

Perhaps this new vista will require a redefinition of the organization, the firm, but there’s no need for us to think about that in operational terms just yet.

Does this question convey a vision for 2025? Sooner? Later? Ever? Who knows until we get there, but we think it conjures up a fascinating potential and one that can inform progress towards social business in the nearer-term.

(Interestingly, as a quick aside, we get positive reactions to this exacting take on social business from people with viewpoints spanning the full political spectrum, but I’m not going to get all political on you here.)

Now then, I won’t keep you any longer… there’s stuff to be done right!

We hope you’re using our story here to cajole your colleagues to sign up for the ride. And as part of that communications process, if you’re looking for a slidestack that builds up to this challenging question, check out: What, exactly, is social business?

While we’re talking slidestacks, here’s one that effectively sums up the approach we’ve taken and referred to in our story here that enables us to recognize the value of social even when its impact is one or more steps back from the cash register: What, exactly, is the value of social media? It’s what we’ve come to call social business performance management, or just social performance in short.

Of course, I’ll continue to add such comments and links to the attenzi.com website, and hope to see you there. And indeed at a Social Media Today conference.

All the best.

Seventy two (i)

September 2013 update – a big question

It’s just about five months since I signed off the first edition of this ebook to go to press. Now Robin Carey, CEO of Social Media Today, has invited us to The Social Shake-Up conference and it seemed like a good time to publish this second edition in association with Social Media Today, with Robin’s foreword and the addition of this chapter to let you know our latest. (And a new ‘book cover’ to boot if you’re interested.)

I won’t focus here on our operational performance because, well, what would you go away and do with that? Instead, something more useful…

As we’ve talked with more and more people about respective experiences and expectations, it appears that confusion reigns as to the very definition of social business. What does it actually mean?!

So Marcus began collecting various definitions from these conversations, from conferences and off the web. He put them on big Post-It™ notes on a wall in The Nerve Center, and he, Michelle and I found ourselves browsing them one afternoon. We began to move them around. We put them in groups and then found ourselves ordering the groups in terms of what Marcus called sophistication and I called ambition, and Michelle was the first to spot the pattern.

It turns out, to varying degrees, that many of these definitions mean something quite relevant and useful, and any perceived differences can often be explained away as a matter of timing. In other words, some definitions can be seen to describe where we might get to in 2015, say, others by 2020, and some further out than that.

“Where shall we put this one?” I ask.

“That’s a 2020 I reckon. I’ll see your 2020 and raise you a 2025!”

It was 30th May 2013. I know that because I left a quick comment as such on Chapter 44 on this ebook’s website. That comment consisted of a question, and a variation of that question now sits furthest out on our timeline of definitions:

Do you help all the individuals associated with your organization (employees, customers, partners, suppliers, shareholders, etc.) build worthwhile relationships with each other and others, coalescing by need and desire, knowledge and capability and shared values, to create shared value?

Foreword by Robin

by Robin Carey, Founder & CEO, Social Media Today

I’m writing this in the final days of preparation for Social Media Today’s inaugural conference, The Social Shake-Up (September 2013, Atlanta). And I’ve just finished reading the updated Attenzi – a social business story, a tale that underlines why we’re going to the effort.

The phrase ‘social business’ means different things to different people. For me, it conveys that social isn’t something a business does, but rather the way it does business.

Social is pervasive, and Attenzi prompted me to read the ‘about us’ for Social Media Today to check that’s how we say we see it. And we sure do… “an independent, online community for professionals in PR, marketing, advertising, or any other discipline where a thorough understanding of social media is mission-critical.”

The Social Media Today community will expand to encompass more and more of those other disciplines, particularly as a resource like the Attenzi story helps get your organization up to speed, helps encourage your peers to consider the full potential and impact of social business.

Our objective for The Social Shake-Up conference is to discover the many ways that large businesses are incorporating social into their practices and to demonstrate that all this disruption is actually working to improve the ways that companies act in the world. With that in mind, Attenzi makes perfect reading for the flight to Atlanta, or indeed the flight home.

I particularly like the way the book is available freely and openly, so we can do the social thing of commenting and asking questions on the accompanying website.

Happy reading and collaborating.


Foreword by Adam

by Adam Pisoni, Microsoft Yammer co-founder and CTO

The worst thing about employees is that they’re unpredictable. Wouldn’t it be great if you could tell your workforce exactly what to do and, rest assured, they would follow instructions and execute in exactly the right way? Or better yet, they would just read your mind. I imagine half of you agree with that sentiment and the other half think I’m delusional. Regardless of whether you believe robotic employees are a good or a bad thing, this was the dominant thinking in business for over a century.

Our modern “scientific management” corporations remained competitive by optimizing for efficiency, a result accomplished through greater specialization and driven by overlaying process and rigid structure across the business. In this way, we arrived at the cornerstone of the modern company – predictability. Success was built around predictable costs, revenues, customers, and employees. Inherent in the notion of predictability is a sense of control. For corporations, it seemed that harnessing this control while setting and meeting expectations would keep them on top forever.

If you are reading this book, you likely recognize the fundamental problem with this line of reasoning… the future is actually unpredictable. Of course, it’s always been unpredictable, but now even the near-term is difficult to predict with any certainty. Put it this way, if you could confidently predict what you’ll be doing for the next 30 years, it would make sense to do it in the most efficient way possible. But if you are unsure what you’ll be doing for the next 5 or even 2 years, efficiency may be the least of your problems. What’s the point of focusing on doing one thing efficiently, if you aren’t likely to be doing it for long?

Not only is the future getting harder to predict, but the nature of work is also changing rapidly, which brings us back to those pesky, unpredictable employees whose efficiency seems to be declining as they are increasingly faced with situations they are neither trained for nor empowered to handle. The problem isn’t that they’re willfully disobeying orders, it’s that the challenges they face are evolving too fast for us to train them on exactly how to handle each new situation. In fact, these challenges are arising too quickly for the leaders in the organization to even notice them most of the time. Or worse, the explicit instructions and incentives become obsolete, or even counter-productive to success.

This problem is not going away. Technology research firm Gartner sees an acceleration in the changing nature of work, with 40% or more of enterprise work being “non-routine” by 2014, up from 25% in 2010. It’s hard to optimize for non-routine work with rigid processes and procedures. Instead it requires more empowerment, flexibility and decentralized execution throughout the workforce.

The real problem with those pesky employees turns out to be those pesky customers who seem to be increasingly dissatisfied with the products and level of service they were perfectly happy with just yesterday. These dissatisfied customers are putting additional pressure on disgruntled employees, who feel compelled to do what they know to be wrong all in the name of efficiency and predictability. While this trend may have started decades ago, many companies, and some entire industries, are now reaching a breaking point where minor tweaks and improvements will no longer cover up the deep, fundamental problems that exist in their organizations.

We are on the brink of a revolution in business – one which will rival the industrial revolution – where the very definition of what it means to be a company will change. This change will blur the lines between management, leadership, employee and customer. Gone are the days when you could tell your customers what to think about you. Thanks to social media, your brand is at the mercy of your customers who will individually and collectively decide what you stand for.

Also gone are the days when you could hope your predictable employees would yield predictable outcomes. To the contrary, you will need your employees to be creative, and thus unpredictable, in order to adapt to your customers fast enough. What’s more, employees will have to react to challenges in innovative ways without being told how to do so. The same companies that drove creativity out of their employees in the name of efficiency and predictability will come to realize creative, empowered employees are the key to surviving and leading in this new world. And it’s not just knowledge workers that hold this power. We will need everyone from executives to front-line workers to be more engaged, more creative and more motivated than ever before.

Companies will become more like partnerships where employees and customers will each choose to contribute because they believe in the mission and values of the company. Your employees and customers will need to WANT you to succeed and have the desire to take on new challenges in order to help you do so. In the hyper-connected world we live in, the very nature of what it means to be a company, a worker and even a customer is changing. We are all adapting to the constant flow of information, and in order to stay ahead of the curve, both organizations and individuals must continuously innovate in how they provide value.

This book explores such challenges and opportunities in the most instinctive, memorable and compelling manner there is – storytelling. You won’t be able to ready your organization for change alone, it’s a team effort, and such storytelling helps get everyone on the same page. Good luck. Perhaps you’ll even write the sequel?


Attenzi – a social business story

Attenzi – a social business story shines a light on social business that goes beyond the all too typical homages to social media. It’s a relatively short and easy read intended to help readers explore what social business means for their organization, marketplace, communities and career.

The story is designed to galvanize the organization.

As the tale unfolds, you’ll consider aspects of organizational design, business performance management, marketing, public relations, branding, complexity, and the imminent empowerment of the individuals that make up any and all organizations. In fact, although you’ll likely be reading the book in a professional capacity, you’ll be noting the implications for your other roles in life too.

Perhaps most controversially, the story begins to explore the evolution of the customer-centric mindset that has dominated management thinking for the past two decades.

It’s free and available in HTML (this website, just keep clicking ‘Next‘), PDF, EPUB, Kindle .mobi, Kindle .azw3 and iBooks formats. And at Scribd. Hyperlinks in the ebook take you to the same section on this website for questions, observations and discussion.

I hope you’ll let me and each other know what you make of it.

Best wishes, Philip Sheldrake.

15th May 2013.

I met Adam Pisoni shortly after finishing the first edition of this book and found someone equally enthusiastic for the wide and deep potential of social business. I invited him to write the foreword, and he kindly agreed. Thanks Adam.

And I met Robin Carey who suggested we publish a second edition, September 2013, in association with Social Media Today. And I invited Robin to help set the scene too … Next


How is Attenzi doing?

We’ve revised our mission and vision and tweaked the statement of our values. We’ve reworked our game plan, our strategy. We’re down the track in terms of redesigning our operations around influence flows, aligning the organization structure and process design to our strategy. There’s a good vibe about the business and people generally appear to be up for it. I credit this important dimension to the care with which we’ve approached internal communications, training and development, and performance management. And of course to the caliber and attitude of Attenzi people.

Have we got everything right first time? No, of course not. Are we maestros today? Not quite. And here’s what appears to be a kick in the teeth – we have more red flags in our scorecards today than we ever did when I joined. But is it really a kick in the teeth, or is it simply representative of the many fine and not so fine changes we’re demanding of ourselves?

And what about the money?

Well previously we were growing a little faster than industry average and now we’re growing a little faster than that. That’s good enough for me this year, what with all the upheaval, and next year is the moment I really believe we’ll begin to reap the dividends of our transformation. It looks like we’re on track to more than double our historic growth rate.

Our profit margin dipped slightly but distinctly for three unnerving quarters, and with hindsight I could have been better at managing investor expectations, but the three since have been our best in recent years. We can attribute this, at least substantially, to our social business endeavors, but that alone doesn’t mean we can yet proclaim social business the new thing. We need hundreds of organizations to embrace social business before we’ll have the stats to know for sure.

Tomorrow I’m hosting a contingent from a company where William is a board member. It’s the fourth such company he’s brought round to talk social business. I’m watching eagerly for progress at these other companies. The team at Lorenz Capital is keeping up to date too as you might imagine and knowledge sharing among the companies in its portfolio.

Sixty seven


The biggest process transformation so far relates to the structural changes I described above. We’ve got quite a bit of it licked fairly rapidly because our technology partner had anticipated some of our needs – it seems we’ve not been the only ones thinking hard about social business.

Obviously we have a very long road ahead of us. The idea that we might collate and synthesize insight and knowledge from all influence flows in combination remains little more than that, an idea. We have greatly expanded our social analytics, measurement and workflow capabilities though, and we’re using our enterprise social network much more aggressively.

In particular, we are tweaking mechanisms for identifying expertise that might have been under-appreciated to date; making communication more open and accessible; seeing if teams might assemble organically; and making it all more searchable (looking for an answer) and discoverable (maintaining awareness).

John is heads down in some vendor communities teasing out best practice that should get us in better shape to execute our vision in the coming years. It should prepare us to take full advantage of the new components as they emerge, and to do so quickly.

He talks a lot about resource description frameworks and linked data, if these mean anything to you. Ask your IT people. Actually, buy them a coffee – they’re your new best friends so make it a good one.

Sixty two

I’m coming to the end of this story now, or at least I’m finishing this first part of the new Attenzi story. Let me leave you with some brief examples of how our structure, culture, policies and processes are bending / being bent to our new emphases, and some of the early benefits we’re accruing and lessons we’re learning.

Perhaps, if there’s sufficient interest, I might document our subsequent experiences – you may be relieved to know I now record my daily notes digitally.

I’ll listen out for your conversation about our story amongst the two to three billion social web participants! (Using #attenzi would help us greatly.)

And it would be rude of me not to invite you over. We’d love to get our collective minds together to find out what has surprised and disappointed you most about our story, to understand your critique, to share and learn from your experiences, and to see if we can’t make this social business thing come to life sooner than otherwise.

We’ve set up a facility on our website to do just that. Do come on over. Marcus and I will have added more notes, comments and updates by the time you drop in I’m sure.


Sixty one

It’s nine months since that lunch with William and chat with Saket, and nearly a year since the pivotal away day. Of course, a large part of events has been change management. I won’t dwell on change management here but suffice to say our biggest challenges and opportunities in that respect have been people, people and people. And tech. As my old plant manager would say, we’re all in change management.

I’m wondering whether an organization designed around influence flows might find change management easier. It’s too early for me to conclude with certainty but it looks like it could.

Marcus, John, Georgio, Michelle, Yvonne, Tom and I form the steering team. We invite Saket in once a month to challenge our analyses, assumptions, conclusions and plans. He’s rather good at that, as you’ve seen.

We outlined a project plan to execute the influence strategy. We qualified the investments required in people, process and technology courtesy of our strategy maps. And we identified the dependencies and the timeline.

We developed a role and person specification for an individual to lead the transition, and it rapidly became clear that it had Marcus’ name all over it. We promoted two of his operations team to take up much of his existing mantle, leaving him with the majority of his time to crack on with social business. He has a team of four working with him in The Nerve Center, as it’s been named, and they obviously lean heavily on the steering team for our respective disciplinary expertise.

Note that I don’t write ‘functional expertise’. It has become increasingly clear that the typical functions in organizations really are a manifestation of the 20th Century perspective of business, a result of the tectonic forces of that period, and not necessarily the organs demanded of a 21st Century entity. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that there’s a radical departure necessarily, just that the norms we associate with today’s functional labels narrow our view of how the business might operate.

Interestingly, Marcus’ team had been seconded to The Nerve Centre as if they would return to their previous departments at some point. It took a week to put ourselves right about that.

Marcus owns the Influence Scorecard. He maps influence flows on to our strategy map and, to paraphrase the Balanced Scorecard creators, helps us define the marching orders we need to become a social business.

Fifty nine (i)

I brought William up to speed at our monthly lunch the following day.

“Why do you call it social business then? Why not biological business?”

He emphasized ‘biological’ with a smattering of derision.

“I mean all that fancy computing and number crunching stuff doesn’t sound very social. Actually, it doesn’t sound very biological either.”

I fought an urge to be defensive as he continued: “And I’m afraid none of the other companies I work with, on whose boards I sit, are going anywhere near this sort of thing. They’re discussing social media and social campaigns and social mentions and social sentiment. They’re talking about SoLoMo and social monitoring and running social software internally. Heck, some of them talk about social so much they’re basically social business by saturation.

“But biology? No. Can’t say as it’s cropped up once.”

I was a tire and I’d just been given a hefty kick. I took my time to think, and I was about to say something when William finished his challenge.

“No. Nothing. Nothing about interneurons that’s for sure! Nothing about influence flows.”

This was serious. I felt a heat in my cheeks. I bought time chasing the remnants of Sachertorte and whipped cream around my plate.

I finished dessert and held up my phone: “Dictionary meaning of social.”

I avoided the offering from the website renowned for having more cookies than Nabisco. I found a definition and read out loud.

“Of or relating to human society, the interaction of the individual and the group, or the welfare of human beings as members of society. Tending to form cooperative and interdependent relationships with others.”

We both reflected on that for a few seconds before I ventured further.

“Good business is about cooperative and interdependent relationships, always has been, yet the humanity was lost when organizations scaled way up during the 20th Century. We want to make those relationships more human again, but the answer can’t be to scale it all back down. We have to scale something else up.