4 Reasons Why Socializing Your Intranet Makes Organizational Change Easier

by cv harquail on August 3, 2011

You can make the process of becoming a Social Organization a little easier if you start by socializing your intranet. Why? Because the shared, cohering nature of your intranet makes ‘social’ change efforts more comprehensive, more democratic, less scary, and more reinforcing of collective identity.

In my previous post, I argue that we should develop Social Organizations from the Inside Out, starting first with the organization’s intranet. 

social organizations, systems of engagement, organizational changeYour organization’s intranet is the network of digital systems that reinforce the organization’s structure, processes and culture. Changing these systems to become more social (aka Socializing the Intranet) will help to make the organization’s structure, processes and culture more social.

Socializing your intranet is a great way to introduce significant organizational change, because intranets are broad-based, protected, visible and core to who your organization is.

Plus, these features of your intranet actually make organizational change easier.

Why Socializing Your Intranet Makes Organizational Change Easier

1. Socializing your Intranet demonstrates a company-wide commitment to new social behaviors and systems, making it easier for members to choose to change.

Going social on your intranet demonstrates the organization’s commitment to the global concept of changing how everybody interacts with everybody else.

When an organization integrates social media tools into its existing intranet or when it adopts new social intranet technology, the organization invests both financial and attentional resources.  Rather than focusing this investment on one department or function, the organization invests across the board. It’s not some ‘skunk works’ or ‘demonstration project’, but a full on collective commitment.

 This perceived commitment helps members trust that changing — becoming more social– actually matters to the organization. Thus, organization members will be more likely to put in the effort and take the risks to learn more social systems & behaviors.

2. Socializing your Intranet creates an opportunity for every member to get involved at the same time, making it easier for everyone to learn, share and support each other’s changes.

Intranet-based social innovations create an opportunity for more democratic, more broadly-shared participation in becoming a social organization.

No one department, level or function gets the new tools ‘first’. There is no implicit hierarchy of “who is and who isn’t important to social business”. Instead, social tools are introduced on the common platform, and everyone learns together, from the ground up.

When everyone is involved in the change effort, what any member learns about using the tools is broadly relevant to other members.  Members can support each other as they experiment, and build change momentum across the entire organization.

3. Socializing your Intranet creates a protected space for learning how to be social with each other, making it easier to learn without punishment.

On a social intranet, members can experiment, experience, practice, explore and learn how to be more social as individual contributors and as members of the organization, in a relatively safe environment.

An intranet is a comparatively protected space for interaction — the firewall that keeps the intranet internal makes it nearly impossible for a member’s participation to damage the organization’s relationships with external stakeholders or to damage the organization’s reputation. Members can learn to be social without putting the organization at risk.

And, since much of the activity on a social intranet is organization-related, and not work-task related, members’ participation on intranet social tools won’t be evaluated as part of their work performance. For example, participating in a conversation about possible changes to the cafeteria menu, or HR procedures, or the organization’s new logo won’t be evaluated as part of that member’s “work”.

Conversation on the social intranet can make an organization feel smaller and more cosy, and in that way more welcoming to members’ participation. A social intranet can provide a secure base for individuals and departments who really need to take risks and extend themselves to become more social.

4. Socializing your Intranet creates a rich display and constant reinforcement of “who” your organization is, making it easier to create ‘new’ social behaviors that are authentic.

A salient, visible, constant sense of your organization’s identity makes it easier for members to figure out how to use social tools in ways that are appropriate and authentic to that particular organization.

Your organization’s collective identity is created, expressed and reinforced through interaction among members. [This interaction can be direct (IRL), psychological (e.g., in the mind) and tech-social (on social media).]

Members’ online interaction with social tools works to translate and express the organization’s identity into the digital form & space of the intranet. In other words, members figure out how to express their organization’s norms, values and character in their digital communication. Doing this on a shared intranet helps members create their organization’s signature ways of expressing values and purpose, “socially”.

Not only is a clear identity important for sustaining authentic interactions internally, it is also a prerequisite for authentic interactions across the organization’s boundary.

Organization members need to be (relatively) secure with “who the organization is” so that they can behave as a reliable and trustworthy social partner to other stakeholders. When the organization is confident and secure in who it is, it doesn’t give up too much of itself in an effort to accommodate and please external stakeholders. And, it behaves consistently and reliably, generating the confidence and trust of stakeholders.

Inside-Out Change Isn’t Easy

I’m not suggesting that going social from the inside out is easy. It is not.

For most organizations, becoming more social will require challenging deeply-held beliefs about the socio-political arrangements of workers, managers and the organization. This means that becoming more social will require a profound cultural shift by your organization and its members.

But, this organizational change towards a more social organization can be made a little easier.

— When the organization demonstrates a commitment to change,
– When all members take small steps together,
– When members learn to change in a relatively safe environment, and
– When the change activity recreates and reinforces the organization’s sense of self,

the whole organization can move forward from its core.

Take advantage of the ways that your central, collective, prosaic intranet can support your members’ move towards more social online interaction.

Become a more social organization by working from the inside-out.

 

See also:
Making social networking work inside the firewall by @eileenb
The True Nature of a Social Intranet by Oscar Berg on CMSWire
Building a Social Intranet by Toby Ward (@tobyward)
Why your intranet is not strategic by Gerry McGovern

Social Intranet Design and Organizational Identity: Design for functionality and character
Social Media for Social Change — Inside the Organization?

Re-creating Reputation Through Authentic Interaction: Using Social Media to Connect with Individual Stakeholders

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