Change Whisperer – Gail Severini, Symphini Change Management Inc.

Internal social media – engaging your organization – a status check (Part 1 of 2)

What if our organization was energized? If everyone understood the vision and the strategy and contributed enthusiastically to moving us forward? How would we talk to each other?  Maybe it would look like the best of our meetings – agreeing and disagreeing, compromising, collaborating, loud, messy even, but always vibrant.  It seems to me that internal social media should look like this and create this kind of traction. 

What “social media” are we talking about?

Wikipedia is both a great example and a great resource:

“Social media includes web-based and mobile technologies used to turn communication into interactive dialogue… Social media is media for social interaction as a superset beyond social communication.”


“Social media takes on many different forms including magazines, Internet forums, blogs, social blogs, microblogging, wikis, podcasts, photographs or pictures, video, rating and social bookmarking. By applying a set of theories in the field of media research (social presence, media richness) and social processes (self-presentation, self-disclosure) Kaplan and Haenlein created a classification scheme for different social media types in their Business Horizons article published in 2010. According to Kaplan and Haenlein there are six different types of social media: collaborative projects (e.g. Wikipedia), blogs and microblogs (e.g. Twitter), content communities (e.g. Youtube), social networking sites (e.g. Facebook), virtual game worlds (e.g. World of Warcraft) and virtual social worlds (e.g. Second Life). Technologies include: blogs, picture-sharing, vlogs, wall-postings, email, instant messaging, music-sharing, crowdsourcing and voice over IP, to name a few. Many of these social media services can be integrated via social network aggregation platforms.” (2)

How does this expedite strategy anyway?  Engagement = commitment = traction = ROI

We all know that “communication” is a standard means of building commitment (and reducing resistance).  In evaluating progress we use our Stages of Change Commitment framework, originally published in “Managing at the Speed of Change” (1) which recognizes eight stages: Contact, Awareness, Understanding, Positive Perception, Experimentation, Adoption, Institutionalization, Internalization (innovations documented in our White Paper ”Building Commitment to Organizational Change”, contact me for a copy).

 Old school Change Management communication meant sending memos, building websites, creating videos, printing T-shirts, i.e. broadcasting (force feeding) information to the change targets. This was only ever successful in moving people’s minds through Contact, Awareness and towards Understanding – preparing them to change.  It was never sufficient to tip most people into action. 

“Change Leadership” is another mantra, e.g. if only leaders could speak eloquently and convincingly enough to inspire their people to “get on the bus”.   This reinforces Understanding and might be enough to move more people into Positive Perception and early adopters even into Experimentation.  However, typically even the most committed Leadership, using such broadcasting, cannot get the critical mass required to get sufficient momentum.

We add into the mix Enrollment – a facilitated dialogue with change targets across the organization.  This structured process surfaces and resolves resistance and is very effective at moving people along the curve.  This raises the bar of communication – it is engagement. 

Internal social media is jet fuel – for better or for worse

The technology of social media offers jet fuel to the dialogue.  It provides channels for real time, public conversations that explore questions, concerns and shares information.  And the reality is that we, as individuals, are using social media in our personal lives.  The Facebook community is now at a stunning 800 million users, 350 on mobile devices (3).  A critical mass of “us” are learning a whole new communication dynamic.  This is finding its way into our organizations, and our organizations’ cultures.

However, social media also accentuates both the strengths and weaknesses present in the current culture.  Those organizations with strong nimble cultures are empowered.  Authentic and fierce conversations propel analysis, decisions and implementations. 

However, those organizations that have been driven by control and compliance falter.  Social media liberates the conversations – it puts more control in the hands of the change targets.  The notion that social media can be kept outside the organization is a fallacy.  Technologies like Facebook and texting  already accelerate gossip channels, with or without the organization participation.  Leaders have a choice – be a part of these conversations or sit on the sidelines.

It seems, looking back on the politics of 2012, that political leaders of Libya, Egypt and Syria underestimated the power of social media to engage and unite the disparate stakeholders in their communities. 

In Part 2 we will look at whether internal social media really has any traction, what it will take to leverage it to build commitment and identify leaders to follow.


(1)  “Managing at the Speed of Change: How Resilient Managers Succeed and Prosper Where Others Fail”, Daryl Conner, Random House, New York, 1992, 2006.

(2)  “Social Media”, Wikipedia

(3)  “Facebook F8: Redesigning and hitting 800 million users”, Los Angeles Times, September 22 2011.   

Related Posts:

2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

hi.. my name is eagle. I’m from Indonesia, I’m doing my thesis proposal right now and I have interest in the topic social networking related to the employee (HR major). Could I have a copy of ”Building Commitment to Organizational Change”

Comment by eagle

Hello Eagle. I will sent that to you by email momentarily. Come on back here if you’d like to discuss it further. Best regards. Gail

Comment by Gail Severini ©

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s