Warming Up for your Social Business Marathon – Vision


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In my last posting I described three lessons learned from the implementation of social business projects. The third of these was to have energy and to plan for a marathon stint. At the end of that post I promised to look more closely at each of the steps of the plan to give you some more practical advice on how to bring success to your social business project.

My proposed plan was as follows:


Thus, in this post we are going to start at the beginning – Warming Up.

Warming Up

First in the Marathon for Social Business is Warming Up. Here we want to make sure that we prepare the groundwork for our exertions by deciding a few basics and making sure that we are properly prepared.

First off it does no harm to actually express in written form what direction you want to take. This could take the form of a Vision Document, but should at least express what problems you are trying to resolve by becoming a social business, who will use the system, how people will access it, and what quantifiable benefits you expect to come from its use. I’ve rattled these off quite quickly here, so let’s stop in our regime and look at them in a little more depth:

What Problems are you Trying to Solve?

This is a simple question but inevitably is one of the most difficult questions to answer. You will most likely get as many answers to this question as people you ask. What’s important instead is to try to reach consensus about what the overall problem is.

A well-formed problem statement comes in three parts:

1. Description of the ideal scenario

2. Statement of the reality of the current situation

3. Consequences

Here’s an example:

Employees in Acme Corp should be able to find the best person in the organisation to help them with a customer problem within ten seconds. By doing so we will reduce the costs of reinvention of solutions (estimated to be 5% of current costs) and increase customer satisfaction through more timely problem resolution. However, the current communication environment makes it difficult for individuals to share the knowledge they have and apply lessons learned to scenarios in a format which other people can take advantage of. The consequences of this situation continuing is a decrease in competitiveness, a loss of business through customer attrition and a drop in employee morale.

As you can see, this example makes it very clear, in a positive way how we can improve the business and the impact a lack of action will have on the business. A guiding principle like this should unite your team, and in fact the whole business, behind the project.

What Will It Look Like?

The late Steven Covey said, in Habit 2 of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: “Start with the end in mind”. Draw a picture, however crude, of what your new solution will look like. Argue with your colleagues (constructively!) about the functions and features and approach, and clicks, and styling and colors and all the things you need and want to make it work for your business. Remember it needs to solve the problem you’ve just described.

Once you’ve done this, I suggest that you all sleep on it and come back the next day with another blank sheet of paper and try again. I guarantee that the second result will be tighter, more realistic and more focused.

How Will We Know When We Get There?

When running a marathon it’s usually pretty obvious when you get to the end. Hopefully there will be cheering crowds, people with these odd tin-foil blankets and, for one lucky participant a big ribbon to run through. In Social Business, although you might have drawn a picture of what your solution will look like and do, and described what the problem is and how you’ll solve it, to truly know if you have achieved what you set out to do you need to quantify the problem and the result through measurements. In my example problem statement above, I described the cost of doing nothing as being approximately 5% of costs. How would I measure this? How would I gather the information to let me judge how the costs were running up? In my case I might use timesheets categorised by helpdesk tickets to get an idea of how much time is being spent. If I divide that number by the total number of hours my helpdesk works I’ll get a ratio of costs associated. In your world, what calculation or measure can you use to get a handle on whether you have improved your situation?

Putting it Together in a Vision

Getting all of these details down into a central document that everyone signs up to might sound like a Utopian vision. Without an effort in this area, however, you leave yourself open to being accused of hitting the wrong target, or not hitting the target everyone thought you were going for. Without it you can’t claim to have the key players on board. You need to get your Vision endorsed by senior management so that the people you will work with on a regular basis know that this is worth putting their time into. People like being associated with a success, after all, and what better success to be associated with than one their boss has approved?

In the next article I’ll look at the second part of Warming Up – Sponsorship.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Alan Hamilton
I believe social business is a new way for organizations of all sizes to form stronger working relationships within themselves and with their customers and partners. By demonstrating how any organization can become more open, responsible, compassionate and flexible I can show that staff and customer satisfaction increases, morale improves and better business results come.


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