ESN Horror Series Part I: ‘The Headless Horseman of ESNs’

By October 29, 2014Blog posts

Looking forward to Halloween? Yes? No?

Don’t care? While we don’t celebrate Halloween as earnestly as our American cousins, it’s a good excuse to perhaps watch a horror film, maybe eat some ghostly looking chocolates, or, hey, you might even get dressed up and go to an actual Halloween party. And it’s great fun for the kids of course.

Now we cannot take such a frivolous attitude to our ongoing quest to transform our businesses for the better via the rollout of an enterprise social network (although I do think it’s a chance to be creative and there should always be room for a bit of fun).

Before we embark on this journey, however, we must be wary of the pitfalls that could lead to *horrific* outcomes, turning our rollout into a real nightmare. Luckily for you, I’ve distilled below the pitfalls I’ve witnessed in my time helping organisations of all shapes and sizes to roll out their ESNs – please note all stories are representative, that is they have been anonymised and re-hashed into a mash-up of near-ghoulish tales.

‘The Headless Horseman of ESNs’

A dilligent project team in a governmental organisation was hard at work preparing for its ESN launch. They had some clear goals and project benefits, a comprehensive communications plan to get these messages across to end users and they’d built a community of champions who were spreading the good news, educating new users and surfacing success stories.

This was looking to be a fairy-tale ESN rollout which could prove to truly transform the way this organisation worked…but the project team were missing a vital ingredient! Their Director had shown little interest in the project or its outcomes (while still allowing it to take place) and had made some disparaging remarks about the use of social media at a recent ExCo meeting.

What happened next?

Well, the project team delivered a well thought out launch with vigorous enthusiasm from its champions network. Employees signed up to the network, they started to post questions….but no sooner had launch day come to a close than most employees regressed back to existing ways of working.

One champion overheard a devastating conversation at lunch:

‘I heard that Jody was told off by her line manager for posting on that new social media platform…’
‘…Well I heard Max say that because no one from ExCo has endorsed it, let alone used it, that we shouldn’t be using it at all and that something else will be rolled out next year anyway…’
‘…Well that settles it then, I’m not sticking my neck out if we’re not even sure we should use it!’

And so it was, rumours continued to swirl about the organisation along these same lines and engagement levels in the platform plummeted. The project team and champions network limped on, adding more lunchtime learning sessions to their project plan, posting more searching questions on their network, but to no avail. Three months down the line they had to go back to the drawing board and work out what an earth had gone wrong.

Do you see what’s happened here? The project team had all requisite parts but no head! Because there was no endorsement, direction and participation from leadership, employees felt they didn’t need to engage in something that was new and, to be honest, a bit scary. The project team and champions network had no legitimacy in the eyes of employees (nor really the leadership team) and their primary goal of engaging employees in this change failed.

What could they have done instead?

  • Met the Director (likely be leveraging their line of business ExCo representative) to gauge her take on this transformation and how it might help her achieve her strategic goals
  • Presented the goals and organisational benefits of the project, ensuring these aligned directly to her priorities
  • Asked the Director to formally be the project’s ‘executive sponsor’
  • Arranged a series of coaching sessions on ‘social’, helping leadership to learn the basics and determine their leadership style on a social platform
  • Asked the Director to lead a live discussion with all employees in their network on the day of its launch or to record and post a short video explaining why she was endorsing the platform and how it would benefit the organisation.

If you need some assistance in avoiding any of these pitfalls please reach out to us.

Author: Nina Pattinson

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