Hey – Chris here. Recently, I was lucky enough to contribute to the development of a white paper written collaboratively by members of the Social Business Council.* The paper, 4 Essential Steps to Social Network Critical Mass, outlines
key concepts required in order to ensure successful adoption of an enterprise social network.
The paper offers some great, practical advice for encouraging adoption, and I encourage you to read it and to share any thoughts you may have about it with me. I wanted to talk specifically in this post, however, about the experience of collaboratively co-authoring this document – or any document, and about two key themes that surfaced from this experience.
First, our team’s “non-difference-ness.” The contributors of this paper were savvy social business and collaboration practitioners, yet this did not exempt us from very common collaboration challenges. Second, we experienced the importance of effective community management, which ultimately allowed us to overcome these challenges and arrive at a solid final product.
We thought we were different
We came together from different industries, disciplines, backgrounds, and continents, connected by our experience in enterprise social business and collaboration initiatives in our respective organizations. And like the sage social business practitioners that we were, we knew how to avoid common challenges by asking the key questions up front. What are the objectives? Where can everyone add value? Who will own what? Who’s leading this? What does the deliverable look like? This isn’t part of the day job – how will everyone stay actively engaged?
Collaboration was the world in which we lived every day. We assumed that we would easily answer these questions, and move on. Everyone seemed engaged, and being industry practitioners, we “got it.” The collaboration challenges that so many organizations struggle with wouldn’t apply to us. We were different.
Only, we weren’t
We weren’t different. We faced the same difficulties answering those basic questions as anyone who has ever tried to bring a group of people together to build something collaboratively. It didn’t matter that we were the so-called “experts.” We were all still human beings. We still faced challenges in ownership of responsibilities, understanding each others’ strengths, continuing to make progress through the vacation-heavy summer months, divergent opinions on the best approach and even maintaining active engagement of all members.
Inside of large organizations, it’s easy to think that our challenges are unique to us. We are diligent in our project management methodologies. We have standard operating practices. The common issues in collaborative work should be long eliminated by now. We tell ourselves, “Our roadblocks are different and our pain is real.” And our pain is real, but the challenges we face are remarkably similar across organizations.
This has never been highlighted so clearly as it was recently at JiveWorld, where people from every possible industry came together to share experiences. We heard the same questions and challenges repeated over, and over, and over again. It clicked – none of us are any different. No, our challenges are everyone’s challenges.
This is an incredible opportunity. In our connected digital age, we can easily discover and connect with like-minded people from anywhere in the world. We can share and learn from one another. We can ask each other anything. As we accept that we are not all that different, we realize that others have been through it before (and have come out of the other side successfully). We don’t have to repeat the mistakes of those that have gone before us. We simply have to call on them for advice and guidance. Our “non-different-ness” offers us a great advantage. We are in this together!
A solution for the ‘non-differents’
With all of the potential challenges our group faced, there was one constant: our active and engaged Community Manager, Patrick O’Brien. Patrick took a leadership position and ensured our momentum throughout. Patrick was present. Patrick genuinely cared. And it made all of the difference. Effective community management was a key factor that allowed us to collaborate effectively and create a superb final product.
Since we’re likely not that different from one another, effective community management could work for you, too. If you are a community manager or someone charged with bringing a group together to get a piece of work done, try these simple things. Your chances of success during your collaborative initiative will increase dramatically.
- Wake up every morning genuinely interested and passionate about helping the group accomplish their work.
- Help people understand where they fit and what the group is driving towards.
- Empower those that are most passionate and engaged with ownership of responsibilities.
- Elicit ideas – or put more simply, get the people talking. No idea is too small.
- Engage people how and where they work. Online or offline.
- As engagement fades, reach out to people to bring them back into the conversation.
- Remind people of what the group is working towards. Provide encouragement that with help them get there.
- Publicly and privately recognize great contributions and expertise.
- Add the polish to the final product.
It’s up to you
Reflecting back on the group I described at the outset of this post, we (incorrectly) thought our experience and skills would allow us to overcome common, everyday collaboration challenges. Yes, we were “non-different,” too. Organizations aren’t all that different either. Organizations face the same challenges in fostering effective collaboration. Take comfort in this. Reach out to others who have been there before, and learn from them. Or, if you’ve been there, offer your experiences to those who are struggling.
Effective community management is one of the keys to effective collaboration. It is not rocket science. It’s not even that different from effective project management, or, more broadly, effective leadership. It seems simple, but it can tip the scales when it comes to supporting and eliciting effective collaboration within a group. You don’t need a designated job title to do this either – anyone can do it. It is up to all of us to bring out the best in our teams.
Does your team or organization share a narrative of being ‘different?’ Have you met others who are struggling with challenges similar to yours? Have you seen the impact an effective community manager can have? Let us know in the comments!
*The Social Business Council was an informal community of internal and external social business practitioners. This community, hosted by the Dachis Group, provided a space for practitioners to connect, share best practices and resources, collectively find solutions to problems. Recently, it was decided to permanently close the community doors. We would like to say a big thanks to all of the members, and specifically recognize Patrick O’Brien, the Council’s incredibly gifted Community Manager. Patrick will continue with Dachis as a Social Business Strategist. Thank you to all of the members and to Patrick for being such great social business ambassadors!