In my work building employee communities for Walgreens and other organizations I’ve have had to lead communities through change many times. While experiencing the impact of organizational change I’ve learned that it’s critical to have a change plan for your community. It’s also important to not only be reactive to change but you must be proactive too, which means that it’s important to think strategically ahead of time about how change can impact your employee communities and internal social media program.
Before pivotal moments of change occur it’s important to think through how you will lead your community through change. By thinking ahead about change you can be better prepared and more clearly understand and demonstrate to leadership and stakeholders how your employee community can (and should) be an indispensable asset in the midst of organizational change.
I’m a big fan of learning from others who have gone before me and gleaning as much wisdom as I can and applying it to my own experiences. One of the best books on change and explaining how it impacts organizations is John Cotter’s Leading Change. I’ve gone back to this book many times over the years and even though it doesn’t specifically mention internal social or community management, Cotter’s insights on how to initiate and navigate through change should be a go-to resource when developing any internal social media and community management strategy.
In reading and re-reading Cotter’s book, and thinking about my own experiences, I’ve found that one of the best ways to navigate through, and plan for change, is to ask questions. For me, asking questions helps me do a lot of valuable things. Asking questions helps me see holes and gaps in my own thinking, and most importantly asking questions helps me find answers.
So I wanted to share these questions below with you because I believe they are critical questions to ask and reflect on. If you want to see your employee communities and internal social program not only survive, but thrive and be a trusted and valuable beacon to your organization during times of change, I believe you need to find answers to these questions.
In further reflecting on Cotter’s book through the lens of community management and internal social, I’ve been exploring the differences between what it means to use communities to initiate, react to and help to lead people through change. That said, these questions are a mixture of me working through that context and exploration.
This post is an exercise in Working Out Loud (WOL) so these questions aren’t officially ordered (yet) and are in the spirit of stream of consciousness and exploration. I’ll be adding, refining, organizing and evolving these questions over time. I’ll use these as building blocks for future blog posts, so as always, I welcome your thoughts and responses too. Your feedback will help to know what you’d like me to explore more in future posts.
- What areas of your communities are the weakest and most vulnerable to change? What areas are the biggest strengths? How do you balance those and leverage strengths and weakness in times of change?
- How can your communities be tools for leading change? Do you see your communities as places where change starts or where the impact of change is simply reflected?
- Is your internal social strategy and playbook fluid enough and can it adopt and grow during change? If not, what do you need to do to make it more fluid and adaptive?
- Do you have your community processes documented in a playbook? What resources do you have to help other new advocates and champions come on board when others leave the organization? Are you building in to those advocates and champions that are still around so they can help you and others?
- Are you Working Out Loud (WOL) within your communities so that the organizational knowledge and experiences learned during the change are captured and accessible for current and future employees? Are you Working Out Loud and encouraging employees to share what they’re learning on projects before the big moments of change occur so that organizational knowledge is captured and doesn’t get lost when key people, linchpins and leaders leave the organization?
- Have you thought through the short and long term impact of change to your community? What are the most important things to do in each phase?
- Budgets shrink and organizational priorities shift during change, so are you capturing the wins and success of your community in a way that can be used to educate leadership when they ask why and how your communities are valuable to business?
- Are you learning through change? Are you taking action on that knowledge? At each stage of change have you taken the time to reflect and document what you learned and apply those learnings to the next phase of development?
- What elements of organizational change pose the biggest risks to your community? What are you doing to guard against those risks?
- Have you thought about the priorities of your community so that you can cut out the extra and irrelevant tasks and focus on what’s most important when going through change?
- Is your community roadmap and strategy designed in a way that supports employees and other stakeholders as the organization navigates change?
- Are you supporting the emotional needs of your communities during times of change? Are you being human and helpful within your community?
- As a leader of internal social and community management, have you equipped yourself with the necessary tools and training to lead a community through change? Are you reading books and building on your own existing knowledge? Are you asking for help and leveraging your professional and personal network for support and guidance during times of change? Are you taking care of yourself and other community managers during times of change? Are you being aware of your mental, physical and emotional health?
Have you experienced change in your internal social program and communities? What helped you navigate the experience? What questions would you add to this list?