Enterprise 2.0 Featured Articles

Strategy & Tactics: internal communications + social media

Now indeed, I thought Steve Crescenzo posted a good piece this week on the thorny internal comms question of whether ‘Strategy or Tactics?’ Question: Should you be a ’strategist’ or a ‘tactician?’ Answer: Yes & a fine answer, because as Steve rightly points out we need both. I think it’s essential to never forget that tactics are essential. Take for example a game of chess…

Perhaps only at the very highest level when both players are equally matched does strategy finally decide the outcome. However, most games of chess are not won through strategy, they are won through tactics (or, as some might argue, through whoever makes the least mistakes). And whilst the strategy might be to control white space or to lure an opponent to over extend their attack so as to compromise their defences, it’s the singular combination of tactical moves, culminating in forks or pins and the rest, that decides the final outcome.

Now of course the chess player has one significant advantage over those deploying a strategy via tactical means and that is that they are a singular person – there should be no disconnect between the two. This as perhaps we all ought to admit is not always the case in the corporation. Indeed I’ve heard it said that making that connect between the actions of an individual on the ground, impacting in part by tactical messaging, to follow and enact a strategic path; is, if not the Holy Grail, at least a fine and noble embrace of internal comms.

I saw this on a project once. We surveyed the field sales guys on internal comms, messaging and channels and found an interesting and very salient fact. The message got through ok, the comms channels worked but the sales guys didn’t really know what to do with the message – ‘what can I do with this, how does it all connect up, what can I take to my customers?’ were their common laments.

What we were seeing was a disconnect between the delivery of the strategic message and it’s interpretation. The tactic of delivering it was working well, it was just that people didn’t understand what it meant or what to do with it.

Now I’ve heard people such as Bill Quirke talk about this as something that can be addressed by ensuring that middle management are able to relate, respond and translate  the message into something more meaningful and useful at the specific instance. This of course is a more than useful approach, but it’s one I would argue, that is labour, time and resource intensive. And there is a way that can support and reinforce this approach whilst reducing cost and increasing scope and that is to use social technologies to connect up the delivery of the key core message.

The idea here is to ensure that there are collaborative spaces at the intersections where the message is delivered, be it e-mail, live meetings/town hall, the intranet based channels, video or a face to face; in the form of team lead blogs and responses, discussion forum threads and editable shared documents. The idea here is that these social elements are located in the heart of the intranet at the very points where the strategic message needs to connect with what needs actually doing to deliver it.

The aim here is that this collaboration layer allows people to engage with the strategic message, to ask questions – and get answers, to discuss between peers and experts and to learn what works and what doesn’t. The result is to transform the well delivered but potentially fallow message into something with fertile resonance, a strategy that is social and tranformative both in terms of how it gets used and also in how it in itself gets transformed too.

In a future post I’ll look at what this social intranet looks like.

Chess image from

Enterprise 2.0 Featured Articles Intranet

Architecture of the Intranet, deconstructed

I’m trying to think of a contemporary building or architecture that defines what I’m trying to conceptualise about the new intranet will be transmogrified in the next few years. I guess I’m looking for a metaphor in the same way Fredric Jameson took the Bonaventure Hotel to characterise postmodernism as a cultural logic

“they [these postmodern buildings]  no longer attempt, as did the masterworks and monuments of high modernism, to insert a different, a distinct, an elevated, a new Utopian language into the tawdry and commercial sign system of the surrounding city, but rather they seek to speak that very language, using its lexicon and syntax as that has been emblematically “learned from Las Vegas.”

“There are three entrances to the Bonaventure, one from Figueroa and the other two by way of elevated gardens on the other side of the hotel, which is built into the remaining slope of the former Bunker Hill. None of these is anything like the old hotel marquee, or the monumental porte cochere with which the sumptuous buildings of yesteryear were wont to stage your passage from city street to the interior. The entryways of the Bonaventure are, as it were, lateral and rather backdoor affairs: the gardens in the back admit you to the sixth floor of the towers, and even there you must walk down one flight to find the elevator by which you gain access to the lobby.”

I keep on coming back to the Lloyds building as an ‘inside-out’ building (or is that outside in?) in reference to Paul Miller talking about the inside out intranet, but the Lloyds building is too structured and hidden/enclosed. I also like the Museum of Fruit in Yamanashi west Tokyo for its literal transparency, but once again it is too defined in terms of space.

Perhaps I should think in reverse and look for the new formations of the intranet being found in new architectures?

Enterprise 2.0 Featured Articles

An ideal insomnia- or why internal comms & the intranet will disappear

Last night I was struck by a Joycean ‘ideal insomnia‘ and rather than unravelling Finnegans Wake I spent several hours rethinking how to configure a way of understanding contemporary communications. There are several strands of ideas I want to tackle in the near future and in doing so I’m going to try at least to treat this blog in perhaps more detailed seriousness than I may have in the past.

What I’m re-imagining is the impact of what I see as a set of interrelated trends. The first is the increasing permeability of the corporation in terms of its ‘inside and outness’. What started as a barrier has now become more an osmotic membrane: a firewall that prevented communication across it would be useless, but it now needs to cater for an accelerating level of collaborational and communicative activities from both employees working within, without and across its boundaries; partners; customers and consumers and even competitors’ the so-called ‘frenemy’ complex.

This tendency will have and indeed is having a big impact on how communications is organised – Internal Comms + PR and Corp Comms. It also impacts and interrogates the Brand, especially if a brand is seen as an entity with resonance and meaning inside and outside the company. In this sense internal communications can be seen as an articulation of the brand within and to the company itself. It is an internal dialogue, or at least becoming more of one as collaborative and social technologies arrive and evolve as part of the office landscape.

I jump ahead of myself, let me articulate how we are now as so:

The next area to tackle is the growing confluence of internal communications, the intranet and with the arrival of the collaborative technologies, the 2.0 experience. In this, the social software will transform both the intranet itself – we can see this happening already, but also the roles of the intranet manager and the internal communicator. If we represent this as 3 circles of activity or space we get this:

We might also start to trace further levels of complexity here by adding the division / connectedness with the intranet and the .com pointing to an ultimate fusion or hybridity between them. Suffice to point out one aspect here in all this. Namely if we overlay the two diagrams we start to get a sense of a 3 dimensional picture that is reforming itself into something quite new. We haven’t seen this before. We haven’t seen the roles it creates either.

Where these new roles and technologies will appear will be in the areas where the spheres overlap, where comms becomes a collaborative intranet that encompasses all parties engaged in the activity, both within and without. This is the end and start of something new. Maybe it needs a wake, or what Joyce dubbed the ‘funferal’…