Enterprise 2.0 conferences and forums regarding how cool and great collaboration is and will be to any company, the first question that follows is: "Great, now who is going to lead this effort???"
It is a great question and certainly has a multi-faceted answer.
I recommend you always consider the company and the current set of mental models. How does your company work? What do your team members do and how do they do that on a daily basis? Who is the typical champion of changes in your company? Does anyone have the collaborative vision and the personality, drive, and position to plant the virus?
[ What's on your to-do list? What should be? Read The Enterprise 2.0 Backlog: 100 Ideas. ]
Often, new changes are pushed down from the executive level. Many companies work well with this method. Strong executive leaders can often be very successful in implementing change. Yet, being told or "forced" to collaborate will rarely result in a potentially long-running program for a company that works like this. It's like telling everyone that they have to use the phone to communicate for any reason. It's like telling everyone that they have to take the bus to work. It's like telling everyone that they don't have a choice but to share and only in this one mode. Generally, and growing increasingly important with each generation that enters the workforce, people want a choice as to how they work and collaborate and being told how, when, and why detracts and discourages this new mentality.
Instead of the top-down approach, try coming at it from the bottom up. Here is a list of resources that are needed to envision, build, deploy, and grow a collaborative solution.
1. The Visionary--This role is the most critical person in this whole mix. They should have the experience and passion needed to keep moving forward with a vision of how their company can collaborate using the correct tool suite. Someone who can hold their own with IT (or at least be able to distinguish what's possible from what's not) as well as communicate to the business side and all levels of management. This person needs to have a history of using social media and networking (Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and Twitter, in particular). This person needs to be square in the 1% of the 1/9/90 rule of thumb (i.e. 1% of people create content, 9% contribute to content, and 90% consume content only). Meaning, they need to be a creator of content because they are going to be the first champion (early adopter). Although this person could be an individual contributor, a manager will likely be more successful as they will have a staff to help implement the vision and have a position of some authority and responsibility. At least in my opinion, the Visionary needs to be a member of the Communications or IT departments.
2. The Advocate--In most instances, the Visionary would report to the Advocate. This person protects the vision and the Visionary. They act as a sounding board and someone to keep the Visionary in the realm of possibility. Someone to help carry the message, remove obstacles, gain funding, and interface with higher levels of management. The Advocate is as critical as the Visionary and should have the same level of commitment.
3. The Sponsor--Here is where you go to the executive management level. The Sponsor approves spending and provides for all the resources needed to implement the tools and processes to foster collaboration. The Sponsor is also committed to change and willing to convince their peers that this is the right move to make to better the company and therefore the bottom line. The Sponsor must resist the urge to mandate and to let the virus take hold and grow naturally. It's all about "enabling" change.
Companies are all different but one organization chart could be: Visionary (Manager), reports to Advocate (Director or VP), reports to Sponsor (SVP or EVP to COO, CIO to CEO).
Something that is as important to finding the right vision and implementation team is the departments that are included in the Core Team. This team works with and is led by (matrixed under) the Visionary and the Advocate. Individual members of this team are representatives from many or all other departments in the company. In particular Corporate Communications, HR, Legal, Marketing/Brand, IT and Operations. Why these departments and the critical roles they play will be in my next installment on this topic ... stay tuned.
The bottom line for a successful and natural adoption of collaboration in ANY organization is to have a vision and the means to implement that vision. And remember, the Visionary may be already in your company so look within first. Yet the choice of this person and role is so critical, bringing in outside resources is often warranted.
Social media make the customer more powerful than ever. Here's how to listen and react. Also in the new, all-digital The Customer Really Comes First issue of The BrainYard: The right tools can help smooth over the rough edges in your social business architecture. (Free registration required.)