This is part two in a series of posts on how FSG-Social Impact Consultants, is implementing emergent collaboration strategies and technologies within its organization. Part one on business drivers can be found here. Founded in 2000 as Foundation Strategy Group, FSG is a nonprofit consulting firm specializing in strategy, evaluation, and research. Today, FSG with approximately 80 employees and celebrates a decade of global social impact. We interviewed Carl Frappaolo, Director of Knowledge Management at FSG, which has been implementing its emergent collaboration technologies and strategies for around two months. The full case study on FSG can be downloaded for free along with half a dozen other emergent collaboration case studies and resources .
FSG is comprised of a strong community of people that understand the value of collaboration. People are not trying to protect what they know. For the most part, internally, security is not an issue. Everyone is comfortable sharing knowledge, a component of an open culture that is conducive to collaboration. The other side of that however, as mentioned earlier is there is a great deal of autonomy at FSG. Users for the most part are not “forced to do something”, but are allowed to take any approach they deem appropriate and effective to do their job. Over the years, employees have become accustomed to their own routine and approaches to getting work done; these approaches have become almost second nature to them. It is not that there is employee resistance to change imposed by a centralized and formal approach to knowledge management, but rather having to consciously remember that there are new tools and technologies. It is akin to driving a particular route to get to work all the time. You know that route so well that you can travel it blindfolded and you do not even think about it. Then suddenly someone is asking you to take a new route to get to work and you have to be much more conscientious of the turns you take. Eventually you make it to where you need to go but you get lost a few times along the way. It is going to take time before you really get used to the new route. The same is true for new workplace tools and technologies.
Breaking down the autonomy at FSG was not easy. It was tricky because the entrepreneurial and creative sprit that came with autonomy needed to be preserved. Furthermore, FSG leveraged a culture comprised more for carrots than sticks. One of the best ways to encourage individuals to accept change and break away from the “comfort of established routines” was by showing employees that there are better ways to doing things. Employees needed to understand why using these new tools and technologies were good for them, individually, as well as why it was good for everyone as a company. Value added benefits, both personal and collective, would drive change at FSG.
There was really only one way to do this – by meeting with employees and getting a sense of what they do and how they do it and then going back to them and showing them alternatives with new tools and technologies that actually would bring added value. Employees were not forced to use anything; instead, they tried to show them what they could get out of the new tools that they did not currently get from their existing ways of doing things.
FSG found that one of the big value statements for employees is that they could leave behind their work and others would find it instead of colleagues having to contact/email someone looking for information. For example, if someone wanted to know if anyone did a project regarding the AIDS epidemic in Africa, employee had a way to find that information independently.
Some group training had also been given, which in conjunction with the one-on-one meetings has been the most effective. FSG employees are very busy so they wanted to know that the new tools and technologies would enable them to make the best use of their time.
Breaking down the second nature problem is still a challenge that is being worked on at this time. Since FSG recently deployed their solution, they had a small number of evangelists, approximately three to four employees. Evangelists needed to continually remind colleagues about the value of these new tools, for example if someone sent out an email to a group and an evangelist was a recipient, they responded “Did you ever think of putting it into our social platform?” Evangelists also forwarded the email content to their platform and let colleagues know that they could do it themselves next time. While overcoming the second nature problem is taking time, effective use of time is making a difference. Apathy will get you nowhere.
Finally, FSG’s community are very smart and by nature, problem solvers. They do not wait for problems to be fixed. In fact, virtually everyone is a systems design engineer. They do not wait for solutions – they create solutions. You cannot pull the wool over their eyes and tell them that something is good to use if it does not work the way it should. Employees are also very opinionated and all of their opinions have merit. Sometimes they get into discussions over things as simple as “What are we going to call this tab?” and everyone has their own supporting arguments. Each has its merits and should be weighed.