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We’re Not Going Back

Social media has matured. It’s frequently just considered a given these days, and the smart organizations have moved from experimenting to institutionalizing. We have positions, policies, processes, and maybe even some decent metrics that tie into organizational results. This change is permanent. We’re not going back.

But please understand that our work is not done; it is only shifting. Of course we will continue to improve our work in social media. The field is still young, and it will forever be changing, so we must stay disciplined in innovating our social media marketing efforts, even though we only recently became used to them. Welcome to the 21st century, where innovation comes standard.

But it is important that we not stay transfixed on the buzzing work of social media, because this permanent change to our business landscape has set in motion some other changes that need our attention. Specifically, as social media became the norm, I’ve noticed some changes in what is valued. Inside our organizations, what we value is shifting. We used to value consistency, but now we value responsiveness more. We used to value the message, but now we value meaning more. It’s not that we hate consistency or messages now, but there’s been a shift. And those are just two examples. I also see a shift towards sharing, speed, digital, clarity, and action.

So here’s the problem when what is valued begins to shift: it rubs against the existing culture. Organizational culture is rooted in what is valued by the people in the system. We all know what is valued, even if it’s not always spoken. And when those values change–but the processes, structures, and general workplace behaviors remain the same–things start to get ugly. Frustration builds. People start to leave. The inconsistency needs to be reconciled.

I wrote an ebook recently that takes the essence of organizational culture and culture change and boils it down to 10,000 words. I did this because I see the need for significant and rapid culture change in a LOT of organizations given what’s happening with social media. If we go back to our “old” approach to culture change–where it takes three years and a host of change management consultants–we’re not going to make it.

What we value is changing, so we need to change our cultures to match. Let’s stop gnashing our teeth about it, and get it done.



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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Chris Bailey December 12, 2013 at 3:32 pm

Jamie, I would submit that it’s precisely because our orgs sense that shift in values that creates this barrier to change. This shift is entangled with emotions that are often difficult to surface at an individual level, let alone an organizational level.

The more I think about organizational culture, the more I feel like we’re missing something. To me, it surrounds Identity. I’m just starting to dig more into whether identity is the same as culture, an element of culture, or independent of culture. Not sure if any of this applies to what you write here, but there’s a reason why changing collective minds and hearts is a long, frustrating, emotional experience. And it’s the intellectual pursuit of these questions that keeps us going, right?

BTW, I’m re-reading Jeanie Daniel Duck’s book, Change Monster, to help prepare me for my own professional shift back to association management. Personal and organizational change share many commonalities.

Look forward to continuing the conversation.


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