Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Social media in government - the five stages of acceptance

My experience in both the public and private sectors has been that organisations often face enormous resistance against the introduction of social media channels for staff.

Given how new social media tools are, this, in my view, reflects similar resistance to other new innovations, such as the introduction of:
  • phones on every desk (staff could waste time and money making personal / long distance calls),
  • desktop computers (may not deliver any real benefits to the organisation and would be hard to manage - why would an organisation needs more than one computer?),
  • email (staff could distribute confidential and/or inappropriate material), and
  • universal internet access (staff could waste time and access inappropriate material).
In each case the benefits have vastly outweighed the risks or downsides, and there have been a variety of approaches available to ensure staff made appropriate use of these tools - from codes of conduct to filtering and reporting tools - even the approach of placing greater trust in staff.

In thinking about the adoption patterns for all of these technologies, I see behaviour reflecting the model of the five stages of grief.

Based on this I've come up with the five stages of acceptance for social media detailed below.

Let me know how well these fit the experience of your organisation.

Stage 1: Ignorance

"We need a collaboration tool - let's build one"

Organisations begin with no knowledge of online social media - particularly at senior levels. When they need new communication, engagement and/or collaboration tools they design and develop them, or buy from a major IT vendor.

Stage 2: Denial

"That would never work here", "We're already investing in a solution that will be better"

When the organisation discovers online social media tools, either the value of the tools is denied, or decision makers (particularly in IT) do not believe that a free public system could be as good as their quadrillion-dollar homemade or off-the-shelf solution.

Potential security issues, system incompatibilities, staff misuse of resources and time wasting are commonly raised as reasons why external social media tools won't deliver what an organisation needs.

Stage 3: Bargaining

"We should own this tool because it relates to our area", "We'll need budget for it"

Once the organisation accepts the value in social media tools, bargaining for ownership begins;
  • IT calculates that social media tools are technology-based, delivered via IT infrastructure,
  • HR points out that social media connects people and builds positive workplaces,
  • The Communications group tells everyone that social media is about communication,
  • Strategy, finance and/or efficiency teams strategise that social media is a channel management and efficiency tool.

Stage 4: Depression

"We need a strict usage policy", "No you can't use it that way, someone might...."

By this stage no-one who really wanted to use social media is happy with the organisation's solution for how the tools will be introduced and managed.

Complex usage policies are developed that restrict effective usage in the name of risk mitigation and the tools begin to be used in a basic and haphazard way that meets the rules.

Stage 5: Acceptance

"It's there - use it however you like"

One the social media tools have been in place for sometime and there have been no major issues or breaches, groups in the organisation loosen their grip on how the tools may be used and their true value begins emerging.

1 comment:

  1. I work with some managers who go through all of these stages in a random order, and usually finish it off with the sixth stage "We have a policy for that." which is code for "We don't have a policy for that, but I don't know how to deal with it".