Should a Corporate Social Business Strategy be Preceded by a Cultural Audit?

Getting the corporate culture clear helps make a social business strategy viable

Wordle image - cultural auditConversations about social media in business often start with questions about tools. “Should we have a Facebook page?” “Should we be on Twitter?” “Should we have a blog and if so how do we go about that?”

These are perfectly reasonable questions. But they jump the gun.

Before any decisions are made about social media platforms or tools, there needs to be a serious discussion about company objectives and social business strategy.

And about company culture.

Because a social business strategy that doesn’t fit with company culture is bound to fail.

Sometimes (usually?) it will become evident that there needs to be cultural change if the social business strategy is to have a chance of success. The principle of getting a good fit beween the strategy and the corporate culture still applies – it’s just that the process becomes a bit more complex and dynamic.

It is clear to me, from case studies I’ve read and listened to and from anecdotes shared by fellow social business practitioners, that the toughest challenge with social business or social media implementation may not about platforms or tools or even, in many cases, about budgets, but about culture.

To take just one cultural factor, attitude to risk, the kind of social business strategy and the speed at which it is developed and implemented will be affected by whether the culture of a company is more risk tolerant or more risk averse.

I believe there is a case to be made for conducting a cultural audit or scan of a company before getting into a discussion about social business strategy.

Cynics might see that as just another way for consultants and coaches to make money without delivering any extra value.

But a cultural audit or scan does not have to be lengthy or complex. In some circumstances it might just mean a day of interviews with people from across the enterprise: not just with senior management, who we all know often have either too rosy a picture of how the world looks from the shop floor, or too jaundiced a one.

And let’s all spare ourselves lengthy (and costly) reports from exercises like this.

One page of bullet points should do the trick.

My hunch is that, if the audit or scan is done in a focused and relatively speedy way, the development and implementation of the social business or social media strategy will deliver better value for money – and maybe even faster and more enduringly than would otherwise have been the case.

Do you know of any company where an audit or scan such as this has been done as a step before developing a social media or social business strategy? Does it look to you like a good idea?

Image credit: http://www.wordle.net/

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6 thoughts on “Should a Corporate Social Business Strategy be Preceded by a Cultural Audit?”

  1. Des, these are all both necessary and useful thoughts and suggestions. Professional services require needs assessment that is client-specific. Official complience standards push for all mechanisms to be applied – not just legal documents such as a policy but also staff training, monitoring and audit review. The view is that otherwise things are too open for sham complience.

    The rising tide of oops tweets by high profile people is clear evidence, again, that the most common thing about common sense is that it is not common. Audits reduce risk and the legal possibility that there will be any fine let alone a massive one.

  2. Thanks Noric

    So true about “common” sense. And, on a bit of a lateral loop from there, a very current case involving an MP in our state shows that the existence of a code of conduct does not ensure that it is read, let alone understood and put into practice, by the persons concerned. My point being that organisations need processes for dissemination and absorption and audit, to be able to have reasonable assurance that everyone concerned “gets it”, thus disempowering any defences such as “but I didn’t realise that if I tweeted that everyone would see it” .

  3. Des, we do ‘cultural audits’ by finding out what the current ‘unwritten ground rules’ or ‘UGRs’ are in a company. We’ve done this in small and (very) large companies, and it’s a powerful way for people to get to understand what things are ‘really’ like.

    I think your idea about capturing important cultural attributes as a precursor to exploring social media options is a great one – and frankly, not something we’d considered to date.

    Great thoughts!

  4. Des, I agree.

    And so do judges and government regulatory bodies. Like learning or skills development, compliance requires real, consistent and regular attendance. Otherwise it is not real.

    The Australian has collected together 15 instances worldwide of “Twitter gaffes” in a slide presentation, complete with short descriptions and a photo.
    Go to: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/gallery-e6frg6n6-1225862663573?page=1

    Given these growing number of REPORTED social media legal/commercial/political issues that we now come across, there is probably a MOUNTAIN of unreported issues. All this underlines the needs you have written about. Thanks for a good article.

  5. Steve
    Yes, it was good to get your newsletter today, reminding me of your UGR approach. My guess is you could find with many companies that there are a lot of concerns about social media, at all levels of the enterprise, concerns which are probably manifesting themselves in UGRs, which may well be at odds with or at least not synchronised with the official policies (that’s in the probably exceptional cases where there *are* written policies!).

    Noric
    Thanks for that very useful reference link of Twitter gaffes. I agree, probably just a small fraction of what is happening: companies are presumably no more keen to draw attention to these as to any of their blunders.

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