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Individual measurements in a social world – adoption obstacle?

Posted by Gia Lyons on March 24, 2008

When an organization doles out bonuses, raises, awards and promotions based on individual contributions, what’s the carrot for social participation?

I, for example, am mainly measured by my individual efforts: how many customers I work with who go on to buy my software; what leadership roles I fulfill inside and outside the organization; what assets I create for others to reuse. This is all right and good, for how else can an individual be measured? My manager can’t promote or give a raise to an entire community, after all. I contribute socially anyway, because it’s just part of my DNA. But that argument doesn’t fly for the majority. “Do the right thing” is usually somewhat eclipsed by “What’s in it for me?” – otherwise, I doubt humanity would have survived this far.

What’s missing is a measurement of how well I use my network. (I’m barred from using ‘leverage’ ever again, per one of my work pals – he mentally pukes every time that and a few other words appear. Like ‘harness’ and ‘foster’. Blech.)

If we can measure this, it will improve.

But, how do we measure a person’s prowess at making their individual contributions better because they knew who knew what, and had a relationship with them such that they could tap their expertise (there’s another blech phrase), whether directly or through their social contributions, at a moment’s notice?

To network, one must be social, must participate in online communities as well as offline, must spend time getting to know others and letting others know them.

Aha. Being social requires a stiff price: spending our most precious commodity, Time.

So really, we are asking people to spend precious time to do something for which they are not measured.

Fix this, and you will have removed a major obstacle to the inside-the-firewall business adoption of social networking and productivity behavior.

16 Responses to “Individual measurements in a social world – adoption obstacle?”

  1. Gia Lyons said

    You know, here’s a follow-on idea: If what I am doing, as a non-social-participant, is good enough, why participate socially? Am I going to get rewarded more (monetarily, or some other thing that I consider a reward) for doing so? I mean, I would have to SPEND more of “me”, so what’s my personal return for that cost?

  2. What a challenging question. When you’re directly responsible for a project then when it completes successfully you can point to that as an area to be recognized for… but when you’re indirectly responsible it’s not nearly the case.

    I know that some of the people that study social network analysis, like Rob Cross, have talked about the value of relationships and their impact organizational metrics. There is some particularly manual analysis done in his work, but that might be a place place to start.

    (and thanks for not using the no-no words :-)

  3. Gia Lyons said

    Yep, I had a reference to Rob Cross, et. al.’s work in my original draft of this post, talking about doing organizational network analyses (ONA) to discover and measure network values, but then took it out for some reason.

    You know, avoiding those no-no words forced me to explain exactly what I meant, so thanks!

  4. I think measurement is one element of the bigger picture: I want to be rewarded. A reward can be recognition, satisfaction (I did the right thing), following your DNA, increase in feelings we like (security, belonging, fun), decrease in unpleasant feelings (loneliness, fear, uncertainty, doubt etc) or more explicit “meeting a (payable) measurement.
    Looking at successful social workers you probably find people with strong instrinct motivation rather than measurement driven folks.

    What would be measures? We could borrow a page from the book “How to measure KM contributions”: contributions and their popularity. Some elaborate system to recognize your contributions and the use of it (did your dogEars show up in searches, are comments left on your blog etc.). The challenge I see: this measurements work as long as they are taken ex-post. The decision to measure would need to lie past the action, otherwise the action is “tainted” by the objective to meet the measurement rather than the outcome.
    Most of the things measurable in social interaction easily can be gamed (unfortunately).

    My 2c
    :-) stw

  5. Gia Lyons said

    Stephan, agreed. Want to know what prompted this blog post? I was asked to write best practices for preparing for pre-sales, “quasi-production” installations of IBM Lotus Connections. In short, it’s just project management stuff (governance, scheduling, etc).

    Now, I am one of thousands in IBM who have enough experience to write those best practices. My first inclination was to set up a wiki and invite my colleagues to help me write them.

    But, since there is a direct correlation between the number of assets I create in a quarter, and my quarterly bonus, I stayed my hand.

    It’s been over a week now, and I’ve done nothing yet. My next step is to talk to my manager about how she will measure me if I go the participatory route.

  6. […] About Gia Lyons « Individual measurements in a social world – adoption obstacle? […]

  7. Gia
    This is a VERY interesting and important topic about how to reward people for contributing to a community when it is not directly measurable via hard Dollars [or hard Euros if you want to use a “proper” currency in this turbulent economic climate! ;-) ]

    So clearly we know what this is not easy, but has anyone got any valid contributions they would like to make public about what it SHOULD be done?

    I for one would like to see people who act as network bridges recognized for the value they bring but often it is too intangible and far away from the final transaction to be measured and tracked back.

    It IS currently difficult for organizations to track and attach value to this sort of activity. On the outside, is it “personal marketing” that through a process of Emergence bubbles up into a “group marketing” that benefits an organization, on the inside, is it a way of making connections and helping liberate new innovation with transformational ideas?

    Also we need to discuss the impact on extended value chains. I was in a meeting the other day when someone made the comment that they did not consider themselves as part of a startup of 10 but part of a value chain of 200 people(or words to that effect) – how do you start to measure the impact of something in that level of complexity?

    Questions, questions, and much uncharted water! Ever felt like the guys before Columbus, not daring to stray too far from shoreline into deeper waters? Someone must be developing the answers to some of these questions, we’ve done it before, we’ll do it again, but it is going to be an interesting voyage of discovery. .

    A great topic for someone’s Thesis or next book, unless the material is out there and I haven’t found it yet . . . I look forward to hearing about more interesting signposts

  8. Gia Lyons said

    Good stuff, Neil! I would also like to hear from the people who dream up compensation programs… any of you out there?

  9. Aneel said

    Gia, some thoughts:

    – There are some people–many, in fact–who will *not* see the value in great social contribution or networking. You better accept that as a fact and move on.

    – There are sometimes immediate returns on your time investment in social stuff.. and I think those can always be quantified in terms of time saved. E.g. Being able to get to the right people, or convince someone of a thing, etc., in short order due to the relationships + trust established via these kinds of activities. That’s an easy thing to record–though practically impossible to verify–thus easy to reward.

    – Most of the time though, the measureable returns come after longer scale time investments. Longer scale thinking or investments are *not* generally supported in the modern, short-sighted, quarter-by-quarter-driven corporate environment. At least not below the senior executive level.

  10. This is a topic near and dear… I think it’s IBM’s biggest barrier to innovation and retention.

    It’s worthy of a whole conference…

    A few thoughts;
    The contrarian; Why does IBM need to explicitly reward collaboration? If it’s really so great shouldn’t it’s impact be felt on the traditional measures?

    This is kind of the “OpenSource” approach, sometimes bastards write good code and they’re accepted into the community, but normally the “nice guys” get farther ahead.

    I don’t think that’s a 100% great answer, and if you think about history and the “personality” types approach (Innovator, Developer, Connector, Influencer, etc…) you know it’s very probable that people get credit for your work and you get nothing for being such a kind, caring, connected and hard working individual.

    But there’s two flaws integrating it into performance… as subdigit said, if you mandate participation you’ll get crap. Also it’s unlikely that anyone @ IBM would have said (and likely still rare) that “Oh, you’re twittering … that makes total sense, keep up the good work”.

    Rules by nature (or tenancy) suppress the unknown.

    So I think the goal is to (A) Recognize an employee’s influence through all channels .. (B) Not force that participation.

    You said “You can’t give a raise to a group” and I know someone will usually bear the weight (or the lesser) of the effort… but I disagree. If my team does well on a project why shouldn’t we all win together? And if we lose, maybe the weak get recognized and culled…

    Why give guaranteed raises? Why are “Thanks you were a big help” awards limited to generic stuff and not actual cash?

    If employees could use the same social techniques to recognize a helpful contribution that we’re now using to collaborate, then perhaps it would be easy to see how the financial incentives should flow…

  11. […] we already know, business users have a broad range of concerns including the ever present: ‘What’s in it for me?‘ syndrome. Most of the projects I see more closely reflect Nielsen’s 1:9:90 […]

  12. […] pilots. Some are doing before and after surveys, educating their pilot users, and addressing corporate culture obstacles as they go. Based on the results, they’ll either buy more in six to twelve months, buy a […]

  13. What a excellent post! I did a of blogging for dummies over on one of the CPA Marketing forums and I believed it was too simple for them, but the quantity of emails I got asking questions just like what you addressed was unbelievable. As young people today we have grown up with computers, but it’s easy to forget that even people just a a couple of years older have not! Really good post! :)

  14. […] Lyons post, Individual measurements in a social world – adoption obstacle?, has been the inspiration for this […]

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  16. […] Lyons, back in 2008, asked a question that is still front and center in the discussion of social business today. She points out that her […]

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