I’ve been spending a lot of time recently thinking about organizational change management. As I work in organizations with traditional and less web savvy audiences, using an online community is a huge change for some of these people. This is especially true for communities used inside of a company or organization where people are being asked to change the way that they work. It can be even more difficult for employees in companies with very conservative cultures where people are afraid that they will jeopardize their career by saying something that isn’t quite correct or will appear less knowledgeable as a result of asking questions.
Organizational change takes time and effort with a large amount of education and training. People building online communities often underestimate the amount of resistance and fear that can come from many people within the organization. I’ve included a model from one of my favorite change management experts, John P. Kotter, not because I think you should use any particular model, but because I think it has some interesting nuggets of information for how community managers can help people through the change to a more community-oriented organization.
Stakeholders and Strategy
If you are working within an organization to create an online community that people will be expected to use as part of their daily job, you need to have support from the top. Key leaders within your organization should agree with your strategy and vision for the community and support the effort. If your leadership is resistant, hold off on building or implementing anything until you can get them on board. Sabotage from the top is not going to make for a successful community.
Communication and Training
The communication and training for change of this size is not a single email announcing the new online community or a single training class showing people how to participate. Because some people will resist any kind of change, you will need to constantly communicate and train people taking as much time as you need to bring people around. It can also help to share success stories (wins) when you hear about someone using the online community to do something great.
Ongoing Management and Evolution
Ongoing management of the community should include continued communication and reinforcement of successful usage while also keeping an eye toward next steps. No community or other organizational effort will be implemented without ever changing. As situations change and the community or organization evolves, you will need to make new changes to the online community. These new changes can also require some organizational change.
What are your thoughts on using organizational change management principles for new online communities within organizations?