Next Generation Management: Grassroots Revolution in Innovation
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Next Generation Management: Grassroots Revolution in Innovation



The Next Generation of managers will need to understand the power of grass roots innovation. Managers’ survival is not just a question of working with bottom-up innovation and change initiatives, ...

The Next Generation of managers will need to understand the power of grass roots innovation. Managers’ survival is not just a question of working with bottom-up innovation and change initiatives, but knowing how to turn them into a strategic advantage. This white paper will take the reader through how Dell used social media and collaborative technologies to enable its marketing department to take a grassroots approach to innovate.



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Next Generation Management: Grassroots Revolution in Innovation Document Transcript

  • 1. January 2013 NEXT GENERATION MANAGEMENT: GRASSROOTS REVOLUTION IN INNOVATION Dell Marketers Use Social Media to Show Dell Can “Do More” A paper by Elizabeth Press, and Margo Smale
  • 2. A revolution in innovation managementSocial media is the next big disruptor in management Despite the publicity around Occupy protests and the Arab Spring being organized through YouTube,Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms, contemporary corporate management has largelyfailed to look at social media’s potential impact on their own companies. Employees are using Chatter,Yammer and other collaborative platforms to overcome the psychological barriers of hierarchy and formalstructure. Networks of motivated and connected personnel are able to gain more influence than theirmanagers and can act without official sign off on every item. Informal networks of virtually connectedemployees can be more impactful than official teams. Managers’ survival is not just a question of working with bottom-up innovation and change initiatives,but knowing how to turn them into a strategic advantage. Just as previously unconnected individualsorganized themselves to Occupy Wall Street, employees are using new tools to induce grassrootstransformations in their organizations. Ignoring the new paradigm brought by social media, or suppressingit, will make organizations and teams less competitive and lead to managerial irrelevance. This white paper will take the reader through how Dell used social media and collaborativetechnologies to enable its marketing department to take a grassroots approach to innovate. Marketers atDell were able to apply new technologies internally to network and collaborate. Based on the innovativeoutput of this collaboration, they used external social media to empower themselves and changeperception of their company.Transforming Dell through enabling employee thought leadershipHarnessing the power of social media to show that Dell can Do More Hardware has been what the market historically perceives as Dell’s core business, but our updatedstrategy has changed to position ourselves as a global end-to-end solutions provider. To do so, attainingthought leadership was seen as a key component. Dell, thus, decided to harness the power of social mediainstead of relying solely on traditional marketing campaigns. The journey began in 2006 with Michael Dell’s initiative to have tech support use blogs. This actionshowcased the connective power of social media and established Dell as a thought leader in externalsocial media. Thereafter, Dell began to build an internal blogosphere. Employees were also encouragedto micro blog internally. Dell empowered team members to become externally active on social mediaby educating them through internal training. With these new skills, employees were able to provide thought leadership content on behalf of Dell onsocial media platforms. The initial efforts were by individuals who were eager to try the new tools andwilling to experiment with what the tools can do. Social media communities were formed, and Dellemployees were creating their Twitter at Dell accounts. This grassroots approach allowed for trial-and-error learning and empowered employees to gain visibility and expertise in social media usage andimplementation. 1
  • 3. Business Intelligence becomes grassroots pioneers Innovation achieve through individual initiative Business Intelligence (BI) is a function whose value to the organization isEmployees were enabled to to bring new ideas, market insights and strategic suggestions to the attention position themselves as of executives. The substance of their content and ability to influence are the experts and innovate pillars of the function. It is this aspect of the function that made it an idealthrough proactive creation candidate, if not unlikely, to be a grassroots pioneer. Individuals on the team of networks understood the power of social media and began to use social media and the internal Dell blogs to gain influence and visibility throughout the organization. As management saw the powerful effects the grassroots innovation was having, they became increasingly supportive of this initiative and allowed their employees the freedom to create content and the autonomy to form networks over social media. These networks functioned as unofficial teams, bringing new innovations to the organization. Phase 1: Pioneers Test the Tools and gain Influence Pioneers from Dell’s EMEA Business Intelligence function began to post about their innovative projects and ideas. Previously, these members would have primarily relied on managers’ invitations to meetings to gain visibility and collaborate across teams. Externally, Dell had built up Managers took a hands-off extensive social media infrastructure on platforms including Twitter, approach, allowing the LinkedIn and SlideShare. Employees who Pioneers gained leadership employees the space and had gone through the internal training were skills and subject matter freedom to innovate able to use the external social media expertise through building infrastructure to share their achievements the infrastructure & and ideas to gain quick and broad visibility managing their network both inside and outside of Dell (see graphic). Business Intelligence team members authored a white paper to position themselves as thought leaders in the predictive marketing analytics area. Using both internal and external social media, the authors were able to share the white paper to a large audience, as well as engage with other thought leaders in business intelligence outside the Dell organization, thereby gaining influence. This began a virtuous cycle of motivating innovation and being proactive with visibility and recognition. A byproduct of this virtuous cycle was a more positive image of Dell as a good employer and cutting- edge company, as well as a change of perception to Dell as a thought leader. 2
  • 4. Phase 2: Pioneers’ Success Creates Wider Acceptance and Impact Having recognized the success of the EMEA BI team, the Global BI team acquired some of thepioneers to formalize and spread usages of social media –internally andexternally. Global BI and sister teams were charged with developing thought Managers enabled pioneersleadership and subject matter expertise. Moreover, the Global BI team had a to take the lead intransformational agenda coupled with a goal of developing infrastructure for innovating by creating athe worldwide BI organization, as well as associated research and sales platform and generatingenablement teams. Usage of social media was an integral part of driving wider participationorganizational transformation by bringing team members’ expertise andinsight to executives in an efficient and impactful manner. The pioneers created this framework to enable the rest of the team to achieve the following goals:  Increase communication within itself and the greater organization  Increase visibility, influence and impact to Dell, internally and externallyMeetings with Global BI and sister teams in Global and regional organizations were held where thisframework was introduced. Next, requisite incremental skill sets were identified and trainings were given. The result was that enthusiastic team members began to use internal social media to impact the globalorganization. BI then teamed up with other research teams to create a global social media infrastructure forresearch and sales enablement functions. Teams across geographies were able to exchange informationand better enable sales teams in strategic areas. Professionals around the globe worked more efficiently byexchanging expertise and functional experience. Expertise and insights were made highly visible andpresented to senior management, executives and their sales teams in an applicable manner.  Dell BI transformed itself from a reactive consultative function to an active driver of positive brand image, lead generation and provider of a means to start conversations with customers.  Dell became a more research-focused organization.  Innovators at Dell had a multiplicative effect thanks to enhanced collaboration. 3
  • 5. The innovation in skillsetsMastering the new medium requires next generation skillsets The new paradigm in garnering influence and innovating requires an updated set of skills. The ability toattain visibility, a strong network and organizational influence is not achieved by just putting materials up onthe Internet. Three major steps must be achieved in order to reach influence and impact. Step 1: Gain visibility through good content  Relevancy: The topic must be meaningful people. Relevancy does not have to be the hottest buzz topic, but the work must encompass ideas that are useful to a broader population of people.  Thought-provoking: The content must get people thinking. Passive content will not be shared or generate ‘buzz’ in the social media space.  Presentation style: Presentation of the topic has to draw people in. Social media is highly competitive in that content is out there en masse. Packaging content in an eye- catching and interesting way helps with improving readership.  SEO is a necessary science: Keywords are the billboards of the information highway. Without usage of those words and knowledge of how Internet traffic is directed, even the most brilliant content will go unnoticed. Step 2: Build a network and gain influence  Influencers, nodes and super spreaders: Social Media is ultimately a network of individuals. In order to be successful, an organization must have the following types of individuals. The most valuable individual has all three types, but few social media users encompass all of them. o Influencers: These are people whose opinion matters. They might not post a lot, but their words have weight. o Nodes: These people are the spokes in the wheel of social network. They have many connections to many different networks. o Super spreaders: These people are often a mixture of the top two types, but not always. These individuals often have thousands of contacts and can spread your ideas to their multitudes. Because they are often well aware of their function, they are often fickle about what they spread. Step 3: Impact through implementation  Win over influencers: Convince influencers that your innovation is good for both them and the company.  Intelligence from nodes: Nodes are logistical experts in the network. They will be able to tell you “offline” who to talk to in order to turn the wheels you need to turn.  Make the meeting with the implementers: Make the meeting and start collaborating. Pointing out the visibility and positive buzz received over social media will help convince them that collaborating is in their best interest.  Make the implementers part of your winning team: Nothing breeds trust and collegiate feelings like successful collaboration. Remember to keep the contact and play the implementer in return. 4
  • 6. Managers face challenges to bring innovationGrassroots initiatives involves a change in attitudes and skillsets Personalities and working stylesvaried, thus so did the subsequentadoption of the new tools andprocesses. As with any new tool, thereare individuals who are eager to makethe change and others who are harderto convince. The graphic shows thetransitions of moving from traditionalmanagement to next generationmanagement and the impact on therole of managers. As a manager’s roleevolves into next generationmanagement, challenges will arise thatwill impact the adoption rate of usingthe new tools. The following outlinesroot causes of these challenges: Role of managerManager-team member relationship changes  Enablement-based vs. authority-based: Because of the fluid nature of innovation based on crowd sourcing and social media, management needs to focus on enabling their employees and encouraging the proactive sharing of ideas. This is a break from tracking objectives. Solution: This is perhaps the hardest of all to adjust, because it requires adjustment on the perception of leadership and the responsibilities of team members. o Managers shall focus on enabling members of their teams to reach the organization’s goals through creating a platform and environment where reaching these goals is possible. o Team members need to understand the goals of their organization and decide how best to use the platform to interact with others in the organization and achieve these goals.  Flattening of hierarchical control of information: Social media removes management as a tollgate to visibility and information. Team members have access to new networks and thereby information outside of Dell as long as they were in compliance of Dell’s social media policy. Solution: The role of management is to enable employees to focus on managing cross functional initiatives with their networks across teams as the needs and projects arise. In order to achieve this: o Managers will need to be focus on their coaching skills, tapping into their broader organizational oversight to guide employees to resources. Clear communication of organizational and/or team priorities will be necessary to ensure employee bandwidth is being used to further the organization along its strategic trajectory. Managers are going to have to identify those employees who need a hands-off approach and those who need more guidance. Managers will also need to monitor the social media activities of their teams to understand its impact and influence (explained in the next point).  Requisite managerial skills: Coaching, opportunity-resource matching, social media analytics, active listening. 5
  • 7. o Team members will need to be more proactive as managers move away from task delegation.  Requisite team member skills: Networking, time management, project management, proactive ideation, consultative selling, active listening.  Intransparency as a means of competitive advantage: The idea of employees impressing only one level higher and thus resulting in managers being a gatekeeper of executive endearment is an established practice. The ability for an employee to share to the organization as a whole, allows information and ideas to flow faster and be seen by a larger audience. Solution: Managers need to manage the influence of their teams and reward employees who drive meaningful engagement and influence the broader organization. There are software packages that enable such analysis. Chatter for example, has an influencer package that enables managers to check their team’s influence. Radian6, Appinions and other vendors offer analytical solutions for external social media influence.The carrot and stick transformed  Outcome orientation versus objective orientation: Management by objective focuses on fulfilling the exact objectives set by the superior in agreement with the individual team member. Social media-enabled crowd sourcing and network management deliver outcome-oriented means of collaboration. A group of individuals come together for an outcome, not to meet a top-down individualistic objective. In fact, the sum of individuals forms previously unforeseen outcomes. Solution: Employee reviews and appraisals need to be focused on the value of the outcomes of the employee’s work to the organization rather than solely the fulfillment of previously defined objectives. In regular meetings, managers need to rely on their coaching skills to help employees meaningfully engage other individuals in their networks and guide employees regarding prioritization.  Focused on long-term outcomes rather than short-term objectives: Objective-based management focuses on specified results with a given time period. By its nature it is prescriptive and temporally discrete. Innovation enabled by social media and crowd sourcing is something that evolves in an unspecified time period and the results cannot be foreseen by senior management. Solution: Short-term appraisals and reviews need to be focused on how far along the path towards the long-term goal the employees have gotten. For metrics that need to be delivered short-term, employees should be appraised by how their activities have produced outcomes that contribute to the long-term goals of the team and organization. 6
  • 8. An innovation in managementManagement’s transformation from gatekeepers to enablers This journey was not only an innovation in marketing, but an While the formal innovation in management itself. Facilitating grassroots innovation organization and overall empowers large companies to have the inventive dexterity that often goals remained the same, gives smaller companies a competitive advantage in industries as the path to achieving them dynamic as IT. Enabling employees to #DoMore leads to better employee and rules of the game morale, higher influence in the organization and externally, more fundamentally changed innovative and impactful projects, better products, more meaningful relationships with customers and a better bottom line.  Pioneers quickly began to collaborate on initiatives and gain feedback across the organization. Transformative projects, collaboration and solutions arose that had might not have been possible in the past. Moreover, employees used the social media infrastructure availed to them to communicate their innovative methodologies to the outside world, furthering Dell’s image as a thought leader and an end-to-end solutions provider.  Managers relinquished complete control of information and instead focused on enablement and communication of the desired outcome. They had to consider the impact of the new skill sets, how to better enable the team, empower the team across the organization and encourage grassroots activities.Social media can transform perceptions, work-styles and collaboration. How will you use it to ‘do more?’ 7
  • 9. About the Authors:Elizabeth Press ( is a Senior Research Advisor and project manager in the GlobalBusiness Intelligence Team and is based out of Frankfurt, Germany. She has a BA in International Relations fromTufts University and an MSc in International Economics and Business from the Stockholm School of Economics.Before coming to Dell, she worked in strategy consulting focusing on the finance & technology industriesMargo Smale ( is a Senior Advisor in the EMEA Commercial Marketing team, based inDublin, Ireland. She has a BS in Advertising and Marketing from Syracuse University, Post-Graduate Certificate inDigital Marketing from Dublin City University and an MBA from Trinity College Dublin. She has worked in mediaplanning and strategy in the fast-moving consumer goods, fashion and retail industries. 8