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Social Scenario Modeling - A Process For Uncovering and Managing Risk in Social Business

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For most businesses, thinking through these potential
scenarios, whether PR Crisis situations, or simply day-to-day operational issues does five key things:

1. It helps get to the root of people’s concerns and fears
about social initiatives and open a discussion about the
potential of social business practices.

2. Discussions uncover both alignment and conflict around
how the people in your business would approach different
situations brought about by social media and social
business practices.

3. Scenario modeling provides a foundation for social media
guidelines and governance as well as process design and
the cultural and organizational shifts needed to make
social both less risky and more effective for the long term.

4. The company takes a proactive stance on necessary
change, thinking through situations before they happen
instead of waiting for a scenario that compels reactive
change.

5. Hypothetical decision making can improve real-time
decision making and establish some consistency around
the decision-making process within an organization.
Here’s the basic framework for Social Scenario Modeling™,
and some ideas you can put to work today in your
organization.

Enjoy!

Published in: Business

Social Scenario Modeling - A Process For Uncovering and Managing Risk in Social Business

  1. 1. Collaboration in Culture and Practice Social Scenario Modeling A Process For Uncovering and Managing Risk in Social Business
  2. 2. Social Scenario Modeling “What If...?” It’s a provocative question that can frame everything from our biggest fears to our wildest dreams. But it’s actually pretty useful in a business context, too. Especially a social business one. When we talk about social business, we mean an organization that is actively adapting both its culture and its operations to the new expectations brought about by the social web. In a business context, when you hear “social”, you’ll often hear people say things like: Be human! Companies need to be more transparent. We want authentic engagement from organizations. But becoming a social business isn’t just about putting a veneer of forced humanity on external communications. And transparency? Well, that’s happening to businesses more than anything else, thanks to the web and the empowered customer or client. 2
  3. 3. Social Scenario Modeling So social business becomes much more about creating a business that, inside and out, can afford to be more human, more transparent, and that can be confident about the substance of the organization that shows through those actions. A critical step to building that organization is addressing a chief concern cited by managers and executives alike when embarking on social business transformation: Risk. 3
  4. 4. Social Scenario Modeling Social Business and Fear Perhaps the number one statement or concern expressed by businesses around social business, paraphrased: “We don’t know what we’re getting into. What it will cost, what the outcomes and consequences will be, and whether we can trust the people we have involved in it to do it right, and for that matter, what the “right” way is.” You may have even heard one or more of these statements from your colleagues or clients: • Someone might say something bad about us online and incite some sort of brand crisis. It happens all the time and we aren’t prepared for that. • We’re heavily regulated so being a social business isn’t realistic for us. • We have no idea how to effectively measure and justify our programs • We don’t have enough resources to be a social business. • Our customers don’t need us to be a social business because they don’t use or care about social media. Social business is still incredibly nebulous and misunderstood to most companies, and much of the doctrine encouraging businesses to consider it takes the 4
  5. 5. Social Scenario Modeling approach of motivation by fear. “Your competitors are already doing it. Your customers are social and expect you to be. You’re going to miss a massive opportunity and never get caught up. Your business is ineffective without it.” All of that leaves many businesses with a feeling of urgency and pressure, the inevitable tendency to look at all of the “what ifs” from a place of uncertainty and consider potential negative consequences first. Fair enough. It’s the natural approach when someone backs you into a corner. But there’s another way to look at all of this. 5
  6. 6. Social Scenario Modeling Learning What You Don’t Know For the most part, what businesses are really saying when they resist adoption of social business practices is that they lack the knowledge to make social business work for them. See if these sound familiar: What exactly is social business, anyway, and how is it different than just doing social media marketing? Does this actually matter to us, and why? Expectations are clearly changing - from our customers to our partners to our employees - but what exactly are they and how do we meet them? Social business sounds complex, and like it’s going to require a significant amount of internal alignment and coordination. That’s intimidating and we aren’t sure where to start. How is this going to impact the people, roles, and organizational structure we have? Do we need more people? Fewer? What should they focus on, and how to we know who to empower and trust? 6
  7. 7. Social Scenario Modeling If this is a long term commitment, how do we ensure that we have the structure in place to sustain it? What if we fail? Uncertainty is the biggest roadblock to just about any business initiative, whether social or not. And it’s a fixable one. So what’s the answer? Education. Education and planning, thinking through all of the situations that scare you, that excite you, that might impact how and why you’re working as you are now and change the way you work in the future. Because once you have knowledge and a plan, you’re comfortable with the concepts that are familiar to you, and confident that you can handle and deal with the ones that aren’t. Enter the practice known as Social Scenario Modeling™. 7
  8. 8. Social Scenario Modeling Social Scenario Modeling™ Scenario modeling isn’t a new concept. It’s been around for quite a while -- from politics to finance to technology -mostly because it’s incredibly effective. Scenario modeling is the process of analyzing future events by considering potential and possible outcomes to various situations. The point isn’t to give you an exact picture of the future but rather to help you a) envision different versions what it could look like and b) get comfortable with the process of thinking through these kinds of events so you can repeat that process when you encounter something new. In this situation, we’re taking social business and smashing it together with scenario modeling, focusing on the “what if” moments that social can bring about. Social has created all sorts of new circumstances, expectations and possibilities that didn’t exist before the social web, or that were easy to push aside and ignore. Being a social business is, in part, about understanding those scenarios and aligning them with both the businesslevel goals of the organization and the shifting expectations of stakeholders. 8
  9. 9. Social Scenario Modeling For most businesses, thinking through these potential scenarios does five key things: 1. It helps get to the root of people’s concerns and fears about social initiatives and open a discussion about the potential of social business practices. 2. Discussions uncover both alignment and conflict around how the people in your business would approach different situations brought about by social media and social business practices. 3. Scenario modeling provides a foundation for social media guidelines and governance as well as process design and the cultural and organizational shifts needed to make social both less risky and more effective for the long term. 4. The company takes a proactive stance on necessary change, thinking through situations before they happen instead of waiting for a scenario that compels reactive change. 5. Hypothetical decision making can improve real-time decision making and establish some consistency around the decision-making process within an organization. Here’s the basic framework for Social Scenario Modeling™, and some ideas you can put to work today in your organization. 9
  10. 10. Social Scenario Modeling What’s A Scenario? A scenario is a situation or circumstance - whether real or imagined - that can have a tangible impact on your day to day business and requires you to make decisions about how to handle it. Scenarios can be both positive and negative. Naturally most companies default to considering the scary situations first, but it’s equally important to consider what could happen if your initiatives are successful or if something positive happens in the market that could dramatically and quickly increase demand for your product or services. To start Social Scenario Modeling™, you’ll want to come up with an initial list of scenarios you want to address and walk through. More will naturally arise as you go through the exercise, which is the way it should be. It’s always better to start with more (we’ll get to narrowing them down next). Some examples to get you thinking: • An employee uses their personal Facebook account to post a scathing critique of a customer, and now that customer is angry. • A customer has started a wildly popular fan-based community for your brand, complete with lots of user 10
  11. 11. Social Scenario Modeling generated video, images, and blog posts -- both positive and critical. Some are making use of your brand identity. • Your new service creates a sudden, increased demand but your partners are feeling out of the loop and like you’re now trying to compete for their customers. • Your internal blog post sparked a passionate conversation among employees about a new product, both its shortcomings and their ideas for how to make it better. Many of them come from outside the product development team. • A major online media outlet recommends your product, and suddenly you’re flooded with customer service and sales inquiries from channels on which your company doesn’t even maintain a presence. 11
  12. 12. Social Scenario Modeling Prioritizing When you’re running through these scenarios as a group, not everyone will think the same things are as important, risky, likely, or scary as others will. An important part of this process is to collect all of your scenarios and find a way to get the group to vote on which five or 10 are the most important to address first and walk through from inception to conclusion. You can have people put stickies on a wall, write their priorities on a piece of paper and consolidate, let people put tickmarks on a whiteboard, whatever you find most effective for your group. Individuals will have biases because some scenarios will more directly impact them, their job, their department, their budget. That’s okay. Let everyone weigh priorities according to their own point of view, because the overlap between individual and group priorities will help you see where to focus your attention. Some of the criteria you might give your team to consider when they’re voting: 12
  13. 13. Social Scenario Modeling • The likelihood of the scenario actually happening to the company in the near term • The potential negative impact of not being prepared for a particular scenario • The potential costs involved in devising a solution for a scenario, or ignoring it • The number of people affected - for better or worse by the specific scenario, and whether they’re internal (employees), external (customers and partners) or both. • How affected people might feel about a change to a current approach, or the establishment of a new process where none exists • The immediate impact potential of solving/planning for some scenarios over others (cost/benefit analysis) There’s no “right” answer to whether a scenario should make the top ten list or not. Every business’ needs and current situation are different, the point is to narrow down the list so you have an actionable and concrete set to focus on for the next steps. You can save the ones that didn’t make the first list for a later session. 13
  14. 14. Social Scenario Modeling Modeling This is the part where the rubber hits the road. You’re going to take your first chosen scenario, the one that everyone agrees is the most important to consider, and you’re going to walk through it from start to finish. That means understanding 6 key factors: 1. How such a situation would arise, and what the accompanying factors or situation might look like 2. What your current approach would be to handling that situation, if one exists 3. The potential flaws, pitfalls, and risks in handling it that way (or not handling it, if you don’t have an approach currently) 4. The potential benefits and upsides to sticking with your current processes and approach, if applicable 5. What the ideal approach and solution looks like, and what the exceptions to that might be 6. The steps necessary to bridge from today’s model to the one that you’ve illustrated, including things like resource allocation, budget adjustments/proposals, process design, education and training programs, communication processes (both internal and external) and accountability or measurement programs to capture performance. 14
  15. 15. Social Scenario Modeling Keep in mind that the point of this exercise is to create a long-term, sustainable approach to handling these scenarios for your business as social continues to evolve. In many cases, that will mean implementing temporary or “bridge” solutions that are intended to be incremental steps toward a more complete shift. The object is to keep the long-term solution in mind so that those interim solutions stay temporary and act as catalysts for the next step (rather than encouraging people to linger on a less-than-complete solution). Some other thought- and discussion-provoking questions that are helpful as you’re evaluating scenarios and your plans to address them: • Every business has blind spots. Do we have some insight into what ours are? • Where are our resources most constrained? • Do we all agree on the vision, values, and goals that are connected to a scenario like this, and how they might be impacted? Do management/operation’s conclusions agree with the executive ranks (or vice versa if the executives are holding the discussion?) • What is the absolute worst case we can imagine with this scenario? 15
  16. 16. Social Scenario Modeling • What’s the best case scenario? • Is there ever a situation when we can break process or protocol around a scenario like this in order to solve it better or more quickly? When would that be? • Are there internal politics or alliances that will potentially be disrupted by a scenario like this? One last effective technique to try: The Five Whys. Originally developed by Sakichi Toyoda for the Toyota Motor Corporation, this was a technique that Toyota employees often used while they worked to improve how they manufactured cars. The point is to use a series of five consecutive “why?” questions when dissecting a problem or situation in order to get past assumptions and get at the true root cause of a challenge. For example: Problem: We don’t have enough resources to address customer service on social networks. 16
  17. 17. Social Scenario Modeling Why? Our existing resources are dedicated only to customer service channels like phone and email. Why? The volume of incoming customer service inquiries has our current teams working at capacity in those channels. Why? Our hiring and resource need projections are based only on customer service channels that we have used successfully to date. Why? Because the budget planning process hasn’t yet accommodated customer service growth into new technologies. Why? Because we haven’t yet audited our existing customer service processes to see if there is efficiency to be gained with our existing team or whether we’re truly at capacity, and we can’t make a budget case for additional resources until we know that. And so on. 17
  18. 18. Social Scenario Modeling The answers aren’t always easy and they don’t always point to an absolute or concrete solution, but they do help you uncover whether the root of the problem is based in “people, process or platforms” (in this case, it sounds like a solid audit of customer service processes and capacity would be a good step). That guides where you should put your ongoing time and effort in order to start addressing the challenge at its core. 18
  19. 19. Social Scenario Modeling Capturing After you’ve walked through a single scenario to its conclusion, you should be able to answer all of the following questions and capture them with next steps delegated to specific people in order to begin working on the solution right away. • On a scale of 1-5, what level of importance would we assign this scenario were it to happen? • What is the basic outline and workflow of our proposed process or solution to handle this scenario? • Where does our proposed solution differ from our existing structure and process? • What additional human, capital, or technology resources do we need to implement the proposed solution? • What are the potential cultural and morale implications of this solution, both positive and negative? • Who needs to be involved in the next stage of implementation? If there are people outside of this group, who will reach out and involve them? • What is the next step to get this solution approved and implemented? Capturing this information is critical. Make sure everyone gets access to the conclusions somewhere -- preferably somewhere dynamic that can be continually updated and easily accessed -- including all of the participants in 19
  20. 20. Social Scenario Modeling the session and anyone that might need to buy in to the outcomes. The scenarios you’ve taken so much time and effort to contemplate should become a part of the planning you do for all areas of your business, and contribute to the development of things like social media guidelines and policies or the establishment of a center of excellence. The worst mistake most companies make after undertaking such a significant exercise: They put all of the materials in a binder, celebrate that they did the exercise, and promptly forget about all of it. Don’t do it! Learning how to model scenarios can be one of the most valuable practices for your teams, no matter their level. Make sure you give your company every opportunity to put in place what you’ve learned and allow it to make your business better. 20
  21. 21. Social Scenario Modeling Testing & Iteration The best laid plans are only as good as their evaluations. Social business practices are still lacking in one critical capacity in most companies: accountability. As such, it’s very important to track the outcomes of your scenario planning in order to assess your progress and success, and know where to adjust along the way. (We’ll be the first to tell you that social business is changing business rapidly, so what you’re encountering today might look very different in a few months). If you’ve documented the conclusions from your modeling session(s) well, you’ve got your starting point. Your progress evaluation program should include the following: • A summary of the scenario you’re attempting to plan for or address • Your planned solution and your hypothesis and goals as to what the outcomes will be if you implement it. Consider both quantitative and qualitative measures, like customer service resolution times, employee satisfaction and feedback, cost reduction, etc. You can also look at the implementation process itself as something to measure and track against. • Based on your hypothesis, what three metrics you will track in order to evaluate progress and success? 21
  22. 22. Social Scenario Modeling • What tools, technologies or people/analysis resources will you need to do that? • When will you have touch points and check-ins on your progress? • Who needs to hear about the results, and how will those results be delivered? • What will you do with the conclusions to actually put them into practice? In many cases, social scenarios might have impact that reaches across many departments or business units. That’s okay. Tracking a couple of metrics specific to each area is a sound practice, and rolling those up into an overall evaluation against the unifying goals will show how all the parts work together. That approach will also help you see if and where parts of the overall solution might be breaking down over time, and help you diagnose why and how to begin to fix it. Lastly, you need to put this effort to the test in the real world or at least in carefully simulated “real world” situations and see what happens. That can be done with systems designed for this purpose, or with simple exercises, but either way 22
  23. 23. Social Scenario Modeling these ‘fire drill’ exercises need to be done. There’s no question that social business as a standard is still finding its feet in the business world. But if you use your Social Scenario Modeling™ to tie the “what if” situations of social to the real-world, every day view of your company and how it operates, you can be assured of spotting weaknesses and opportunities early on. 23
  24. 24. Social Scenario Modeling Scenario Modeling Is Your Secret Weapon Social business planning can be complicated, overwhelming, even frustrating. A Social Scenario Modeling™ session (or series of sessions) can be a huge asset in your planning arsenal. Don’t forget to bring people to the discussion table that might not be obviously and directly involved with social business initiatives but that are most certainly going to be affected by their implementation: human resources, legal, finance, operations staff and IT. Need help getting started? That’s what we’re here for. You’re reading this brief because Social Scenario Modeling™ labs are something that we help companies do every day, and we’ve got the process nailed and a library of real-world scenarios already built. You’ll even get a Social Scenario Modeling™ Kit to keep and use in future sessions that you do on your own. We bring practical, in-the-trenches experience working with everyone from Fortune 500 companies to boutique 24
  25. 25. Social Scenario Modeling consultancies on social business strategies. Real work with real businesses facing real challenges that social business can help solve. If we can help your business conduct one of these incredibly valuable Social Scenario Modeling™ labs or work with you on your social business plans, contact us today. We want to work with you. Questions? Comments? Something to add? Email us at info@sideraworks.com and tell us what’s on your mind. 25
  26. 26. Social Scenario Modeling Need More Help? SideraWorks is a social business consulting firm. We help companies adapt their culture and operations to acommodate the new demands of the social web. We deliver the very best in social business education and strategy development via workshops, toolkits, and proven, reality-based models and frameworks. And we have practical experience working in social strategy, executive facilitation, culture development and change management with Fortune 500 companies, including those in regulated and complex industries. In short, if you need to move from just “doing social media” to becoming a truly social business, we’re the partner you need. click here to get more information about SideraWorks offerings 26
  27. 27. © SideraWorks 2013 all rights reserved sideraworks.com

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