Order Now

What Level of Social Business Change Do You Really Want?

by CV HARQUAIL on MARCH 29, 2012

What level of change do you really want from social business?

Do you want a little bit, or a whole lot?

Do you want process improvement? Or,

Do you want organizational transformation?


Social technology means organizational change.

Social Business and social technologies are indeed bringing changes into your organization. That we know.

But what we don’t know is–what kind of change will ‘social’ bring? What are the people in charge of social technology in your organization looking for?

Social technology can drive different levels of organizational change.

The confusing and sometimes contradictory advice about employing social technology within the organization starts to make more sense, once you separate advocates by the level of change that they seek.

Do the advocates you’re listening to want:

  • Level I Change: Incremental, local improvement in a current process (e.g., “social” CRM) in the organization?
  • Level 2 Change: Incremental and systemic process improvement, from end to end in a particular value change (e.g., building social back from ‘customer facing’ employees to the internal employees and customer-specific systems)? Or,
  • Level 3 Change: Systemic, significant transformation throughout the entire organizational ecosystem? Changing how we think about what we do together, as well changing how we act together?

When we disagree with a social technology advocate or when her or his advice doesn’t ring true, knowing which level of change s/he is looking for can help us identify whether the difference is in the end vision or instead in the tactics. Then, we can figure out if that person’s advice seems helpful and wise.

Choose your level of organizational change

So, before you start evaluating some social business advocate’s advice, first ask yourself:

– What kind of organizational change do we seek?
— What kind of organizational change is this person presuming?

Then, go on to the tactics and ask:

— What’s the best way to get to our goal?
— Can this person’s advice help us get there?

I’m sure that asking that first question — What level of change do they seek? — will help me step back from conversations where what I have to offer isn’t relevant. It will also help me step towards conversations where people are looking for the same level of change as me.

Deploy, build, and use social technology designed for your change goals.

The kind of change I’m seeking, change that creates a truly “social” organization, can only come from Level 3 change.  Level 3 Change involves new technologies, new processes, and new relationships. It requires that we think deliberately not only about ‘adopting technology’, but also about the deep, difficult, meaningful work of organizational change.


Despite the fact that social technologies have built into them more democratic assumptions about how people should communicate, the defaults of these systems can’t drive Level 3 Change alone.

What also has to change is how we think about people, about relationships, about each other, about the role of our organization in its larger community, and about the purpose of the organization itself.

To drive Level 3 Change with social technology, we need more than savvy marketers focused on customer engagement and super-competent CTOs who can integrate data streams and enterprise applications. We need change agents. We need opentrustworthygenerativecourageouspurpose-driven people.

Truth is, although technology-driven change intrigues me on its own, I’m not interested in social technology by itself.  I’m interested in social technology as a way to achieve more human organizations.

So, I’m looking for insights and tactics to help use social technology to

“Build the change we want to see in the world”.


See also:

Growing Social: 4 Different Paths to Social Organization
When will “Social Business” Become “Social Change Business”?

Social Media for Social Change — Inside the Organization? 
7 Ways That Social Business Advice is Wrong for Your Organization

If Social Business is the Answer, What Is the Question? by Deb Lavoy


hat tip to @desireeadaway and @socialchgdiva
Image: Blue vintage china tiered tea stand   Some rights reserved by highteaforalice

- See more at: http://authenticorganizations.com/harquail/2012/03/29/what-level-of-social-business-change-do-you-really-want/#sthash.HXlGJ6mT.dpuf