After many years of blogging, and consistent with my desire to move toward retirement, we have ended the Insights blog. Thanks to Doug Bedell for his years of blog support.

‘Yammer’ Needs Managerial Allies

Posted on February 18, 2011
Filed Under Business, Technology | Leave a Comment

We can well remember work days when our colleagues spent much of their time critiquing the effectiveness of departments they didn’t visit regularly, if at all. Gossip can have grim results. Better to bring it all to light and move things along, but how?

Well, we just heard about Yammer, and it looks terrific for the purpose of internal communication. Haven’t experienced it directly, but the concept sounds great.

Yammer is a free (at the initial level) internal social network for improving corporate communication. Only an organization’s members can access it. And as the promo puts it, “Although Yammer is as easy to use as consumer products like Facebook or Twitter, its enterprise-grade software is built from the ground up to drive business objectives.”

Employees, at whatever level, apparently can create groups and communities, build a knowledge base, have direct messaging and blogging and post profiles. Yet all these capabilities won’t, by themselves, assure effective corporate communication. Without appropriate guidance and responsiveness, they could wither. Someone has to be prompted by the resulting conversation. But why would an organization install Yammer if it didn’t intend to take the chatter seriously? Well, have you ever seen corporate enthusiasms go awry? The culture will likely have to change.

Yammer seems to be more than we’ve had before to replace workplace gossip with productive conversations. We know from television news, if nowhere else, that social media galvanizes attention that can produce change. IT-based intentions, however, might not always equate with timely, responsive results. Top managers need to engage with a Yammer-driven sharing process. Users of Yammer (or any other communication system) have to see responsive changes occurring.

Willingness to listen and act accordingly may not come readily to some managers. Defensiveness isn’t ever likely to be cast fully aside. Listening can be hard and challenging. “I’m not paid enough for this,” may be the feeling of some managers.

So we’re really talking about Yammer being not just impressive communication software, but serving as an effective prompt for corporate culture change. And we know how daunting change can be, at least without promising new software, and certainly without a probable culture shift. So Yammer’s introduction needs effective steering. –Doug Bedell


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