In part one of the six-part series on social business strategy, I discuss the importance of getting senior leadership buy-in early in the process.

There’s a grim number that haunts executives, directors and managers - 70% of business change initiatives fail. That’s an alarmingly high rate of failure but it’s a number that keeps showing up in research spanning the last 20 years. And the main reason for this failure seems to be that strategies haven’t been completely thought-through or don’t have the support they need. According to Forbes Insights, one out of five of these failures can be tied to lack of commitment from key stakeholders.

How much support do you need for your social business initiative? According to change management expert John Kotter, three out of four senior leaders need to be convinced that change is necessary before a major cultural transformation can succeed.


Step 1: Getting Support for Your Social Business

The first step is getting your senior leadership to recognize that there’s a problem. It shouldn’t take too long to come up with a list of pain points related to the way people interact inside your organization. Are people spending too much time in meetings or slogging through email? Are your turnover stats too high and your employee engagement numbers too low? These pain points are all signs that a major cultural makeover could improve the way you do business.


The important thing to understand at this point is that you don’t need 100% buy-in from senior leadership at the start. But they do need to acknowledge that change is necessary and that there’s a sense of urgency.


Several ways to communicate this urgency are:


1. Demonstrate need - staying with the status quo comes with too high a cost


2. Show how the initiative meets business goals


3. Present your solution with several options so that the team can weigh-in and take ownership


4. Be prepared with all of the facts including costs and timetables


5. Show examples of other organizations that have been successful


6. Get a commitment from key leaders to participate in conversation channels after launch

shutterstock_280025582.jpgStep 2: Recruit a Corporate Sponsor for Your Social Business


If one of your goals is to create transformational change you will definitely need someone from upper management in your corner flexing muscle and smoothing the road. Even if your roll-out is more modest, such as upgrading an intranet portal, it is important to have someone in upper management to act as the business owner and person who is ultimately accountable for the project.


Sponsorship within the organization is especially important for social business initiatives because the work will cross organizational boundaries and you’ll need someone who can smooth over turf issues and reassure people who are suspicious about change.



Step 3: Once You Have Buy In, Make Sure You Keep It


It’s crucial to keep your stakeholders informed at every milestone. Look for ways to make social business the hero of your story as you proceed. Did you collaborate online as you developed your strategy? Highlight the number of meeting-hours you saved or the number of email conversations that were avoided. Provide leadership with access to your conversations so that they can understand the value of transparency and searchability.


When your leadership can see that there is a problem and that you have the tools to fix it, you can be assured that you’ve got a solid way forward to launch your social business.


Want to know more? Read the White Paper on the Six Strategies for a Successful Social Business that will guide in building and implementing your strategy.