“Mike, one of things I’m hoping will happen during this process is that Social Tech will help my organization become more sharing, less political, more collaborative, less dog-eat-dog. Is that possible? That’s a dream I’ve had for years…” – a CEO

This CEO has tried incentives, fired people, hired culture-change specialists, ran programs, all of the above. Unfortunately, because the company has grown through acquisitions, is very profitable relatively speaking, and pays employees well, especially the longer they stay, the environment is ripe for fiefdoms, turf wars, bullying, and all sorts of corporate politics and gamesmanship. This is a classic culture problem, isn’t it?

Enter Social Tech. Leaders hear about “transparency”, about “virtualization”, about open, horizontal networks of peers doing similar things in different offices and seamlessly sharing best-practices. These are big changes, disruptive to businesses, and savvy executives can sense the potential impact – for better or worse.

People witness how these new situations are causing dramatic upticks in the velocity of change, significant decreases in CODB, and more institutional knowledge-sharing versus selfishly hoarding useful information as a source of power.  Wow! A sea-change is happening. People’s world’s are literally being turned upside down and inside out. The light is finding people that once hid in darkness behind walls.

We all know that poor customer service and shoddy products are being exposed on Facebook, Twitter, in Blogs, on YouTube, right? Rating systems started with Amazon 15 years ago. Now Glassdoor is proliferating Social Tech and Culture Changewith people rating their bosses and former bosses. Some people think, “Yikes!” Others think, “YES!” Soon Linkedin will be rolling out rating systems for companies and people – count on it. Certainly there are sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor that virtually everyone uses.

But aren’t Rating systems just part of the equation, really the back of the equation?

Isn’t the real issue more about the front-end? What’s happening on the front lines of the enterprise? And who is on the front lines? And what are their directives? And what kinds of examples are they seeing on the inside that are impacting their external behaviors.

Let’s use the metaphor of the family – Mom, Dad, children. It’s an imperfect metaphor to be sure, but let’s say you have a situation where Mom and Dad yell and scream at each other inside the four walls, but tell the kids to put on a nice face in public. It’s pretty common knowledge that that’s not going to end well. It’s just a matter of time before that blows up. Kids hate deception above all. So do parents for that matter. Didn’t you get in double the trouble as a kid for trying to lie about something you did wrong? I did.

It’s the same thing in business. Except now we’re in the age of Social Tech. Amplification. Viral. Speed. One of the best insurance campaigns was Nationwide’s “Life comes at you fast.”© It’s true. And I think the savvy executives are connecting the dots. “Holy crap! I’ve got issues inside my organization. It’s just a matter of time before they become public if we don’t start dealing with them now.” I heard it said recently, “Cultural issues in an organization are like character flaws in an individual. You can address them head-on privately and internally. Or they will eventually be dealt with in the newspaper headlines. You pick.” It’s a true statement, isn’t it? Eventually word will get out, and faster than you think in this age of Social Tech – Social Networks, Social Media, and Social Relevance. The River of Information is swift and increasing, and the tools for using it to your advantage, both personally and professionally, are advancing.

I know this is hard to hear, and perhaps you don’t have to do this unless the problem is REALLY big. But IMHO, if you have to take a time-out for a period to deal with issues, isn’t it better to take the time now, in 2014, to repair any cracks in the foundation, perhaps at the expense of missing a few revenue targets, etc. versus seeing the whole house be condemned or suddenly collapse in 2015 or ‘16?

What are your thoughts?

Btw, next week I’m honored and excited to facilitate a certification Webinar for HR.com. I’m speaking with Claire Flanagan who has stories about an extremely powerful and effective tool that is enabling cultural change in a way never before possible. Very very cool stories. #worthit.

PS. Here’s a great new article on Improving Team Interdependence, via @Diannecrampton.