Our first “international” guest on The Yaminade podcast is none other than Stan Garfield (@stangarfield) from Deloitte. Many of you will know of Stan and be familiar with his leadership in knowledge management, communities of practice, and social business.
In this episode we talk about his career – from the early days working at medical schools; building KM capability at Digital Equipment Corp, Compaq and HP; to where he is today as the Community Evangelist in Deloitte Global Knowledge Services. Then we dive deeper into how Deloitte are using Yammer today to share knowledge across its 210,000 strong workforce, and ultimately deliver value to their customers. Finally Stan gives us a sneak peak at a number of sessions he is participating in at the KMWorld conference in Washington DC this November
If you want to keep abreast of the thought leadership Stan is showing in this field, I encourage you if you are on LinkedIn make sure you follow Stan to see what he is publishing.
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Transcript of Episode 3 of The Yaminade
Paul: Hi everyone, my name is Paul Woods and welcome to Episode 3 of The Yaminade, the podcast dedicated to helping organisations build bigger and better engaged communities on Yammer. Before I introduce you to our first international guest or if you’re in the United States, the first local guest, I just want to say thank you to everyone who has subscribed on iTunes or added the podcast feed to their favourite podcast app. In particular, there have been quite a few people on the Yammer customer network that have supported the launch of The Yaminade over the past couple of weeks. Let’s call out a few names from Microsoft including Angus, Kirsty, Cynthia, Louise, Mike, Stefani, David, Ian, Luke and Gonzalo and plenty of others like Rick from Columbia Forest Products and Melanie from Cargill, Rhoshonda from Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute, thank you so much for providing feedback and sharing The Yaminade with others on the network.
For everyone listening, I would love you to share this podcast with people who you think would get value out of this podcast or content. The easiest way to do that is to make sure you’re on top of The Yaminade content. I would love it if you could subscribe to this podcast on iTunes, you could follow @theyaminade on Twitter. You can like us The Yaminade on Facebook at facebook.com/theyaminade or if you like email you can sign up to The Yaminade newsletter on theyaminade.com. That’s the best way to keep up to speed with what is going on with the show, when new episodes are released. As I suggested in Episode 0, we’re going to try for a fortnightly podcast, so expect an episode every two weeks. So let’s go to today’s guest. The first international guest on the show. We are very privileged to have one of the world’s leading minds on knowledge management, communities of practice, community facilitation, social media, and social business. Let’s just say that when it comes to what The Yaminade is all about, Stan Garfield is the man. Earlier this week I had the pleasure to speak to him from Detroit in the United States.
Stan is responsible for managing the Yammer community globally at consulting firm Deloitte. In this episode you’ll hear him talk about how he works with over 210,000 employees worldwide to share knowledge and get better customer outcomes using Yammer.
I hope you enjoy my chat with Stan Garfield.
Stan: Thanks a lot for having me on, Paul. I got started originally in the university world. I spent the first eight years working in medical schools at St Louis in Missouri. I was a computer technical person. First a computer programmer then the manager of a computer centre so I felt my career was likely to stay in the technical realm but what was interesting was that before I got into computer science, which is what I graduated with my undergraduate degree, I first thought I was going to be a journalist so I went to journalism school for my first year of college.. While I was there I discovered I liked Computer Science better but I think the combination of technical and journalism background has been good for me in my career.
So I spent a long time after the university experience working in the computer industries, first with digital equipment corporations, starting over 30 years ago and then working through a series of mergers with Compaq Computer and Hewlett Packard and altogether 25 years in the computer industry usually working in the Services part of the computer business. I usually had teams of people working for me delivering consulting or sales support or some sort of technical expertise to our sales force or clients or both. Along the way I put my journalistic background to use and they would usually have information that they needed and I was able to provide it to them. Before there was the Internet, if you can remember back that far, we had to use other means for sharing, post them on computer networks and send things through email. Around 1995 when the Internet started taking off and we had a digital corporation, it was a great thing because we could share information more easily, making it available to people without needing to know who they were in advance, just posting it and they could come and retrieve it.
At that time I was really able to take what I had learnt informally and usually on the side of another job and begin doing it more formally. In 1996 I was asked to start the first knowledge management program for Digital. So I did and I have been doing something within the field of knowledge management ever since and it’s been quite a while, almost as long as the field has been in existence. Along the way we’ve seen a number of changes, but the fundamental needs really haven’t even changed at all. Even if you go back further, there was always a need to connect people to allow them to ask each other questions to solve problems together and to share with each other things that would be helpful. We did that at Digital before there was anything called the Internet or social media. We did that using something called Notes Conferences. If you go back in time and come forward, in some ways, technology has changed a lot and in some ways we’re really doing a lot of the same thing, basically out of the core, the same fundamentals; getting people connected people so they can help each other out, being able to let people who don’t already know each other share an interest, connect and learn from each other and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.
Paul: Brilliant. A lot of people who listen to the podcast will be “digital natives” or Gen-Y who have been given the task of managing their communities on a social network. I’d love to hear your thoughts around the real differences in trying to build a community pre-internet before you had these tools that were like a lubricant for social connections before you had those tools versus today when you have technology which enables those connections to happen much more seamlessly.
Stan: It’s a great question and in some ways things haven’t changed at all. The same challenges exist which are largely behaviour challenges as opposed to technology challenges. Getting people to agree in a certain way that may be difficult to what they’re used to or comfortable with, hasn’t changed at all. What has changed now is that people are more used to the idea that they are expected to share with people. Before that wasn’t as widespread. Today, with personal networks that people use outside of the work environment like Facebook and Twitter, they are at least familiar with the idea of posting something, liking something and sharing it. But what hasn’t changed is the notion that you have to make people see the benefit in being part of a community. If you look back, what caused people to use the communities that existed at Digital before the Internet was that they allowed them not just to use them for work-related but also non-work related opportunities. I think that was very important. They were allowed to have communities for the ski club or music or food lovers group. I think that helped because they could get comfortable using it in a way which matched their personal interests. Then when it came to asking in a business context, they were already used to it so it wasn’t a big ask for them, it wasn’t a big change from getting them to move from the next ski event to the technical solution to this problem.
If you look at where we are today, I think we still have some challenges with technology that make it easier to communicate through our phones, email, online or whatever way you prefer. We still have the fundamental challenge of getting someone to agree to ask something in public that could be exposing their ignorance. That same challenge is there. The people part of knowledge sharing is as much a challenge as any other part.
Paul: I would agree with that 100%, that fundamental fear of being exposed, it’s similar to the fear of people seeing their face on camera. It’s one of those things that are entrenched in human behaviour… You need to take people on the journey to make sure they can get across that dip to really get value out of connections that they can make on the networks or communities that you’re building, absolutely. Very good.
So today you’re at Deloitte, who are definitely not a small company. They’re a large multi-national consulting business services advisory organisation. How many people do you have at Deloitte at the moment?
Stan: Altogether, we have over 200,000 who are part of Deloitte. Deloitte is set up of a group of member firms in each country that has a Deloitte presence has its own separate firm with its own CEO and its own government. The global Deloitte is a network of these member firms which tries to share across the member firms and therefore the collaboration of networks become an important tool for them but you have an obstacle to overcome because in their local firms they can do whatever they want, they can use their own tool, they don’t necessarily have to connect outside that firm. So getting people to connect globally is an interesting one, because you want to show them that in addition to whatever local connections they may have there’s potential benefit in reaching outside of the local network to learn what people outside of their country may be doing a series of smaller ones to deal with. So we have that big global organisation but also a series of smaller ones to deal with.
Paul: It’s really important in your line of work in business consulting. The product you’re delivering is the knowledge and experience of the people on the ground working with the customers. If there’s any organisation where sharing information, knowledge and experiences across a global network would make perfect sense, this is the one, isn’t it?
Stan: It is and that’s why the firms that are currently known as the Big Four, of which Deloitte is one, were pioneers of knowledge management back in the mid-90s for the reasons that you mentioned, that knowledge is what we’re offering and essentially our capital is our people and their knowledge. We recognised early on that we needed to put in place processes and systems to enable our people to share with each other, to reuse what they had done in one part of the organisation to avoid making the same mistakes more than once, to avoid redundant effort and take advantage of the size of the organisation. You mentioned 200,000 people is a lot of people and there’s potential great benefit that we’ve done everything that can be done somewhere in the world, so make that fact known to each other. If we can make each other aware of what we’ve done, we can avoid reinventing the wheel!
Paul: That’s it. You talk about the wisdom of crowds, you’ve got your own crowd so you have enough people to get some information and give good advice to your customers around the world. What I’d be really interesting in is from the sound of it, being one of the Big Four, you’ve had that knowledge management culture or maturity before things like Enterprise Social came along. Did that translate really quickly into the Enterprise Social network when you rolled out things like Yammer or was there a struggle to translate lenge things that you did knowledge management world pre-social network world into a social network world?
Stan: It’s both. I think we both had some immediate success with and some ongoing challenges that we’re still dealing with. A couple of examples… one is Yammer was initially used by our Australian member firm and they were a pioneer for us. They licenced it for us before we licenced it globally. They had a nice head start and used it quite effectively and the CEO of the Australian member firm was a real champion of it. He personally uses Yammer and gets other people to use it and they follow his example. There’s a lot of energy there that would be viewed quite positively in Australia. But if you go to other member firms that haven’t pioneered it like Australia, it’s a little different. They feel like they’ve got their own established ways of doing things, they’re used to using their own personal networks, using email and other mechanisms so Yammer to them can strike them as something new and extra that they have to do. In order to overcome that, you have to be able to show them that for some things it’s going to work better than what they’re used to. You can’t just tell them “hey we have this new tool, start using it!” people are reluctant to do that, you have to show them “if you want a resource to up staff engagement, this is going to be a better way for you to get that quickly than if you tried something else”. Our emphasis is very clearly on stating our user cases are, where it’s beneficial to use it versus alternatives and then to share stories where it has been used effectively so others can benefit from that.
Paul: What tactics do you use to share those tactics and communicate those user cases? Are you running workshops with change champions that have taken that message out to the audience? Are you just sending a blanket email to everyone and hoping for the best? How do you get those reluctant adopters across the line by sharing these stories?
Stan: You have to try multiple approaches. One way is through training and awareness and mentoring and individual one-on-one handholding. Other ways are publishing information that people can consume. Hopefully it’s not just viewed as some sort of broadcast email but it’s more tuned to what people might pay attention to. Another way in which we’ve tried to do it is to have a simple and easy to use device to remember what the recommended user cases are. I came up with an acronym for that. So instead of saying “hey everyone, start using Yammer to collaborate” which is easy to ignore, what I said was “there are seven uses for Yammer and those can be remembered in the acronym: SAFARIS” so we put a picture of a giraffe on a slide and the seven letters of SAFARI, share, ask, find, answer, recognise, inform and suggest. I’m able to rattle those off to you not because I’m looking at them but the acronym makes it easy to remember. If people can remember the giraffe, the word SAFARIS and run through those letters, they’ll know that these are the seven things that Yammer does best. Even if you can only remember the first three: share, ask and find, then that’s a pretty good start. Spreading that message around, having that image appear on screens in offices, conducting regular training, having people able to ask questions about how they can more effectively use Yammer and sharing the stories. Then Yammer allows itself to be a great place to gather stories. Let’s say you post a question to Yammer and I answer you and you respond saying “thanks Stan that was very helpful, that allowed me to solve a problem I was struggling with” I can capture that thread as a success story and nobody needs to do any extra work, you don’t need to write it up or disseminate it. I just share that into a collective group called Yammer Wins so when someone says “prove it to me that this is worthwhile” I can say “don’t take it from me, here, read this thread from an actual user and see how this helped them”.
Paul: The proof is absolutely in the pudding! Very good. It’s always great to hear success stories of Yammer Community Managers or people who are building Yammer communities on social platforms but the most interesting thing for people just getting started out is thinking about the challenges that you came across, the roadblocks or things that slowed you down and got in the way of you achieving what you were trying to achieve? With the Deloitte case, there’s a really clear alignment to your business strategy: knowledge is your core product and we need to make sure that we share that with everyone around the organisation. There’s a pretty clear alignment with the core of the company. I’d be really keen to hear, that even though with that alignment, what are the challenges that you’ve seen over the years as you’ve developed it across the world?
Stan: The first challenge was just getting the idea that we were going to have a global network. We still have some member firms that keep their own local network in addition to the global network. That was challenge number one. It would really work best if we had a single network, because then we would avoid fragmentation and silos that can exist when everyone has their own network… And we formed the global network at that time, there was a separate network in place for every one of our member firms, over a hundred and we managed to consolidate them all into a global network. We still have some, so about six local networks left. That’s a challenge because someone might be asking a question in the local network that could have been readily answered by the global network but it didn’t get there, so therefore we missed that opportunity… so that’s one challenge.
Paul: What’s the rationale for those subsidiaries or those partner organisations to maintain their local presence? What are the arguments they’re suggesting as to why they need to maintain a local presence?
Stan: I think because we were first and they didn’t want to disrupt it, that could be part of it. Then they want to keep their local discussions to themselves, which could be done through groups in the global group, but the perception is they want to keep their discussions to themselves… It could be a local language question, there could be a number of reasons. But over time we are going to continue working on that. For example, the Canadian firm which is one of our larger firms had their own local network, but once we launched our global network, they agreed to consolidate into the global network by creating the Team Canada Group within the global network, so whenever they want to have Canadian specific discussions, they can do so within that group as part of the global network, which would be our recommendation.
Paul: Any other challenges beyond a global or consolidated network…?
Stan: I would say three more.
One is groups. Within the network there’s a tendency for people to want to create their own group. That’s a variation of the network challenges… “I’ll create my own group where we can talk about this topic” and they don’t think about it more broadly. So one example is “I’m going to talk about SAP” in my country which is Luxembourg. What they don’t get that there’s nothing particularly unique about SAP in Luxembourg compared to SAP in some other country. If we have one single SAP group for Deloitte, there’s a lot more power in that than having a hundred groups for each country. So it’s about getting people to think across organisational boundaries. It’s a challenge, but when we overcome it, the results can be quite powerful for our largest groups which have a single group and they’ll have five, six, ten thousand members in those groups. The power in that is that you can make a promise to people which is if you go and post your question in the group, you’ll get a bunch of really useful answers immediately. If we have smaller groups, multiples that overlap, then it can be frustrating to users because they don’t know which group to go to and none of those groups may thrive, so that’s the second challenge.
The third challenge is how the networks are configured. The way that Yammer works it that the defaults are sometimes not as desirable as we’d like so initially a user may find that they get information flowing to their feed that they don’t care for and they then dismiss Yammer and say “oh, it’s a lot of noise, I’m not going to go back to it”. When in fact if they had just configured their feed, they would not have that objection. So getting things set up initially is important and we have to work with people to educate them about that.
Then the final challenge is about leadership. We had some success early on when launching Yammer that leaders conducted Yam Jams which are essentially half an hour to an hour long online jams where people would interact with the leaders which was nice, but what we need is leaders to continue to use Yammer beyond those one-time events… to routinely use it and set the example for other people who are looking for their lead who think “oh I see how those people are using Yammer, now it’s ok for me to use it”.
Paul: Yam Jams are a good way to get leaders on board for that flash in the pan engagement as you suggested. What have you done to encourage that next step with your team, the executive sponsors and each of those partner organisations? Have there been any specific tactics or is there anything that’s worked really well in getting the CEO of the Luxembourg subsidiary to be a regular contributor or regularly engaged on the network?
Stan: We have some digital mentoring that we do where we try and engage with those leaders, they may be uncomfortable with this technology or they may perceive that they don’t have time, but we try and show them how to do it with even a limited amount of time. For instance we can mail them messages from Yammer which they can respond to and that will end up being posted in Yammer. They don’t have to use it in ways they’re uncomfortable with, we can make it convenient for them to interact in ways that they’re used to. Another way is to try to solicit some who are a bit more willing to be out there as a way of getting feedback for employees. One of our good examples of that is our CIO is able to use it to say “what kind of technical changes would you like me to make in the next year” and get a large number of people responding to that because they appreciate that the CIO is asking for their input. Then when he comes back and says “we’ve heard to you, this is what we’re doing” it makes a powerful closed loop.
Paul: Absolutely. If you looked across all your partner organisations that are active on the global network, do you think there’s an opportunity to improve that level of executive engagement on the network or are their pockets where it’s not so good? Just give us an idea of the level of executive engagement you have across the community at the moment?
Stan: It’s something that we can definitely improve on. We have some that are using it quite well but we probably have a long way to go before we could say that we have the level of leadership engagement that we would like. Getting that improved both is a challenge, but the path is big. Each time you can get someone to see that you want them to do more than just be present for an occasional event that you’d like them to respond to a person who has just posted and give them some feedback, or like a post they made. The power of that can be immense. If I post something out there and see the leader of my organisation has liked that or responded back to me for taking the time to share, I’m much more likely to keep sharing because I have positive feedback from someone important. Plus that story will spread, people will tell each other “hey did you see what the leader did?” and we if we can get that to happen, it’s a big pay-off but we still have a long way to go. Many people would agree it’s a good idea, but getting them to change their routines is more difficult.
Paul: Absolutely. We’ve been talking a lot about inside your organisation and how you share throughout the network between subsidiaries or partner organisations throughout the Deloitte network. Being a knowledge organisation that needs to share knowledge with customers, are you applying any of this in your interactions within your networks? Are you using Social to bring your customer base to bring higher levels of customer service and then ultimately for you guys to increase your revenue longer term using technologies like Yammer?
Stan: We make extensive use of all the different social media tools. Not Yammer, Yammer we fitted to use within Deloitte, but if you a look at Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or any major social technology, Deloitte embraces that and has people working on that and has people working on pursuing those channels. Whether it’s marketing, recruiting new talent, we have been using all those channels as a way of interacting with people and making sure that we’re viewed in the current trends and not behind. So we have a YouTube channel and we have things on Vine and SlideShare, where you will go, you tend to see a Deloitte presence but it allows people to interact with us in whatever way they prefer. If they want to interact with us on Twitter or LinkedIn they can and we’ve made a point of having a lot of our thought leaders be active on these channels. For example on LinkedIn where people are posting on the long-form blog posts and interacting with people as large numbers of our target audiences engaging with us that way. Then we go things like webinars – we have a series called Debriefs which are online webinars that we get a large number of people participating in so I think we’ve tried to embrace as many forms of interaction as possible and over time there’ll probably be some narrowing down of those, some channels thrive and some don’t, but right now we’re trying to use all of those to interact with clients, analysts, potential employees and so forth.
Paul: Ok, brilliant. I guess we’re getting to the end of the chat so what I’d really love to understand is, if you had your time again, if you were sitting in Detroit at Deloitte there and you had to start that community from scratch and the opportunity to start over again and not make mistakes and repeat more of your successes that generally got really good results in building the community, building engagement and getting people involved in sharing knowledge within the organisation. What would be the things that you would do again? What would be the advice that you would give to someone just starting out, building their own community or network?
Stan: For one, I would try and get this configuration problem solved better than we did. It’s partly not under our control because we have to work with the vendor and they have their own constraints. But if we could have put more influence on the vendor so that the configuration for a large organisation like ours could be different than what it had be for small ones… It came out of a small organisation and what they thought were the right settings and what worked for them really wasn’t the right settings for an organisation as large as ours. For example “what should the defaults be for your feeds, email notifications and daily digests?” they thought it wasn’t a bit deal but it turned out to be a big deal for adoption. Initial experience with the social network was that it was unpleasant and it’s hard to overcome. So get it right, get those configurations so the first experience people have is positive. Number two would be the question of many networks. It would be really nice if we started from scratch with one network and if everyone was in one place and they’re not frustrated from their local network when in fact they could have got help from their global network.
The third one is to do with groups. We had hoped that we could control the creation of groups so we can limit the amount of redundant groups that might be created. That’s not feasible, so consequently it’s possible for anyone to create a group and what that means is that there could be many, many groups on one topic and now we have to go back after they’re created and try to consolidate them to improve user experience. It would be better than before creating group, people check to see if there is one already and then become a co-leader of that group instead of creating a second one. Those are the three things I would try to go back and do if I could.
Paul: Ok, brilliant. That last comment you made is an interesting one. It’s almost a fine-balancing act. You almost want to give people the ability to create groups and value in the network, those knowledge sharing spaces… You don’t want to turn that off necessarily but you want to ensure you have the ability to consolidate those really good spaces together to make them more powerful and amplify the success of each of those individual groups.
Stan: That’s been a natural point of disagreement within the field of social networks. There are definitely people who think “let anything than can happen, happen… the survival of the fittest and let a thousand flowers bloom and all that…” Now the other extreme, when you’ve been around for as long as I have, you’ve seen it all and you know how things play out over time. Trying to see it from the point of view of the user. For instance when I started running the knowledge management programme at Hewlett Packard, they had a situation similar to groups which were essentially hundreds of distribution lists and what I realised was that no one would ever read through that list, they would just give up. None of those lists were successful. What we did was pool them down to a much smaller list then everything was able to take off. I think the same thing applies here. If you limit it, but not from the standpoint of telling people what not to do but instead encouraging them to be part of one that already exists… it’s all how you portray it… but if I say to you “rather than creating a second SAP group, I’d like you to become co-leader of the existing one” that’s a positive way of there still being just one, but it builds up it’s critical mass to a point where it serves all its users well and gives a better user experience because when they go to ask a question about SAP, there’s just one group for them and it’s not a confusing thing at all.
Paul: Brilliant, very good. Thank you very much Stan. I appreciate your thoughts that you’ve shared over the past half hour with us and the community around Yammer. I really appreciate it. One final question before we wrap up… As I mentioned at the start, you’re speaking at KM World in Washington DC in November. I’d like to hear a quick overview of the sessions you’re delivering and if anyone listening to the podcast is thinking of attending, it’d be a great opportunity to plug your sessions and give them an idea about what you’re talking about…
Stan: Sure, I’d be glad to and thanks for the opportunity. I’ll be doing three sessions on the day before the conference officially starts, there’s a workshop day of morning and afternoon workshops. In the morning I’ll be holding a workshop called Knowledge Management 101. It’s an induction to people who are getting started in the field so they can look at the steps they need to take to get a knowledge management initiative started. Then on the third day of the conference, the second day of the actual conference, there’ll be two sessions I’ll be involved in. One is a panel discussion along with some colleagues from other firms including Microsoft and Drive, we’ll be talking about how to increase adoption, so that’s an area that’s of interest to people in networks Then there’s a session I’ll be giving on social media, sort-of a tutorial on the different tools that exist and how you can use them in the context of knowledge sharing, so I’d welcome anyone who’s coming to attend those three sessions.
Paul: Brilliant. Anyone who’s interested in following Stan, he’s a prolific publisher. If you search for Stan Garfield on your favourite search engine you’ll find plenty of content that Stan has produced over the years. One of my favourite resources that I’ve seen recently is Stan’s SlideShare page where he lists a lot of presentations that he’s delivered with Deloitte and during his career. If you want more information or to learn more about his experiences, your favourite search engine is the best place to go and Stan has a great website which links off to those resources as well. Thank you very much Stan for sharing your stories on The Yaminade and thank you very much!
Stan: You’re welcome, thank you very much for having me.