Blogging has a role in culture change

Posted by Mark Schenk - July 15, 2007
Filed in Business storytelling

Arjun Thomas has blogged a summary of a recent McKinsey Global Survey on ‘How Businesses are using Web 2.0″. The survey continues a theme that businesses are still shy about the use of blogs within the firewall, identifying a preference for tools supporting automation and networking.

In contrast, a report entitled ‘The Blogging Revolution: Government in the Age of Web 2.0′ describes how blogs are being used by members of Congress, governors, mayors and police and fire departments. It describes how the US Strategic Command (STRATCOM) has established a ‘secure, real time blog’ to connect generals and warfighters’ which recognises that:

“the military has a wonderful axiom called the chain of command … but the chain of information is not the chain of command…. When al Qaeda can outmaneuver you using Yahoo, we’ve got something wrong here”.


The use of blogs within STRATCOM to combat the strangling of information flows caused by traditional hierarchies is described as ‘proving to be nothing less than an enormous cultural change’. And, of course, it is not just the military that are strongly bureaucratised and hierarchical.

Many organisations recognise the need for ‘cultural change’ to become more agile and resilient in the 21st Century. At the same time, some (many?) organisations continue to see blogging as a risk (as the McKinsey report indicates), perhaps because of the loss of control of information flows that blogging implies. The STRATCOM experience reinforces one of my strongly held beliefs; you can only change culture by changing your behaviour. This creates new stories that are told and re-told in the organisation. if organisations want better information flows and to be more agile and resilient, embracing blogging within the firewall provides a powerful demonstration of changed communication behaviour that can contribute to the desired culture change.

Thanks to Nerida Hart via actKM for the link to the second report.

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6 Responses to “Blogging has a role in culture change”

  1. Christian Kreutz Says:

    Nice article. I agree that blogging in an organization has a great potential. From my experiences throughout the last years it unleashes transparency and transfers parts of the informal culture (e.g. discussions) into the web. So experiences and story can be read by anybody in the organization. However because the blog is accessible by anyone, posts often have an internal public relation character. But the effect on an organization culture can be manifold and therefore I am not surprised many managers see blogs rather “skeptical”.

  2. Scott McArthur Says:

    Thank you for this post. It’s really challenging here in the UK to get anyone involved in web 2.0 especially in the corporate world! I’m keeping the faith though!

  3. Bryan Murphy Says:

    To reinforce the importance of culture this recent article is of note .
    Kindness – The Corporate Road to High Performance and Profitability
    Increasingly, management research is showing that a positive workplace culture which develops and sustains happy employees improves business performance. A USA engineering firm’s successful project is being cited as further evidence that a corporate culture based on kindness and positive feedback can make companies winners in the cut-throat world of business.
    The USA Department of Energy estimated it would take 70 years and cost $36 billion to clean up Rocky Flats, originally built in the early 1950’s to manufacture hydrogen bombs. But a relative newcomer, Denver-based engineering and construction firm Kaiser-Hill, not only met the Energy
    Department’s estimates, it beat them by 60 years and came in $30 billion under budget.
    Company executives attribute their success to a corporate culture based on using positive strategies to motivate employees and then rewarding and celebrating their victories. Since 1999, CH2MHILL (Kaiser-Hill’s parent company) has spent more than $5 million to put 700 senior managers though a University of Michigan training program that focuses on a philosophy called “positive organizational scholarship,” which is based on the idea that by using positive communication, companies can demonstrate superior performance. The company, which puts 120 executives through the program each year, estimates its annual overall training budget is more than $20 million.
    CH2MHILL is one of a number of organizations that are spending training dollars on teaching managers to be kinder and more positive.
    “Companies are realizing that culture is as important as strategy and that they can’t just look at the short term anymore,” says Barbara Bilodeau, director of market research and analysis at Boston-based Bain & Co.
    Nine out of 10 executives believe that corporate culture is important today as a strategy for business success, according to a recent Bain survey. In the United States, employees rank “senior management interest in employee well-being” as the top driver for employee engagement, according to Towers Perrin.
    And companies that have focused on creating a positive corporate culture seem to have better financial performance than those that don’t, according to the San Francisco-based Great Places to Work Institute.
    When looking at stock performance from 1998 to 2006, the 100 companies on Fortune’s Best Places to Work list have outperformed the Standard & Poor’s 500 by more than 8 percentage points, according to data collected by the Great Places to Work Institute.
    “Over time there is a cumulative effect that says the 100 Best Places to Work are better financial performers than others,” institute co-founder Amy Lyman says. “All of these companies have established trust, which is the glue that helps employees work well with each other.”
    Source: USA WorkForce Management Journal, July 2007.

  4. Mark Schenk Says:

    Hi Christian. I’m not surprised either as there seems to be plenty of ‘horror stories’ out there about blogging inside the firewall that encourages risk minimisation (ie don’t blog). Can you share some of your experiences where organisational blogging has improved transparency?

  5. Mark Schenk Says:

    Thanks for the article Bryan. I had lunch today with a friend who has been working in the positive organisational scholarship field for a few years and we talked about incorporating these concepts into our narrative work – so your comment is timely.
    We have developed and are delivering this year a leadership program for a large company. The program has a strong narrative flavour. Last week one of the participants observed that ‘the program drives home the leader’s role in both optimising performance and building employee engagement – but normally we focus mostly on the performance part even though it is obvious that engagement bit is more important’. With that in mind I am not surprised that the ‘Best Places to Work’ outperform the rest.

  6. Christian Kreutz Says:

    Hi Mark,
    yes I can give you an example. I wrote a little best practice post from my experiences of internal blogging in an organization:
    Roadblogs: GTZ Egypt’s experiences of introducing blogs for internal exchange http://icollaborate.blogspot.com/2007/07/roadblogs-gtz-egypts-experiences-of.html