Tag Archives: Change

Pirates and Poohbahs Unite!

Yesterday I was lucky enough to attend a Forrester round table on the future of the Social Web put together by Jeremiah Owyang and hosted by SAP (thanks to both for an incredible job).  It stimulated a lot of thinking I have been doing about change – the next few posts are inspired by the rich conversations that took place there:

When talking about bringing social technologies into business I think it is helpful to address both the “bottom up”  and and the “top down” ways that it occurs.

I think of it in terms of Pirates (with a nod to Matt Mason) and Poohbahs (with a nod to Gilbert and Sullivan).

Pirates push change at the margins – Often the ones making the changes inside the organization are the Pirates – agitators for a new order.  People who operate at the margins, across borders, challenge business norms, and bring new ideas into being.  Pirates can come from every business unit: IT, Marketing, R&D, HR etc.    Pirates can sometimes even be in leadership (Poohbah) positions (Scott Cook of Intuit, Shari Ballard of Best Buy, Bob Lutz at GM).   Pirates push change at the margins.   However at some point leadership needs to get engaged to move from margin to core business.  From small payoffs to big payoffs.

Poohbahs push change from the core. Poohbahs set the vision and goals to be met .  They exemplify the cultural traits they want to see in the organization.   Poohbahs can create safe haven for their pirates (a.k.a. sponsorship and championing a cause).   Most importantly Poohbahs can help drive education around new ways of doing business – the what, why and how of social technologies.  After all, a company that speaks the same language and shares the same vision is unbeatable

False Logic of the Holy Pilot: Since social technologies are essentially bottom-up and built upon the participation of the lowest common denominator of an organization; customers or employees, the argument goes that the rollout of these technologies should be bottom up and organic;  “Let the employees (or customers) play with the tools and you will have a wildfire on your hands….”  I say think small and you stay small.

Pilots are sometimes a good start.  Often it is a necessary start before making the case to the Poohbahs.  But it is not a roadmap to transforming your business – often I have seen it become an excuse to underfund an initiative.  If you want to harness the power of social technologies to transform business get ready to tackle the harder stuff – leadership, change and culture.  This requires both Pirates and Poohbahs.

If you look at what is happening at Best Buy, Intuit, Proctor and Gamble (very different industries),  the Poohbahs are driving these changes – creating a safe haven (indeed a culture!)  where pirates can thrive.

Pirates and Poohbahs Unite!!

4 Comments

Filed under Change, Insight, Social Media, strategy, Web 2.0