Thursday, April 16, 2009

Up, Up, and Away! Five Tips for Launching an Internal Network

So, you’ve been searching high and low for a way to jazz up your office’s internal communications and collaboration, and now you’ve heard that GSA negotiated a terms-of-service agreement with Facebook for federal agencies. Your agency is on board, too? You even got the go-ahead from your boss?! These are definitely exciting times. Let the Facebooking begin!

Wait a second.

Social media can make a big difference in the way your office works together and communicates, but it doesn’t just happen on its own once your coworkers all have usernames and passwords. Whether you’re using Facebook, Second Life, a wiki, or another platform, you need to have a solid plan to make your new internal network succeed.

Add Value. These platforms are a means to an end, not an end in themselves. As such, if the tool you have chosen is unlikely to actually improve communication and collaboration in your office, you probably don’t need it. Likewise, different tools have different purposes, so make sure you are using the right one.

Start Small. Nothing kills a new network faster than using it to take on too much, too soon. Set a discreet, simple objective with a short timeline, and make your objectives more ambitious as your office becomes more and more comfortable.

Provide Guidance. It doesn’t matter if your coworkers are from Generation X or The Greatest Generation. Either way, it’s a safe bet that they’ll benefit from – and appreciate – a set of brief but detailed instructions and best practices.

Get a Mandate. Many a promising initiative has died on the vine due to a lack of support from management. Your boss’s job isn’t done after he or she gives their initial approval. Rather, to ensure that everyone in your office participates, your boss needs to issue a mandate. After all, it’ll be next to impossible to get your coworkers – who are probably already burdened with multiple business processes and heavy workloads – to adopt a new tool “just because.”

Stick With It. In the perfect scenario, you turn the key and your new network takes off like a rocket. But even with a mandate from your boss, that’s unlikely to happen. Plan to promote participation with regular nudges and encouragements. If you’ve selected the right tool for the job – one that really adds value – your network or wiki will become a self-sustaining part of your new and improved office environment.

Zachariah Miller is a Presidential Management Fellow at the General Services Administration. You can connect with him on Twitter or GovLoop.


  1. Hi Zachariah - Excellent stuff here. I'd love to see a subsequent post on getting people to start using a social network tool. This is one of the key questions that I am getting from audiences. How do we get people to change behavior? The best answers I can think of:

    1. Demonstrate how a new tool is superior to an old tool by saving time and money.

    2. Tie adoption to performance measures - if you do it, you get rewarded. If not, well...

    3. Provide education in how to use the tool (this is your "Provide guidance" above) to overcome fear.

    4. Create other incentives for adoption - like a $5 gift card to Starbucks or coffee with an admired SES'er.

    Eager to get more answers to share...thank you!

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