Last week, Mark Bonchek, senior vice president of communities and networks at Sears Holdings, led a roundtable discussion with TheCR Network members on using the principles of network-centric warfare to steer large-scale change in community management. At first glance, it seems like a big leap from military engagement to community management, but the lessons are remarkably relevant.
The threat of Al Qaeda has forced the U.S. military to reevaluate how they do business—they’ve learned to rely more on information networks and less on brute force to influence change. All organizations need to similarly adapt by relying less on vertical communication and more on horizontal. It’s no longer enough to rely on top-down instruction; we must learn to use everyone in our network to manage it effectively.
It takes a community to support a community. To plan for these interactions, Bonchek says we need a new “social architecture.”
Community doctrines: a missing step?
In support of a social architecture, Bonchek points to these four tenets of the U.S. military’s doctrine of network-centric warfare:
- A robustly networked force improves information sharing.
- Information sharing and collaboration enhance the quality of information and shared situational awareness.
- Shared situational awareness enables self-synchronization.
- These, in turn, dramatically increase mission effectiveness.
The four tenets help make up a doctrine that Bonchek says is a missing step between community strategy and tactics.
Doctrines provide guidelines that bridge the gap between a centralized and de-centralized community management model—including guidance on approach but also on enabling community managers to act on their own.
If strategy is your map and tactics are the means of transportation, doctrine is your compass. A doctrine tells community members where to go and gives them the technology to get there, but ultimately they control the route to their destination.
Communities need a plan for managing their networks that enables information sharing and collaboration. We have new social networking tools, and in order to use them effectively, we need to think differently. As TheCR community manager Hillary Boucher says, “[organizations] take the tools, but keep doing business the same.” We can’t buy the change we need. We have to make it.
Self-synchronization: real-time change
Doctrine enables self-synchronization through shared situational awareness, as Bonchek described when discussing tenant three of the U.S. military’s doctrine of network-centric warfare:
Self-synchronization is [where] everyone knows what to do and they do it in a way that’s as if someone with directions told them what to do.
Self-synchronization allows for the benefit of a centralized social network, with the advantage of “local context” found in a de-centralized model.
In my content strategy work, doctrine takes the form of a message architecture, including brand values and communication goals. Is this an element missing in many online communities? How do we best create a social architecture so that community members are enabled and empowered to lead or help shape their community in real-time?
Rick Allen is a member of TheCR Network and as such benefits from:
– TTM (time to market) to resolve issues, get to success with a library of hundreds of real-life business cases to reference
– Access to the best minds in social business and relationships with them
– Direct savings in discounts to conferences and training (and often free access to events through speakers)
– Promotion & acknowledgement to TheCR’s large community of business leaders