Summary : strengthening ties between employees, increasing the membership feeling, learning to collaborate out of silos are challenges organizations try to meet with limited success and at a quite high cost. But, sometimes, things happen by themselves. Lots of parisian workers made the most of the summer decreasing business activity to compete on frescos made with post its on the windows of their offices. Behind what may be seen as a game or triviality, we witnessed emerging spontaneous team building and creativity programs no HR manager would have even dreamed of, with no involvement from their part.
The need for working out of rigid silos, cohesion, collaboration, engagement are matters I discuss a lot on this blog. Most of times they’re addressed through heavy programs, supported by social software platforms that have an organizational and financial cost that can’t be overlooked. Either we talk about enterprise 2.0, social business, or making things change in more traditional forms of organization does not change anything. As I often witnessed : nothing happens online that would have not happened offline. In other words, if employees have no reason or will to talk to each other, exchange, share, collaborate, help one another, the best social platform or the nicest intranet in the world won’t change anything.
Businesses invest a lot in programs aiming at improving cohesion, in team building activities etc…and are far from always being paid back. But, sometimes, things happen by themselves, like a miracle.
In the first days of July, we saw lots of frescos flourishing on the windows of many offices buildings in Paris. All were made of post-its. According to “historians”, Ubisoft was the first to start the game. Of course, such an initiative is not very discreet as it can easily be seen from the streets and surrounding buildings. So, employees from companies in the neighborhood reacted to show they could do the same. We could even see “well done” written on some windows to congratulate the neighbor company that had made a great fresco. And, day after day, post its started to cover the windows of lots of offices buildings.
Blogs and even traditional media mentioned this phenomenon that quickly become famous as the “post it war”.
Making a fresco with post its on a window is cool…but after a couple of weeks some thought there was a lack of ambition. So they began to make large frescos, involving people on may floors. Easy…provided people who work on different floor and departments get to know each other and manage to collaborate. When we know that people in the same open space often don’t know each other or what each one is doing, managing such a thing with people working on other floors, in other departments is a true challenge. And leads to tangible benefits : people meet, become closer, develop relationships…and, in the end keep on meeting after work, become closer etc… I even guess that in many cases it was the first time some teams or departments were doing something together…even speaking together.
We often saw employees from different organizations going on picnic together.
Of course, some companies did not like it at all. Other quickly saw all the benefits they could get : employees were about to successfully do, on their own, what organizations were failing at doing at a very high cost for decades. As for productivity, it seems that all the work was done during lunch breaks. Anyway, if it helps the enterprise to save money on time consuming programs to engage employees and build teams. Generally speaking, with every company talking about communities, bringing employees together, learning to collaborate out of silos etc…the only thing to do is to applaud. Otherwise, it only means that stated values are nothing but words.
So, my prefered are :
• this 7 floors work from bank Société Générale…using 11 000 post its.
• This one from Ubi Soft
• This one from GDF SUEZ (for the making of -in french-, click here)
A last anecdote to end, at a moment when every company talks of brand communities etc… 3M and Post It did not see the things coming and it took them many weeks before they react and try to surf on the wave. One more evidence that a brand does not create communities but should make the most of those that really exist. Today, the Post-It France Facebook page is branded with Post It wars. Even if they had wanted to create this trend, they would have failed. No agency could have been crazy enough to propose them such a plan.
Anyway, Parisian buildings were looking more funny and attractive this summer, for the pleasure of those who participated or were walking in the streets.
Conclusion : the more simple the more efficient, sometimes letting employees do and trust them is really worth, when a company advocates such or such value they need to let employees act accordingly. And any social initiative should be deeply rooted in the real life…