Jul 23, 2010

Social media - can we make it add value to lean?

The social media craze is just that, unless it produces real value, and I doubt value is measured in easy metrics like “followers,” “hits,” or “clicks.”

From the lean perspective, I’ve been struggling with the marketing orientation of much of the discussion of social media. There’s nothing wrong with marketing, but our purposes in the lean community are different. Social media tools ought to further those aims -- of adding value through connections with people, sharing ideas, teaching, learning, and supporting. Otherwise, they are just tools. And if lean tells us anything, it’s not the tools, it’s the thinking.

Yesterday, social media tools worked for me. Let me count the ways...

(1) Google Alerts -- settings in Google search that send you a daily e-mail with links to anything new that has turned up with keywords you have selected. I use them to find new stories and new people that I might share through Twitter, Lean Reflections, writing for Target, or LinkedIn. My alert included a blog post on All things Chromatography about a Delaware company, Analtech, on its lean journey.

(2) Blogging is a great way to tell a story. Ken Grant's post conveyed to me the spirit of lean we like to see. He gave a lot of credit to DEMEP, the Manufacturing Extension Partnership group in Delaware, and included pictures and a (3) YouTube video of a class in session. It happens that I have ties to Delaware. Ken included his (4) e-mail address, so I shot him a message and suggested we talk by (5) phone.

Ken answered the e-mail right away, saying he’d be in the office and giving me his phone number. So we talked. Turns out we had more in common than lean. He's a social media evangelist. He had posted the blog story to show someone the power of social media and had a pretty good argument in its favor when he heard from me just hours later.

Ken is a different sort of lean guy. He’s the sales manager at Analtech, who doesn’t see social media as marketing, but as a way to develop relationships. In fact, he’s so excited about social media that he’s helping the State of Delaware use social media to get better connected to residents. After we talked, he sent me a whole bouquet of links that exploded into a couple of hours of exploration and engagement at my end.

The State’s (6) home page and the rest of the website are becoming more and more integrated with (7) Twitter and (8) Facebook feeds and blogs. And not in a gimmicky way. Everything a resident would want to do with the state government is easy to find.

Ken’s pretty good at the personal networking. He arranges (9) Tweetups, and persuaded the governor, Jack Markell, to appear at one where Jack was shown sending his first Tweet. All this was recorded on video by TV and by any number of (10) phones I saw in the frame of the video Ken sent me. Now Governor Markell tweets several times a day (well, he gets a fair amount of help from his staff). The feed appears on the State of Delaware website. but I skipped over to (8b) HootSuite so I could follow his feed personally. While I was there, I became one of Ken’s followers, and found another feed from DEDOgov, the Delaware Economic Development department’s Twitter name.

Ken had also helped arrange for social media guru Chris Brogan (read the book Trust Agents) to (11) meet with the governor, and I found an arty video of Jack and Chris talking. What I learned about video: if the conversation is fairly ordinary, cover it with cool music and just show the faces of the folks talking. My guess is that the conversation was valuable in helping the governor see that Twitter and such is about relationships, not marketing.

It wasn’t long after I followed Ken that he got the alert and he followed my Leanreflect Twitter feed. Then we connected to each other in (12) LinkedIn. I invited Ken to join the AME (13) LinkedIn Group, which he did.

Back to our phone conversation: You have to understand that in Delaware, everyone knows everyone else. I’ve (11a) met the governor and bent his ear about lean manufacturing and lean in government. The folks from DEMEP have done the same, and taken him to a number of (14) gembas in companies using lean. (I’m going to call going to a gemba a highly productive form of social networking.)

I had to talk to Ken about AME, of course, both our real work in lean and the (15) Social Media Council’s experimentation with social media channels. I suggested he come to AME's (16) conference in Baltimore, less than two hours from Ken’s company in Newark (trivia: it’s pronounced New Ark, not Newerk, as in NJ). Ken said he’d already heard from the DEMEP team that they will be there, and I told him that he should get a team from his company to go too, or at least get a transferable registration he could share with others at Analtech’s 17-person company.

With our common interest in social media, and Ken’s hugely greater experience compared to ours, I asked for Ken’s help on our Council’s plan to assess our lessons learned after our first year in existence and to use lean to become more strategic and connected with AME’s other initiatives in the coming year. Ken said he would, because he believes that the more things your are involved with, the more relationships you develop, and the more good will come out of it. It’s going to be awesome to put Tim McMahon’s and Jason Semovoski’s lean teaching together with Ken’s expertise, and Scott Schiave’s marketing leadership at AME HQ. (Want to be a part of it? E-mail me at Karen.m.wilhelm@gmail.com.) An e-mail went out from me (17) introducing Ken to Tim and Jason.

Continuing with the small-world theme. Ken realized that DEMEP’s Lisa Weis, whose picture is shown in that first blog post teaching a class at Analtech, is on (18) AME’s Mid-Atlantic Regional board of directors. I found Lisa’s email address on the AME website and shot her an email introducing myself.

I count 18 social media points escalating from reading an alert from Google in my e-mail, to reading Ken’s blog post, to exchanging e-mails with Ken, to talking on the phone, to connecting in Twitter and LinkedIn, to inviting Ken to a LinkedIn group for discussion, to getting his gracious response in request for his help in our Social Media council, to getting links from him that connected me with a whole world of stuff happening in Delaware, was fun.

Is there any more than fun and a flurry of jumping from link to link and exchanging gossip about my old home state? You never know. It’s the same with meeting someone at a conference. Sometimes it’s a great conversation and an exchange of business cards.

Real networking is the hoped-for result. Real networking is how we can learn and tap the experience of other lean leaders. It’s how we can pass on help to other lean learners. It happens, and when it does, it’s satisfying to have a human relationship with someone else slogging in the battle to bring lean to all the organizations that surround us.

Ken and I set up the next logical extension of the relationship that started with is blog post. I’ll be visiting family in September and now have a plant visit to Analtech on my calendar. Ken will be inviting someone from DEMEP to join us. Maybe I’ll get really lucky and Governor Markell will show up too.

What will you do today to escalate a serendipitous encounter in social media? If you’re reading this, you’ve put your toe in the water. How about sending an e-mail to introduce yourself to me, or to someone else you run across in today’s web travels? How about raising a social media relationship to a phone call, or raising a phone relationship to an in-person meeting? How about committing to going to a conference?

Let’s work together to bring the value to social media and wrest it away from those who want to make it just another advertising channel. I'll be part of a conversation on that topic at the IQPC Process Excellence Leaders Meeting in Chicago September 13-16.

Speaking of advertising: Here’s what Analtech did in YouTube -- definitely not the same old marketing stuff:

Thanks Ken, for making yesterday fun and for opening so many doors.


Jason Yip said...

I like Andrew McAffee's bullseye as a way to think about this:


Unknown said...


Just what I needed to read right now! Good example of what happens in networking. As always, thanks for reading the blog and adding to the conversation.

Unknown said...
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