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Mobilizing people. This is another of the Holy Grails (how many have I said we have?) in management. Whether you look at this from the angle of productivity, employee engagement, or any other, the key is ‘Mobilizing People’. Actually, I propose to change the word ‘leaders’ to ‘mobilizers’. Mmm, I won’t win this one.

How do you create a social movement? Perhaps a good start is to look at – well, social movements. OK, you don’t see this as a ‘standard management practice’. I do. The answers to better management, exciting management, and new, innovative management in 2023 are at their best when distant from ‘management science’. Old toolkits are gone! Where are the new toolkits? They need to be reinvented.

Culture shaping (forming, changing, transforming, growing…) is the development and management of an internal social movement. Yes, a la ‘social movement’, as read in Sociology, Anthropology, Political Science, and Political Marketing and very little, if not zero, in MBA curricula.

I could go on for hours on this topic. It’s one of my favourites, full of hope and expectations, but I said this is a Cheat Sheet, so I will have to send the Bullet Points Brigade.

1. (Re)frame the narrative. Acknowledge a spectrum of motives. Example: Take Obama to the White House (2008, 2012 movements), Fix health care, Decrease Inequality, better Human Rights and Justice, for example, were co-existing narratives. Not one. Corporate listen to the one, single, overriding, all-singing-the-same-song narrative. Have different frames, no one. ‘One only’ is a mistake.

2. Acknowledge the above differences, so accept also different, co-existing types of fellow travellers and frames.  However, agree on non-negotiable behaviours. This is the universal bit. Don’t compromise with it. Get it wrong, no glue, no movement, all in different directions.

3. Define the tribes. Peer-to-peer, bottom-up, self-organizing- whatever you want to call it in the organization, is tribal. Influence is horizontal. I did not say teams, divisions, functions or Task Forces. I said, tribes. If you don’t know your tribe, hire an anthropologist. Or us.

4. Fix coexisting expectations. Get them in the open. Brief and debrief. Define the rules. Activism is to act. Clicktivism is to click and say ‘like’. Donate is to donate. Advocacy is to say ‘I endorse, this is good’. Corporations are notorious for mixing up concepts and pretending that they are all equal. Nope. If you like clicking and we are here all for acting, this is not your social movement, sorry.

5. Engage the hyper-connected. If you want to infect (behaviours, values, ways), you’d better find the nodes of high connectivity. It can be done. We do this in our organizational work. You miss the hyper-connected, but you have a bunch of passion, forget it. I know it is not much of a PC statement, but it’s true. (Please don’t ignore ‘passion’, but between a bunch of poorly connected passionate people and a group of highly connected and influent dispassionate, I choose the latter for the work and the former for the bar)

“Backstage Leadership™ is the art of giving the stage to those with high capacity of multiplication and amplification, the hyper-connected.”

6. Focus on grassroots. Organise grassroots. Learn about grassroots. Became a Grassroots Master. The Obama campaigns focused on ‘it’s all about you, guys, not the one with the speeches’. It is grassroots, or it isn’t. Many Corporate/Organizational development groups haven’t got a clue about grassroots. They think it has something to do with the gardens.

7. Practice Backstage Leadership™. The key type of leadership in social movement making/organizational culture shaping is Backstage Leadership™, not Front Running Leadership with PowerPoint. Backstage Leadership™ is the art of giving the stage to those with high capacity of multiplication and amplification, the hyper-connected from grassroots, very often a rather invisible and not very noisy bunch, as compared with the ones with the Communications Drums.

8. Track progress. Set indicators. But these are not the traditional KPIs. Before creating measurements, ask yourself a simple question: what do I want to measure? What do I want to see? Which is different from ‘what I can measure’, and ‘what everybody measures. In Viral Change™ for example, we measure the progression of behaviours and stories, quantity and quality.

9. Master a fantastic Storytelling System that has two opposite origins meeting in the middle: top-down from the formal leaders (yes, we have formal leaders, you have formal leaders as well) and bottom-up from the grassroots. In the job structure, make sure that whoever is in charge of Storytelling’, is ‘the best paid’. It pays off to pay him/her well. Storytelling is the glue of change.

10. Go back to number one and down again.

Learn more about Viral Change™ and its applications here.

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