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My main intention was to put a qualitative research into place, before moving on to a quantitative research, in order to gather different point of view and to have enough data to validate or invalidate my hypotheses. Due to the fact that my questionnaires were to be distributed internally in a company, I had to obtain authorizations that I did not get, which is why the collection of data resulted in only three interviews. Nonetheless, as you will be able to see, the data collected was enough to give me a beginning of answer. I will first present my methodology before moving on to the data analysis and the findings.
The main purpose of this qualitative research is to gather the point of view of people working closely with blogs within companies. I would like to know where the various specialists of the question stands on the changes blogging can bring to the work place. Many have written about the Enterprise 2.0 as a whole and what it can bring to a company but so far, I haven't found any data concerning blogging specifically. Having in-depth interview centred on this specific subject will allow me to start answering my question or to open new interrogations. Another reason for this research is to gather point of view from around the world. Indeed, I would like to find different nationality to see if the experience is international or local.
Choice of research method
"Qualitative research involves using techniques that attempt to gain an understanding of the existence of attitudes and opinions", whereas quantitative research is about measurement. Often, the quantitative research follows from the results found in the qualitative research. The qualitative research allows themes and more precise interrogation to emerge.
As far as the qualitative research is concerned, in-depth interviews have been conducted. An in-depth interview is "an unstructured, direct, personal interview with a single participant is probed by an experienced interviewer to uncover underlying motivations, beliefs, attitudes and feelings on a topic".
Nowadays, most of the interviews are conducted by phone or via the internet. In-depth interviews allow the respondent to feel less pressured than in a focus group. Concerning my research, a focus group would be impossible to conduct given the various worldwide locations of the respondents.
As explained in the first part of this chapter, the sample will include professional working within the field of the Enterprise 2.0. I have also chosen to include employees who are using blogs within their company. After having sent 17 demands for interviews, three people answered me in a positive fashion and thus became my sample. One is from the United States of America, another one from England and finally, the last person is French.
The interviews were sent by email prior to the discussion. The question were be precise and were asked differently depending on the respondent. They were asked to answer as much as they desired for each question.
The in-depth interview
In order to know if the questions are easy to understand and that the interviewsare relevant, I sentthem to two who have all completed a Phd in various subject to have their point of view. Once I received their opinion and remarks, I sent the interviews to my sample.
There was between 5 and 10 questions, led in a semi-structured way, "where parts of the interview use consistent and highly structured questions, with set response categories, interspersed with open-ended questions involving probes that again suit the nature of the participant".
The introduction to the interview will stipulate the reason for this interview and display the fact that their privacy will be taken into account if they don't want some of their answers to be taken into account.
The first part of the interviewsare about their field of expertise and their experience with blogging as part of an internal communication device.
The final questions evaluate the respondents' expectations on internal blogging to determine if they feel blogging is the best tool concerning the evolution or modification of corporate culture. Following, a discussion will ensure on which tools they believe to be the most pertinent to the subject. This discussion will allow me to gather relevant data for opening new ideas for an in-depth following of this dissertation.
Data analysis can be divided in four stages.
Data assembly: all the answers to the interviews will be gathered on a same file.
Data reduction: the answers will be organized
Data display: this will be done by using a framework analysis, which means establishing key themes and then gathering the data in a table according to these themes.
Data verification: this will lead us to look for explanation as to how to interpret the data.
The data analysis have been gathered under an Excel file so as to create a framework analysis.
The gathered data and the key themes that will emerge from the interviews will then lead me to assess, in conjunction with the literary review, my question and start to give an answer.
Limits of the method
It is not, per se, the limit of the qualitative research, that is important here, but the fact that I was not able, for administrative and time-constraint reason, to expand my research into a fully qualitative and quantitative data collection. Originally, I had intended to also do a quantitative research for this paper, unfortunately, because it was dealing with confidential data, I did not get the necessary approvals to ask employees about the use they had of their blogging platform and had, for the time being, stop my research at a qualitative level. Nonetheless, the data discovered in this research are enough to formulate a first answer to my thesis question.
The panel was composed of three persons, one man and two woman of age ranging from 29 to 45. One is an executive, one a training assistant and the last one an employee, we will call them Karl, Stephanie and Mary. All three work in different companies, all of which have different views on the Enterprise 2.0, offering me a broader approach to the question asked at the beginning of this dissertation.
Something that comes out of the three interviews is that blogging requires some element of involvement, without which there is no need to create a blog. The executive interviewed reminds us that "if you don't blog, comment" and this parallels the testimony of Mary, who did not know what to blog about and decided to comment and take part in discussion with people who shared the same interests as her. To the comment of Karl saying that in his company, there is a lack of blogging coming from the executive, I can confront the experience of Mary concerning the fact that some of the executivesblog about "some corporate issues and sometimes to explain a situation that arose in the company" while some others blog about "their gardens and gardening tips". They also sometime post comments and create discussion. In Stephanie's company, post were created by upper level management mainly but employees were welcome to follow the blog and comment on them. She consider that blogging is the most effective Enteprise 2.0 internal tool to date, with lots of poetential and that it is good to reach beyond department issues. Mary never thought of blogging as being part of internal communication and was sceptic whenit was first introduced.
Karl, in his testimony reminds the reader that in companies highly involved in social media, some may choose not to blog due to the presence of micro-blogging softwares which enable another kind of discussion, this one more set in a real-time manner than the blogs where users are constrained by posting an entry and then wait on people to read it before they can post their comments. In his company, micro-blogging comes as a sign post to blog post that people may have just posted.
The consensus found in the three interviews, is that employees do not always works in the same place. In Karl's company, they rarely sit in the same building and are often from another country. In Mary's case, they are in the same building but not necessarily in the same floor as hers. And in Stepanie's case, they are widespread through the North American continent and are expected to fly out of the country on a regular basis. Blogging helped Mary discover that some persons that she does not know like the same thing as she does and she found it a great way to engageconversation. In the case of Stephanie, she reports that the employees were able to enter into a discussion with the upper management, which would have been impossible otherwise.
Depending on the company, the input from the management is different. While in Karl's company, the idea of blogging came from the base and was then retaken by the management, in Mary's case, the idea of putting a blogging platform into place came from the CEO of her company, with the help of the communication and human resources teams. It is interesting to link this observation back to someting Karl said by the very end of his interview and it is that "It's important that IT, HR and Communications work together to implement any social media - each bring something special to the table."The management also need to make sure there is a cultural fit that goes with theimplementation of blogging within their company and the word "trust" is often repeated.Indeed, because the hierarchy is by passed via the mean of blogging, employees mayfear at first that they have to auto-censor themselves toward management so that nothingmay be retained against them in the future. But because the management is also blogging (about corporate ideas or their passions), and also because they create guidelines withthe help of the employees, their profile is raised within the company.
Stephanie's testimonial provides insights concerning the fact that not all blogging platform are open to the whole company. Here, for example, the administrative staff is controlling the platform and the writers are uppoer level management who are just sharing corporate information with the bottom line employee.
As seen in the previous paragraph, blogging by-pass the hierarchy and therefore flattensthe organisational structure while enabling the discussion between the top and the bottom of the company. People taking part in the community come as they are andthe employees' activity on their blog, as well as the input given there or via comments on other blogs, is more a measurement of reputation than of your social position withinthe hierarchical structure. By blogging on subject that matter to the person, it helpraise their profile internally and according to Karl, it helps "recognise emerging leaderand subject matter expert". It helps collaboration and create discussion, all the while being more of an online discussion tool than one that also span on to real life. Accordingto Mary, outside of her office she is sharing with another employee, she does notreally talk about what she is commenting on and read on other posts, while her online conversation is important. For her, while at first her behaviour was constraint byauto-censorship, after a meeting with the management, she, along with the rest of theemployees, decided to go on with free-speech. So far, she has found t rewarding.
A vision of the present
A confrontation of results
Through the length of this paper, I have examined the theories which have led me to discuss of the matter during my interviews.
Whendefining blogs, I talked about the democratisantio of blogging within companies. As seen in the interviews, more non tech driven companies are incorporating it, nonetheless the use of the blog within varies, depending on the corporate culture, and the intention of the management.
In her interview, Marie tells that she does not blog, because she does not know whaat she to blog about, unknowingly following the guidelines put into place by Cisco Sytem. Continuing with Marie's testimony, we can see that in the case of her company, the Lewin's behaviour modification has been followed, by first opening a blogging platform, then by allowinf authorship to all the employees, and lastly by reassuring employees that they were free, within guidelines, to discuss and talk about wht they desired, creating a management/employee dialog outside and inside the tool.
The three respondents gave an interestin insight as to the way their blogging platform were implemented but also as to whether it was reaching a middle ground (1 & 3) or kept by the upper management (2.)
Who write the blogs?
It does show that while some companies are moving away from the "Boss knows nest", some are still retaining this position, having, maybe, a hard time to let go.
Like shown on the "Hawthorne effect" where, David Farrabee was noting that the blog was not the "hotbed of dissent" expected, he testimonies seem to be saying that, while people post their view, dicuss their ideas, and comment on others, it Is done in respect of everybody and they are following the edicted guidelines. Like the testimonies of the respondents acknowledge the abve theory, they also validate the vision that McGregor has in establishing the Y Theory.
This goes in the "maintenance function" of the management, thaking the employee into consideration, and centring the supervision on the employee and what he does in term of collaboration.
From the discussion I discovered that if a clear message is not given to the employees at the beginning, self-censorship, as seen in the "Groupthink" discussion above, can occur. By creating a dialog, centred around the platform, management changed the behaviour of employees, making them feel free to discuss everything, between themselves and also with management.
As for the new enterprise theories, they seem to all be validated by the answers given by the respondent, as well as by the feeling I got when discussing with them. They feel empowered, included within the communication process, and are meeting people that they did not know of before, and who may have been kept hiden from them had the blogging platform not been put into place.
When asked if they considered blogging as the best tool for internal communication, or at least to act as the company online watercooler, the two respondents concerned offered two different answers.
Is the question answered?
At the beginning of this dissertation, I was asking the following question :
Does blogging internally modify the way employees behave within the organisation?
After having looked at the organisational behaviour theories as well as having interviewed people with different input on their internal blogging platform, I can say that yes, it does. It is changing the way employees will behave toward the management (i.e change from self-censorship to casual authoring), but it is also reshaping the way the management acts with the employees. Indeed, blogging flattens the hierarchy ladder, puttint the management on par with the rest of the employees, as it allow them to interact via entries or comments, on subject that may have nothing to do with the work environment. For the entry that do have an interest in the working environment, such as policies explanation, it opens up the dialogue that may not have been there previously as explanation where given to a few, if given at all. It also modify the way employees behave toward one another, even if sometime it is just online or in the enclosure of a shared office. So, yes, I think that the above question has been answered, but as I am going to explain in the next part, there is still need to pursue more research on the subject, to be able to fully and irrevocably reply to it. Nonetheless, with limited ressources and within the time imparted, the research question has been answered
Further research on this question
As said previously, this research is not fully completed and does need more insight into the changes that have happened within a company, by assessing via questionnaire, the behaviour of the employees prior to the arrival of a blogging platform, and assess their reaction to it six month and one year after the implementation. To complete, there would also be the need to interrogate more professionals, be there managers or researchers, to see the evolution of the field and what their expectations are.
New area of research
Following my current researchs on the subject of blogs, I would be interested in continuing to explore the changes brought by the Enterprise 2.0 to the way the employee act and react within their working environment, and if to an extent, it changes the way they work and produce value for their company. Furthermore, I think it valuable to not only stop at the value of blogs, but also to the one of micro-blogging, Instant Messaging, White-Board and so on, as from what has been said so far by reasearchers like Hinchcliffe of McAfee, they don't have the same impact on the daily working life of an employee citizen.
At the beginning of this dissertation, I was wondering if blogging internally could modify in some way the behaviour that employees have within a companie. Could itbe a way for them to meet new people, to express opinion about their company, to see the management in an another way that the traditional hierarchical one?
I had an idea about the answer but decided to kept it under a rock all the while I was researching and discussion about this issue with people. I did not want my feeling andpreconceivings coming into the way of my research. During the eighteen month that my research lasted, I found that whether I was basing myself on pure theory or simply on testimonies and article, it was always coming back to the fact that allowing people to gather and discuss in an informal space within their company was a good way for them to evolve in their behaviour and in the way they were referring to their seniors.
The more I read about Enterprise 2.0 and indulged myself in the writings of McAfee,the more I realised that this new step in internal communication was a logic follow-up of what had been pu into place within companies. The main concern, it seemed, was the way the management was using the tool and referring it to their employees. And as a matter of fact, this topic came into focus also during the interviews, showing thatthere was a need of trust but also a need of explanation coming from the top management and directed toward the employees, more specifically if the company is not onethat deal with new technology in a daily basis and therefore has less early-adopters than companies like, lets say, IBM.
Reading about the different ties and about the fact that some relied on the blogging system to be actng as a watercooler, interested me in knowing more about that and while, it seems that the act of blog and, or, commenting on a blog allows the employee to learn about people he did not know about, or as McAfee tells, about people that had the same question as the employee, it allow enable the possibility for small talk, but not necessarly in the manner of a watercooler discussing. Indeed, it doesn't necessarly emulates discussion out of the blog and tends to keep the new acuqointance in the perimeter of the intranet, not enabling the possibility of knowing the other person outside of the cubicle and the open-space.
Overall, this dissertation opened new doors for me, and strangely enough, made me bcome quite fluent in the tongue of organisational behaviour, which was something I did not see coming. It was enlighting and rich, despite the lack or more pushed researches on one type of social media.