The Magic Cultural Ingredient in a Yammer Community

This post has been republished via RSS; it originally appeared at: Yammer Blog articles.

Three cultural ingredients define a successful Yammer community that creates sustainable business value for its employees and its organisation. Two are well known. The magic ingredient in the culture of a Yammer Community and an organisation is a degree of freedom for every employee to make change. This post examines why it is important and how community managers can enable new degrees of freedom to create change.


Two Critical Cultural Ingredients – Purpose and Psychological Safety


Yammer community managers are now aware of the importance of shared purpose as a tool for engaging employees, organising the community and aligning the adoption with organisational strategic goals.


As a result of the research work of Amy Edmondsonand her book Teaming, Yammer community managers understand the need to enable psychological safety for participants in the community. If it is unsafe to share or to comment and any actions of the employee are judged harshly, then the maturity of interactions in the community will be stifled.


The Magic Cultural Ingredient – The Degrees of Freedom to Create Change


To deliver its greatest value to employees and the organisation, a Yammer Community must enable employees to lead change. That requires employees to have the degrees of freedom to initiate change themselves.


Degrees of freedom are a scarce commodity for some employees in organisations. Command and control are common management techniques. Policies and processes are tightly controlled. Employees are encouraged, often with penalties and negative performance ratings, to stay within prescribed actions and behaviours.


The success of organisations and employees is driven by their ability to learn, to adapt and to change. That change is most effective when it is led by individual employees who see a need to make change and can adapt. Community managers need to support and foster the development of this change.


I have described previously the maturity curve of Yammer Communities as they develop growing business value. Facilitating the development of collaboration from Connect>Share>Solve>Innovate to enable growing value, trust and agility is the work of community managers in any organisation. Working out loud will bring work into your Yammer community as people increasingly share their work. Degrees of freedom to make change are essential to the two higher value stages of this model. Solving problems requires the ability to make things better. Innovation requires employees to be able to come together to make new ways of working by changing their roles, products and processes to better meet customer needs and the organisation's goals.



Each of the four drivers of value creation in organisations, Growth, Effectiveness, Velocity and Protection, are tied to the work of employees and their communities in making change happen. If employees don’t have the degrees of freedom to make change, then the communities maturity stalls at sharing. Problems are taken away to be solved elsewhere and the accountability of employees to address the change opportunities that they see erodes.


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Community Management Can Foster the Degrees of Freedom to Act


In highly effective and valuable Yammer communities, community managers foster degrees of freedom for employees. Community managers work with the community and the organisation to release the constraints preventing employees from making necessary changes. Here are some examples of how community managers can enable extra degrees of freedom for employee led change:


  • Connect: Connecting change advocates to resources – a group of junior employees wanted to run a TED-X conference series. Yammer connected them to a sponsor with budget and a communications team to help promote the event that the junior employees then ran as a side project.
  • Share: Concentrating the voice for change – employees advocating for a change in policy were able to draw management attention to the need for change by highlighting the unintended impact of the policy on customers and employees. Management responded to the new visibility of the issue by seeking their input and contribution to writing the new policy.
  • Solve: Surface and validate the workarounds and everyday solutions. Every organisation has the unofficial ways to solve problems and processes. These hacks remain underground until a community champion in Yammer encourages them to be shared, evaluated and the best codified into new ways of working. That requires the freedom to change.
  • Innovate: Enable experimentation and agile projects. Community managers can help employees break their big ideas down to small experiments and agile projects that can demonstrate the value of change. The freedom to do something now is often enough to convert a idea into a powerful and valuable change.


How to Increase the Degrees of Freedom for Action in Your Yammer Community


Enabling employees to collaborate and create value doesn’t require you to enable a free-for-all. Your goal is to increase the degrees of freedom a little in ways that align to your strategy and the value you are seeking to create. You don’t have to open every dimension at once. Your organisation can benefit from just a little more latitude in the right dimensions of people, processes, organisation and technology.


Here are some steps that will help:


  1. Have a value strategy for your Yammer network: what value are you seeking to create? Make sure you engage all employees and especially senior stakeholders in the goals and the measures of value. If you are asking to create some latitude for employees then it is important to be clear on the returns for that opportunity.
  2. Engage your network and especially its change agents: The pain points and the constraints to effective collaboration in the organisation will be crystal clear to the employees. Make sure you ask them where they need a little bit more safety and more latitude to act to achieve the desired value. These insights will guide your work to create some more degrees of freedom
  3. Bring the organisational police into your conversation: It is far easier to argue for latitude when the usual enforcers (HR, Compliance, IT Security, Operations, Risk, etc) have been a part of the process of design. They work for the same organisation and share its goals. Give them a chance to help. They often know the best places to loosen up.
  4. Start with small experiments: Ask for senior executive support for small experiments to create new ways of working using Yammer and its community. A small experiment is a great way to prove that a change is safe and delivers real value.
  5. Promote and scale successes: One of the benefits of Yammer is it is really easy to share organisational success stories born on the network. The more success stories you share the more latitude you win for the next experiment.




Growing value in Yammer community comes from its power to harness individual employee contributions to an organisation’s change, learning and adaption. That contribution doesn’t have to stop at sharing ideas, facts and views.  The most effective community managers in Yammer are constantly looking for how they enable employees to have the degrees of freedom to lead change themselves. They also seek management and especially senior executive support to assist them in this critical role of enabling employees.








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Simon is the Chairman of Change Agents Worldwide. Simon works as a consultant, board advisor and speaker with organizations from startups to global corporates. He has a proven track record of helping these organizations to enhance strategic value creation, enable digital transformation and realize the potential of people. Simon is a Microsoft MVP in Office Apps and Services. 

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