Game Plan for Institutional Dysfunction. Lessons learnt from watching The Wire

One of the best scenes from The Wire

Social Media Evangelists have to not only educate but also have a strategy in place for institutional dysfunction.

I have been watching The Wire, David Simon has created a cracking drama, he has breached on a really interesting theme in the series called, ‘Institutional Dysfunction’. I define it as all the bureaucracy problems that are faced within organizations, these are mainly caused because the goals of the individual and organization are not always aligned. He demonstrates that this happens both within the ‘Baltimore Police Force’ and the illegal Drug Syndicate.

In terms of Social Media Marketing, I think that there a number of people within companies that understand what they need to do in terms of social media marketing but because of Institutional Dysfunction they are not able to implement these activities.

With this in mind, You have got to take your hat of to BigPond for the pace that they got to market with their Twitter account @bigpondteam.

I think the job of the evangelist/agent driving social media change within an organization, is to not only educating a company but also have a game plan of how they are going to deal with institutional dysfunction in making sure that a company embracing social media becomes more than just an idea.

Alright we got real deep just then, I promise fluff pieces for the rest of the week.


Unknown said...

This is a really great post and succinctly highlights the biggest barrier we are all up against which is fear of change within corporations.

The cycle of 'we'll do it this way because we've always done it this way' is a tough one to break and the introduction of new ways and avenues makes for uncomfortable conversations and more often than not falls on deaf ears...

I cannot even begin to count the number of times a project or new opportunity has fallen into the 'too difficult basket' simply because there is a lack of understanding, fear of change & general inertia within a company...

My only question to you now is do you have any tips on where we can start in order to shift this Institutional Dysfunction?

Clive Burcham said...

Companies are battening down the hatches, most larger Co's will or have become even more Institutional Dysfunction [for the time being], whilst others are thriving and striving.

This is an exciting time economically, a time to drive great innovation with clients and the media because no one is sitting comfortably on fat-ass yields!!

I get what you're saying. Keep pushing for change, great clients are out there and WILL respond to your offerings. errr umm, "the only constant is change" says j-jaffe-dawg and many others!

all humans naturally resist change. we're all faulty devices and that's cool.

"They" can have an many quick twitter accounts as they like, a strategy to back up the strategy and a TV ad with a catching ol tune....but it don't change crap if you don't change the entire customer experience! ie: the people who pick up the phone when you call customer service.

"and now back to the metaphor..."
In the end, all the great, innovative characters in The Wire get killed. Is that a metaphor for great marketing people? whoops, now I got my hand back on the mouse!

If you like The Wire, metaphor and evangelists... Watch HBO's DEADWOOD and think Channel Nine / PBL.

Zoe, before i sat down here, i put a book down beside me to read tonight called "who moved my cheese, an amazing way to deal with change in your work and in your life". Given to me by a fabulous change maker, Chris Savage. then i read your post......weird huh!!

In The Wire, Omar says "ya feel me"?

Kate Richardson said...

If leadership can be defined as helping people face difficult problems then this is one area that requires leadership from us all.

What you're describing is not unique to organisations - it's part of any group dynamic.

I think speaking up (like McNulty), but speaking with a purpose (not always McNulty) is a good place to start.

Matt M said...

Some late-night comments:
- It's all about finding leverage points. You cannot change everything at once.
- You have to follow the energy - and at the same time you have to guide it & focus it.
- Change is highly unpredictable (not matter what certain management gurus may tell you) and non-linear. For a while nothing seems to be happening. And then all hell breaks loose.
- Persistence is a highly under-rated virtue.

I need to hit you with some complexity science one Friday morning...

Ben Shepherd said...

The problem is a difficult one but my feeling is it comes back to resource like most things.

Companies want more results for less resource - lower staff numbers, agency fees etc

Digital channels generally require more resource per dollar spent.

This can be the hurdle.

I take my hat off to Telstra too but they're a big company with a huge spend and I would hazard a guess their social team on paper would not be scrutinised like their other CRM touchpoints in terms of ROI.

Remember too, companies often continue doing things the way they've always done them because they continue to work for them. I guess social media needs to present itself as something other than 'a shitload more work or responsibility for someone already at capacity'.

Daniel Oyston said...

Bang on the money Jules. I am not one who positions himself as a “social media expert”, in fact, I am far from it. I do however take a keen interest and spend dedicated time contributing, learning and thinking about it and its uses.

However, in the land of the blind the man with one eye is king! As such, I find myself in somewhat of a evangelist/agent role at my work.

I think the key to addressing the dysfunction is that the organisation acknowledges that there is an evangelist/agent driving social media change within an organisation and trust that, within reason, that they have the good of the company at heart and do in fact have a good understanding of the space.

Once that is accomplished the organisation must then actively encourage and “walk the journey” with the evangelist/agent because they can get very lonely and possibly disillusioned as they try to educate the organisation.

It isn’t that the organisation doesn’t care or isn’t interested but sometimes that impression can be unwittingly created as the business goes about doing things as normal.

I recommend both parties need to stick together until the organisation has somewhat of a light bulb moment and “gets it”.

It also takes a bit of a hard nose and stubborn approach from the evangelist/agent to not get put off because there may be a lack of enthusiasm from the organisation. But if the evangelist/agent truly believes in it then as Matt Moore said above “Persistence is a highly under-rated virtue”

Anonymous said...

Loved The Wire, one of my 3 favorite series along with Deadwood and Arrested Development.

David Simon also created one of the best miniseries I've ever seen, and I consume film, TV, cable, etc like Coolio consumes crack.

Its called Generation Kill, about the 1st recon marines during the 'Shock & Awe' campaign in Iraq. Another exploration of Institutional Dysfunction, this time with the fog of war clouding judgment, not to mention senior officers keen to add another star to their epaulets before the end of what they predict will be a quick war.

As with The Wire, those on the front line in Generation Kill are arbitrarily denied basic tools to get their job done efficiently, often due to misplaced priorities. I see that in many Australian businesses, where the majority of an ad budget is spent on a run-of-the-mill TVC campaign, while online struggles with pocket change.

The senior officers in corporations and Generation Kill desire quick, visible results with which to sate their hunger for credit and promotion. Neither wants to get mired in what they deem confounding and unnecessary like humanitarianism or social media.

The fundamental difference is that the senior officers in Generation Kill are responsible for lives and operating with the fog of war limiting their judgment. Corporations can claim no such excuse when children are adept with the tools they shun. Where metrics are freely available and candid consumer feedback can be clarified with engagement. Where positive ROI has been established as more likely than traditional media.

Its not like lives are stake when marketing directors tell their agency or the enthusiastic marketing junior that they're waiting to see how Twitter turns out...

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