Thursday, December 31, 2009

Bridging Organizational Silos

Gems from Karl Albrecht's white paper titled Organizational Intelligence & Knowledge Management: Thinking Outside the Silos.

  • Albrecht's Law: Intelligent people, when assembled into an organization, will tend toward collective stupidity. (Who hasn't experienced this one?)
  • Intelligent organizations are those with Strategic Vision, Appetite for Change, (internal) Alignment & Congruence, “Heart”, Shared Fate, Free Flow of Knowledge, and Performance Pressure.
  • Enablers of organizational intelligence are Thought Leaders, Communities of Interest, (judicial use) of task forces /ad-hoc teams, and knowledge platforms to support knowledge deployment.
One element I think is missing from Albrecht's list is rewards and recognition. A very smart colleague and friend once said that you can't expect an individual to be an effective team member if they are rewarded/recognized more for solo effort than team contributions and playing a role in team success. I think bridging silos is also about ensuring that implicit / explicit reward/recognition systems and actions do not reinforce a siloed model, despite our very human tendency to think of "me" and "we" before thinking about the broader "us."

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Let's Acknowledge "Practices"

I was reviewing some documentation about Information Management governance today and came across that ubiquitous people-->process-->technology model again. When I see it, regardless of its flavour, I always reflect on the way we approach organizational change, in particular change driven / enabled by technology, with an underlying presumption of a completely "engineerable" end to end solution.

There seems to be a regular failure to acknowledge that "people exercise free will as they see fit, in all circumstances." Knowledge workers in particular make hundreds of micro-decisions on a daily basis. Their attention, time, support, contributions and even compliance with changes to how work is done, when there is latitude for discretion, can only be volunteered. This means clear direction, encouragement and support at a wide variety of levels are required vs. an expectation that either staff will "do what they are told" or that they simply need options other than compliance removed.

So let's start using a people-->practice-->process-->technology model so we can accomodate the human factor, and acknowledge that not all work can be reduced to a series of detailed "must do" steps in a process flow chart.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Social Media Increases User Information Management Burden

On Monday December 7th, Google began including real-time feeds from Twitter, Facebook and MySpace in search results, with more real-time feeds to be added in the future.

Certainly, the upside is the accessibility of a lot of outstanding content created/captured in these social applications. The downside is that it also increases the burden on each and every user to:

  • pick the right (one or few) communications/ information sharing channel
  • manage privacy settings/security in each channel to ensure that only the information we want broadly available is broadly available - in so much as the software enables you to control security
  • be expremely dilligent about reading social networking sites privacy policies
  • carefully consider the broader impact / implications of content contributed in one context to other contexts / channels through which you are known - for example, being consistent with ideas and perspectives across multiple channels to ensure that contradictions aren't surfaced and criticized in online discussions
  • manage the connections / potential colisions between one or more "personal' presences and professional ones - it may be getting more and more difficult to separate the two
  • be dilligent about the type and nature of information about themselves they expose on the internet as it is becoming easier all the time to aggregate, combine and analyze through advanced data mining techniques
Perhaps in the past siloing of information in the differernt Internet-based social media applications provided a certain degree of de-facto information security, but, based on the recent Google announcement, "times they are a changin'."

Friday, December 11, 2009

Respectful Practices in Social Media

A few years back, I had some great conversations with The Email Shrink, and a concept that he spoke of often was "respectful practices" in the use of email - one of them I'll paraphrase as don't flood your colleague's business email boxes with unnecessary junk - anything from a pointless "CC" to forwarding those intrnet chain messages containing jokes, photos or videos. The impact of doing this is pretty obvious - additional workload to deal with the unwanted emails. The point I take from this is consider the receiver before pushing Send.

So, I was looking at Facebook last night noticed that over 1/2 of the news feeds are generated from apps like Snowball Fight, Island Paradise, The Warlords, Tartan Treasures, Farmville, etc. etc. etc. which makes it difficult to identify (what for me is) more important updates and information provided by the friends network. I certainly respect and support people having the right to decide what they do (plus, "people will exercise free will as they see fit in all circumstances"), but I also think that social media, in particular as it is used in the workplace, will require additional considerations by everyone to ensure we all don't end up collapsing under the weight of having to deal with all the unwanted information. Plus, many of the min-apps available in social applications require that recipients take specific steps to block / opt-out of receiving information automatically generated. Again, more unnecessary work.

So, to all social media users out there, consider for a moment the impact of your choices on the members of your "network".

For business looking to leverage social media inside the enterprise, it might be advantageous to consider limiting the number of non-work related apps that can be installed on your social media platform. The risk of unnecessary distractions and productivity loss is significant, as is the impact of having this type of content around the organization in scope for any form of legal discovery.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Rewarding Employee Engagement

The November/December 2009 edition of Ivy  Business Journal features The Four Intrinsic Rewards That Drive Employee Engagement by Kenneth W. Thomas.  Unlike many other discussions abour rewarding employees that are rooted in industrial age "carrot and stick" thinking, the author offers a far more realistic approach, and some great tips for taking action.

Thomas identifies the key rewards highly relevant, from my perspective, to knowledge workers in all generations:
  • meaningful work
  • control over how work is performed
  • sense of competence, pride and satisfaction in the work
  • sense of progress
Later in the article he further defines the rewards and what is required to implement/changes in an organizational context.

He concludes with a point that resonates a lot for me. Thomas advocates not using a traditional top down method for building the rewards, but a participatory one, where employees themselves analyze situations and suggest solutions.  This approach, the author claims, will foster the high levels of engagement and excitement that will enable the organization and its people to better adapt to the changes.

Given what I'm reading and experiencing with multiple generations at work I think Thomas provides an excellent framework and approach that will be useful in many different contexts.

Friday, December 04, 2009

8 Things You Need to Know About Collaboration


  1.  Collaboration is over used and mis-used and is becoming a buzzword for business people and technologists alike
  2. Collaboration isn’t the same as cooperation or coordination - each have different processes, practices and depth of engagement
  3. Collaboration is a human process – throwing technology at people won’t magically/automatically create collaboration
  4. Meaningful, productive collaboration won’t happen without mutuality of desired outcomes, shared values of transparency and information sharing, compassion, compromise
  5. Collaboration implies that "the needs of the many, outweigh the needs of the few or the needs of the one" and sometimes people aren’t really interested in living by that principle
  6. Collaboration isn’t always the best process
  7. Collaboration is not equal to Web 2.0
  8. Collaboration can be a source of real value in the face of complex environments and situations where no single person has the right answer

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Important Things Facilitators Should Know About Adults in a Group Settng

Does anyone doubt that a facilitated workshop of virtually any type involves learning? Hopefully not. So if you have a room full of adults who are learning as part of achiving a shared outcome, it is a good idea to have an understanding of the adult as a learner.

In the mid '80s when I joined a training company, the VP Education made it a point of ensuring that I had a good grounding in andragogy and adult education popularized by Malcom Knowles in the 1970s. Since then, and in a number of roles throughout my career, including management consulting, change management, facilitation training, developing e-learning strategies, marketing and communications, I've always tried to keep adult learning in mind, and have regularly refered back to 30 Things We Know for Sure About Adult Learning, written by Ron and Suzan Zemke, and publised in a number of trainining related magazines.

Many of these "things" should have a direct bearning on workshop design and the presentation of new learning content leading up to any analysis, cause analysis, decision making and planning etc..

Another good reference is The Adult Learner, Some Things We Know by Robin Fogharty and Brian M. Pete. They explore the adult learner in a change context.