Friday, November 25, 2011

25-Page Social Media Rule Book. Really?

According to a recent Ottawa Citizen article. A 25-page rule book for social media that was years in the making. Really? What are they thinking?!?!?  With so much demand on everyone's time, and the amount of discretion that people can exercise in their day to day work, who has time to read, make sense of and apply this extensive a guideline set for one small aspect of their work?   Granted, there are always some people who make bad decisions, as this story about an MP using profanity in his tweets exemplifies, but 25 pages?!?!

At least that was my first reaction.  But of course, it's always a good idea to go to the source and check facts.
The guidelines, first released on November 18th, and published on the Canadian Treasury Board web site, are, in my opinion, not what you would first think, or perhaps what the media would imply.

If you give the guidelines a quick read, or even look at the table of contents, they are not for individuals specifically, but for government departments to use as a framework for making strategic decisions and for contextualizing direction for departmental staff. Section 5, for example, offers consideration for creating guidelines for staff.

The guidelines are not a difficult read, are not something that would be referred to on a frequent basis, but would be good input to a broader Internet strategy.

Sure, there are always ways to refine, simplify language, make writing clearer, but at some point it has to be 'good enough.'  Given what I believe to be the audience / purpose for these guidelines, I think they are more than good enough, and a pretty good job on the part of the authors.

But, you be the judge.

Friday, September 09, 2011

"Smart" Meeting Participation

Chris Corrigan's blog post Titled Helping Participants Learn led me to Johnnie Moore’s Weblog: Facilitation for participants, which led me to Steve Davis's post / book excerpt titled 12 Acts of Courage to Change Meetings for Good.

I love the notion that effective meetings are not solely the chair/facilitator's responsibility, and their are always more participants than meeting leaders. Meeting participants need to be accountable for their own action/inaction in meetings. I know in a lot of the meetings I attend, I wish more participants would:

  • "Keep your group on target by avoiding tangents."
  • "Realize and express your truth in service to the group."
  • "Transform conflict into a spirit of collaboration."
  • "Be curious, observant, and patient."
I think perhaps Davis' book This Meeting Sux, 12 Acts of Courage to Change Meetings for Good might be a great employee handout.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Liberalism, Conservatism and Organizational Change Management

I just stumbled upon a Psychology Today article titled The Ideological Animal that made for a very interesting read.  The author positions political stances as less of an intellectual exercises and more of a product of our childhood, education, and, quite surprisingly, fear of death.

For the topic at hand, though, the above article contains some interesting comparisons between liberal and conservative personalities, as derived from a number of significant psychological studies.  A few examples:

  • Liberals are messier than conservatives, their rooms have more clutter and more color, and they tend to have more travel documents, maps of other countries, and flags from around the world.
  • Conservatives are neater, and their rooms are cleaner, better organized, more brightly lit, and more conventional. Liberals are more optimistic.
  • Conservatives are more likely to be religious.
  • Conservatives have a greater desire to reach a decision quickly and stick to it, and are higher on conscientiousness, which includes neatness, orderliness, duty, and rule-following. Liberals are higher on openness, which includes intellectual curiosity, excitement-seeking, novelty, creativity for its own sake, and a craving for stimulation like travel, color, art, music, and literature. 
  • Conservatives have less tolerance for ambiguity.Liberals, on the other hand, are more likely to see gray areas and reconcile seemingly conflicting information.
If an organization has a predominance of one personality type / political stance versus another, I can certainly see how the communications / change management strategy would differ, ranging from more conventional, methodological, structured, with no surprises, to more emergent, conversational, and creative. And, obviously, it is important to align expectations of the scope / pace of change with the conservative or liberal nature of the organization.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Typical Knowledge Problems

I've been asked by colleagues recently - "What business problems does knowledge management solve?"  Obviously a good question, but it also caused me to reflect on how much of what is written about knowledge management is from the solution perspective - knowledge management definitions, tools, techniques, methods  and approaches - and less about how to recognize a business problem for which a knowledge management "solution" is appropriate.

So, here is a business problem for which knowledge management is a solution.

We all work in complex environments, where no one person knows the answer, in particular to a never before faced situation/problem or issue, or a completely new context for a known problem. Not only that, but as every situation and context is different, even the best of "best practices" (a misnomer in my opinion) need to be adapted if they are to be at all useful. The nature of the problem could be any business process, management challenge, technical hurdle etc. Imagine anything from "How can I best evolve my talent acquisition process?" "How do I adapt my financial management processes to align with new international reporting standards?" to "How can I stimulate the generation of more profitable ideas in our research and development group?"

Seems logical, then, to tap into external thinking and learning to try determine the best course of action. The approach / process used to tap into this external thinking / learning is considered, in today's context, a knowledge management solution.

McKinsey's article titled Using Knowledge Brokering to Improve Business Process positions seeking external thinking as "knowledge brokering," and uses process / open innovation as the broader business problem/context. But you may have heard this learning before doing process referred to as a peer assist process as defined by Collison / Parcell in their book Learning to Fly.  Regardless the name, using an explicit, disciplined process to identify knowledgeable people and tap into their insights and knowledge is a knowledge management solution. 

To maximize value from the knowledge brokering / peer assist process, the context must be the business problem.  It is not enough to ask people about their experiences / lessons learned, then be saddled with the challenge of applying that learning to the problem.  The problem itself should be the context for the conversation and drive the learning - the people who have experience and knowledge to offer should themselves apply it to collaboratively defining the problem and building solutions. That is the real power of knowledge brokering / peer assists.

(If you're looking to identify your own knowledge problems, a great starting point is the KM Diagnostic Cards available from Straights Knowledge.)

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Key Collaborative Behavours

Reflecting on a number of meetings I've been involved in the last few months, I'm realizing that three key behaviors are required for effective collaboration (and just plain old good teamwork):

Limit your airtime.
There are many people who always monopolize the time available in meetings and consume the vast majority of airtime with their (on the positive side) ideas, enthusiasm and excitement, their (on the negative side) assertiveness, aggressiveness, and sometimes ego. If you want to be collaborative, and contribute to a collaborative environment, give others the time and opportunity to contribute to the conversation.

Invite contributions.
More than just allowing time/opportunity to contributions, an invitation is a very powerful device for encouraging participation. Questions like "What do you think?" "How do you feel about... ?" "What would you do about...?" when asked genuinely/sincerely, will draw out perspectives worth considering, even from the most reluctant of participants.

Chose the right time and tone for critique/criticism.
One of the easiest ways for smart people to demonstrate they are smart is to look for, find and point out faults in logic, ideas or plans.  At the wrong time, criticism, in particular if it's harsh, can completely stifle creativity/innovation, in particular in the early stages of idea generation and exploration. As I'm sure most of you have seen, withering criticism can also create a climate that discourages more introverted people from sharing their thinking. So, defer critique and criticism to later in the thinking process, once the ideas are generated and will articulated. Then, when it is time to analyze and think critically, do so in a positive tone and "on the same team" as others, exploring the thinking objectively for gaps within the context of the conversation.

"Check-in" for common understanding.
We all view what happens around us differently, thanks to our DNA and our experiences that create the mental models and filters we use every day. Just because something is written, illustrated, or presented on a PowerPoint slide, don't assume that everyone shares the same understanding. Do your self a favor - test for common understanding about key ideas and concepts before everyone walks out of the room. Ask people questions like "What does that mean for you?" "Explain in your own words.. " "How does this apply in  your context.. ?" "If you had to explain this to someone else, how would you.. ?"  If you are doing the presenting, use illustrative examples to ensure everyone is "on the same page."  Simply asking people "Do you understand?" is not really a good test for common understanding.

Limiting. Inviting. Timing. Checking-in.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

A Pithy Article on Leadership for the Future

I came across a Knowledge@Wharton article today titled Deloitte CEO Barry Salzberg on Leadership as 'the Norm, Not the Exception.' Like most of you I'm sure, pressed for time, I always appreciate a short, pithy, relevant article with substance. If you have a minute, it's well worth the read - it does a nice job of capturing what I think are many of today's key leadership issues and recommendations including:
  • "Gone is the day of the old command-and-control environment, the climb-the-ladder model, in which the employee kept quiet and didn't say too much, certainly not much beyond what was asked and tasked..."
  • "Gone, too, is the densely layered organizational hierarchy [and] dinosaur-like structures that are too slow and lumbering for today's environment."
  • “...leadership needs to be "flat" today. It needs to be transparent.”
  • "No longer is leadership about a few exceptional leaders at the top of the organization. Rather, the future is about exceptional teams and the leaders within those teams who can out-maneuver, out-manage and out-innovate their competition."
  • “ never know where the best ideas will come from.”
  • “If you build a supportive environment where everyone is expected to contribute, you'll get synergies and creative ideas you never imagined were possible."
  • “In a global world, leaders are required at all levels of the organization, not just at the top.”
  • "The corporate lattice metaphor signals a shift in mindset. It's better reflective of today's employees, who want variety and flexibility and reject a one-size-fits-all approach."
  • "Another leadership relic, according to Salzberg: the idea of a "ruling elite in the clouds of some bureaucratic Mount Olympus."
  • Leaders today must also be transparent, especially in today's socially networked world, said Salzberg. "In today's social media environment, it's fascinating to see how in 10 seconds what you say is spread throughout the organization. There are few hiding places."
  • The best leaders are ... generous with their experience, time and understanding that leadership is a life-long journey that is best made with trusted companions...”
Overall, well worth the read.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Looking for a New Edge in Knowledge Management?

Have you picked up your copy of The New Edge in Knowledge: How Knowledge Management Is Changing the Way We Do Business yet? If you've had interest in knowledge management over the last "x" years, you know that knowledge management is challenging subject area / management practice to understand, and within which to develop and implement practical, impactful initiatives that provide individual and organizational benefit. It is also often a difficult subject to have management conversations about, in particular when some managers don't understand that part of their responsibility is managing social processes for learning and knowledge sharing inside their organizations.

What I really liked about The New Edge in Knowledge, and why I think it should should occupy first place on your book shelf or e-shelf, is that it brings significant clarity and resolution to all the key KM challenges and questions such as: What is knowledge management? What is its relationship to information management and corporate culture? What type of initiatives comprise knowledge management? Where do social / collaboration technologies fit in? How do I measure success? How do I enable change? What should we do next?

Most importantly, this is not a practitioner's bible. It is a business oriented, practical view, based on solid research and best practices, that will inform effective strategic thinking and decision making about how to best improve the processes and practices people to create, share, and learn from information and from each other in a business context. That this is an excellent resource is not a surprise given the authors (Carla O'Dell and Cindy Hubert) and the organization (APQC).

I think this book fills an important void. There is lots of very valuable academic research and practitioner information about knowledge management, but a notable absence of business oriented, jargon-free material for managers/decision makers.  "Edge," like it's predecessor by the same authors, is an excellent business read.

Buy it. Learn from it. Use it. Then consider leveraging other APQC KM resources.  You won't be disappointed.

Friday, March 11, 2011

ECM Critical Success factors Part 2

In a previous post titled, ECM Critical Success Factors, I reflected on a number of factors that I believe contribute to ECM success; strategically oriented leadership, learning orientation, experienced based subject matter expertise, communicating realistic expectations, and focusing on organizational readiness. I also touched on Top Ten Characteristics of a Really Good Business Transformation / ECM Project Manager.

There are a couple of other ECM critical success factors I'd like to explore in this post.

Think Enterprise Architecture
Even in the context of implementing Basic Content Services, it is very easy to succumb to a focus on technological views, opportunities, and challenges, in particular given the growing technical complexity of organizational technology infrastructures. One of the failures of many ECM projects is an insufficient focus on business processes / requirements and the needs for managing information created in those contexts, resulting in unusable solutions, significant resistance to change, and perpetuating of the status quo of managing, nor not managing, information.

This is where an Enterprise Architecture view, and even a partnership with an Enterprise Architecture group, is essential. Regardless of the approach, Enterprise Architecture / Architects focus first on business architecture, then information/data/applications to enable the business, then the enabling technology.

Not respecting this order of analysis / design, or attempting to do all three simultaneously during an ECM implementation, creates unnecessary complexity, anxiety and cost/schedule over-runs.

Having Enterprise Architecture as a key partner in the early planning / analysis and design stages can be of significant value.

Use Knowledge Management for Successful ECM
If you can stipulate that, differentiated from Information Management, Knowledge Management focuses on the processes / practices that enable people to share what they know, learn from each other, and work effectively towards a common goal, then knowledge management is a significant enabler of an ECM project or program.

ECM brings together a number of often competing perspectives - external supplier, client, service provider, project management, internal partner - and a number of disciplines - communications, IT, IM, security/privacy, legal/audit - with divergent interests, understanding, and language.

Combine this with the propensity to assume that "magic" happens when all the "right" people are in the room, and you've got the proverbial recipe for disaster.
Applying a knowledge management mind-set to shifting how people work together will ensure that:

  • learning before, while and after doing is embedded in the way the ECM project is scoped, managed and delivered and communicated
  • people effectively work together towards common goals, and personal / hidden agendas are subordinate to the common ones
  • problems / issues are properly identified and dealt with quickly productively / transparently
  • positive attitudes and a sense of team accomplishment is pervasive, rather than negativism / defeatism, and individualism
Seriously Consider an "Agile" Approach
Traditional "waterfall" project management, as often applied even today, has an underlying presumption of predictability. Project managers, project sponsors and key stakeholders presume a high degree of certainty / accuracy about the breakdown/ scope of work, schedules, resource use and costs, even when the project is large, complex and spans a year or more.

Unfortunately, given the complexity of organizations, and the pace of change everyone experiences, little works out as planned.
For most ECM implementations I strongly suggest an approach that explicitly embeds experiential learning and re-planning / iteration at FREQUENT key points in the project – and most importantly, sets and manages stakeholder expectations accordingly.

Some recommended reading/references:

The Blending of Traditional and Agile Project Management (PM World Today - May 2007 (Vol. IX, Issue V)

Stage Gate Process – divides project work into phases related to key management decisions.

Mike 2.0 – links agile project management ideas with ECM/IM implementations.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Rejection Stimulates Brain Pain Centre

Fascinating!  In her recent blog post titled Ouch!  You Excluded Me, Carol Kinsey Goman references a UCLA study that uncovered that feelings of rejection stimulate the dorsal portion of the anterior cingulate cortex, much as physical pain does.

Perhaps those leaders who strive for results at all costs with no consideration of their impact on others, or change leaders implementing strategies that have a small team making decisions for everyone else, should reconsider their approach.