A while ago I posted about using wikis to handle process failures, conversations around objects, and activity-centric collaboration; well these posts highly relate to informal processes and ad-hoc collaboration, which is something Jordan Frank know’s a lot about, and which the software firm he works for (Traction Software) can deliver in a way that really differentiates them from other players in the market like Jive SBS, Socialtext, Open Text Social Workplace, etc… I have left out the IBM Lotus Connections suite as the "Activities" module is in the same ball park as Traction.
Below is the video and some notes.
Jordan talks about processes and ad-hoc work using social tools:
- Workflow systems are great until they fail…a need to have a collaboration safety net.
- Collaboration is not necessarily about making the things that are planned go right, it’s about dealing with the things that are unplanned that go wrong.
- When something challenges the system, and the program team cannot deliver on time (things don’t go to plan…dealing with change and new context).
- We get into case where all of the work, and all of the value for our knowledge workers happens when things break…we change the plan, we discuss the issue, we adjust our priorities
- Besides social tools to help you workaround exceptions to business processes, I like how Jordan alludes to using social tools from the start, as new comers can have access to existing information to help sense-make when something goes wrong (rather then be sent a bunch of emails to make sense of). It’s hard to troubleshoot when what happened till now is not easily accessible or not recorded in a raw fashion…think Google Wave playback as a solution.
- You can’t anticipate a workflow for fixing a problem (with social tools like Teampage) you can model informal processes on the fly
- Jordan talks about a process for document approval, but the problem is by the time it’s developed the process is changed; further to this certain contexts present changes to how you action this process…by the time the process is designed it becomes unable to flex to these other ways to action the same process…and the designers aren’t able to keep up with the people.
- Jordan explains a simple DIY process that doesn’t need a designer and is totally adaptable to changes eg. Document review - tag document "toreview" and send to reviewers, they all leave comments. The person who approves it reads through the comments, and if is happy will tag it "done". This is just one example of a grassroots process using enabling tools that helps workers do their thing…a change from top-down centralised (planned/rigid) to bottom-up distributed (on-the-fly/flexible)
- Shifted from physical imposing of structure through databases and programming, to the more flexible managing by metadata (enforce rules by tribal power rather than constraints that you put into the rules in a program)
- More capable to flexing of today’s needs and changing with tomorrows needs…make sure when business conditions change your business processes don’t get left behind…why do business processes that were designed for two years ago, when we are trying to tackle objectives for today
Here’s a Traction whitepaper that demonstrates using social tools to actually do work.
In another interview on Bas Reus’s blog (which is one of my favourites), Jordan talks about riffing off existing structure and constraints:
"Key is to make use of existing organizational structures, and play with constraints. Keep them, make them or bypass them where necessary. Structures can always change…"
"Zone defense is a bit less structured than man-on-man. Zone defense requires constant adjustments and on-field co-ordination. So, there is a structure indicating an area a player defends at the start, but the structure may change as a play is executed and the players self-organize to adapt."