An email was sent to a bunch of leads the other day about the progress of our new document management server.
At the end of the email it said to pass this information on to our teams.
Need to Know - Scattered and Slow - Private by default
The way I see it each lead will send a version of this email to their teams, and then they will all have silo’d conversations.
Then certain leads will want clarification or have a question to ask, but will not include all the other leads on that email.
Then back to their teams again….
Back and forth, back and forth…the same topic being conversed in different groups…the scattered and slow approach.
On some occasions some of the leads will not pass on the message, or maybe the lead didn’t get one of the emails, and maybe the lead will slip passing on your feedback…and if they do you may not be attributed.
Then one day the change comes and people say why wasn’t I communicated about this…this initiative doesn’t even factor in how we work…if they consulted us the change could at least reflect to make the way we work easier and more productive. They don’t have a clue about ground zero. This is the enterprise gap!
Worker: Resist…ignore new process, use my backdoor workaround.
Manager: How come this change is being resisted…email the change management guy we need to "push" this.
Yuck, the word "push"…anyway this shows how a lack of visibility, co-creation, and bottlenecks that managers have the potential to be, lead to ineffectiveness…need a KM Flow Doctor!
Actually this takes me back to my corporate plot post.
Good to Know - Contained and Quick - Public by default
Here’s how I would have done it.
Believe it or not we actually have a Community of Practice (CoP) for this initiative.
I would have written a blog post instead of an email
- Our blogs have an email address, so we can publish a post by emailing the blog
- Since not all these people may subscribe to the blog I would have emailed these people the link to the blog post
- In the email I would mention to them to leave a comment on the blog if they had any queries
- I would also mention in the email for them to subscribe to the blog to get further comments (unfortunately our platform doesn’t have post level subscriptions like a "Watchlist")
- When you are subscribed you get emailed new posts and comments, and can use the email reply button to have comments conversations
- Basically you don’t even have to visit the blog itself to read and interact
Now each of these people can just pass on the link to the people in their teams.
Subscribers and browsers to the blog will also be informed.
And everyone can have ONE conversation in the ONE spot.
Basically email becomes the vehicle for having the conversation, but yet no-one is personally sent an email; instead every email is sent to the blog object (social object), which people subscribe to ("pull" approach).
And at the end the blog object also stores the information.
Naturally we begin to think that the whole idea of the email client needs to be evolved…something like Tweetdeck, but more of an email client look, hello Lotus Notes, the "business inbox". Fuser and others have being doing this on the consumer web for years.
What results from using social tools
- Transparency (communicating progress in the open…"public" by default)
- Less distorted message (no interpretations, straight from the source, less gossip/rumors, access to raw facts allows you to re-mix and re-frame content)
- Workers can offer feedback in discussions they normally would not be a part of (co-creation helps make the initiative more relevant to people who will actually use it…therefore less need for change management)
- Diverse input (people not involved in either end of the change initiative may come across the conversation and add valuable input)
- Workers feel engaged that they are included in discussions (happy workplace, build an influence by reputation)
- Everyone is informed of the "know-why" (rather than just reading a report, they now know of, and can take part in the raw conversations…all the decisions that led to the final product)
This will help solve the fundamental issue that all organisations seem to face…the silo syndrome, communication and awareness breakdown, scattered and slow dialogue.
NOTE: Silos are natural and strong, and we need them. It’s just that each silo is not the enterprise, so to be effective we need to be aware and collaborate across silos…so we bridge silos, not smash them.
A support tool, a new literacy
Social computing (or KM) is not a strategy, it’s a support tool, a sense-making tool, a way of being…just like the phone, email, IM…
We can use these tools to improve sales, improve brand awareness, improve customer service, fix a problem, fix a process, etc…are these strategies/tactics, or simply using tools to achieve (support) your job tasks…difference to the past is that these tools (there use) can have a cultural impact in a deeper way…they challenge the dynamics of relationships, openness, power, routines, habits.
You could say we could use new social tools for everything, that’s why we see HR 2.0, Sales 2.0, Marketing 2.0, etc…that’s why existing products are starting to get features like blogs, social networks. So really it’s a way of being or a literacy, rather than a strategy. But yes, to get buy-in you may go the strategy route; but that’s just to get your foot in the door, and it’s also to help the blank faces when they are given tools that aren’t designed to do a specific thing…and what it takes to get adoption (the difference between transactional and interactional).
Visibility, connectedness (not just a horizontal slice of the org, but a network), and conversations are key.
What’s stopping this at the actioning or "doing" level (in relation to the anecdote I shared at the start of this post):
1. Design (have to visit the blog, rather than quickly shoot an email…but the blog does have it’s own email address, just need to remember to put it in your email contacts, and if you subscribe you can get new posts emailed and replying will publish a comment)
2. Habit and routine (this needs to be facilitated…rinse and repeat)
3. The message may want to be filtered for the masses (in this case the message was quite general)
4. Us and them syndrome (I have worked up my way in the hierarchy to be privy to these types of conversations…part of my status is to pass messages up and down the chain)
Subject Matter Networks
Another way of looking at the sense-making perspective is saying that we are moving from Subject Matter Experts to Subject Matter Networks. In the sense that it’s not about in-house gurus, it’s about people connecting in the network to do their work…much more normal, practical and resilient.
Mark Oehlert on this:
"…we needed to be thinking differently…if we just used social media to build more ways to get to SMEs, then we wouldn’t fix what was broken…our ability to access the expertise that we need, when we need it - either in order to answer a question, provide input into a course design or for some other purpose - we didn’t need better access to Subject-Matter Experts…we needed access to Subject-Matter Networks. (SMNs)
Eric Davidove shares the details:
"Some key conclusions from the research:
I like this study because it demonstrates the hidden value of blogs and wikis.
This study also helps us further understand that the formal organizational chart and company designated experts are not necessarily the best “maps” for finding expertise or the most qualified experts in the company.
Social media such as blogs and wikis will help us to identify the established and emerging experts and to go beyond the “usual suspects.”
And I like Simon Bostock’s touch:
"The reasons that other people approach those experts has as much to do with approachability, generosity and perspicacity as it does with expertise."
Rex Lee talks about removing barriers:
"Enterprise 1.0, would suggest that only specialized, trained individuals with the resources knew how to find pearls…
Enterprise 2.0 suggests that we can simplify and remove some of the "specialization" barriers to enable more people to search for pearls
Tune processes of engagement
Just to quickly go off on a small tangent (which relates to my previous post on ad-hoc processes). Rex suggests that the tools are not enough, in that we need to tune processes and attitudes. He gave the example of sales people using a wiki rather than Marketing, as the Sales people were more agile on this type of information. But existing processes are not going to bring fruit to this good idea; why would sales people contribute when hoarding gets them ahead, when it means less time spent selling.
I asked similar questions in my post, I don’t want to share, that’s counter to meeting my objectives…and reward!! (hehehehe, just noticed I quoted Rex in that post)
"Without social engineering and modifying processes, models, policies and education, the initiative was doomed to fail before it even started.
There seems to be a belief that by just letting all conversation flow in blogs, tweets, forums, wiki’s, etc…, that corporations will find great nuggets of insight, that people will connect and come up with great ideas, that agility and holistic understanding will be natural outcomes. Although this may be true, we don’t need to leave it at that.
Proper social engineering in leveraging social technologies can enable organization to focus the potential of their employees & business partners to drive specific business value of higher quality and in shorter time frames. This requires and understanding the engagement factors (motivation, opportunity, capability) and taking initiative to design and facilitate within the environment."
"Enterprise 2.1 would suggest that rather than "serendipitously" finding pearls, that we coordinate our efforts to actually create pearl farms."
Let’s finish off
Simon Bostock gets to the reality of it (just substitute KM for social computing/networks):
"At some point, when a skill becomes so important, it ceases to be somebody’s job but becomes a literacy. We no longer have scriveners (or many secretaries for that matter) because we’re all expected to write.
At what point will we face up to the fact that Knowledge Management is no longer a respectable job (or PR or HR or marketing?) but a literacy?"
[ADDED 10/06/10 - Policy memo’s are not leadership
“Pentagon leadership today craft new strategies and implement them via policy memo. These memos can often be summarized as “All programs must now do X”. To the thousands of program managers out there who read them, they think: “SIGH….Great, add that to the pile”. Once that policy memo is emailed out, what’s the follow-up implementation? Staffs spend months and years interpreting meanings and sorting out implementation strategies while leadership often don’t hear of issues until a few programs fail.
If leadership maintained a blog, they could share their vision and thoughts as part of an ongoing dialogue with the community. The community early on can understand where leadership is going on an issue, long before a policy memo is staffed, approved, and distributed. Feedback can be provided to Pentagon leadership on issues that may arise and lessons learned“]
[ADDED 10/06/10 - How to Break the Tyranny of E-mail]