Tag Archives: Social Business

Intertwingled in Plain Sight

Intertwingled

All Things Are Ultimately Intertwingled

I’m going to continue on a theme from my 4th of July entry, where I kind of resurrected an old post of mine from Content Management Connection. This time, however, it’s not a post of mine but that of a friend, Greg Lloyd – President and co-founder of Traction Software, Inc.

There are two terms I remember from when I first read Greg’s post – originally published on July 5, 2010 – which have helped me understand what I expect from the application of knowledge management and social business (formerly Enterprise 2.0 © ) design concepts and tools. These two terms also help me describe several of the most important attributes and indications of a well functioning, successful organization or group. They are “intertwingled” and “observable work”.

As a knowledge management professional (hemidemisemiretired) my long-standing and overarching goal has been to help people (and their organizations) improve on their ability to make sense of the huge amount of data that flows from their work. Doing so requires consideration of both macro-environmental factors and micro-environmental factors. For me, intertwingle describes the macro environment and observable work is what helps the micro environment to thrive. Let me very briefly explain why I believe this. Then I’ll send you off to Greg’s wonderful post where he explains it far better than I am capable of doing.

I frequently use the term “systems thinking” to describe what I see as an ongoing process of understanding that recognizes the interconnection, as well as the interdependency, of . . . well . . . everything. Useful systems thinking also requires the ability to see boundary conditions in pursuit of knowledge, but keeps the systemic nature of all things in mind when considering how they work. The word ‘intertwingle” seems to succinctly embody what I just spent a paragraph attempting to explain; probably not very well. :(

“Observable work”, on the other hand, evokes a vision of people communicating with each other and the data and information essential to the smooth functioning of the work they do. It promises not necessarily the disappearance of silos, but does suggest making those silos – and the varying and very real relationships they have with each other – more transparent and discernible.

There’s much, much more that flows from these two concepts but, since I have no intention of rewriting that which has already been published, I urge you to read Greg’s post. If you have the time and the inclination, you may want to follow some of the numerous links he provides that serve to further define and illustrate these two concepts. Think of it as a quest to find the social business/knowledge management version of the Higgs Boson particle or, at least, the Gluon.  Here’s the link.


Getting to Observable Work

Observable Work

We Can Work Smarter & More Effectively When We Can See What Our Colleagues Are Doing.

One of the concepts I think best conveys what many are trying to do with social media inside organizations, mostly large ones, is that of “working out loud” or “observable work”. The idea is that one’s efforts and day-to-day activities are conducted in such a way as anyone who wants to can find and see visible artifacts of that work.

There are numerous benefits to doing this. One way in which it is highly beneficial is it obviates the need for regular activity reporting. Where I used to work, a great deal of time was spent at the end of each month as employees gathered information and wrote up their reports on the activity they could recall or that they had been organized enough to make notes about.

Once they had done so, these reports went from the workers to first-level managers, who read, edited, consolidated, and passed the information up. This continued through the organizational hierarchy until it finally reached the President, where it had been re-written, re-organized, and (sometimes) thoroughly filtered to ensure bad news wasn’t included or was glossed over or minimized. Not the best way to do business, IMO. It was very stressful and quite time consuming.

A good friend and long-time blogger in the field of knowledge management and social media – Luis Suarez of IBM – recently summarized the most important issues he got from last month’s Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston. Especially useful to enabling observable work, I think, is Alan Lepofsky‘s concept of social task management, which Luis discusses in an excellent post on CMS Wire. There’s lots of good info Luis offers there as well as some links to other stuff, including one to an excellent Slideshare presentation on Social Fatigue. Check it out yourself:

http://www.cmswire.com/cms/social-business/social-task-management-when-social-business-got-down-to-work-016309.php


Are You Comfortable With Being Social?

A Child's Trust

Trust. Catch Some!

Funny thing about blogging. Unless someone takes the time to comment, or they subscribe, there’s no way to know who is reading and what interests them. There are lots of tools to figure out where traffic comes from, including a list of the search terms that brought people to my site, but it really doesn’t help me understand as thoroughly as I’d like which of my posts strikes a chord

On the other hand, I’ve been testing the waters with a couple of different styles and I’m working on changing voice as well. So, I’m mostly writing to say what I have to say and it’s kind of like “damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead” . . . “let the chips fall where they may”. That isn’t to say I don’t care. I do. What it does say, though, is I’m not sure who will be interested in what I’m sharing today.

My history with, and interest in, Enterprise 2.0 (now mostly referred to as “Social Business“) has brought me a lot of “friends” I would not otherwise have encountered. When I say “friends” I am referring to people, some of whom I have never met in person, and some of whom I’ve only actually seen once in my life. The person who gave the presentation that appears below is one of the latter, though we’ve communicated in various ways in the past nearly two years.

I first met him at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston in June of 2010. I didn’t realize it at the time, but later discovered he coined what had become one of my favorite words – folksonomy. I had been arguing for some time that we (Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, where I was working) should concentrate less on a formal taxonomy for our explicit knowledge artifacts (meaning paper reports and electronic files) and go with tagging, which would create a useful folksonomy. Actually, I was arguing at the time for developing a hybrid, i.e. providing a “recommended” set of tags, allowing leeway in using them and creating new ones, and occasionally “culling” the list to get rid of the less useful tags while retaining the most useful ones for later use.

At any rate, Thomas has become a valuable source of understanding. I appreciate his insights and only wish I was in a position to attend more conferences and the kinds of presentations from which I can learn other viewpoints about the use of social media, especially for business. While I have some reasonably well-developed concepts and a fairly good understanding, there are so many areas where others have far more experience than I, especially when it comes to the information technology (including IA, Information Architecture) aspects of how it affects people and their relationships.

Below I’ve embedded the presentation Thomas gave at a recent conference on IA, which he just uploaded to Slideshare. Since he uses the same philosophy of presenting that I and many others do, i.e. avoid bullet points wherever humanly possible, use lots of interesting graphics, and talk your butt off, I can’t be quite certain I understand the point(s) behind every slide, but I think I get his drift. In fact, I love the concept of “Social Comfort” as I spent many years working to alleviate the discomfort so many of my colleagues seemed to feel back in the day. I also like his idea of avoiding use of the word “Trust” and – instead – substitute related words that evoke a feeling of trust, e.g. dependable, believable, treasured, consistent, honest, etc.

Going back to my use of the word “friends” for people I don’t really know or, at least, have never met in person. I consider them friends precisely because over time they have shown themselves to be dependable, consistent, honest, etc. That is, I’ve come to trust them based on numerous instances of conversation or reading something they’ve chosen to share not only with me, but with the entire online community. People who are unworthy of our trust don’t stick their necks out very often . . . if at all. The people I consider friends do so repeatedly, which is something I cherish.

I hope you can glean something useful from Thomas’s presentation. I believe I have. Feel free to comment here or to go to Slideshare and comment directly to Thomas if there’s something you don’t get or would like to discuss with him further.

Trust photo by mikebaird


Occupy Communities

The title for this post comes from a session my friend, Trisha Liu, has proposed for this June’s Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston, MA. I came across it the other day quite serendipitously while checking a few Twitter streams on my iPad as I waited for my car to be washed. The title caught me eye immediately as anyone who knows me will understand, especially when read in its entirety, viz “Occupy Communities: Social Media Training for the 99%”. If you have a moment please visit the page and, if you agree it’s a great idea, leave a comment saying so.

Despite the call to my base political instincts, upon reading Trisha’s idea there were several reasons her proposal resonated with me. Foremost, Trisha is addressing the fear of adoption of social tools for business (i.e. inside the organization, behind the firewall, and dedicated to facilitating the business processes that carry the enterprise forward in its mission). I spent many years at a staid old aerospace company beating my head against a wall of resistance fueled by this fear. She refers to it as “SoMe-itis” and breaks it down into the following components:

  • Shock: “Help!! My company wants me to ‘be social’!”
  • Split personality: “Do I have to be a nerd/extrovert/Millennial to ‘be social’?”
  • Dry mouth: “How do I choose what to ‘say’ in social media?”
  • Anxiety: “What if I say something dumb?”
  • Low self esteem: “Will people care about what I have to say?”
Baby Boomers Eligible for Retirement

This "Crisis" is NOT Going Away

Additionally, although I am interested in, and have dealt with, all of these issues people face in the course of introducing a social tool into the workplace, there is one of them I’m currently more interested in than others; that’s the second one she lists. Even more specifically, one of my main interests centers on the question “Do I have to be a Millennial to ‘be social’?” I even tweeted Trisha and asked her if I could use her proposal as a basis for a portion of my business model:

A friend told me recently he’s been hearing more and more concern from large organizations about the upcoming wave of retirements from my generation – Baby Boomers. He is not alone. A decade ago, when I first started doing Knowledge Management work for Rocketdyne, one of the most important issues we wanted to address was the looming wave of Boomers who would be reaching retirement age and the threat that posed for the collective knowledge of our organization. As a company that designed, manufactured, tested, and flew the world’s most sophisticated rocket engines (including the Atlas, Delta, and Space Shuttle Main Engines), each of which had long histories and service lives (as systems, not as individual units), continuity of our knowledge was of paramount importance. Those of us who were actively pursuing KM were very concerned we would fall below a critical level of skill and jeopardize the safety of the Astronauts who flew the Space Shuttle.

Unfortunately, although lots of lip service was paid to the “looming” problem – as well as a lot of time and money likely heading off (in retrospect) in the wrong direction, turning that massive ship around was virtually impossible. Now that the program is over and there was nothing already in the pipeline to replace it, my alma mater is bleeding talent on a regular basis. I suspect there are lots of organizations facing this “crisis” as well. I’d love to be able to help them out . . . and here’s my business model (at least a portion of it; I’ve other things in the works as well).

With the growing number of Baby Boomers set to retire – or even partially retire (like I have) – and not reaching a crescendo for another decade, the issue we once dealt with as a Knowledge Management problem I now believe is one of acceptance of social media inside the firewall, i.e. the development and use of communities, facilitated by tools and leaders trained in their use as a knowledge transfer process. We spent many years finding and categorizing hard-copy and digital media. We’ve spent countless hours and dollars on exit interviews and video recording of retiring employees. All the time we kept saying tacit knowledge (the knowledge people carry around in their heads) was something like 80% of the actionable and useful knowledge possessed by an organization.

I have argued for some time that social media IS the new knowledge management. Although it’s now a bit old, I have a presentation on SlideShare I originally prepared for my cohort at CSUN‘s Tseng College, shortly after I finished a Masters program in KM. Sadly, though not surprisingly, the program no longer exists. I believe this is partly because they failed to recognize the power of social media to do what KM really needed to do. As practiced, in my experience KM was far more like Library Science. What is happening now is a sea change, a phase shift that employs technology capable of connecting people in real-time, while also providing a level of archival, indexing, and search capability that allows for historical knowledge discovery as well.

However, I’ve also experienced a high level of resistance to accepting what I consider to be inevitable. I can only speak for the aerospace industry, but I struggled to implement social business capabilities for nearly a decade and, as far as I can tell, my former organization is still fairly resistant to the possibilities it provides. This is the issue I believe others are encountering as well, and it is what Trisha’s presentation is all about. A more specific interest of mine is in gaining acceptance from the group of people who will be retiring within the next decade or so. I believe it’s important to engage older, soon-to-be retiring employees in the use of social business tools, not to “pick” their brains, but to provide a forum for interaction with their younger employees, within the tool (embedded within the processes they are currently employing, if possible), so their knowledge can be slowly transferred to those who will follow in their footsteps.

As a Baby Boomer who is entirely comfortable with the use of these kinds of tools and the behaviors that must exist in order for them to be effective, I believe I have a unique perspective to offer organizations who wish to engage their “more mature” employees. Many of them think they are incapable of understanding them or that you have to be young to employ them. Worse still, many have been influenced by the media’s depiction of tools like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube such that they are currently incapable of seeing the value in micro-blogging, status posting, and video sharing to an organization’s ability to improve how they get things done. I – and, I’m sure, many others like me – can reach these employees far more easily than their younger colleagues, if only because we have the same generational backgrounds and have (or have dealt with) similar fears and anxiety.

This is why I believe Trisha’s presentation is important. It may not address the more sophisticated aspects many in the Enterprise 2.0 (or Social Business, whatever we wish to call it) world are concerned with as they mature and evolve their theory and practice, but it does directly address what I believe is a core issue with the effective use of these tools in our various organizations. Without acceptance, I am convinced the tools and practices that facilitate the sharing and use of “The Corporate Memory” will remain on the periphery of the enterprise and likely chew up more time and money than they’re worth and, in doing so, become more of an anchor than a sail. My goal here is not to delve too deeply into the many nuances of this issue – e.g. Tacit vs. Explicit knowledge, cultural change, the role of Executive leadership, etc. I will save that for further posts. However, I do think acceptance is a huge millstone hanging from the neck of many an organization. Am I too pessimistic? What do you think?

Graph Courtesy of InContext


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