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Tag Archives: clarity

Do I Really Have to Look at Your Ugly Mug?

My Babies

No Rights Reserved. So There!!

I had a great lunch with two former colleagues (and continuing friends) at a superb Korean restaurant today; one I never would have gone to on my own merely because it was in a location I just wouldn’t have thought of stopping to eat in. Then again, for many years I haven’t been the type of person who goes out much for lunch. I used to bring my lunch and eat at my desk and continue screwing arou . . . er . . . working. So, during the conversation we got to talking about one of my favorite subject, which is how important is face-to-face contact . . . really?

Lots of people I know insist face-to-face meetings are, hands down, the best way to conduct meetings. They believe the numerous signals that can’t be communicated virtually are so important to understanding and communication that without them too much is lost. To them, conducting meetings virtually is not useful enough to justify engaging in often. To some, it is of no value at all unless it includes a voice connection (at the least) as well. I’m not sure I agree with them. Actually, I don’t agree with them at all. I am in the opposite camp.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m all in favor of face-to-face meetings. After all, you can’t go out drinking together if you aren’t actually together. Nevertheless, in today’s environment and, perhaps, regardless of how much the economic situation improves, travel is expensive in all kinds of ways. There’s the money spent on the travel and lodging itself. There’s the lost productivity while stuck in airports or overcoming jet lag. There’s the societal costs associated with the resources used to fly jets, drive cars, etc, etc. There’s being away from one’s family and the pressure that brings. There’s the cost of bringing souvenirs home for your kids that will often as not end up under the couch within a couple of days, not to be seen for a while (and surely not missed).

I just don’t buy the argument that being able to read facial expressions and body language are all that important. Perhaps when negotiating a complex contract, where there’s a bit of gamesmanship going on, it’s absolutely necessary. However, in the kinds of arms-length transactions that make up the bulk of the activity people travel to conduct, we can usually presume a desire to achieve the same, or similar, results – can’t we? I have a lot of relationships these days with people I have never met in person. I’ve seen still pictures (mostly avatars), but nothing else of them. Frankly, I don’t even know for sure it’s what they look like. Yet, there are ways in which trust is attained; built up in thin, seemingly tenuous layers of  engagement; in the sharing of innocuous details of one’s activities and interests, etc. Some of my “virtual” friends I feel closer to than I do to many of my “analog” friends.

This I attribute to the richness of communication that generally emerges with the proper use of a good social system. For instance, Twitter allows me to engage with people on several different continents. Over time, I know (and I can reasonably confirm it to be true) where they work, what they do, what they like, and – especially – what they think about things I like to think about. Over time I can determine whether or not they keep their word; that is, how trustworthy they are. In communication and collaboration, nothing is more valuable in my opinion than trust.

I want to repeat my position here. I am not suggesting meeting people in person is not valuable or that we can do away with it. I do believe, however, if we found ourselves in a situation where we needed to work with someone we just wouldn’t have the opportunity to sit in the same room with . . . it wouldn’t be all that terrible. I’m going to Boston next month to attend the Enterprise 2.0 Conference. Frankly, my main reason for going is to meet – in person – at least a dozen people I have been interacting with for various periods of time who I have grown to trust and respect. I wasn’t going to go, despite my desire to meet up with these new friends. Fortunately, one of them (@ITSinsider, aka Susan Scrupski) made me an offer I just couldn’t refuse. Had I not been able to attend in person I still would have continued my relationships with these friends, and I believe they would have grown and improved.

So. I kind of hope I’ve gored someone’s ox. Otherwise, why do I reveal myself this way? Who’s going to join the fray? Virtually speaking.

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From the Frying Pan, Into the . . . ?

Last week, during the remaining few hours of a two-day Novations class in Project Management, I received a couple of somewhat disconcerting emails. The first one, from the President of the company, was a notification a “Voluntary Separation Program” was being offered to all employees (well, almost all) who would be 60 years of age or older on May 15, 2010. This was announced as the latest step in many that have been taken to prepare the business for the challenges presented by the ending of the Space Shuttle Main Engine program and by the changes announced recently by NASA. I can’t say it was a surprise. The second email was from HR. It contained the (again, not startling, but nevertheless uncomfortable) news that I was (being close the 63 years old) eligible for the program.

Now, I had not – until that point – seriously considered leaving the company. I have been there for a total of over 23 years (cycle time; I worked my first year as a temp and left for two years to join a somewhat ill-fated yet necessary attempt to rejoin a family business) and had every intention of remaining at least another 15. Furthermore, as the lead for a team charged with changing the way we did business, with special responsibility for the use of social media, I was excited about the challenges we faced and the opportunities that presented. Suddenly, I felt very old and somewhat useless. It was not a comfortable feeling at all.

I have since spent a great deal of time thinking about what this means to me and, as a result of this thinking, I have decided to take the offer. In fact, I signed the papers yesterday declaring my intent to do so. While it isn’t the most lucrative of offers they could have made, it will give me about six months in which to plant the seeds of my next career, a career I intend on pursuing with a vengeance. I am also old enough to retire, which will increase the time I have before I need to start dipping into our savings. One last course available to me is filing for social security, something I would rather wait until I am 66 to do so I can receive the full amount.

So . . . what am I going to do with this breathing space. Well, my friend Luis Suarez has hinted at some of it in his post of today, “When This All Gets Cool, It’s All about The People and Your Passion“, and it’s even in my profile on Facebook, where I said “I am most interested in using today’s Internet based social computing technology to further the interests of my company and, not incidentally, humanity as well. I see no reason the two interests can’t converge. Do you?” It looks like I won’t be doing it to help my company, but I’m confident I can find other companies interested in what I do. Possibly, the most exciting thing about this change in career, though, is it will allow me the time to work with schools, community-service organizations, and other types of enterprise that can benefit from my passion about social computing and the promise they hold for doing the right things.

This is the journey I am now embarking on and I’m literally bursting with enthusiasm for it. I believe it will be a large part of the experience I will chronicle in this blog. I will continue my long association with my friends and colleagues in the Enterprise Thinking Network, many of whom will continue (unless there are further, massive layoffs) with Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne. In fact, I am scheduled to co-present a workshop with Johnnie Pourdehnad, long-time associate of Russell Ackoff’s, and an adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania, where he also serves as the Associate Director of ACASA (Ackoff Collaboratory for the Advancement of Systems Approaches). This will be in April, before I have officially left the company (scheduled separation date is no earlier than May 14), at this year’s In2:InThinking Forum – an event you should consider attending if you are interested in new ways to view the world and the work we all do. I recommend it highly.

At any rate, thanks to a fairly extensive network I have built over the years in order to increase my value to my current organization (Hmm. Guess that didn’t work all that well, but it has had the side benefit of being useful to me professionally), I have already begun seeking out new adventures and new ways in which I can be of service. Maybe I’ll even be able to make a decent living at it! I you have any ideas of what some of those things can be, please don’t be shy. Let me know. I promise I’ll get back to you.


Seeking Balance

Lately I’ve been having a bit of trouble coming up with things to blog about. It’s not that there aren’t subjects worthy of discussing or exploring; it’s just that most of them have to do with my job and I’m uncertain over whether or not – and to what extent – I can share what it is I’m doing and the issues my company is facing. Neither is any of it “Top Secret” (though some of our work is) but, rather, we are an old and staid aerospace company with deep roots in governmental contracting and with a strong impulse to hold everything we do close to the vest. This is, in part, to protect our intellectual property which, in the world we move in, is quite valuable, and the need to comply with the provisions of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) that provide very serious – and expensive – penalties for “exporting” controlled information and knowledge. Export-controlled knowledge is our bread and butter, so I need to be sure I err on the side of caution.

So, I guess this in the way of a caveat. I would love to reveal more about where I’m employed; after all, I’ve been there over twenty years and my experiences greatly color how I see the business world and what I have to say about my struggles to incorporate Enterprise 2.0 design principles and tools within the organization. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to do so for the foreseeable future, though I am working on figuring out just how to step up the precipice without dropping off the cliff of inappropriate posting. I suspect this will be an ongoing struggle, but I will keep trying to figure out how to share my thoughts about our efforts at developing into a company that derives a large part of its income from industrial and commercial efforts, rather than government contracts.


A Few Wordz on Spelng, Grammar, and Punctuation.

In the course of an interesting conversation precipitated by a Tweet from one of the folks I follow on Twitter (is that from the Department of Redundancy Department?), I was asked to share a blog I posted on a site within the firewall where I work. Since the subject of that blog has absolutely nothing to do specifically with the business I’m in, I have no problem doing that. Please understand, though, I was writing in response to an issue I had heard raised numerous times at work and I was specifically trying to address that issue.

Nevertheless, the issue probably exists to some extent outside our particular firewall. In fact, since the blog post that precipitated the conversation I’m referring to was making a point far more generally applicable than the subject of my blog, I feel compelled to point it out as well. It’s from ProNagger.comConverting Procrastination Into Action, and the specific post is located here. What follows now is my post from work, the title of which is identical to that of this post:

I have heard that some people are a bit reluctant to use AskMe because they know whatever they write will “live on” for a long period of time and they don’t want to take a chance of looking foolish for years to come. I can understand that, especially when it comes to taking a position with respect to a technical issue that may not have a crystal clear answer. I can also understand the reluctance when it comes to spelling, grammar, etc.

So let me point something out that I’ve learned over the last couple of years. First of all, while spelling, grammar, and punctuation are all very important (and few people are quite the stickler I am for their correctness), when it comes to communicating and sharing ideas, I think they’re a bit overrated. This has been driven home to me especially when using Windows Messenger, which I do quite a bit. I have finally reached the point where I don’t bother using capital letters and I only use punctuation when absolutely necessary to be clear.

I also use Twitter, which only allows for the use of 140 characters in any act of publishing. So, sometimes I take a lot of liberties with spelling in order to pack as much meaning into a short communication. So, the point I’m making here is . . . I hope you won’t let the possibility you will post questions, answers, etc. on AskMe with mistakes in them stop you from contributing. It really isn’t that big a deal – especially when balanced against the substantial need to increase our ability to share our knowledge and learn from each other.

This post generated quite a few comments, most expressing relief to have this pointed out to them. One of them, from a colleague I know well who blogs a fair amount internally, merely pointed out his discovery that the original author of the post can edit it, but those who comment could not. I felt compelled to respond and here is what I said:

I have learned the same thing. However, I specifically refrained from correcting this blog because of the message I wanted to convey. I think we’re all pretty much in agreement that spelling, grammar, and punctuation are extremely important in demonstrating the veracity of a document intended to convey important factual information and, perhaps, some other types of communication that require excellent form. I think we all agree as well there are certain forms of communication that needn’t be quite as “clean” as others; IM and blogs come immediately to mind. I have read a lot of blogs by a lot of very well-read and highly respected people. I notice errors popping up all the time. I think most people forgive those errors, not because they don’t matter at all, but because they don’t really detract from the message and the rapid dissemination of ideas is seen as more valuable than careful editing. Besides, blogs generally don’t go through edit cycles and, if you read the newspaper you know editing is no guarantee of good writing either.

I have a confession to make. Though I changed nothing in the blog as it appears at work, I did make a couple of changes here where I discovered errors in my original post. Please forgive me. As I’ve confessed elsewhere, I have a tendency to be a member of the Grammar and Spelling Police . . . I have to follow my bliss!

Rick

I have learned the same thing. However, I specifically refrained from correcting this blog because of the message I wanted to convey. I think we’re all pretty much in agreement that spelling, grammar, and punctuation are extremely important in demonstrating the veracity of a document intended to convey important factual information and, perhaps, some other types of communication that require excellent form. I think we all agree as well there are certain forms of communication that needn’t be quite as “clean” as others; IM and blogs come immediately to mind. I have read a lot of blogs by a lot of very well-read and highly respected people. I notice errors popping up all the time. I think most people forgive those errors, not because they don’t matter at all, but because they don’t really detract from the message and the rapid dissemination of ideas is seen as more valuable than careful editing. Besides, blogs generally don’t go through edit cycles and, if you read the newspaper you know editing is no guarantee of good writing either.


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