Running at a different pace

Running at a different pace

Been involved in quite a few discussions on how PMO functions in companies use O365 to change the way they run projects. Here is a brief guide (including the addition of some new capabilities) looking at how other companies have used O365 to change the way they run and deliver projects. Generally you would use:

PMO / Project Working
– O365 Groups – individual project team working (shared calendars, Planner, OneNotes etc)
– Teams – persistent chat channel for project teams (linked to O365 Groups – Tip: create the O365 Group first and then link the Team to the group.
– SharePoint Online site – PMO top level site bringing all activities together
– Power BI – creating dashboards from the PMO level

Project Communications / Change for ‘end user’
– Yammer – for enterprise wide awareness, feedback, focus groups, promotion
– Delve / Yammer – finding and recruiting informal advocates for your awareness activities
– Delve – get project members to blog about project progress (or use Yammer)
– Delve – create some promotional ‘boards’ that can be shared enterprise wide
– Forms (new) creating surveys, feedback channels for focus groups / enterprise wide initiatives
– Sway – creating engaging presentations / collateral for digital presentations
– SharePoint Communication Site (new) – formal enterprise wide communication / access to collateral

Becoming a social leader

Becoming a social leader

Trying to get leaders to understand the potential and value of creating an open and collaborative business can sometimes be a hard sell. One of the key milestones is to get them embracing and supporting the deployment of tools and associated behavioural change required to utilise the investment.

Key elements when approaching leaders should include:

  • Explain the key elements of open / social working
    • Outline the need to appeal to individual’s ‘intrinsic motivators’
    • Provide practical examples of individuals becoming more effective and engaged
    • Guide them on how to develop and spread the habit via doing
    • Explain how they would “contribute to people in their organisations to deepen the relationship”?And also why should they?
    • Don’t replicate a process. It has to replace it or be something new.

Using the ‘seeing is believing’ mantra here are some tips to get your leader involved. O365 is used in this examples but this would apply to most collaboration and open business technologies.

1- Explain to them the overall benefits, ideally linking to the overall strategy. Normally the benefits would include:

o Enables ‘new ways of working’ by providing:
 Access everywhere, anytime
 Transparent and open working
o Builds a connected organisation enhancing business agility
o Increases employee engagement
o Improves team collaboration
o Enables external collaborative working

2- Set out the benefits for the leader (try to understand what would be key motivations prior to the session). These could be:

• Build a personal brand across the organisation
• Network across silos
• Increase engagements and receive feedback
• Access and share documents easier
• Network / collaborate externally
• Manage meetings and reporting more effectively
• Build a connected organisation by increasing participation in Townhall events

3 – Getting the leaders started

• Update their Profile with skills and experiences and explain the benefits.
• Profiles and reputations develop fast in the online world. Yammer offers Leaders new ways to promote their views and skills
• Leaders will emerge that may otherwise have been hidden in dark corners
• Yammer gives everyone the chance to share their views in an open forum
• Contributions are a lot more transparent and the Personal Brands Leaders create allow leadership potential to be spotted
• Smart Leaders and Talent teams embrace this opportunity.

4 – Spend 5 minutes building or expanding their network on Yammer

• Guide them on how to ‘follow’ people and join ‘groups’.
• Ask them to pick a few key words around topics which reflect their role and aspirations within the company (don’t just follow the people you already know) and use the ‘search’ option to explore what people and groups have similar interests.
• Begin following and see the value it may begin to bring.
• Don’t suggest they select hundreds or they will be ‘drowned in the noise’.

5 – Explain the power of ‘liking posts’

• Leaders should be taught the power of liking posts.
• A ‘like’ from a Leader has a big impact and is a good way to drive colleague engagement and motivate action all in one second.
• Encourage Leaders to use the ‘like’ option but also to be aware of the impact that ‘like’ can have if it’s not actually genuine.
• Before they know it a whole new process could be accidentally developed.

6 – Get them to join conversations and ask them to assess what benefit this has brought them over a period of a few weeks.

• Leaders’ reactions to posts shape how people perceive them as leaders
• What’s key is to teach Leaders how to handle conversation well and to do so publicly
• Over zealous comments or poor ends up sending a much louder message than simply responding in a well thought through manner

7- More things to remember

• At the outset it’s too easy for leaders to say it’s not for me. You want colleagues to make an informed choice knowing what is on offer before they decide not to use it, not to decide against it because it’s a big unknown quantity.
• If they are resistance or believe they need ‘training’ before they use it then offer them this through beginners coaching sessions
• It’s a self-updating skill set once they are on the bandwagon but at the start you don’t want to leave good talent behind. Everyone should be given equal opportunity to shine.

8 – Next steps

Once they are confident and comfortable with this way of open working then get them to expand. The next steps will be:

• Running a crowdsourcing session ‘ Yamjam to increase participation and innovation
• Hold ‘Town Hall’ events to increase engagement
• Sharing a vision for a better future and they ask their people to co-create this together in open innovation forums.
• Get them to ask colleagues to combine our strengths and spend more time collaborating around that which we wished to accomplish, rather than that which we wished to avoid, what’s possible?
• They co-design what is next.

Changing the conversation

Changing the conversation

One of the key challenges many companies have to face when deploying social collaboration and KM platforms is facing the new realism of becoming ‘stewards’ rather than ‘moderators’ of the environment. Rather than monitoring behaviours, those responsible for stewardship of the platform (whether Enterprise or local community managers) need to understand how to influence rather than control behaviours (comments).

Removing and banning members is the last straw and will also certainly lose any goodwill in changing behaviours in an organisations that have attempted to spread a collaborative culture whilst dealing with legacies of failed online forums or procedures that conflict with a desire to get people collaborating.

You can influence what people say (more possible than most realise) and there are several methods to achieve this. The most common is to showcase the behaviour you want. People broadly do what they see others doing. If they see petty fights, personal attacks, and more they’re going to engage in them. If they see thoughtful, constructive, debates they’re more likely to participate in them.

You can indoctrinate members by recruiting advocates that understand and embrace the philosophy and ‘culture’ of the community and are willing to influence others as they join. Third, easiest, is to prime behaviour immediately prior to posting comments through stage management. This works well in the conceptual and embryonic stages but you need the advocates to eventually perform this as part of their ‘community duties’.

One good piece of collateral its worth producing is a guide for ‘managers’ to ‘deal with conversations’. These are some good community guidelines on how to deal with certain behaviours and how to respond. At one of my clients we developed a 7 step guide to dealing with ‘risky’ conversations that was sent to many of the ‘manager’ grades and developed a group for managers to seek guidance and support in dealing with issues. Coaching internal communicators is also key as they begin to see the possibilities and the dangers of very reactive platforms.

I’ll be eager to garner any insights from members what collateral has been produced to help companies deal with the changing conversational behaviours within companies that have deployed platforms such as Yammer?

We all love a good story


Storytelling can be a powerful tool when you want to explain how collaboration tools can help colleagues.

Stories are one of the most powerful emotional currencies we possess. They move people to feel, and they move people to act.

At work, stories take the form of narratives, conversations and anecdotes that connect us with the narrator and the subjects and broaden our pool of knowledge. When you share a story, you will spark a story or idea.

We use stories to make sense of our environment. They make us care. They provide a shared context for mutual understanding of events and issues that impact us. And they inspire us to change our point of view.

Ideally a good story around working with collaboration tools should communicate some form of causal resolution of a problem and also have the addition of meaning and significance for the audience.

When I speak to people around the capabilities of collaboration tools I generally don’t talk about what each feature or button does but how the enabling tool (and associated behaviour coaching) has changed the way people have solved an issue; or created innovation; or developed new engagement channels.

My favourite stories of how these type of tools have helped include:

  • Solving departure delays at Istanbul airport
  • Ensured passengers flying into Heathrow received their ‘Bloody Mary’s’ just the way they like them
  • Helping sped up the alterations to passenger wash bags
  • Safety lessons from drilling rigs were shared across an organisation within hours
  • How a banana ice cream maker could peel a thousand bananas at the same time

Obviously these lose much of their currency once taken outside the context of that particular sector so it’s beneficial to begin building a library of wins / case studies as soon as possible. They don’t need to be too details – just a good story. .

Often a new manager or colleague won’t know how these tools and behaviours may have made a difference, but peers and other leaders may have a rich store of anecdotes and memories to make the use meaningful.

Don’t mandate but encourage

Don’t mandate but encourage

The key to getting sense from any networking and collaboration platform is to embed good behaviours of users rather than force templates or processes through technology.

As people gain more experience they will see the benefit of how they need to relate groups or content and begin to adopt good behaviours rather than mandate too much at the beginning which I believes restrict the desire to engage.

I firmly believe that if you alter that level of ‘control’ to an extent where you mandate to much, much of that implicit knowledge is lost due to people’s lack of engagement. I’m sure everyone has seen systems that deal with every workflow, scenario and linkage, with lovely metadata and taxonomies but they remain graveyards. I would also stress that we are not discussing a ‘heavy duty’ document management system here but a networking and collaboration platform where we are looking for people to share their knowledge.

One of the most interesting studies on knowledge sharing was conducted by Constant, Kiesler and Sproull.* One of their findings was that employees differentiated two kinds of knowledge sharing. One type was sharing products, for example, equipment manuals, or reports they had written. The second type of knowledge was what employees had learned from their own experience, for example, how to get around a certain bottle-neck in the system, or how to deal with a particularly tricky bug in a program. This second type of knowledge they regard as part of their identity – part of who they were as professionals.

They were willing to share both kinds of knowledge, but the motivation for sharing each differed greatly. The documents and programs they shared because they considered them the property of the company. But the second kind, their experiential knowledge, they shared because they gained some personal benefit from doing so. The personal benefit, however, was not money or the promise of a promotion. According to the study, “Experts will want to contribute to coworkers who need them, who will hear them, who will respect them and who may even thank them.”

As this study shows, the primary driver for sharing experiential knowledge is the respect and recognition of peers. It is hard to overestimate the psychic value peer recognition. How does this relate to controls and mandates? The less freedom a user has over the ‘platform’ (whether this was a technology or a physical environment) the less they would share their own experiential knowledge.

Organisations that have created great engagement and value from collaboration technologies have done so because they have reduced many of the controls that you would find in their more structured channels such as intranets and document management systems.

It may not always be neat and tidy but it generates this ‘experiential’ / implicit knowledge that organisations have tried to tap into since KM programmes first started. If we initially focus on getting the engagement, input and desire for folk to share then the quicker it is to make sense of the noise that social collaboration platforms can bring.

Freedom or control?

In every collaboration transformation project you reach a certain stage when the discussion / debate turns to the amount of control and governance you should introduce. If the platform has very little engagement or traction then this argument doesn’t surface much so if you are faced with it you must be doing something right!

My firm belief is that if we want to make collaboration work inside the organisation and exploit the ‘implicit’ knowledge that eludes companies we need to provide ‘stewardship’ rather than ‘control’.

The more control and process you put into these systems the less people want to contribute. You can create a wonderful centrally structured system with only certain groups allowed a presence or a written business case before something is created but I will guarantee you are creating conversation graveyards because it’s just too much hard work to share and collaborate.

This doesn’t mean we have a ‘free-for-all’. Each Country / Function will have the ability to develop their ‘structured’ area when they see a need. Here you can create moderated conversations and more formality but this shouldn’t be at the cost of people or communities that are ‘not near the centre’ and want to share and collaborate – or in essence just make it easier to connect.

This ‘stewardship’ (use cases, guiding early adopters etc onto the platform) allows people to see how they can begin to use collaboration platforms in a business context (and much of the coaching material should focus on behaviours to encourage collaboration), provide guidance and best practice on developing groups / communities and give then the freedom to build relationships, networks and communities. The ones that begin to provide value will soon come to the attention of the more ‘structured’ areas. The ones that provide no value will lose appeal and fade away.

The Darwin effect will take place. Groups will develop and you will get some duplication but that ‘duplication’ will soon be whittled out of the ‘network’ as people will gravitate to the networks and communities that give them most value. It is highly unlikely that 2 identical communities will exist for a period of time without coming to the attention of each other. They can then generally determine the future existence of their groups / content / networks and certainly doesn’t need a central structure to play ‘judge and jury’ on this.

Rather than look through a list of every group that has been people will begin to change their behaviour and use search more to find suitable content or groups to join. This has been my experience in previous organisations (all have been highly regulated and dealing with delicate subject matters) Give people a degree of ‘stewardship’ so they feel ‘safe’ and confident to share and collaborate. Create a rigid control and you continue the development of conversational graveyards.

The value of a Use Case in introducing social collaboration tools

The value of a Use Case in introducing social collaboration tools

One of the most powerful tactics in introducing collaboration tools within an organisation is the use cases. Get your use cases right – built around existing processes, current challenges and business priorities and you begin to plant the initial seeds of success. Don’t stop at a small number of use cases but get as many as possible lined up to run over a number of ‘waves’ (don’t do everything at once) that can take a number of months to bleed into the environment. The value of this approach includes:

  • Explores potential without too much commitment on resource (don’t run long requirement gathering sessions that turn the business off but short focused trials – not every use case is suitable of the environment)
  • Makes people feel ‘safe’ – sense of validation
  • Provides many with an understanding of what can be achieved (‘art of the possible’)
  • Begins to role model behaviours and best practice (openness)
  • The expected goals may not be the final value but getting people on-board and participating will allow them to understand how they get value. Remember any project team won’t know most of the answers so let the business ‘explore’.