Simon Terry

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Collaboration is not Communication

Organizations that limit their ambition to employee communication miss the transformative nature of new collaboration patterns. An enterprise collaboration solution offers the opportunity for new two-way conversations with employees. Moving an organization from broadcast communication to two-way conversations with employees is an important change in the way employee communications occur. Don’t stop there.

Collaboration in your organization is about creating new ways of working together. In a complex and rapidly changing world, more work than ever is knowledge work and more work depends on the inputs and participation of others.  The priority is on learning together in many organizations. Collaboration is more than

Collaboration is more than a communication layer over the existing patterns of work. As shared work, collaboration is different to chats and to conversations. Collaboration involves people coming together to connect, to share, to solve and to innovate in new ways and to more effectively fulfill the organization’s purpose and employee’s personal purposes. Remember your organization creates no value talking internally. The value creation occurs when you come together to work to create value for your customers and other stakeholders outside.

Organizations need to investment in community management to help realize the strategic value of these new ways of working. Community management, whether by community managers, champions or leaders, is not just about facilitating a neat two-way conversation.  Community managers must play the roles of shaping the work, building community around key strategic priorities and creating the freedom to experiment, to change and to learn. Community management enables the transformational nature of collaboration platforms.

The demands on a modern organization mean that all organizations are looking for better effectiveness, improved customer experiences, more innovation and greater responsiveness. Two-way conversations with employees are important in this journey but more critical is enabling employees to lead change in the way they work every day. Collaboration enables the most effective, the fastest and the most innovative to lead change from every employee supported by the full capabilities of the organization.

#WOLWeek Day 4: Share

#wolweek-3

Working Out Loud Week is from 5-11 June 2017.  Working Out Loud Week is a chance for a global community of practitioners to find new freedom to work together to practice sharing work in progress with relevant communities for learning and collaboration. The theme of this WOLWeek is ‘Contribute and Create Value’

Day 4: Share

In a digital workplace, much of the value that an employee can contribute and will receive depends on sharing: openness, transparency, better use of data, better use of knowledge, learning from peers, effective collaboration, greater autonomy, agile work practices and much more.  Working out loud is a key practice to get the work in process that we all have and make it visible and accessible for the rest of the organization.  That means you need to share your work.

You have a lot to share. Take your current email and make it available. Open up the contents of your C: drive. Share your calendar so that others can see what you have going on. Share your contact lists. Share your lesson from the day. Share your challenges, opportunities, and ideas.

Sharing doesn’t have to be big. You don’t have to share with the world. You don’t have to push the message to make sure other people notice. Find a place that has one or a few relevant people and lift your work and your challenges up where people can find them.

Your contributions will begin to create value for others immediately. Improving clarity and alignment, reducing rework, and helping people better understand what you have underway. You will find that the oppenness and generosity of sharing your work will draw others in to help and to learn from your work.

There is a vulnerability of sharing work that is not perfect or that is not finished. That vulnerability can feel threatening but it is also what makes your work more engaging to others. They can see your process of work and will respect your decisions to share, provided you are clear on your process of working out loud and respect them in your sharing.

Where

Resources to assist you and your organisation with WOLWeek are available on WOLWeek.com. 

Source: #WOLWeek Day 4: Share

#WOLWeek Day 3: Contribute

#wolweek-3

Working Out Loud Week is from 5-11 June 2017.  Working Out Loud Week is a chance for a global community of practitioners to find new freedom to work together to practice sharing work in progress with relevant communities for learning and collaboration. The theme of this WOLWeek is ‘Contribute and Create Value’

Day 3: Contribute

When we think of working out loud, our thoughts often go first to sharing. We begin with how our work can be shared with others. However, in the design of these five days of WOLWeek, we have put contribution before sharing.  The generosity of contribution is what turns a network into a community.  To share effectively and for mutual benefit, it helps to begin with generosity.

Our work is built on the foundation of our knowledge, our skills, our experiences and our place in the world. Everyone has this foundation to their work and each person’s set of capabilities and context is unique. We all have the ability to contribute our attention, capabilities, and context to the work of others.

Contributing generously to others builds our networks into communities. This develops relationships for future collaboration and learning.

We don’t need to be interesting to work out loud.  We have unique abilities to contribute to others.  We need to be interested in others and contribute to their work.

How can you show interest in the work of others? How can you recognise their efforts? How can you share your capabilities and context to advance their work?

Choose someone relevant to your work and make a contribution today.

Working Out Loud Week: One Degree of Freedom

#wolweek-3

Next week is International Working Out Loud Week (5-11 June). For the week, a global community of working out loud practitioners, advocates and organizations will share their work, their lessons, and their stories.  This WOLWeek the theme is “Contribute and Create Value”.

We created Working Out Loud week to draw attention to working out loud. Importantly, we also wanted to authorize people to share their interest in or passion for working out loud.

In corporate life and in social situations, we can often worry whether we have the authority or the permission to share. Our actions are tightly constrained. Acceptable behaviour is tightly defined. Speaking out in a different way to one’s peers can be hard and discouraged. The goal of WOLWeek is to give people one little period where they have one degree of freedom to change.

Your organization may not support working out loud. Your peers may not understand working out loud. However, each individual can fight for one more bit of freedom to change using WOLWeek.  We can do so by announcing that we are joining a global movement, celebrating a recognized event and sharing the stories that will surface over the week.  The global community and conversation around WOLWeek is designed to give everyone just a little latitude to do differently for the week, to explore change and to experience the benefits of a different approach.

The transparency, collaboration, and learning of Working Out Loud are all important future of work practices. WOLWeek gives you a chance to take yourself and your organization a small step into this change.

Take it. Work out loud. Show your work to others. Invite others to learn from you and to help you achieve your goals. That small step into change under the umbrella of WOLWeek might just lead you and your organization into an extraordinary transformation.

Working Out Loud Week is from 5-11 June 2017. For more information see WOLWeek.com or WOLWeek on Twitter.

Ending The Internal War For Attention

Opportunities for distraction are everywhere. Organisations need to stop fighting the war for attention internally. If you need to fight over the attention of your employees you have a performance management problem, not an attention problem.

The War For Attention

We are familiar with the battle for our attention in all aspects of our lives. We are slammed by marketing & communication messages everywhere. The globally connected always-on world means people are now seeking escape from the buzz of demands on their attention. Digital downtime once meant waiting for slow computers. Now people are taking time offline away from the alerts. The volume of and channels for these messages keep increasing. Scott Belsky of Airbnb has described our mobile phone notifications as a tragedy of the commons where excessive use and bad behaviour is devaluing the platform for everyone.

Filtering out the attention grabbers is critical work now for each of us to manage our personal effectiveness.  Making careful choices of tools, their settings and using personal knowledge mastery skills is important for anyone to stay sane, let alone be effective in their lives and work. Importantly, the set of choices that make each individual effective is unique to the individual, their context, and community. The tools and techniques can help individuals to better manage attention and personal effectiveness, but there is no one size that fits all and continuous adaptation is required.

Fighting for Attention Internally

In the paternalistic, hierarchical, and efficiency-oriented culture of organisations, the war for attention is an issue that must be solved centrally with the right set of corporate drains on employee attention. Carefully crafted intranets and corporate communication messages present the central view of what needs to be known. A great deal of time and effort goes into planning, coordinating, preparing and approving the official flow of information inside organisations. Many central functions and middle managers exist to do this work.

Other agile, dynamic and relevant ways of exchanging information are shut down. Technology teams are on the lookout for new tools to blacklist. Employees are often prohibited from using more effective ways of interacting to ensure that messages go through the ‘right channels’, often people or choke points in the power structure.  This desire for control is  presented as being in the best interest of employees – minimising distraction, time-wasting, clutter or confusion in messages. This culture of seeking to manage and control employee attention results in a profusion of “what to use when” guides that can help the novice user but can also become prescriptive barriers to effective work, especially in highly compliant cultures. We don’t need ‘what to use when’ guides in our personal life, Stowe Boyd has highlighted that despite the battle of attention and potential confusion, we can cope with a lot of different tools & channels.

Much of this fight for employee’s attention is unproductive work. Few intranets are highly performing communication platforms despite the investment and enforced lack of competition. Corporate email opening rates aren’t good enough to ensure all the relevant messages are received. Mandatory compliance training is largely counterproductive. Powerpoint isn’t always an effective communication tool.

Most organisations are still more concerned by what their employees don’t know than what they do. Rumours and myths spread effectively because information is so tightly managed. Even if it was possible to turn your organisations systems into a complete information autarky, employees would still look at their own devices. The human community is filling a social vacuum.

We have to ask why organisations want to manage their employees’ attention and why employees resist. For both sides, the fundamental issue traces back to the historical culture of paternalistically determining what work it is efficient for employees to do. If we don’t trust our employees to use their time and attention well, then other more senior people need to decide it for them. Knowledge work does not fit well into these models of productivity inherited from manufacturing. Outputs are not simply determined by inputs. Human network relationships matter. Diversity of ideas is valued over the uniformity of a corporate line.

The problem is not distraction. The problem is the determined effort to centralise and control information that presents relevant information being available at the right time with the right human network filters of trust, relevance, insight and endorsement.  Employees are looking for filters for insight in a dynamic two-way flow of information, not carefully curated and endorse stale stocks of information. Employees are using the wirearchy to fix the problems with the hierarchical control of information.

Focus on Performance Instead

We are managing our employee’s attention to save time and to give them the right information with minimum effort.  Both try to improve the efficiency of their work.

What would happen if we stopped?

The answer has already been provided in organisations. We don’t actually trust that all this effort to manage attention will work. Therefore organisations created performance management programs to place individual accountability on employees to work effectively and achieve their required outcomes.

If the bottom line is performance, shouldn’t organisations invest instead in developing the elements of greater effectiveness in employee performance? Dan Pink has highlighted three elements of motivation & performance: purpose, autonomy, and mastery. We can help leaders in organisations to better lead and manage performance. We can build the capabilities of employees to more effectively use and share information in an environment of high demands on attention, through working out loud and performance management. In this environment, the goal of any work should be enabling employee choices to make work more effective and helping employees to mange the risks and issues of those choices.

Shifting the accountability of the management of information and interactions from the organisation to employees enhances both the people experience and the effectiveness of work.

Too Much Sharing

The Harvard Business Review has put a lot of attention this year into collaboration overload, the challenges of collaboration and sharing of information. Can there be too much of a good thing? Always. The issue as ever is not the volume. Managing success and the return of collaboration comes down to the choices you make. Making the right choices demands a clear strategy and plan.

Reap the Whirlwind

I sell my services to work as a consultant with clients in innovation, collaboration, learning and leadership. I work for multiple clients at the same time and often work alongside other consultants, vendors and partners in this work. I have speaking engagements that can require coordination with other speakers, event organisers and more. I coach executives and sit on boards. I run conversations on multiple social media channels. On top of this I work out loud, mentor and assist others, participate in a number of communities, help manage the CAWW community and I run Working Out Loud week and other projects. I have plenty of opportunities to feel the pain of collaboration. Most weeks feel like a collaboration whirlwind.

Frustrations will always happen. Many of these pains are a part of all work:

  • Am I thrilled with people who take my ideas to reuse them often without attribution? No, but I know that they aren’t helping themselves much. Often they forget it is not the work but the understanding and discussion that adds value. There is always more to be shared. In many cases, they miss out on this value and damage their own brand in their efforts.
  • Am I comfortable that some people don’t realize I can help them more, form a negative impression or decide not to hire me on what I share? Those people are missing the value that comes from discussion, tailoring, and more thinking than fits in 140 characters or 800 words. Many more people will start a productive work conversation based on what I share.
  • Do I need to juggle other people’s priorities with my own? Yes. However, that is frankly life. We are not islands of personal productivity. Never were. Never will be.
  • Do I get frustrated with the people who don’t appreciate or acknowledge assistance? Yes, but I know I am often busy and forget to be grateful enough for the help of others.
  • Do I enjoy the critics, the egotists, the argumentative, and the trolls? No. However, I am aware enough to realize that some of them are right and I will make lots of mistakes. I can learn from seeking to understand other viewpoints. I have learned not to feed the trolls. Their issues are their own.
  • Do some people take more than they give in collaboration? Of course.  Much of the time this is unthinking. People can see their own needs more clearly than yours.
  • Do you need to speak up for your value and the need for reciprocity? Yes. Nobody makes me give my time and effort. I have choices to make.

At the heart of issues like information overload, collaboration overload, the perils of the gig economy, and the perils of working out loud are issues of human relationships and personal agency. We can’t escape relationships and we need to own our own agency. Most importantly, we must use our frustrations as the impetus to learn and to change.

A Strategy and A Plan

Owning our personal agency in networks of relationships asks us to have a strategy and specific plans. The value of collaboration is a net value. If you look only at the costs of collaboration, you will miss all the value. The net value is realised by maximising the returns and minimising the costs.  A strategy and a plan for our collaborative activities is how we achieve this.

We can’t learn how to do better until we know what we are trying to achieve and we are measuring our performance. Some of the frustrations I described above are expected.  Many are surprises, as are many of the benefits. My goal in the work I do connecting, sharing, working out loud and helping others is to minimise the costs and continue to grow the benefits.

Here are some guidelines for your plan:

  • Have a purpose: Knowing why you are sharing helps clarify the rewards that you are seeking, whether those flow back to you or are your impact on others
  • Know what success looks like: When you can define success you have the better chance of achieving it.
  • Know your networks: Who are your communities? What are you sharing where? Why? If you have a one size fits all strategy, you are missing out and wasting effort.
  • Make choices: You cannot and should not do everything. Choose what is most valable to you and others.
  • Invest only what you can: There is no valuable return on overwork. Running yourself down has only a long-term cost.  Learn to say ‘no’ when the demands are too great or the returns too thin.
  • Remember the value of relationships and learning: It can be easy to forget that deeper relationships and growing skills are part of the value of collaboration. This human & social capital is just as valuable as the financial capital and may have more to do with your future success.
  • Seek to match cost and value as closely in time as possible: Invest upfront for a much later return and your frustrations will escalate.  The risks will increase that things change.  Make sure you are getting returns from your collaboration now. They don’t have to be reciprocal but there should be value to you to participate.
  • Ask for the value you need: People don’t know what you want unless you clearly ask for what you need. Everyone else is busy and distracted. You don’t factor in their thinking unless you make an ask.  They will assume you are OK if you keep participating silently.

We don’t have to share and give and contribute. The challenge for each of us is to make the choices to contibute and create value for us and others. 

Contribute and Create Value is the theme of this Working Out Loud week from 5-11 June 2017. 

The Intimacy of Working Out Loud

Most stories get told out loud because the storyteller hopes that the telling of the story can transform a nameless event into a familiar or intimate one – John Berger

Work can be demanding and alienating. Isolated into performance units in a mechanical process of production the individual can feel disconnected from peers. Worse peers may be structured as competitors, if not in performance terms, as competitors for scarce resources and attention. 

As John Berger highlights in his book Confabulations the power of storytelling is to creat human moments of intimacy out of every day events. We tell stories to find the intimate humanity in our relationships and our experience. 

Working out loud involves narrating work. Working out loud takes what to us are the mundane challenges of our work and tells their stories to others. To our surprise, our mundane experience can be extraordinary to others. Our limited capabilities look magical to someone who doesn’t know how or that our everyday work is even possible. 

In a world where we are always connected, it can be hard to remember that crowds are lonely places. We can devalue human connection because we have so much of it. The value of working out loud is that its stories of work bring opportunities for new intimacy in our relationships. When we add the generosity that working out loud asks of its practitioners, then all kinds of magic are possible. 

We tend to associate intimacy with closeness and closeness with a certain sum of shared experiences. Yet everyday total strangers, who will never say a single word to one another, can share an intimacy – John Berger

Working Out Loud week is from 5-11 June 2017. See wolweek.com for more.