You Don’t Have A Strategy if You Don’t Have the Work



The commonest error in plans to develop social collaboration in an organisation is the most obvious error. Too many plans aren’t focused on the work. You don’t have a strategy for realising the value of collaboration in your organisation if it doesn’t focus on the work of your organisation.

Early Friday morning last week was the #ESNChat tweet chat. Rita Zonius and Dion Hinchcliffe were discussing a question about the plans for developing ESNs. Dion reiterated an important point – adoption or other abstract goals don’t matter.  Your business is in business and needs your employees doing something meaningful.

One Success Measure

The only measure of success that really matters to your business is the value that you create in your social collaboration.  Value doesn’t have to be measured wholly in monetary terms but for a great majority of businesses value will have clear measures and commonly direct financial elements. Value creation, broadly defined, is what separates successful businesses from the pack.

Your organisation exists to fulfil some purpose. The strategy that is in place in your organisation sets out how you will maximise the value of the work to realise that purpose. If social collaboration in your organisation is not directly connected to this strategy and the value to be created for purpose, then everyone in your organisation has the right, and the obligation, to (a) question why it matters and (b) ignore it.

Measuring value in collaboration is hard. This challenge is greater when organisations are often sceptical of new ways or working or chains of benefits. Usually the benefit realisation happens away from the platform and is measurable only in other systems. Many proponents of social collaboration choose to ignore the hard to measure benefits and focus on easier to track goals, like adoption, satisfaction, sentiment, engagement or measures created specifically for the organisation’s collaboration plan. The danger of failing to align the measures of social collaboration to the measures of the meaningful work of the organisation is the danger of irrelevance.

Parallel Paths

The most damning criticism of many social collaboration networks showing high degrees of adoption and engagement is that they are a “parallel universe” to the real organisation and its interactions.  In this parallel universe, the hierarchy is levelled, leaders are proactively engaging people in conversation, employees are empowered to speak up and discuss their whole lives and great strides are being made in engaging employees and advocating for social issues. In the office, not so much.

In this scenario, the lack of accountability for real work outcomes has allowed the collaboration network to drift into play-acting an ideal organisation. Without real work there are no hard decisions and no ugly compromises. Without real work, it is easier for everyone to get along. You only need a little bit of fantasy to undermine the interactions of an entire network.

When a collaboration network is focused on supporting the real work interactions that network is bound to what goes on across the organisation.  There is a greater chance that the discussions in the network will reflect the issues, the challenges and the interactions that happen in the corridors of the conversation, for good and for bad. Getting tough work challenges into a collaboration network, as ugly as they may be, enables the network to help address and improve them.

Many organisations like the idea of a utopian network that shows them their better side. Role modelling is a valuable purpose. However, role modelling only works when the interactions are real.  The network can only contribute to making those interactions better, if the work is being done in some way across the network. Without the work, there can be no greater value.

A better network for social collaboration does the hard work to fulfil the organisation’s strategy. You don’t have a strategy for your social collaboration if you don’t have that work and aren’t measuring its value.


This International Working Out Loud Week we will be sharing a reflection on a different element of working out loud each day.  We will be using John Stepper’s latest iteration of the five elements of Working Out Loud as a guide to those reflections. Our third reflection is on Visible Work.


All our work is visible to others to some extent unless we actively seek to hide it. What the visible work element of working out loud asks us to do is to consider how we can make our work more visible to those who can benefit and those who can help.

This is not about completed work.  That would be visible outcomes. The element of visible work is making work more visible to others and narrating that work in ways that enable other people to learn and to help. You may not value your work and your work process but making that work more visible to the right people might help you to understand how they value your work and how they can help you make your work more valuable.

Visible does not necessarily mean public. The audience who can see your work might be small and focused.  Visible does not necessarily mean insistently distracting. Visibility is the beginning of findability.  You may want to simply make your work visible where it may be found later by someone like you working on a similar problem.

Visible work is a far wider trend than working out loud in the future of work. We see visible work in Visual Management Boards, Kanban, Trello, dashboards and other tools of visual management. We see visible work in agile projects, in design thinking exercises, in ideation exercises and other environments where people need to coordinate work into one vision. The post-it note is the byte of visual work in these contexts. Visible work underpins our activity based workspaces, our collaboration solutions and many more management systems and practices. Rather than simply let the process or environment make your work visible, take control of your work and shape its visibility to help yourself and others.

Think for a minute about your invisible work – the efforts you put in, the anonymous giving, the work that gets folded into other work or slides off the end of the desk or meeting table. How rare is it that there is joy or even satisfaction in the invisible work? Most of it goes to waste. All of it is neglected. Visibility of work is a step to a better life and a better career. Start sharing your work as it happens.

International Working Out Loud Week is from 6-12 June 2016

Your next career network

Your next career is about your networks as much if not more than your expertise. 

Jon Husband made an insightful comment on my post asking ‘What’s your next career?’ Jon noted your next network is an important question too. 

I meet many talented people who haven’t had the success that they deserve. They have great expertise & potential. What they lack are the networks to grow or share their expertise. Without the support of networks to remain current and to offer new edge opportunities the expertise goes wasted. 

Today global networks power expertise in ways that change the game. In Moses Naim’s End of Power he highlights that there are more chess grandmasters than ever because there are more opportunities than ever for people to connect, learn and play. With access to global experts powered by global connection you can’t assume opportunities will find you if you are not engaged in building and sharing your expertise. 

Your step into your next career is going to ask people to take a chance on someone unproven. Whatever your expertise, people will make that decision based on their relationship with you or your relationship with people that they trust. Network connections enable career change. 

We have all heard about the 10,000 hours to build mastery. What is less discussed is the deep network connections required to support mastery. As you commit 10,000 hours to developing your next career spend half that on the network and you will get exponential results. Thick networks of connection help with any transformation.  

Sharing is not Enough

All over social networks people share links and opinions. Meet ups are held to enable more sharing face to face. Networks share information every day.

Sharing is happening more than ever but it is not enough. Sharing information is a critical part of the value maturity model. Sharing builds trust, deepens understanding and fosters connection. Sharing should be a sign the network is taking off.

You only take off if you have somewhere new to go. A lot of the networks sharing information never mature beyond a flurry of content marketing. Their links and messages are the same as every other network.

Shared Purpose and Collaborative Work

Any reason will bring you together to share information. Before people can work collaboratively they need some overlap of their personal purposes. They need to have some commonality of the change they want to make. Shared purpose takes the conversation deeper and creates incentives for action.

As obvious as it sounds, people won’t do collaborative work unless there is work to be done. In dispersed networks, don’t assume everyone can see the work opportunities. Mostly people will see the barriers to work.

The role of Change Agents in a network is to connect people around shared purpose and to help everyone to see the work to be done. The generative leadership of change agents will help lead people to new ways of interacting by solving real problems. If you don’t yet have change agents, community managers and other leaders will need to show the way.

Links, pictures, jokes and opinions are a good start but not enough. The purpose is in the work.

The Lost Art of Prioritisation

I once worked for a manager who loved to tell everyone their work was his #1 priority. Perhaps he thought it would encourage them. When clashes occurred and priorities needed to be sorted suddenly everyone put up their hand claiming to be first and fought for their status. Time and effort was wasted. ‘Everyone is #1’ was counterproductive.

I see many people working hard to do more. The demands of our work lives are high and there is always a stretch. Sometimes that stretch is to pick up the little things that others drop. Hustle becomes hassle.

Doing more is fine. Doing more of what matters more is better. Sometimes ‘less is more’ as Ludwig Mies van der Rohe said. Focus matters.

Bring back the lost art of prioritisation. Spend your time first on what matters most.

Here’s how:
– before you start understand the goals and outcomes of work. Without clear goals you can’t prioritise.
– work out loud to enable managers and others to understand your work load and priorities.
– Ask people to help you place new requests in priority based on outcomes
– Negotiate deliverables, delegate, delay, and critically stop work based on priorities. Doing a little to keep things moving is more dangerous than you expect. You don’t multitask. You just spread attention.
– when conflicts arise make the conversation about the value of the projects to customers and the organisation.
– remember the Pareto principle. Usually 20% delivers 80% of the outcome. Let that shape your work. Bring that focus to bear on projects and look to trim the edges.

Spending time on what matters more works. Bring back the lost art of prioritisation.

Dream Big and Dream Fierce


In life and in work, we need to aim high and we need to work hard to these goals. Even the best disappoint others occasionally. Failures and missteps are part of the process of learning. Others will forgive in time. However on any journey to a big goal, the toughest critic is most likely you. Don’t disappoint yourself. Be fierce in your own interests instead.

Dream Big and Dream Fierce

At the recent Logie awards, actress Miranda Tapsell spoke of her journey from a 17 year old Larrakia woman to winning awards in her chosen profession.  She called for more diversity in television because of its potential to inspire and unite us. Importantly, she also encouraged other young girls to “Dream big and dream fierce”. 

Dreaming big is important.  We have more potential than we know.  However, the latter part of that advice is well considered. Fierce pursuit of your goals is required for any form of success. Too many disappoint themselves by partial effort.

Stop Being Your Own Critic

Fierce pursuit of your dreams also demands that you stop the inner voices holding you back. Don’t let your own high expectations be a source of disappointment. You will be far more aware of your failings than others. Hold this in balance. Too many disappoint themselves by accepting the imposter syndrome that makes achievement feel unworthy.

Be Real

Success comes from being real in the world and improving every day. Big dreams aren’t achieved by dream boats. They are achieved by fierce agents of change.

Being real does not mean embracing others’ views of what are ‘realistic expectations’.  Fierce pursuit of your dreams means you must be real and engaged in the world. That means you need to have a real view of your status, your relationships and your capabilities. The need to understand these clearly is not because these are limits but because you must know what you need to change. Being real is the first step to learning, growing and getting where you want to go.

Being really also extends to accepting that there will be mistakes and challenges on your fierce journey to your goals.  Embrace these mistakes too as part of a real journey. Forgive yourself a lot and learn a little.

Stick to your values

The mistakes you will struggle to forgive are those where you don’t live up to your own expectations on how to behave. We all need a fierce focus on living to our values, especially when it is easy, attractive or convenient to take another path. Our influence comes from our actions and our integrity and we must fight to defend that against paths of convenience. 

Making the right decisions and saying the right things isn’t easy. Most of us aren’t perfect, but we need to have a fierce dedication to the values that make us who we are.  Big dreams are achieved through integrity.

Wherever your success journey is going, Miranda Tapsell’s advice is more succinctly and more elegantly than this explanation so as you go forward remember her words and share them with others:

“Dream big and dream fierce” 

Adaptive practice.

There is no perfect method.

Searching for a perfect method is not work and is a waste.  

The best way to judge a method is to use it. 

Method should be a path to better personal practice.

Use what helps you work better.  

All methods fail at some point.  

Stop using a method when it no longer works.  

The method no longer works when: 

  • you are spending time on the method that could be spent working
  • you continue to need a consultant, a manual or a system to help you to use the method
  • you do not understand, you feel less capable or you do not know what to do next. 
  • the method does not improve your work.
  • the method stops or delays your work.  

If the method doesn’t work, change it or choose another that works. 

Build your own method through adaptation. 

The Flying Wedge

Speak to any generalist and you hear the same frustrating cry “Everyone wants to know my speciality”.  A generalist needs to see the diversity of their experience as a source of differentiation, not the core proposition. Begin by meeting the specific needs of a situation.

The Challenge of Generalists

With more changes of role, career, technology and capability demanded of individuals, there are more and more people who have chosen to follow the diverse career path of the generalist. For many individuals the diversity itself is an attraction.

However, with diversity of experience and opportunity comes a challenge. How do you sell yourself in a job search or other work opportunity? When you can do many things, how do you answer the common question “What do you want to do?”  An attempt to explain your general capabilities and many future paths usually results in a confused repeat of the question.

A generalist needs to position their capabilities as a flying wedge, a specific capability supported by a wedge of general capabilities.

Problems are Specific

Whenever someone is looking to engage you, wether you are talking to a hiring manager or a client, that individual will focus on a specific problem or opportunity that needs to be addressed. They want to know first of all that you can solve that specific problem. Start by explaining how your capabilities address that need. 

Remember you are competing with specialists. Specialists will endeavour to prove they are the best in the world at some capability. They do this because that is all that they can do. The specialist sells a match between the one thing they do incredibly well and the need. If their speciality does not solve the specific need, the specialist misses out completely.

The leading point of the proposition of a generalist must be focused to compete with specialists to solve a specific need. Sell the most relevant pointy end of the flying wedge first, because it earns the right to further attention.

Meet the Situation then Differentiate

Meeting the need of the buyer is only a ticket to the next stage of the conversation. Everyone who is shortlisted can meet the needs. The challenge to win the job or work is to differentiate.

At this point, the diversity of the generalist becomes an advantage because you can follow through on your focused point by sharing your broader capabilities. Differentiating on the breadth of capabilities enables you to highlight your unique ability to:

  • better meet related challenges 
  • apply innovative solutions using other capabilities
  • deliver a better overall outcome

Specialists will need to compete on who has the most expertise. Instead you can use the flying wedge of your capabilities to widen the conversation to better sell the need for your generalist experience.

Why I am excited by Do Lectures Australia


Photo: Do Lectures Australia – Write change across anything and it looks good to me.

Do Lectures Australia is almost here

When I first heard about Do Lectures Australia. I went and looked at the Do Lectures website and found stories that resonated deeply. I found:

  • The idea which is put simply this way:

The idea is a simple one. That people who Do things, can inspire the rest of us to go and Do things too. So each year, we invite a set of people to come and tell us what they Do.

I immediately wanted to be a part of the event. I am so excited that after some luck and a great deal of generosity from Yammer. I am going to be a part of the experience later this month.

Why Do I Want to Do?

There are 3 things that are at the heart of why I am excited about the first Do Lectures in Australia

  • The Community: Do Lectures is not a huge conference. The scale is human. The goal is connection, interaction, learning and inspiration in a community atmosphere. The speakers which you can find on the blog are diverse and have achieved great things.  However, the list of attendees is just as remarkable. This is a community that I want to join.
  • The Purpose: In a world that can feel disconnected, apathetic and alien at times, we need people setting out to share their personal purpose, connect with others over purpose and bring great things to life to further purpose.  From what I have seen and know, there is a rare depth of purpose among the attendees at this event. I have already heard some extraordinary stories of what people have done, want to do and why. I want to hear, learn and engage to help more of these purposes come to action.
  • The Do: Conferences that are full of beautiful talking about talking are everywhere. Twitter was invented so that you don’t have to attend them, just read along or watch the videos later. I want to do, not talk. I want to be inspired to do extraordinary things. I want to meet people doing extraordinary things. I want to help others do. Purpose is in the work.

I look forward to sharing more on my return from this extraordinary event. I have had enough luck to date to tell this is going to be a great learning experience.  I will share more of my adventures and insights after I return from Payne’s Hut. I am sure I will be raving even about the ‘Purpose is the Work’ and the ‘Community is the How’. I might even slip in the odd mumbling about leadership in communities, networks and the future of work.

Special Thanks:  I would like to thank the Do Lectures team for keeping the pressure on for me to attend the event. There is nothing like an idea and the support of a community to produce results.

Most of all I would like to thank Yammer for the partnering with Do Lectures Australia to help bring this extraordinary event to life and for giving me the opportunity to attend as their guest, competition winner & Do-er. If any organisation has shown me the power of a community to reinforce purpose, to inspire and to do more, it is Yammer. Thanks for one more proof point.