Collaboration

Back to school. Back to writing

It’s been forever since I’ve put fingers to keys in a work sense. I’m not sure if there was ever a finite reason why I stopped writing, but the sheer volume of information being pushed by other incredibly talents writers and the limited impact of my content certainly played big roles.

 

I think though, it was mostly that I started questioning the validity of what I was trying to do. It’s a strange position to find yourself in; years of being a fix / learn whatever is needed generalist to a person longing for deeper reads and a model where expertise is truly coveted by organizations. It was a complete change of pace, and honestly, approach.

 

For over two decades, I’ve existed by learning just enough to get by and solve the problem. In ’99, I was hired as a coder and was completely underqualified from Day 1. I never really recovered. Languages, theory and philosophy all evolved quicker than I could and eventually I found the ever increasing gap to be too wide to cross.

 

Thankfully, that lead me to learning and uncovered a passion to help people understand enough to get their jobs done in a more effective and hopefully, more enjoyable way. I pushed collaboration and digital touch points, but oddly enough over the last few years, despite the huge influx of new technology available to organizations, the glacial pace of adoption began to take its toll on me.

 

Success existed in pockets, but never fully transformed the organizations I was trying to help. I used to wear small wins and success stories as badges of honor, but over time they highlighted the fact that there was more work to do and new ideas and approaches were needed if I truly wanted to help tie collaborative behaviour back to actual business outcomes and reach more than early adopters and exciting buzzwords. Gartner uses a term to plot the path of hype, and instead of being on the cutting edge, I wanted to reach the plateau of productivity.

 

So what does this mean? Why am I writing again? Well, starting next week I kickoff the first semester of my MBA. Formal learning. Tests. Papers. Grades. Truth be told, these things terrify me. I’ve almost been better at the 80% needed to make something functional than the hardest 20% to make it perfect, but the reality I’ve discovered over the last ten years shows I need to be inspired by new ideas. I think being exposed to new sources, people and outlooks will help trigger inspiration.

 

So, I’m opening this space again to work out loud. Share the good, the bad, the frustrating and the joy. It’s not meant to push success, but simply to reconnect with the same community that used to provide me with a spark. I’m not sure where I’ll end up, but even my first meet up with the other Toronto based people in my cohort opened my eyes to the fact that all too often the people in my work world that exist behind hashtags and buzzwords think the same way and know the same people. We preach inclusiveness and diversity, but all too often we are marching along the same path.

 

As I sat with five complete strangers, with quite varied backgrounds, it was funny to see them try to equate what I do on a day-to-day basis to areas of their own business. Concepts like employee engagement, culture, purpose, and digital readiness were not pillars, but methods to help drive units, increase productivity or reduce inefficiencies. Collaboration wasn’t a desired end-state, it was a way to innovate and solve problems. It was a means to an end. I quickly realized that none of the people at my table were speaking my language, and that was the greatest part about the encounter. I was listening, not trying to map out solutions or identify easy wins; I was listening to simply hear their challenges.

 

It doesn’t mean they were right or I was wrong, but sometimes to move the ball down the field you need to get in the trenches. You need to move passed what you draw up in the playbook, or see during practice. You need to realize that some of the biggest barriers are staring you right in the face, but you don’t even realize they exist.

 

When I started this journey it was to help people figure out how to solve their problems, not implement my solutions. I’m not sure how this experiment will go, but for the first time in a while I feel like the answers I find will be to questions I haven’t asked time and time again in the hopes of hearing a different result.

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The search for happiness?

816tC2hjFELAs more and more organizations look at problematic engagement issues within the workforce, the more confusing the concept of engagement actually becomes. Engagement is a trendy buzz word right now, but like corporate culture, it’s not easily defined and varies greatly depending on the organization.

That uncertainty has led to a very disturbing trend that terrifies me beyond belief. For some reason happiness is often viewed as a synonym for engagement and total employee happiness is often presented as the utopic end state for an organization.
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Do you feel connected? Finding fulfillment& comfort in a virtual world.

get-connected-300x225The other night I had the pleasure of sitting down for steak florentine, caprese salad, rosemary potatoes and pecan pie with my boss friend and his family. We drank wine, laughed, and talked about cycling for long enough to make anyone not named Lance cringe.

Largely due to the people at the table (two people in the leadership space, the head of school, a wellness consultant, a man that has started several companies and another that seemed to know something about everything), we talked technology, leadership, obsession with power, and flexible work masked under the umbrella of general questions like, “so, what do you actually do?”

The question that sparked the most debate (directed at me when I was talking about being in the office roughly one day a week for the last 8 years) was “do you feel connected?” (more…)

Lebron James:: Understanding his decision is understanding today’s workforce

Yesterday, countless sources (read, the explosion that was my twitter feed) reported the Kevin Love / Andrew Wiggins trade. Immediate reactions – mostly from male, Gen X, white, Canadian e-pundits – talked of shortsightedness, selfishness and mistakes. People used the trade to rehash complaints about how Lebron jumped ship. He was somehow wrong for leaving for a better situation instead of paddling doggedly to keep a sinking ship afloat.

We judged him and now the Cavaliers by static criteria, despite the fact we live in a fluid world. We questioned their decision to risk an uncertain future for a chance at immediate success. We assumed both would trade happiness and fulfillment for a sense of loyalty that no longer exists and we asked organizations to sacrifice today for a future that can never be accurately forecasted.

Not to pull a Wooderson, but the reality is sports writers and leaders are getting older while athletes and employees stay the same age. The generational divide forces them to assess a decision on criteria that are foreign to the people making the choice. It’s the same struggle we face trying to motivate, inspire, develop and retain talent in today’s organizations. Organizations no longer hold all the cards, and decisions are less black and white than ever before. (more…)

Social adoption:: Find their solution, don’t sell yours

img-collaborationIf you read this blog, chances are you’ve spent countless hours trying to sell the value of collaboration to business units or project teams across your organization. I’ve tried to creative tactics – honestly, I’d have a few less greys if Daniel Pink had published To Sell is Human years ago – focusing on business issues, value propositions, inspiration and potential.

I’ve sold the successes we had and retold the stories we shared. I’ve surfaced problem resolutions and surprising outcomes to help teams connect positive outcomes to their own situation. I dug and dug until I found something that connected with the target audience. Obviously, I see huge value in collaboration; sharing ideas, encouragement, support and expertise is what I do on a day-to-day basis and what I expect from others, but that’s not a universal truth and it’s important to remember that when you are trying to “help.”

In almost every org I’ve worked for/with, the training for social technology is to simplify the tools and site development to the point where any user can start building sites and sharing content as soon as possible. Make it easy to use and impossible to break. We develop templates to minimize the required starting lift. We create chunked support materials to allow employees learn only what they need to learn to perform a task.

Unfortunately, that simplification also makes it hard to control the flow of information and content on sites. Employees are routinely asked to fit a square peg into a (nicely designed) round hole. For our Jam sites, we ask teams to use the SAP created templates or a customized TELUS template. This makes it easy to create sites, but also makes it easy for the purpose of the site to get lost behind widgets and design. The general assumption is that if we can let teams hit the ground running, chances are they will be more interested in sharing ideas or content.

In reality, the most important collaboration occurs before you design or launch any new site.

Selling collaboration is one thing; creating a solution is another. Before a team creates a solution, there are many important questions that should be asked. At TELUS, we’ve stopped talking about the benefits of collaboration, and now simply ask why is the site being built, what value does it add and what will help it stay relevant over time?

If your new users can’t answer these questions, chances are even the best designed, easy to use community will stagnate quickly. Even worse, if users don’t know why they are visiting a site and are forced to hunt blindly for content, the platform will become a distraction that will derail productivity.

We’ve realized that standardization and simplification are important, but creating sites that allow users to ask a question, find an answer or consume content effectively is what will drive results and allow the user to get back to the task at hand. Alex Pang – author of the Distraction Addiction – offers this insight:

“There are times when it can be a lot more efficient to ask the person who knows the answer to a question, than to hunt around the corporate intranet or two-year-old crowd-sourced FAQ for the answer,” Pang writes. “However, we need to just do that judiciously, be mindful that your convenience may come at someone else’s expense, and do it only when necessary.”

So how can you help?

The biggest value I can add to any discussion about collaboration is perspective. When I meet with teams, the first thing I do is share a single .pptx slide.
whyarewebuildingthis

What is the purpose of this site?

While this seems like an obvious question, it’s one that gets forgotten more often than not. Is it a marketing site? A support channel? A site set up because your director said we need to use the new tools? If you don’t determine the purpose of your site, you will most likely not showcase the best content or user experience.

If you want your Jam space to be a support channel – maybe an easy way to allow field technician to ask a question to a large group of technicians and capture that context – it makes sense to surface the Forums or even Feed Widget on your Overview page. If your site is more of a brochure site – maybe a Meet the HR team – it makes more sense to showcase the People widget (Featured Member) and work on an engaging Overview page. If it’s a Learning space, highlighting the appropriate content (maybe, using hashtags) helps direct users as soon as the page loads.

Bottom line, even though ideas like all content must be accessible in less than 3-clicks have been debunked, your site will be more effective is you surface appropriate content on the home page. In order to do this, you need to clearly understand the site’s purpose.

Will this site improve on existing process?

In large organizations, the creative workarounds teams come up with are incredible. When a tool or process doesn’t meet a team’s needs, it is morphed until it does. Asking a team to change for the sake of changing is a difficult and often detrimental to your working relationship. If you don’t ask this question, and proceed to implement a solution that impacts actual work, your business partners will begin to question your intentions.

Sometimes it’s best to simply walk away.

When I meet with teams and ask them to explain there current process and try to determine if changing how the team does something is worth the work and training required. If it’s not, I am honest with them. “Listen, this tool won’t make your team more productive or reduce the time required to perform specific tasks. If there are other issues you are having, maybe we can use our collaborative tools to help.”

I’d rather earn their trust and build a relationship so when I do find a problem that can be solved by our collaborative tools/methodologies, they know I actually understand there issues and am trying to help.

How can you keep group members coming back?

By definition, collaboration is a two-way street. A lot of group admins assume the two-way flow of ideas and content is the responsibility of the users. By asking this question prior to launch, you can model behaviors and pre-set the expectations of the group. How often will the content be updated? What is the expected reply time to questions asked in the forums? If a group admin doesn’t have a clear understanding of posting cadence and service level agreements, users may question the value of the site.

When we launched Jam, we asked technicians to use Forums to ask questions, promising timely responses. Because no SLA was documented, questions took a back seat to other tasks. Once technicians realized it was faster to call another technician or simply start scouring product documentation, they stopped using the site. We lost their trust, and almost instantly our collaborative space became static.

When we proposed a similar solution to another group, we talked expectations and commitments. Group admins committed to answering all questions within one hour. As a result, technicians began to trust the process and actively participate. The tool met the needs of the user group and as a result, the Jam space was successful.

Before you can help team use new tools and transform they way they work, I suggest you take a step back and determine if they are ready to support the transformation and if the shift is appropriate.

Are your learners finding the right content in SAP Jam?

2 men jigsaw pieceI spent most of last week in Vancouver for product meetings and TELUS team focused sessions. On Day 2 of our Performance Culture sessions, Jocelyn Berard (VP Leadership & Business Solutions International at Global Knowledge) sat with us to talk about leadership and influence.

The session was inspiring, but the big aha moment (or a-ha moment?) for me was a quote he shared from a physician placed in charge of a hospital. When asked what made a physician a good leader, the doctor suggested that before you can lead physicians, you need to prove you actually are a good physician.

The concept of being an expert before becoming a leader is something concerning in today’s world. Technology provides everyone a platform for thought leadership (undoubtedly, sharing ideas and theories helps progress leadership and collaboration at the speed of fiber optics), but it also changed the job description of most HR professionals. We are no longer expected to simply understand benefits and hand out forms; we are essentially tasked with being technology champions (for anyone that’s seem their organization migrate HR process to the cloud, we can commiserate over a drink) and solution architects in addition to any traditional expertise our roles might require.

We are constantly asked to display our knowledge and establish trust with the people we help on a daily basis, and as a result we need to be equal parts visionary and subject matter expert. We are not just asked to teach people about our tools, but how to use them most effectively. In simple terms, if we can’t help people how can we lead them?

Over the last year, my role has switched from big picture visionary to task based efficiency. Truthfully, I’m okay with that. If we are asking employees to change how they work, why they work and also learn how to use tools to help execute on either transformation, as an HR professional, I need to be able to help when questions are asked. At TELUS, three of us are tasked with promoting JAM (our social hub) and collaboration. We’ve spent the last few months creating demos, providing tips and tricks and hoping to show employees how social collaboration can improve business efficiency and drive results.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to share a few of the tips here. Ideally, people will read these tips and want to share their own. Mine will be focused on JAM, but collaboration is about capabilities, not tools.

Sharing targeted content in Jam

One of the biggest complaints we get from our users is that there is just too much information being shared. The feeds move faster than they can process/digest, and groups become unruly within weeks. You often hear that too much collaboration is a problem that most orgs would love to have, but in reality, too much content is as scary as not enough content for many users.

To help “promote” relevant content, you can use the Featured Content option, but that is a very manual and restrictive process. If you use the Featured Content (or any of the default settings), you cannot feature specific, user generated content over time. Instead, we made the decision to filter content widgets by hashtags. Using the hashtag is an incredibly easy way to promote content that aligns to key corporate objectives or is timely and appropriate (for example, we leveraged the hashtag for our career development process and yearly objectives to coincide with the deadlines for both).

In most cases, your Content widgets will be filtered by type. Whether you chose “Featured”, “Last Updated”, “Most Viewed” or “Most “Liked”, you are basically locking into a singular strategy for content promotion.

content_type

You are either leaving the decision to the group admin (featured content) or the voice of the crowd (any of the filters that rely on views or updates). In this example, our Content widget is filtered to display the last five documents (this includes a video, pptx, image file, Jam poll and a wiki page) that were updated within this specific group.

standard_view

 

Using hashtags allows you filter the content displayed but still leverage the voice of the crowd. You can surface documents based on key topics, but allow update date, likes or even views determine what documents get highest priority. In this example, we want to showcase any content applies to leadership. By adding the hashtag “leadership” to the Content widget, we ensure that only users will only see content that has been tagged appropriately.

To add the leadership hashtag:

  1. Click Edit to switch your wiki page into edit mode.
  2. Navigate to your Content widget.
  3. Click the Edit button.
    Edit
  4. Type “leadership” into the Filter by tag text box.
    leadership
  5. Click OK.

When the page reloads, you can see that the Content widget now only displays the content that has been tagged.

leadership_view

Instead of five documents, you only see three. Essentially, the group admin has determined what topics are most important to the group, but allowed the group to determine what content is most effective or important.

Hopefully this tip will help you streamline the user generated and social content and provide a more tailored and effective environment for your group collaboration.

If you have any strategies you’d like to share, please leave links or comments.

Fresh start: TELUS Transformation Office

services_hero-300x139Wow. Yesterday already seems like a distant memory. For most of the last year, I focused on building marketing materials, doing research, creating strategy & recommendation documents and working with pilot customers in preparation for a new role within TELUS. Knowing that as of yesterday we finally moved from planning to reality hasn’t quite sunk in – you know, forest through the trees type of thing – but my work  life has changed completely.

Yesterday, we launched TELUS Transformation Office, a future of work consulting wing within TELUS that aims to help organizations improve corporate culture and improve employee engagement. Ideally, we can take our experience, insights and successes and help other organizations in their own attempt to evolve leadership, digital readiness, career & talent services, and the onboarding experience.

Without question, this is a new type of mentality for us. Learning is a unique space. I honestly believe that there are very few walls between people in this industry. We’re all in the business of helping people, whether it’s internally or externally. We share freely on blogs, wikis, chats, twitter, at conferences and basically in every forum possible. We all have the same, altruistic goal; to make work better for the people we support.

Right now, most of this sharing is done informally and meant to inspire, not transform. By formalizing the process, we hope that organizations can get the traction not only to start the journey, but to continue it. The end goal is too important to have it pushed to the side of the desk or the left to the energy and influence of a few dedicated workers.

I was in a very fortunate position. I loved my job and I love working for TELUS. In terms of Enterprise learning/collaboration and corporate culture, TELUS is pushing the boundaries and changing the conversation. It was no longer a desperate ask of “how can we fix this?” When we talk to anyone about the state of learning, collaboration and culture, they ask “how did you fix it?” It’s no longer theoretical knowledge. Great culture and collaboration is reality at TELUS.

In my (almost) five years at TELUS, we’ve gone from virtually no social technologies and very little cross functional collaboration to an industry recognized success story. We’ve incorporated a leadership model that encourages collaboration and as a result, we’ve deployed new tools and cultivated a workforce that not only understands how to share and leverage technology, but why collaboration is vital to our business and can dramatically improve the customer experience. Simply put, we’ve taken our ideals and moved them from an HR project to a organization-wide vision. The difference is huge.

Basically, in terms of learning, my role was as close to the perfect fit as I’ve come across. I was able to explore tools, work with new people and really try to prove value in the methodologies and capabilities we’ve been preaching for years. We were able to successfully unite leadership, learning and collaboration. That’s probably why the possibility of helping other organizations do the same thing is so exciting. It’s no longer a pipe dream. The need is there, the technology is available and – without sounding like a documentary trailer – the time for change is now.

Society isevolving; it’s harder to get people’s attention and as learning professionals we need to constantly reevaluate our approach. It’s scary, but it’s also exciting. We know that the fundamentals of leadership and learning should be blended with the move to a more technology based ecosphere to help people understand how to succeed and feel connected/supported. We know that people demand more from their job than just a pay cheque and that right now and we know that almost half of the people that go to work each morning aren’t happy. This needs to change and we want to help.

Watch this video to learn more about how we transformed TELUS, and how we can help you.