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Dear IT Guy, Can You Actually Use the Tool You’re Creating?

Do the top developers for Google’s Android operating system use Blackberries?  Do the IT guys developing Windows 7 use Macs?  Do the folks at WordPress use Blogger to host their personal blogs?

These are purposely ridiculous questions – wouldn’t the best developers use the actual tools they’re responsible for building?  Wouldn’t they do their job more effectively if they were actually a user of the product they’re developing? Doesn’t the product have more credibility if the people behind it are believers in the product’s features?  Out of everyone, shouldn’t the development team, at least, be the biggest advocates of the very software they’re implementing?  Shouldn’t they be the ones drinking the Kool-Aid?

Unfortunately, IT departments at large companies and government agencies are too often doing the equivalent of developing Android apps at work and using the iPhone at home. Sharepoint developers implement Sharepoint, yet they don’t use it to manage the implementation. The guys installing your organization’s blogging software don’t realize that the “Add a Picture” button doesn’t work because they don’t have blogs.  The team responsible for increasing awareness of your Enterprise 2.0 platform haven’t even created profiles of themselves.

Now, take a look at the official support areas for WordPress, Telligent, MindTouch, Jive or any of the dozens of social software vendor sites.  Notice anything? The developers are often the most active members of their respective communities and they’re using their own software day after day in the course of doing their jobs. If there’s a glitch involved with posting a new comment to a forum, they’re going to be the first ones to see it, diagnose the problem and fix it.

Sadly, I’ve been seeing these situations increase with the emergence of the Enterprise 2.0 and Government 2.0 initiatives. IT departments are increasingly being asked to implement wikis, blogs, social bookmarking, video-sharing, and dozens of other varieties of collaboration software – software they may know how to code, but often have no idea how to actually use.  They’re just told to “give us a wiki” or “develop a blog for me.”  Actually using the blog or wiki isn’t a requirement.  As as I was told by one programmer a year or so ago when I recommended he start a blog to inform the rest of the community about the latest enhancements and maintenance activities,

“Every hour I spend playing around on a blog post is an hour I spend away from coding!”

Well, that was helpful – thanks! Instead of getting frustrated and ending the conversation, I should have instead elaborated on the benefits that a developer enjoys when he becomes a user instead of just a developer.

  • Higher quality product – you can identify bugs and feature improvements before they become problems for other users.
  • Increased credibility – If, as a user,  I ask how to upload my photo, guess whose response I’m going to be believe – the guy with an empty profile or the guy who’s been active on the community for the last year?
  • Increased “forgive-ability” – Look, we know that these sites will go down occasionally, especially when they’re first being developed.  We can deal with that…if we’ve been reading your blog and know that it’s down this Saturday night because you’re installing the new widget we’ve been asking for. If the site goes down and all we get is a 404 error page stating that the site is down for maintenance…again, we’re going to be less than pleased.
  • Content Seeding – Clients are always asking,  “how are we going to get people to actually work on this site and add content?”  Well, before you even launch, if your project team (including developers, community managers, comms people, etc.) actually use the site you’re building, you’ll create a solid base of content before you even start to open it up to more people.  Adding to existing content (even if it’s not related) is always easier than creating something new.
  • Common Ground – you become a member of the community instead of the guy behind the curtain making changes willy-nilly. You gain trust and respect because they know that you’re dealing with the same issues they are.  You’re struggling to access the site on your phone too.  You’re not getting the alerts you signed up for either.  You’re not able to embed videos correctly.  You go through what they go through.
  • Greater ownership in the final product – The community becomes YOUR community, not something you’re just developing for a bunch of “users.”  You become invested in it and want to make it faster, add new features, win awards, etc. because you’re a part of it.

For all you non-developers out there, would you like your IT staff to be more visible?  Would you be interested in learning more about what’s happening under the hood of your Intranet/Enterprise 2.0 platform?  What other benefits do you see to getting them more involved?

For you developers, what’s preventing you from getting this involved in the communities/platforms that you’re responsible for creating?

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Identify the Right People to Manage Your Social Media Initiatives

Who leads your organization’s social media initiatives? Is it someone who rose up and took the role or is is someone who was assigned that role?

Social media isn’t something that can just be assigned to someone any more than you can just assign someone to be the homecoming king. Adding “social media” to that junior public affairs officer’s job description isn’t suddenly going to turn your organization into the next Zappo’s. While you’re at it, you might as well add “organizational budgeting” and “legal review” to his job description too – those are two other things that he/she might be able to do well, but would you really entrust those duties to them?

This is why so many social media initiatives fail – not because of technology or policy, but because of people.  We talk often about what department should lead social media, how to get leadership buy-in for social media, or what technology should be used, and while those are important discussions to have, you should be focused on identifying WHO should be leading the social media initiatives.  Not whether that’s the Chief Marketing Officer or the Director of Public Affairs or the Community Relations Lead, but actual names of people.  Remember, social media is driven by the person, not the position.

The best person right now might be Joe over in Marketing, but what if Joe leaves the organization?  Who leads the social media initiatives then?  The answer isn’t necessarily Joe’s replacement.  It might be Kim over in HR. It might be that new guy over in community relations, or maybe it’s your webmaster.  The point is that social media doesn’t fit nicely into just one job description.  There’s a very real human element to it, and identifying the wrong person, even if it is the right position is often the biggest determination in the success or failure of your social media initiatives.

To find the right person to handle social media for your organization, look for people who:

  • LOVE your organization and really understand its mission – first and foremost, find the people who love their jobs and believe in your mission. This isn’t a job for the person interested in just the paycheck.
  • Believe in the transformative power of social media – it’s not about applying the same old processes to new tools. It’s about fundamentally transforming the way your organization interacts with the public, your customers and with each other.
  • You enjoy being around – If a person is a real butthead in real-life, he’s going to be that way online too, and you can’t afford to have someone like that representing you or your organization
  • Have little fear of failure – Early in my career, a client pulled me aside after they shot down 3 straight ideas I had and told me, “I want to make sure that you understand we WANT you to continue bringing those off-the-wall ideas because it forces us to think of things we never thought of and even if we don’t take your suggestions now, they all become building blocks for future ideas.”
  • Enjoy working in teams – Social media is “social” – you have to enjoy working with a diverse group of people
  • Are responsive – There is no 24 hour news cycle any more. It’s real-time baby. You need people who you KNOW will reply to emails, tweets, texts, etc. quickly and thoroughly. Interestingly, these are also often the people who are the most ambitious and passionate about your organization too.  (*note – these are also the people who may take longer lunches or come in a little late because they don’t just “shut off” at 5:00 PM)
  • Can speak like a human being – Corporate marketing speak, statistics, facts, and figures are good, but when was the last time you got inspired by a pie chart? Find people who can connect with their colleagues/customers/clients on a personal level
  • Are very aware of their strengths and weaknesses and are open about them – One of the first things I tell new employees is to find out what you’re good at and find out what you’re not good at, and then find people who are good at those things and make friends with them. In social media, you’re going to come across issues regarding privacy, IT, legal, communications, and HR, not to mention specific functional areas of your organization. You can’t know it all – know what you don’t know, and know who to contact for help.
  • Are humble -People mess up in social media. A lot.  It’s ok.  Admit you’re wrong, fix what you messed up and move on. Not everyone can do this, and very few can do it well.

Now that I think about it,these are many of the same qualities that exist in any leader, right?  So, what other qualities would you look for when trying to identify someone to head up a social media initiative?

This post was inspired by Andrew Wilson’s “Innovation Lab | Who Should Be At The Table” post and Lovisa Williams’ “The Intersection” post. Fantastic stuff (as usual) by the both of them.

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What Can the Government Learn From a $100,000 Salt & Pepper Shaker?

I finally got around to reading “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch.  If you’re not familiar with Randy’s story, read about it here or watch the video below.  I highly recommend this if you’re about to have a child,  already a parent, if you’re a teacher, or if in any way, you’re responsible for the welfare of someone else – it’s a fantastic reminder to focus on what matters.  There’s a ton of great lessons in this book, but as I was reading it, one story in particular stuck out – the $100,000 Salt & Pepper Shaker.  This story resonated with me because it not only made me think of all the companies and brands that have earned my loyalty over the years, but also of the the interactions that I have had with our government, be it at the Post Office, at the DMV, as the Social Security Administration, the IRS, etc.

Here’s the summary of Randy’s story –

When Randy was 12, he was walking around Disney World with his sister. He and his sister wanted to thank their parents for the vacation so they pooled their money together to purchase ceramic salt & pepper shakers as gifts. Unfortunately, in his excitement to be at Disney World and to give his parents the gift, young Randy drops them, shattering both. Someone saw this incident and suggested that he take them back to the store and ask for a replacement. This was a foreign concept to Randy – why would they replace them? He broke them. It was his fault.  Nevertheless, he went back to the store and explained what happened. To Randy and his sister’s surprise, the Disney store manager not only replaced the salt & pepper shakers free of charge, he apologized for not wrapping them up well enough!

Years later, Randy looks back at that day and sees the beginning of a love affair with Disney that has gone on for decades. You see, that one seemingly insignificant gesture made Randy and his parents see Disney on a whole new level, and as a result, they have enthusiastically supported the Disney brand to the tune of more than $100,000 in tickets, food, and souvenirs.

At the end of this chapter of the book, Randy tells the story of how he still serves as a consultant to Disney and at the end of his meetings, he ends by asking,

“If I sent a child into one of your stores with a broken salt and pepper shaker today, would your policies allow your workers to be kind enough to replace it?

The executives “squirm at the question” because they know the answer is “probably not.”

We all have stories like this – the mechanic you still go to because he corrected that other mechanic’s mistake for free; the barber who, upon finding out that you didn’t have enough cash to pay him after cutting your hair told you “not to worry about it because you’ll pay him next time;” the guy at Best Buy who took 20 minutes out of his day to answer every single question about plasma vs. LCD TVs that you had.

Now, can you think of a story like that involving a government institution?  If you are a civil service employee, how would you answer the question? Are your organization’s policies such that you would be able to spend ten extra minutes with a heartbroken customer to fix their problem?

If I were the head of a government agency, I would bring in the folks from Disney to talk to all of my managers and public-facing employees about the importance of customer service in government. A government agency that uses solid change management techniques to teach every employee to truly embrace principles like “the front line is the bottom line,” and “Two Ears, two eyes and one mouth, use them in that ratio” would do more to bring about “Government 2.0 than any new policy, memo, or technology platform could ever do.

We talk a lot about Government 2.0 being citizen-centric, but that’s not going to happen via some technology platform or memo. That’s going to happen when we make the citizen our customer, our bottom line and we extend that to include both online and offline interactions. There’s one phrase that Walt Disney used as the key to Disney’s customer service program – “exceed guests’ expectations.”

Where in your agency’s mission mission does it say that you will try to “exceed citizens’ expectations?

Watch the full video of Randy Pausch’s “Last Lecture” below.

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Six Villains of Gov 2.0

I recently came across this funny (and too true) post by Todd Heim on social media villains that piqued both my long-time interest in super-heroes and super-villains and all things Government 2.0 too.  While we pump up the Gov 2.0 Heroes (and even had an entire Day dedicated to them), and we hold conferences to highlight the work done by these heroes, I haven’t seen the opposite side get its due.  Well, I’d like to dedicate this post to the people who make government innovation so difficult, the people who have stood in our way for years, the people who have been classified as hurdles, obstacles, and barriers – the Villains of Gov 2.0.

Dr. Closed Mind

Image courtesy of Flickr user gregmote

“Yeah, that’s a great idea, but we don’t have time for that – just focus on doing your job!”

Description: Dr. Closed Mind has the ability make even the most new and innovative ideas seem like frivolous wastes of time.  He thrives on doing things his way because that’s “the way they’ve always done.” By relying on the force of inertia and his extreme stubbornness, he’s able to simultaneously frustrate his numerous adversaries as well as advance his own career.  Dr. Closed Mind is focused on checking off his task list and will aggressively squash any attempt to disrupt that routine.

Strengths: Able to avoid changing his routine for years on end; leverages allies in the legal and IT security departments to maintain the status quo; super-human ability to make stagnation appear to seem like laser-like focus.

Weaknesses: Transparency.  By exposing the outdated and often inefficient methods of Dr. Closed Mind to more people, you can help shine a light on the work of Dr. Closed Mind and force his leadership to ask him the often-deadly question of “why aren’t we doing it like this instead?”

The Downer

“Sure, it’d be great to do that, but unfortunately, we’re not allowed. I hate working here :(“

Description: The Downer is a deceptively strong villain, capable of destroying the morale of even the strongest teams.  Through near constant talk of policies, regulations, and costs, The Downer calls attention to every possible reason why an idea can’t and won’t work, yet is unable to see the potential benefits.  Changing policies, getting buy-in, and taking risks

Strengths: Able to destroy morale with a single agenda item; has the uncanny ability to rattle off the most obscure policies and regulations; able to turn “quick wins” into insignificant activities that will never amount to anything;

Weaknesses: Change. By highlighting positive changes that have occurred, The Downer’s seemingly immense pessimism can be slowly chipped away and he starts to see that things can change.

The Money-Monger

“I’ve had Ashton Kutcher retweet me – I can show you how to do that too!”

Description: Seeing business development opportunities wherever he goes, the Money-Monger (also known by the aliases “Social Media Ninja” and “Social Media Guru”) has a Red Bull-fueled energy for telling everyone who will listen how he can help them use social media…for a price.  He will probably talk about how to increase your Twitter followers, guarantee that he can create “viral videos,” and tell you how easy social media is.

Strengths: Master of ulterior motives.  Able to see a business opportunity where no one ever had before.  Immune to common social etiquette, meaningful relationships, and small talk.  Has mastered the ability to create 50 slide presentations without one bit of actual thought on any of the slides.

Weaknesses: Strategy.  Weaken the Money-Monger’s defenses by asking him how he measures the effectiveness of his tactics that does NOT involve the number of friends, fans, or followers.  Force the Money-Monger to show how social media will help accomplish your agency’s mission.

Captain Conservative

Courtesy of Flickr User ewen and donabel

“This sounds like a great idea, but let’s make sure that we circulate it with everyone and get their buy-in first.”

Description: Captain Conservative is often both a villain and an ally of the Gov 2.0 Heroes. While Captain Conservative is often supportive of the Gov 2.0 Heroes, he lives by the mantra of “always ask for permission first or you may get fired.”  He’s been brainwashed by two of his former mentors, Dr. Closed Mind and The Downer, who have unfortunately, scrambled his brain.  While his intentions are good, the mental scars of his former mentors still appear strong.

Strengths: Through his sheer likability, Captain Conservative is often able to embed himself into teams early on, only to systematically dismantle them through long, prolonged review and approval processes.  He often leaves no visible traces of the damage he causes and often emerges from the failed project unscathed.

Weaknesses: Top Cover.  By securing the approval of people located above Captain Conservative on the org chart, you can mitigate his fear of doing something wrong and getting in trouble for it.

The Silo

“We’d love to be more collaborative…as long as no one outside of my team can get in and mess with our stuff.”

Description: One of the more powerful Gov 2.0 villains, The Silo is known for his ability to protect sandboxes with a maniacal sense of urgency.  The Silo always considers he and his team unique, and has an almost paranoid fear that everyone else has the worst intentions in mind.  By keeping a stranglehold on his data and his team, The Silo has the ability to set the precedent that sharing data is optional, poisoning an entire organization’s thinking.  Ironically, The Silo is often an outspoken advocate of collaborative tools…as long as he gets final say over who’s collaborating with whom.

Strengths: Seeming collaborative while actually not being collaborative; able to craft incredibly detailed stories about people getting fired, killed, maimed, reprimanded for sharing data; has the innate ability to create a PDF version of virtually everything he and his team share; very comfortable with managing incredibly detailed access controls.

Weaknesses: Open Platforms.  Without the ability to restrict access, The Silo is unable to hoard information and lock it away so he is forced to either use the new tools and share, or use his old methods.

The Information Sucker

“Can you send me any materials you have – someone was asking me about Gov 2.0 and I want to be able to talk with them.”

Description: The Information Sucker paints himself as a friend of the Gov 2.0 Heroes, but in reality, he’s only focused on advancing his own career.  The Information Sucker is keenly aware of the increased attention being paid to open government initiatives and wants to get in on the action without actually doing any of the work.  Viewing attribution as a weakness,  The Information Sucker makes nice with the Gov 2.0 Heroes and then sucks every last idea and product from them that he can, only to disappear and resurface months later to much fanfare because of the “new and innovative ideas” that he’s brought to his team.

Strengths: Deftly able to conceal his true motives; extreme copy and paste abilities; able to pull together entire presentations and proposals without actually needing to understand what he’s writing; excellent ability to insert latest buzzwords into his speech.

Weaknesses: Probing Questions. Because The Information Sucker’s “expertise” has been gained from a few white papers and PowerPoint presentations, his outer shell can be penetrated with follow-up questions.

Beware of the Gov 2.0 Villains – they’re lurking everywhere, sometimes concealing their identity, sometimes not even aware of their own villainous ways.  Rather than attacking and defeating these villains, we would do well to befriend and educate them.  The best way to neutralize a Gov 2.0 Villain is to turn them into a Gov 2.0 advocate.

** UPDATE: Make sure you check out Gwynne Kostin’s excellent FanGirl addendum to this post too! **

Description: Dr. Closed Mind has the ability make even the most new and innovative ideas seem like frivolous wastes of time.  He thrives on doing things his way because that’s “the way they’ve always done.” By relying on the force of inertia and his extreme stubbornness, he’s able to simultaneously frustrate his numerous adversaries as well as advance his own career.  Dr. Closed Mind is focused on checking off his task list and will aggressively squash any attempt to disrupt that routine.

 

Strengths: Able to avoid changing his routine for years on end; leverages allies in the legal and IT security departments to maintain the status quo; super-human ability to make stagnation appear to seem like laser-like focus.

Weaknesses: Transparency.  By exposing the outdated and often inefficient methods of Dr. Closed Mind to more people, you can help shine a light on the work of Dr. Closed Mind and force his leadership to ask him the often-deadly question of “why aren’t we doing it like this instead?”

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