Tag Archives: wiki

If You Want a Culture of Collaboration, You Need to Accept the LOLCats Too

January 5, 2012

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"Even with the sacred printing press, we got erotic novels 150 years before we got scientific journals."

– Clay Shirky at TED Cannes in June 2010

This is one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite people in the business, Clay Shirky. I particularly like it because it illustrates the period many organizations find themselves in when trying to integrate social media internally.  Before wikis were used by the Intelligence Community to develop reports on IEDs, people were creating user badges to show off their favorite NFL teams. Before my own company's Intranet won any awards, we had people talking about how they enjoy skinny dipping on their profile. Before our VPs starting using Yammer to communicate with the workforce, we had groups of Android geeks and fitness gurus.I'm telling you this because if you're implementing any type of social media behind your organizational firewall, you should prepare yourself, your colleagues, your bosses, your senior leadership for this one inexorable truth.

If you will freak out when you see this on your Intranet, you're probably not ready for a social intranetIf you want to create a vibrant culture of collaboration, you need to be OK with pictures of LOLCats, posts about the NFL playoffs, arguments about Apple and Android, and criticism of company policies.

Accept and embrace this fact now and your communities have a much better chance at succeeding. Or, continue thinking that things like this are a waste of a time and are unprofessional, and get ready to pay a lot of money for a system that ultimately no one uses unless they absolutely have to.

Unfortunately, "social" seems to have become almost a dirty word in the workplace, conjuring up images of employees whittling away their time on Facebook, talking to their boyfriend on the phone, or taking a three hour lunch break.  Let's all agree now to stop trying to take the social out of social media. "Social" interactions not only needs to be OK, they need to be encouraged and rewarded. Shirky explains why at the 5:33 mark of the below TED video:


Shirky says:

The gap is between doing anything and doing nothing. And someone who makes a LOLcat has already crossed over that gap. Now it’s tempting to want to get the Ushahidis without the LOLcats, right, to get the serious stuff without the throwaway stuff. But media abundance never works that way. Freedom to experiment means freedom to experiment with anything.

The same principle holds true when talking about social media and the business world. There's this tendency on the part of senior leadership to want to skip the blogs about company policy workarounds and the wiki pages detailing where to get the best burritos near the office and move right to co-creating methodologies with cross-functional teams and crowdsourcing initiatives that save millions of dollars. It doesn't work like that. Collaborative communities don't just start innovating because you build a website and send a memo. Just like we had to experience erotic novels before scientific journals and LOLCats before sites like Ushahidi, we will also have to accept the fact that your employees will be talking about fantasy football and what they're doing over the holidays before they're going to be ready to use those tools to conduct "real" work. 

This makes intuitive sense though, doesn't it? Isn't posting about fantasy football or your favorite lunch spot a lot easier (and less frightening) than uploading that report you've been working on for three weeks? If someone doesn't like your favorite restaurant, who cares? If, however, someone criticizes the report you've spent weeks writing, that's a little more intimidating.  Once you've taken that step – that step from doing nothing to doing something – it's a lot easier to take the next step and the step after that. After engaging in that conversation about your favorite burrito, it's suddenly easier to join the conversation about the new IT policy. Then, maybe you upload a portion of the report you're struggling with to see if anyone can help. Viewed from this perspective, even the stupidest posts and most worthless conversations have value, because they provide a safe, low risk means for people to dip their toe in the water and take that first step. It takes time for employees to feel comfortable using these social tools at work. If you give them the ability to grow and learn together at their own pace, your community will become much more scalable and sustainable.

So embrace the LOLCats, the fantasy football threads, the lunch discussions, and the custom avatars – at least your employees will be creating and sharing something with someone else. Because what will follow is that these stupid, silly, foolish discussions will lead to relationships, questions, answers, and finally, very cool innovations, products, and solutions that will save you money, win you awards, and really and truly create a social business.

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Everyone’s on Facebook, Why Aren’t They on the Intranet Too?

April 30, 2011

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Thanks to all who came to my presentation at the ACMP 2011 conference – as promised you can find my entire presentation here!

In the fall I wrote a guest post entitled, “But I Don’t WANNA Change” about using change management techniques to encourage the adoption of social media within organizations. Over the past six months, I have seen how many people are interested in this topic, and I will be discussing it again at the Association for Change Management Professional’s conference May 1-4. One thing I have learned, however, is that even though social media is sweeping the world, that doesn’t mean your internal platform will engage your employees.

Social Media is Fast

Collage of social media icons

Photo Credit: Flickr, myretailmedia

Over the past five or six years we have seen a societal transformation take shape. Social Media has forever changed the way the world communicates. At the root of that change is behavior change; the idea that people had to learn to start doing something in a new way. There are always those early adopters (think Twitter users in 2007, Facebook users in 2004), but generally large-scale adoption of new communications tools takes years, often decades (think radio and television) – until now. Social media has raced across the globe in just a few years, with billions now taking part.

Social media has even had time to have what I call ‘nano-changes’ (nano as in rapid changes within a larger change). In the last several years we’ve seen a remarkable shift from blogs and discussion forums to instant update platforms like Twitter and Foursquare. There has also been a substantial move to mobile technology.

Behavior Change is Slow

A turtle slowly plods along

Photo Credit: Flickr, jhoward413

So how does understanding this information help you build a successful internal social media platform? Because to unleash the power of social media you have to understand human behavior. We are social creatures, but businesses that assume our social tendencies will ensure the success of a new collaboration platform are gravely mistaken. Why? Because they underestimate one crucial human behavior, we are social creatures AND creatures of habit. Change is hard, change is work, and getting people to change behavior requires significant effort.

These platforms often fail because:

1. They are poorly implemented and explained
2. Users don’t have a clear understanding of why using the site will help them
3. Leadership doesn’t lead by example and engage users via the platform
4. The tools don’t provide meaningful, updated information
5. They weren’t designed with the end-user in mind, so the user interface is complicated or confusing
6. They don’t continue to evolve

Here’s my take on each of these issues.

1. Solve a specific problem: A poorly implemented and explained IT implementation will always fail. (And make no mistake building an internal collaboration platform is an IT implementation.) My previous post has some detail around this particular issue, but one point reigns supreme: build the platform to meet a business need. Define the goal clearly and help employees understand how this new platform will achieve that goal. Is your goal to train employees, improve morale, or communicate more effectively to a global workforce? Define the goal, then design the platform to achieve it, and then communicate the hell out of it!

2. Clear vision: If users don’t understand what it is or why they should use it, it’s because the vision for the project was not clearly articulated. Take this example:

We are designing a web portal that through a user authentication process will enable simultaneous global interactions in a safe, behind-the-firewall employee collaboration platform.
OR
We’re creating a secure website where our employees can collaborate, share ideas, and inspire one another.

Articulating the vision is leadership’s responsibility, and the first step is to make certain people understand the critical elements. The second message clearly explains what it is, who it’s for, and what the benefits are, without using jargon.

3. Lead by example: If your CEO is still sending mass emails to everyone instead of launching the latest firm initiative via the new platform, then employees are receiving conflicting messages. Not only that, but if leadership is noticeably absent from the blogs, discussion forums, or communities created in the new platform then they are not reinforcing the use of the tool by modeling the behavior they expect to see – the employee thinks, ‘well the boss doesn’t use it, why should I bother to learn how?’

4. Content drives adoption: If people find the content engaging, informative, and useful they will return, if they don’t they are history. There are two parts to this: first, the content must be provided in an interesting manner. Don’t just post the company’s newsletter on the platform – make it interactive, use the discussion forum to determine the content for the next newsletter, etc. Second, the content needs to be consistently updated, which means you have to allocate enough resources to make sure the platform stays relevant and organized.

5. User first! It is always surprising to me how often the simplest (and arguably most important) issue is lost in the myriad of technical details – if the user experience is poor, they won’t use the site. Very few people will take the time and money to do a full, extensive usability review, but there are other options. First, there is ‘do-it-yourself’ usability that can be quite helpful. Steve Krug has a great book on this topic that has practical tips that really can improve any website. Another solution is to launch your new platform in beta, tell everyone it’s in beta, ask for their honest, candid feedback, and then (here’s the trick) listen to them! People are MUCH more forgiving of a new platform if they can see the site improving and evolving, which brings me to my last point…

6. Evolve, evolve, evolve: A platform that doesn’t grow with the needs of its users, no matter how well promoted it is, will ultimately stagnate and die. You don’t have to have a complete overhaul every six months, but you do have to continue to provide your users with more value. The other key here – don’t just add stuff, go back to your business drivers and add the stuff that reinforces those business objectives. Ask users what features or functionality they would like, and if it’s technically feasible give it to them.

Each of the issues above are core change management principles: creating a sense of urgency, articulating a clear vision, leading by example, and gathering feedback to continually evolve are all crucial steps to ensuring a successful internal collaboration implementation. It’s not build it and they will come, it’s more like build it, do all of this hard work, get them involved, and then they will come! But hey, better that than yet another wiki that no one uses, right?

Michael Murray is an Associate at Booz Allen Hamilton, where he has helped clients use social media to engage people around the world and in the office across the hall.

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Drive for Show, Putt for Dough – a Lesson for Enterprise 2.0 Platforms

January 30, 2011

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Stop worrying about hitting the big drive and concentrate on the fundamentals

Ever hear the phrase “Drive for Show, Putt for Dough?”  It’s  time-honored sports cliche that refers to the oohs and ahhs that a huge golf drive off the tee will elicit from the crowd. However, despite all the attention a big drive gets and hundreds of dollars a good driver costs, that shot is used maybe 12 times each round. The real money is made on the green where an average player will take almost 3 times as many strokes. You can make all the highlight reels you want with your 350 yard drives, but if you can’t make a 10 foot putt consistently, you’ll be in the same place I am on Sunday….on the couch watching someone else who CAN make those putts.

I bring this up because I’ve seen one too many Enterprise 2.0 implementation – be it a wiki, a blogging platform, discussion forums, microblogging, or Sharepoint – fail miserably because they forgot to focus on the fundamentals.  They end up being too concerned with the big drive off the tee that they forget to practice the short putts that are needed to truly succeed. Nearly every Enterprise 2.0 vendor out there offers a similar set of features – blogging, microblogging, wiki functionality, profiles, tagging, search, etc. – they all hype up the fact that THEIR platform is the one that can do X or can do Y, that they have this one unique feature that puts them out in front of the competition. Likewise, once these platforms are purchased and installed, the client teams responsible for customization and integration get enamored with all of these features as well. I’ve seen way too many internal launch emails that sound something like this:

“Visit our new website, the one-stop shop for all your collaboration needs. This new website offers all of the Web 2.0 functionality that you have on the Internet, here in a safe, secure, professional environment – blogs to share your expertise, a wiki that anyone can edit, profiles so that you can connect with your colleagues!”

Seeing all this empty promotional language makes me think of my friend who absolutely crushes the ball of the tee. After another monster shot from the fairway, he’s now gone 524 yards in two shots and the crowd is loving it. He then proceeds to take three putts to go the final 10 yards because he spent all of his money on a new driver and practice time on perfecting the big drive.

Unfortunately, Enterprise 2.0 implementations are suffering from this same, all too common problem.

Day 1: After being enticed by the blogs, the wikis, the microblogging, and the rest of the features, you visit the site, you poke around a little bit – so far so good.  Everything looks great.  The design is eye-catching, there’s a lot of great content up already, some of my peers have friended me, and I already found a blog post relevant to my job. This is the best site ever! Enterprise 2.0 FTW!

Day 2: I visit the site again and invite a few of my managers to join as well…well, I tried to invite them to join, but the invite a friend button wasn’t quite working. That’s ok – I’ll try again tomorrow – must be a bug.  I can’t wait to get them using all of these cool tools too!

Day 3: Well, that invite-a-friend bug still isn’t fixed, but everything else is going pretty smoothly…other than the fact that the blogs don’t seem to work in Firefox. I guess I’ll have to use Internet Explorer for those, but that’s ok.

Day 7:  I’ve got a big meeting today with the new VP at this conference we’re both attending – I’ll demo all these new social media tools for him and show him how he can start a blog too!

Day 7 (later on): Damnit! I didn’t realize that I wouldn’t be able to access the site unless I was behind the firewall in one our corporate offices 🙁

Day 14: On my way to a meeting, I was checking out my co-worker’s Facebook page on my iPhone when I saw his latest status update – “OMG – I can’t believe that someone said that about our new HR policy on our corporate blog!!” Intrigued by what was said on the new blog, I try to navigate to our blogs…foiled again!!!  No mobile support….I guess I’ll check it later tonight.

Day 17: Working late on a report again – luckily, I’ve been posting all of my findings to our new wiki so that when I leave for my vacation tomorrow, everyone will have easy access to the latest and greatest data.

Day 18: Disappointed to receive an email on my way to the airport that our Enterprise 2.0 site is down for maintenance for the rest of the day, rendering all of my data unusable to the rest of my team. They can’t wait a day for the wiki to come back up so it looks like they’ll be working extra hard to recreate everything I did last night.

Day 19: &*%$ I’m DONE!!!  Why is this thing so slow?  What does Facebook have 500 million users yet is always up?  Why can I download a movie from iTunes in 3 minutes, but it takes me 25 minutes to download a Powerpoint presentation?  Why can I read Deadspin from my phone no matter where I’m at in world, but can’t access the blog I’m supposed to be using for work?

Sound familiar to anyone? This is what happens when Enterprise 2.0 is too focused on the teeshot, and not enough on the fundamentals of the rest of the game. Features galore that will get people ooohhing and aahhhing, but lacking the fundamentals of speed, accessibility, and reliability that will keep people coming back. If you’re talking about implementing an Enterprise 2.0 platform, before you start talking about all of the bells and whistles you want, make sure that you take care of three very fundamental issues.

Make it Fast – People have to expect anything online to be fast. If I click something, it should take me there immediately. There are no exceptions. Load times for simple html pages (we’ll give multimedia an exception here) should be almost non-existent. I don’t care if I’m behind a corporate firewall or not – if it takes 4-5 seconds to load a page, that’s going to severely limit how often I can use it. If my bank’s site can be secure and fast, why can’t my Intranet sites?

Make it Accessible – Laptops, desktops, iPads, iPhones, Android devices, my old school flip phone, hell, even my TV all allow me to get online now.  I can access Pandora, Facebook, Twitter, and a whole host of other sites from a dozen different devices while on the subway, in my house, in a rain forest, or in my office.  But, you’re telling me that I can only access my work from one kind of computer that’s located in one place? Doesn’t seem to make much sense.

Make it Reliable – There shouldn’t be a fail-whale on your internal work systems. If I need to access some information to do my job – be it a blog post, a wiki page, or a file – I need to be able to access it, with 100% certainty.  If I need access to some data for an important meeting, and I can’t access it because our site is “down for maintenance” or it was accidentally deleted in some sort of data migration error, that’s a serious breach of trust that is going to make me question whether I should be using the site at all.

Concentrate on perfecting the fundamentals before you start getting into the fancy stuff – practice your putting before your driving, learn to dribble with both hands before entering a dunk contest, practice catching the ball before you choreograph your touchdown dance, and make the wiki work in Firefox before you start working on some drag and drop home page modules.

Photo courtesy Flickr user Stev.ie

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I Started a Blog But No One Cared

January 8, 2010

90 Comments

 

Image Courtesy of Flickr user cogdogblog

As many of you know, here at Booz Allen, we’ve got an internal suite of social media tools available on our Intranet – hello.bah.com. While it’s garnered a lot of publicity, won awards, and really changed the way we think about virtual collaboration here, I get asked this question and others like it (e.g., why isn’t anyone asking questions? How do I get people to read the blog? Why isn’t anyone editing the wiki pages?) at least once a week.

These aren’t trivial questions – people take the time to create a blog post or add content to a wiki because of the promise of emergent collaboration. They hear stories about people getting entire white papers written by people they don’t even know because it was posted to an open wiki; they see blog posts with dozens of comments that lead to new initiatives; they read forum threads dozens of pages long with input from people across the organization and they want to realize those benefits too. Against everything they’ve learned over the years, they post some content to this open and transparent platform with the hopes that people will flock to it, adding comments, having discussions, linking to additional resources, and interacting with their information. When that collaboration and interaction doesn’t happen, they quickly get turned off and will either A) assume they did something wrong and not go back or B) believe that they’ve been sold a lot of snake oil and this social media stuff isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

As you might imagine, neither of these conclusions bode well for the long-term health of a virtual community behind the firewall. So, what do I tell these folks when they ask me why no one is reading their forum posts, commenting on their blogs, or editing their wiki pages?  I start by sending them these eight bullets –

  • Write interesting content. You’d be surprised at some of the mind-numbingly boring stuff government consultants blog about. Realistically, out of the 20,000+ people at the firm, how many of them are really going to be interested in your jargon and acronym-filled blog post about the latest developments in IT Service Management? Write something that more than the 20 people on your team will be interested in if you’re looking to get greater engagement.
  • Email is still king. Despite all its successes to date, hello.bah.com isn’t a daily, in the workflow destination for most of our staff. They see the potential of it, and use it occasionally, but visiting the hello homepage to check out the latest blog posts and wiki changes isn’t exactly at the top of mind for most people yet. Post your blog entry, wiki content, forum thread, etc. and then send out an email with a link to it.
  • Cross-promote. Include the link to your content in your team newsletters, meeting agendas/minutes, email signatures, briefings, Yammer messages, and any other communications vehicles you use. Just because you’re the boss/team lead/project manager doesn’t mean people have automatically subscribed to everything you do and are waiting with bated breath for your next post. When our senior VP started blogging internally, we sent out a mass email with each post that included a link to the post, a short blurb on what it was about, and directions for how to subscribe for future posts. We did this for the first five posts or so until people were aware that the blog was out there.
  • The world doesn’t revolve around you. Don’t just post and then whine about people not commenting on your content. Ask yourself if you’ve gone out and commented on anyone else’s blogs. No? Then why are you surprised that no one is commenting on yours. Go find other posts and wiki pages related to your topic and engage there. Include links back to your content as “additional information you might find useful.”
  • Give people an action. Why are you posting in the first place? Do you want to get people’s opinions on some new initiative? Do you want cross-team collaboration on a white paper? Are you asking your team if they have questions about the new reorganization? Be clear about what you want from your readers.
  • Tell them what’s in it for them. Tell me what benefit I get from taking time out of my day to click over to your blog/wiki page/forum and read it. Will I get an opportunity to influence future policy? Will this be the new location where all of our meeting agendas and minutes will be kept? Is creating my profile required for my performance assessment? Will I get to get answers directly from a VP instead of some anonymous email address? Don’t just tell me that it’s there and to click the link because that’s not enough. Entice me. Whet my appetite for what I’m going to get for my time.
  • Do some internal “pitching.” I’ve had colleagues reach out to me and ask me if I’d blog about their programs on my blog. People have asked me to go out to Yammer and link back to their wiki pages. I’ve received internal emails from people pitching me on their project and asking me to “get my team to engage with their content.” This isn’t because I’m some subject matter expert, it’s because I happen to have a popular internal blog and my readers and friends tend to read what I write and click over to things I link to. Find people like me and make them aware of your content and ask them to get involved. No one wants to be the first person to respond – they want to see that other people have read it and commented on it too.  Aren’t you more likely to read a blog post that has 20 comments than one that has none?
  • Lastly, be a community manager.  When the comments on our VP’s blog all started to skew toward the “thanks for posting – great job” variety, the value of those comments went way down (our VPs don’t need any more self-esteem:).  That’s when I started to post some more contradictory/controversial comments and posts.  I wanted to model the behavior that people could/should take when participating in that online community. Other people needed to see how to interact in this new environment.
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