Archive for February, 2012

Universal truths and connecting the dots

Posted by on Friday, 24 February, 2012

Universal Truths, by definition are, well, universal… so it shouldn’t surprise me to have realized the connection one truth can provide to many seemingly disparate venues.

Earlier today I posted to Facebook and Google+ a link to an article by Professor Richard Beck outlining a particular break between Christian thought and behaviour. Beck had identified a thread of behaviour in Christian culture, which I am sure we’ve all seen as well: specifically the touting of Christian concepts while behaving in ways which don’t exemplify those same beliefs, and sometimes in ways which would appear to be even counter to them. At times, he challenged students, and those of us reading his article, with rather provocative words… which is, in all honesty, what got my attention and then held it. Go ahead, take a few minutes and give his article a read, I think you’ll find it worthwhile.

What struck me nearly immediately when reading Beck’s insights, wasn’t how Christians are saying one thing but doing another, but rather how closely the concepts he laid out mimicked ideas I’ve been very close to in the past few years. In particular, IBM’s Social Computing Guidelines. Sure, laugh it up, but hear me out on this…

The overarching theme in both IBM’s Social Computing Guidelines and Beck’s article is simple: “Don’t be a jerk”. Sure, there’s other various refinements and distinctions in the specifics, but really, they both distill down to the same thing. In my particular case, I am always amazed at how truly brilliant my company’s guidelines really are and often use the key components far beyond just my work life. In fact a few of these guidelines from IBM can easily and directly translate to what Beck is speaking of as well:

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  • Respect your audience. If this isn’t obvious, well I don’t know what is. Can you imagine how this simple act would nearly wholly negate Beck’s article if we all abide by this guideline? Just imagine how many more ‘decent human beings’ would be part of this world!

 

  • Be aware of your association. In IBM, we are reminded to be aware of how our actions and words can (and do) reflect on the company, that our social presences should reflect how we’d present ourselves to clients and colleagues. Likewise, in Beck’s examples, the Christians he has encountered could seemingly stand a reminder of this guideline as it seems their actions and words have reflected poorly upon the larger faith.

 

  • Don’t pick fights. Another of the obvious tenets, but it goes on to also admonish us to be the first to correct our own mistakes. Not an easy task, but again, one which we could all benefit from regardless of our faith.

 

  • Try to add value. This one may not be immediately obvious, but it does hold true for all of us as well; don’t add to the noise if you can’t provide worthwhile information and perspective. Imagine the shift we could see if Beck’s “Sunday morning lunch crowd” took this guideline to heart as well? Would he have such words as ‘entitled’, ‘dismissive’, or ‘haughty’ to define them, or would Beck be able to begin using phrases like ‘insightful’, ‘respectful’, and ‘engaging’ to define the same group?

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And so it came to me as I was reading Beck’s article: there are indeed universal truths which we all know deep down, but often gloss over and/or simply forget at times. Universal truths, which by obvious definition span religions, cultures, and even corporations. Truths as simply profound, and simply encapsulated by, single phrases… of those, I’d say “Don’t be a jerk” may be the greatest singular universal truth demanded by all of humanity, but far too often forgotten by the same who preach it.

So, a call to action and a challenge: Take time this weekend and read IBM’s Social Computing Guidelines, then re-read Beck’s article and reflect on how you (we) can implement some small change in our daily lives to ensure, in time, beck’s article is proven outdated and no longer relevant. Perhaps we can start by asking ourselves “does this add value?” when we go to post something online, or “am I respecting my audience” when we’re out to each for Sunday lunch…

At the very least I’ll bet you’ll like yourself a little more… I’m sure I will 😉

Working Outside the Inbox, Step 3: Move conversations to the right home!

Posted by on Tuesday, 21 February, 2012

image  Are you wading through a mountain of e-mails upon returning from a long weekend, struggling to catch up? A few of us in Rational Support aren’t, and here’s why!

Week three of the grand “Working outside of the Inbox” experiment and we’re well under way, even starting to see some great traction! People are taking notice across organizational boundaries, reading up, asking questions, and even implementing some of the concepts of WOTI on their own both internally and even externally! 

The past few weeks we covered the general overview and launch of this little project: “The Adventure Begins!”, moved on to detail out Step 1: “Stop Replying to Email”, and then Step 2: “Group Conversations and Identify Use Cases”.

            

Today we’re back to tackle Step 3: Moving those conversations/tasks to their appropriate home(s). Slowly and surely.

What does that really mean though? Where do we move conversations to if not e-mail? And how can we move conversations without breaking step 2 “Stop replying”? Well, the simple answer is: we move these to wikis, forums, instant messaging, and phone calls… and sometimes you WILL have to reply to an e-mail. But, you (we) can still reduce the amount by replying with pointers to the right locations for the conversations which we’ve already setup.

Here’s one brilliant example I witnessed since we’ve started this more organized initiative:

In the past three weeks my colleague Jamel Touati has been the absolute master of this by directing a number of collaboration questions (revolving around problem identification and solution discussions) to forum discussions he built out based on the initial round of emails. In his first replies, Jamel was able to direct everyone cc’d on the e-mails to the forum locations where they could review the content and continue the discussions transparently and standing as perfect examples as to why open knowledge sharing like that is so important. Now, the entire investigation and solution process is visible so anyone with similar questions can see how and why the particular solution was determined to be the correct one. Forums threads like this retain not only the core solution, but the history as well. And once a solution is determined, or an end result is finalized, that information can be distilled and moved to a wiki page for better clarity and readability with a mere pointer to the discussion thread if the history is ever needed.

I also saw a great unexpected personal win last week when I made the realization that I’d run an entire two week project (small internal tool creation) from concept to deployment without sending a single e-mail. I detail a bit of this out on my personal blog, but really the key component to this was the fact I used wikis and instant messaging to transparently collaborate and achieve my project’s goal: delivery of a useful internal tool. I unwittingly proved the WOTI concept to myself; that working outside the in-box WORKS and allowed us to be more agile, more transparent, and more effective from start to delivery, and even beyond into demonstrations and minor training (I didn’t even use a slide deck, rather recorded a reusable video walk-through)!

Like I said at the start of this post, we’re even seeing traction outside of our own small group, and beginning to see other colleagues from within our larger organization, and even across organizational boundaries taking notice and beginning to shift their communications to better venues. It has started taking shape in the form of internal blog posts through our IBM Lotus Connections communities, as well as using “smart wiki pages” to aggregate content based on tags, allowing the conversations to be contained in one community, but made visible across communities through innovative use of RSS feeds and smart tags. Talk about breaking down communications barriers!

Of course, we may be spoiled here in IBM since we have easy access to some industry leading collaboration tools! Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t have them too. And even without leading edge tools, you can still tackle some WOTI steps on your own, it’s just a matter of identifying the right places for your conversations; be it internal wikis, discussion boards, or even just shared docs in the cloud (insert plug for IBM Docs in beta and available to us all, now!). And yes, to begin with, you may indeed see your out box increase slightly, but in the long run, those emails you’ll be sending to guide people to the right places for conversations will fade away and you’ll soon find you’re using e-mail more effectively and that your work has become more open and transparent, ultimately resulting in more efficient collaboration and success in your projects. All because you were able to identify better venues to capture and share knowledge. Who knows, maybe you’ll even see more personal success as people begin identifying you as a thought leader, effective change agent, and all around guru of knowledge management just because you had the audacity to simply stop using email and began working outside the inbox.

Have you  started implementing some of your own e-mail reduction efforts? Have you begun your own WOTI initiative? We’d love to hear your success stories as well! After all, this isn’t something specific to just Rational Support, or even IBM. Let us know in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or even through Twitter @mentions! We’re chomping at the bit to hear your stories in whatever medium you want to share them :)

 

  

image credit: (cc) Some rights reserved by Casimusica

Looking forward…. and setting my sights

Posted by on Thursday, 16 February, 2012

At work, this is the time of year we are all furiously working on our Personal Business Commitments (or PBCs since acronyms are more fun) for the year, essentially working out our goals for the coming months. While I’d love to blog about my PBCs externally, I can’t since that would expose company confidential information as it directly relates to business strategy (though you could expect to see things like working outside the inbox and driving social business initiatives to make appearances there, quelle surprise!) … of course in keeping with working openly and transparently, my colleague Kelly and I are working on our own PBCs in an internal community forum, and activity which will help us refine our goals to be more effective in our roles.

But, it also got me thinking… I CAN expose my personal, non-work related goals, be open and transparent, and find greater accountability than if I just kept them in a draft email to remind myself every now and again. So here we go, these are my goals for 2012.

Goals…

Fiscal:

  • Pay off both Visa cards (Credit union and Bank)
  • Pay off Motorcycle – done by May 2012 at latest.
  • Plan and save for a trip to Ireland in 2013
  • Research available channels/strategies and begin selling photos
  • Stretch goal: Research avenues/strategies to enable some level of income for writing, outside of day job.
  • Sell my SCA Armour (Photograph each piece and determine best channel for sale).

Self improvement:

  • Take a week long motorcycle trip (Mt. Rushmore will likely be a full week out and back).
  • Visit 2 or more light houses
  • Get two more tattoos or equivalent sleeve work.
  • Reduce my weight by 80lbs, again.
  • Get a large, framed map of the USA to use for plotting out rides and general decoration.
  • Build a personal 5 year plan and begin executing on it.
  • Read 5 books by Dec 31. 2012 (2 already done:  Long Way Round by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman  and The Man Who Would Stop at Nothing: Long-Distance Motorcycling’s Endless Road by Melissa Holbrook Pierson)

Home improvement:

  • Clean and organize the garage including disposal of unneeded items.
  • Clean and organize the home office, including filing and disposal of unneeded items
  • Paint loft, hallway, guest bath, stairs, pantry, and laundry (Pantry planned for Pres. Day weekend)
  • Build a 5 year plan for the next improvements to tackle.

The trick now, of course, is to focus everything I do to ensure it is working towards achieving one of the goals above. Anything that doesn’t support one of these goals will likely take lesser priority this year. Some of these are quite lofty (for me, possibly not for some of my readers), while others are easily attainable within a relatively short span of time, well before end of year.

Unless laziness wins out of course 😉