Archive for August, 2012

Working Outside the Inbox- A presentation

Posted by on Wednesday, 29 August, 2012

You’ve heard me talk about it before, how my colleague Kelly and I have been working towards inboxes of fewer and fewer emails. Following is a Slideshare presentation I built along with Kelly based on our prior blog posts to help evangelize the concept and distill the content into just the basics:

Working Outside the Inbox is a concept taken from Luis Suarez’ experiments working in IBM without using email. This presentation is based on the WOTI blog series published on the Notes from Rational Support Blog.  In this series we investigate some of the key items to use in your own attempts to reduce the overwhelming amount of emails in your inbox, and drive towards a more open, transparent, and collaborative culture in the workplace.


YOU are a community manager

Posted by on Wednesday, 22 August, 2012

Yes, you.

Ok, ok , ok…. *maybe* you aren’t, but I have a feeling that you probably are even if you don’t think so. Hang in here with me for a bit as I explain why I’m nearly certain you actually *are* a community manager.

It isn’t JUST you, of course; we are all community managers if we’re playing in social spaces. What I am specifically referring to is the idea that we each own responsibility for the content we post in social spaces, and in turn we own responsibility for the comments generated by (and added to) those posts. As active members in social networks, we create our own ad hoc communities every time we post content, be it a status updated about what we had for lunch or a longer missive on a facet of today’s society. In each case, we own the responsibility of managing these ad hoc communities just like a ‘formal’ community manager would. Likewise, when we comment on other’s posts, we are engaging as a member of their  community and have the responsibility to act accordingly.

The example is clear: If you make a post to Facebook or any other social site, you own that ad hoc community generated by the comments. Likewise, if you comment on someone else’s post, you own responsibility to add value to the conversation and respect their ad hoc community as well.

With today’s accelerated shift to social platforms, the role of community manager is increasingly important but the definition needs to be expanded to include not only the formalized and structured communities, but also the unstructured, ad hoc, fluid communities. We are all community managers to some extent now, and need to manage not only our own posts, but the threads of conversation which they generate.

If you’ve been following me for any length of time on any of my social channels you’ve likely heard me espouse the brilliance of IBM’s Social Computing Guidelines. While I may be biased, I do believe that even if I weren’t an IBMer, I’d still be highlighting the SCG as a work of genius when it comes to corporate policy to guide employees in social business. But it goes even beyond that… these are wonderful guidelines beyond the immediate intended audience of IBMers… (I’ve cherry picked the ones which are really universal):

  • Be who you are.
  • Be thoughtful about how you present yourself in online social networks.
  • Respect copyright and fair use laws.
  • Respect your audience and your coworkers.
  • Add value.
  • Don’t pick fights.
  • Be the first to respond to your own mistakes.
  • Adopt a warm, open and approachable tone.
  • Use your best judgment.

Aren’t those genius in their simplicity?

As we look with new eyes on our own social communities, we can all benefit from the simple guidance put forth above, as these bits are relevant as universal truths to social interaction. Now that we can recognize our own responsibilities for the communities we’ve built around us, we need now (more than ever) the tools to help guide us through some of those inevitable missteps we will make (or have made) along the way.

This is the new universal truth. Gone are the early days of the internet where we were just participants in one huge community. Now we are all individually responsible for managing our spaces and ensuring our formal and ad hoc communities are adding value to the spaces. As we join in these new and upcoming realms of conversation, we all need to recognize the responsibilities we have and gauge whether or not we are ready to take on that extra burden that comes with participating in social discussions.

If you are posting content to any social channel, you are already managing your communities, whether you realize it or not. It is upon us as individual contributors to ensure we are bringing value to and taking ownership of the spaces in which we play. Our successes depend upon it.


(Orignally posted May 18th, 2012 at Notes from Rational Support)

Working Outside the Inbox: Think Friday- A WOTI recap

Posted by on Friday, 17 August, 2012

imageWith Kelly moving on to her new role, we (she and I) thought this would make a perfect time to set another milestone on our Working Outside the Inbox (WOTI) series with some lessons learned, some failures, and some successes as well. Make no mistake though, just because we are recapping our blog series does not mean we are abandoning the WOTI ideas and principles. Far from it, in fact. As you’ll find below, from our experiences with the initiative we are more dedicated than ever to using the right tools for open and transparent collaboration.



First up, where did we see our failures?

Jason: I tend to forget to not reply to emails and default back to using email when busy and unfocused. Continuing to use email when there are better alternatives for the conversation I am engaged in (or starting) was my single largest failure over the course of these past six months. I did always feel a pang of guilt when I sent “bad” email though…

Kelly: You’d think I’d know better , but I was expecting magic to happen immediately, as everyone MUST see the innate value of what we are doing. In fact, Working Outside the Inbox is a marathon, not a sprint …. rather, it’s a mindshift and a new way of working, one that, through constant exposure and once embedded in one’s “muscle memory”, becomes the new standard way of working.  Like Jason says, it’s easy to fall back into old habits, or grow discouraged in the early days. Your results will not be immediate.


But let us not despair, for these failures didn’t diminish our successes! Surprisingly, even without dedicated focus or and organized official initiative in place, all of us participating here found some level of reduction in frivolous email.

Jason: Anecdotal evidence showed me that after a week’s vacation, my inbox was easily handled within a single day upon returning to the office, a feat unheard of prior to this effort. Most email seen is now in the form of automated notifications which I periodically disable as I add the corresponding wiki or discussion forum to my RSS Reader. All this allows for uncluttered, easy use of “good” email: private communications of confidential or sensitive nature.

Kelly: Success snuck up on me as well … gradually more and more of the email I received was in the form of automated notifications,  and only rarely does my email include slide decks or file attachments, which for me, is the biggest win of all. No more “mail jail”!!!!  The volume of email I receive that needs to be processed IN MY INBOX is reduced to onsie-twosies. Everything else is handled in the right place …. Rational Team Concert for work items, commentary and documentation, Connections Communities for shared collaboration and knowledge sharing. Rational Asset Manager as our document repository. So guess what? I don’t need to sit with my inbox open all day, addressing the deluge. How cool is THAT?


And lastly, what WERE our lessons learned from all this?

Jason: First and foremost, culture change is a long and difficult road fraught with speed-bumps around every turn. It is frustratingly slow and requires both a deep commitment and resilient spirit. Secondly: sometimes the right thing to do isn’t the easiest. There is indeed an initial extra effort we need to take when trying to move conversations to the right tool, and this isn’t always an easy task, but the benefits are readily seen once all participants in the conversation are on board.

Kelly: My biggest lesson learned ….. don’t reply to email ….. rather, use your email to model the kind of collaborative habits and behavior you hope to see.  If people send an email asking for information, DON’T JUST ANSWER THE QUESTION. Provide a link to where you’ve posted the answer/information for all to benefit from.  Persevere in your efforts to work openly, transparently, and collaboratively …. it’s the right thing to do. It’s the smart thing to do. 

Shared knowledge is power!


Did you miss any of this blog series? Fret not, faithful readers, here is the complete topic list which you can also find via the woti tag:

Working Outside the Inbox: The Adventure Begins!

Working Outside the Inbox, Step 1: Stop Replying to Email

Working Outside the Inbox, Step 2: Group Conversations and Identify Use Cases

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

Working Outside the Inbox, Step 4: Record Progress, Set an Example and Act as a Change Agent!

Working Outside the Inbox: Let’s Talk About Attachments

Working Outside the Inbox: Speed Bumps ahead!

Working Outside the Inbox: Those pesky status updates

Working Outside the Inbox: Put your Inbox in the upstairs bathroom

Working Outside the Inbox: Returning from vacation