Technology and Organizations
I'm glad I read Scott Berkun's Confessions of a Public Speaker. If you're in one of my audiences, you're glad I read it. If you give talks, presentations, or just need to share your own ideas, you should read it too.
Both novices and experts will find interesting,useful, advice, and anecdotes.
For the novice:
Scott gives us the nitty gritty. Why do some speakers make more than others? How do you manage to get to the venue on time, or not? What can you do about being nervous in front of an audience? All good things to know whether you want to make your living speaking or just have to give the occasional office presentation.
For the expert:
Why do some speakers make more than others? I repeat this one because of the perspective he provides. Speaking fees are about the value the speaker provides -- and it's critical that you understand what you are there to do. Some speakers are entertainment, some are teachers, some are the headliners to get the audience in the room. Just like in marketing or creating a product, you need to know what your audience values.
There are also more specific suggestions for both speakers and organizers. I'm going to be using Scott's suggested feedback questions in my next event:
- How did my presentation compare to the others?
- What one change would have most improved my presentation?
- What questions did you expect me to answer that went unanswered?
- What annoyances did I let get in the way of giving you what you needed?
These are far better than "how satisfied were you with this talk?" or "did you learn something?" and "should this speaker be invited back?" These questions set up the possibility of a dialog.
Speaking isn't a one shot deal for many of us. On my slides, I list about five different ways to get in touch with me after the event to continue the conversation. The answers to these questions can certainly can improve your next talk, but they can also be the start of a blog post or directional information for a book you're working on.
Confessions of a Public Speaker goes beyond novice and expert advice. Yes, Scott Berkun provides confessions of the most embarrassing kind. You can learn vicariously from his experiences (things he's done, things organizers have done to him) and from a long list of stories from other professionals.
Do more than enjoy, grimace, or cringe with these tales. Take each one of those confessions and work through your own workflow, backup plans, and canned responses to be prepared for when it will happen to you. My plan is to keep my electronic copy of the book at the ready for the next flight to the next talk. I'd rather be prepared than have a new confession to add to the list.
The downside of knowing how well an organization, team, or task can be managed is that you know how good things can be, even if your current situation doesn't match your vision. If your organization, team, or task is not plugging in by mixing human, technical, and organizational features together in ways that you kow would be better, you can end up feeling like you are standing outside in the cold looking through a window into a happy, warm party. I often felt that way as I interviewed top contributors for my book, The Plugged-In Manager, and have outlined two strategies for dealing with the problem. I'll cover the first today: find a new organization. Maybe not the best in this economy, but it is one option.
Finding Plugged-In Organizations
Let’s look back at some of the organizations our most plugged-in managers work for and highlight the critical organizational design features that make them friendly to the ideas of mixing across human, technical, and organizational dimensions.
Normally, I focus on evidence and values that have "harder" measures than an organization’s values. However, in this case, I’m making an exception to see how some of our organizations that support plugged-in management talk about values. What is interesting is the similarity, though not in the values themselves. See if you can identify the common theme.
- Safety First
- Eliminating Hierarchy
- Granting Trust and Freedom
- Giving All Workers a Stake in the Company
- Turning Everyone into a Decision Maker
- Inspiring a Work Ethic
- Employee Relations
- Deliver WOW Through Service
- Embrace and Drive Change
- Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
- Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
- Pursue Growth and Learning
- Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
- Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
- Do More With Less
- Be Passionate and Determined
- Be Humble
- Warrior Spirit: Work hard, Desire to be the best, Be courageous, Display urgency, Persevere, Innovate
- A Servant’s Heart: Follow the golden rule, Adhere to the principles, Treat others with respect, Put others first, Be egalitarian, Demonstrate proactive customer service, Embrace the SWA family
- Fun-LUVing Attitude: Have FUN, Don’t take yourself too seriously, Maintain perspective, Celebrate successes, Enjoy your work, Be a passionate team player As I thought about how to identify plugged-in organizations, I thought back to other organizations I’ve been impressed by over the years. For me to be impressed, an organization has to have survived through thick and thin -- and have done it in a way that I can hold up as an example to my students. The organization’s management practices must make sense and not be in conflict with one another. For example, if you’re going to use teams, then the performance management systems should support team work over individual work. It’s not that teams are best, but if you’re going to use teams, then the whole system must support the choice.
- Have fun
- Make money
- Trust in trust
- Do the right thing
- Do things for the rose [pursue excellence as a goal unto itself]
- Believe in people
- Belief in the Individual: If you trust individuals and believe in them, they will be motivated to do what's right for the company.
- Power of Small Teams: Our lattice organization harnesses the fast decision-making, diverse perspectives, and collaboration of small teams.
- All in the Same Boat: All Gore associates are part owners of the company through the associate stock plan. Not only does this allow us to share in the risks and rewards of the company; it gives us an added incentive to stay committed to its long-term success. As a result, we feel we are all in this effort together, and believe we should always consider what's best for the company as a whole when making decisions.
- Long-Term View: Our investment decisions are based on long-term payoff, and our fundamental beliefs are not sacrificed for short-term gain.
- Freedom: The company was designed to be an organization in which associates can achieve their own goals best by directing their efforts toward the success of the corporation; action is prized; ideas are encouraged; and making mistakes is viewed as part of the creative process. We define freedom as being empowered to encourage each other to grow in knowledge, skill, scope of responsibility, and range of activities. We believe that associates will exceed expectations when given the freedom to do so.
- Fairness: Everyone at Gore sincerely tries to be fair with each other, our suppliers, our customers, and anyone else with whom we do business.
- Commitment: We are not assigned tasks; rather, we each make our own commitments and keep them.
- Waterline: Everyone at Gore consults with other associates before taking actions that might be "below the waterline"--causing serious damage to the company.
Quad/Graphics was started with a second mortgage on Harry Quadracci’s house. He had experienced how he didn’t want to run a printing company so he and eleven co-founders decided to build a “company with soul.” They founded Quad/Graphics in 1971 using a rented printing press and borrowed a binding machine. They are now the second largest print and multimedia provider in the world.
Early in my career I got a hold of a video describing participative management at Quad. The video explained how employees were expected to learn the Quad way, improve the Quad way, then teach that way to someone else. The image has stuck with me in terms of the reality of employee innovation: Knowledge is necessary before you can start making changes. Quad’s growth and stable values has earned them a spot on our list.
My second additional example is W.L. Gore & Associates. They are best known for their GORE-TEX fabrics though they make a huge variety of high-tech products. Since their 1958 founding, they have been team-based with no organizational charts or required reporting structure. Compensation is decided by a committee based on team member evaluations and keeps in mind the long-term goals of the company. In 2004, the magazine Fast Company named Gore the most innovative company in America. In 2010, they received their 13th consecutive inclusion on Fortune Magazine’s list of “100 Best Companies to Work For.”
This description from the Fast Company article hit a chord with me: “When Gore people pull the plug on a failing initiative, they'll still have a "celebration" with beer or champagne, just as they would if it had been a success.” But even more important is how they seem to have strong internal alignment across company goals, their response to failure, organizational structure (or lack there of), and other internal policies.
Gore's Guiding Principles
What's the Connection?
I could go through a list of “worst companies to work for” and find value statements similar to those above. And even the best companies may not be perfect all the time. Even in the best companies, employees may have examples where the values didn’t drive all decisions. What’s special about the list of organizations above is that these companies really do try to adhere to their stated values, and generally succeed. The question is, how do they do it? Is there a common thread in their weaving together human, technical, & organizational perspectives rather than dealing with one at a time?
The common thread is that these organizations highlight the idea that each person has the ability to innovate and is very clear that the organization is there to support that innovation through transparency and comfort with mistakes.
These organizations have found great value in signalling to employees that they should try new things, using enough transparency such that the employees have the background to know what will help and what else might be impacted, and using failure as a learning experience rather than defining failure as “career limiting.” These companies have woven patterns that are aligned with one another -- rather than saying one thing and doing another.
But wait... there isn’t a single mention of technology in these value statements. How can we know that these companies support plugged-in management across all of technology, organization, & people?
I believe that their openness to ideas, which is mentioned in each value statement, means that they must be open to all forms of plugged-in management. Employees or partners with an technology tool idea would be given appropriate consideration and it would be considered in concert with organizational practices and the people to be involved. Plugged-in management is being able to see the opportunities across technology, organization, and people, and then to make judgments about how these dimensions might best be intertwined. Sometimes that can even mean knowing when to let technology be in the background.
To find a company that let's you do your best -- look for a company with a history of employee-based innovation, management transparency, and an understanding of how to learn from failures. The good news is that there seem to be a growing number of companies with this features and even some old-style companies that have made the transition.
Thank you to Jay of the 12 Books on-line book discussion for reminding me that I wrote down these ideas for the book, but then agreed with my editors that it wasn't a very upbeat way to close. It may not be upbeat, but I think there is value in knowing how to hunt down the most plugged-in organizations. Agree?
Today has been a pleasure. I opened by guesting on the Talk Business With Howard [Lewinter] radio show. The next part of the day was the kickoff of the 12 Books author-led on-line book group.
Both of these opportunities are great expansions of what we could have done face to face or even just on audio conferencing.
Howard Lewinter's radio show enables an introductory blog post, 1 Question, 3 Possibilities to Improve Your Business, and I hope on-going comments. 12 Books is built to enable an asynchronous discussion followed by a live webinar on August 30th (and they've already given away a bunch of signed copies of The Plugged-In Manager, who knows what likely to happen next). These modes of communication allow us to share when we have the time and when the ideas occur - as well as the chance to engage in live conversation.
I'm looking forward to the questions posed by these audiences and hope to see/hear you there.
I'm making the same plea to the International Olympic Committee that I made to the Professional Golf Association: The next time you want to ban a technology, or in the case of the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG), ban natural technology-related behaviors, call me. The sporting super powers and networks need to understand (1) the role social media plays in promoting their events and (2) that creating unenforceable rules is expensive and damaging (if you tell someone no often enough, but there is no follow-through, what happens?)
Instead of unenforceable bans, help to create uses that are appropriate.
|Courtesy The Department of Culture, Media, and Sport|
Here is the language on the ticket's terms and conditions page:
19.6.3 Images, video and sound recordings of the Games taken by a Ticket Holder cannot be used for any purpose other than for private and domestic purposes and a Ticket Holder may not license, broadcast or publish video and/or sound recordings, including on social networking websites and the internet more generally, and may not exploit images, video and/or sound recordings for commercial purposes under any circumstances, whether on the internet or otherwise, or make them available to third parties for commercial purposes.
LOCOG spokesman Tim Potter told IBTimes UK: "Spectators are free to upload images and video to their social media channels as they please," although he later added that, while videos of you and your friends at Olympic venues is fine, footage shot of sports taking place will be removed.
With regard to personal blogs, we were told that it is "a grey area" and that while ticket holders can upload photos to blogs, if visitors are deemed to be taking advantage and uploading professional quality images to a photography site which has "tens of thousands of subscribers", then LOCOG will take action.
The article notes that this policy is counter to the stated ticket rules, but that the wording will not be changed.
We are also told that there are Brand Patrol Officers who will track videos on YouTube, and that users are also expected to help in enforcement.
The arguments focus on athlete privacy (ticket holders give up all rights to their personal images in perpetuity according to ticket rule 19.6.2) and responsibility to their network contacts. NBC at least seems to be supporting social media even to the extent that they a partnering with Storify... and the LOCOG has an official hashtag page.
Rather than this confused set of expectations, I would suggest interesting, creative graphics around what is good and what is bad, and help people see the likely outcomes of their behaviors. If you don't want athletes publishing embarrassing images from inside the Olympic Village, help them envision the effects. There won't be 100% compliance, but there will be learning and more respect.
As to individuals competing with network images of the sporting events, that horse has certainly left the barn. Thank you beninzgame for the video of some of the Men's Archery competition. I suspect the cool arrow splitting shot shown on YouTube will be a trigger for people to take a look at the full coverage and give archery an unexpected boost, rather than damage commercial coverage of archery.
These technologies and our use are still new. Major events are an opportunity to gain value from millions of cameras being on site. How can we find the gold rather than digging for dirt?
- IOC Social Media, Blogging and Internet Guidelines for participants and other accredited persons at the London 2012 Olympic Games
- London Olympics: How The IOC Controls Social Media [I'd offer, tries to] Nice article with links to other Issues like available bandwidth
- The Social-Media Olympics: Are Officials Restricting Free Speech?
I think my next project has started to gel: 2020 Engagement. I'm talking about the needs, practices, and evolution (revolution?) of how we build our companies and do our work. We need to move from bounded, discrete jobs and organizations to engaged people and jobs in fluid organizations where new methods and products are everyone's responsibility.
My inspiration for settling on this theme comes from four sources:
- Nilofer Merchant, a wonderful mentor who let me read the first draft of her new book on the rules of the social era. It's a strategic launching point for my more tactical approach. Her prior book, The New How: Creating Business Solutions Through Collaborative Strategy, also shines a light on needed strategic and leadership changes for success across all kinds of organizations.
- A twitter conversation with Tom Vander Wal about how close or far we are from what I call new work, and which he calls old work. Tom has been a leader in presenting ideas for better combinations of work, information, and organization in his own writing and consulting, but I think we both agree that we are still in the building phase of ground swell support.
- Bob Waldron pushes innovation and the maker culture in Wisconsin and beyond. He's my reality check against a nearsighted Silicon Valley view.
- Andrew Karpie, a great person for spotting interesting sites and articles, put me onto UpMo.com after I'd given Amazon's new Career Choice Program a shoutout. This was the final push I needed. From the UpMo site:
UpMo is the first-ever enterprise talent network that lets you truly rock at work. With UpMo, you can now showcase your talents, build work tribes that get more work done together, and amplify your skills by attacking new opportunities without leaving your company. Exclusive UpMo networks are available to employees of some of the hippest employers and talent magnets such as Intuit, Facebook, Adobe, VMware, Intel, SuccessFactors, Zappos and many more. UpMo's cloud solution helps companies embrace internal mobility to dramatically increase productivity, reduce churn, and improve employee engagement.
As I looked into UpMo, I thought about some of John Hagel's talks on how talent development and passion for the job is underrated in organizations. That reality troubles me given Jeff Pfeffer's (professor at Stanford, author of Power: Why Some People Have It and Others Don't, and co-author of Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths And Total Nonsense, among other great books) work on the overlooked value of promoting from within an organization. Who knows more about the work than the people who are already there? ..and who are going to feel downtrodden if they are passed over for an outsider?
When I saw that Jeff was an investor and board observer in UpMo, I realized we are on the crest of a building wave. (Jeff is also an advisor to Rypple, recently acquired by Salesforce.com and another great tool for this new work environment.) I want to help CEOs, managers, and individuals catch this wave instead of being overtaken.
Thus, 2020 Engagement is born.
I'm not sure is it's a book, a video series, or a set of workshops, but it is the next step in applying the ideas of my book, The Plugged-in Manager, on a broader scale.
2020 Engagement is about 20/20 insight into your own work, the work of your team, your organization, and the organizations you work with, and then, using that insight to create engagement at all levels and connections to the organization. I'm not discarding the ideas of plugged-in management. Plugged-in management, where you are in tune with your people, technology, and organization, is the engine, but 2020 Engagement is the goal. Plugged-in management is learning to swim; it's a survival skill. 2020 Engagement is using that skill to win the 4x200 freestyle relay at the Olympics.
Even the best companies have room for better engagement
Little has changed regarding the pace and complexity of our work since The Plugged-In Manager came out. I'm not sure I'd want our environment to slow down or simplify. But I do want to see more great things happen and what I see instead is many organizations thrashing about and churning through their employees, tools, and practices. Even the best companies have room for better engagement.
Yes, I also like the idea of looking ahead to 2020. I see it as a goal: how many individuals, teams, organizations, and movements can we bring to 2020 Engagement by 2020?
Some future topics (let me know which sing to you):
- Successful platforms are engaged by design (linking to the ideas of Phil Simon's The Age of the Platform: How Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google Have Redefined Business).
- Defining 2020 Engagement across each piece of an organization and its partners and customers.
- The role of place, both in terms of being in engaged in your individual work (Drawing from Csikszentmihalyi's ideas of flow: TED talk), and to enable more sensible work arrangements (see Mark Gilbreath of LiquidSpace talk about current office building use).
- Examples of 2020 Engagement by organizations and individuals. I've been hinting at some of these: Polycom, Intuit, Cypress Grove (yes, they make cheese), and Needle. They each give us, as customers, and themselves, as employees, something special through their personal forms of engagement.
- Where 2020 Engagement fits in with what I've been calling New Work - what happens when you bring together strategic information technology, more organizational transparency, empowered work design, and people who have taken on the responsibility that comes with that empowerment, including lifelong education.
So many ways to talk about these ideas. I hope you'll help me find the clearest path.