Friday, October 26, 2012

And Now, We Have This

Welcome back, here it is, the next blog post-the publish dates on these posts are unpredictable against all pro blogger advice that you have predictable dates. However, as the transformation of my business unfolds, the outcome is unpredictable to some degree and I believe it is realistic to post as things occur rather than posting for the sake of posting. So, unpredictable it will be for awhile yet.

It has been awhile since the last post which provided some definitions to set up how we will be talking about ‘social’ or ‘connected’ going forward. The original plan was a five part series covering culture, communications and leadership and that is still the plan although the content will look a little different than when first envisioned.

The reason for this is that as I go through the transformation of my business, some of the peripheral topics will be less visible and some may no longer show up at all. So you will start to see this transformation as it happens through the posts as they appear on the blog.

First, I have been deeply immersed in learning as much as possible about social media from a variety of aspects and while doing so the recurring theme of leadership, collaboration, communication, and connectivity stayed firmly up front in my thought patterns. Regardless of what the focus was, whether I was at a seminar on Facebook for business; a workshop on Twitter; or completing the first two levels of HooteSuite University, or in one-to-one discussions with professionals–the importance of those four skills seemed, to me, to be the most important thing to focus on. And since they just happen to coincide with my primary interest (some people call this passion but we can chat about that some other time) all of this has led, finally back to the beginning.

I will be focusing on leadership development and the skills that support excellence in leadership. Going forward, this will be in a much more dynamic, positive, and powerful way than ever before. Because all of my research and learning adventures over the past three years have added a few ‘ah ha’s’ and several new tools and instruments to the mix that were not part of the leadership development realm a few years ago.

I am happy that you are here, on this journey with me, and my wish is that you will want to engage in topics that capture your interest.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Social - What Do We Mean?

Here is the first post in the series taking a look at ‘social’ or ‘connected’ opportunities in organizational life. This first post defines some terms as they apply to the overall theme in order to set the stage going forward. I am especially interested in any thoughts you have on the way these terms are defined here and whether or not it resonates with your ideas about what opportunities the use of social media tools offer us in organizational or community settings.

Let’s start with a brief recap of Systems Thinking which is an excellent framework for thoughts about networks, being connected, how the introduction of a social tool may affect parts of an organization (or the people within) unintentionally or in a different way than first imagined.

Systems Thinking (Systemic Application)

The following excerpt(s) from O’Connor and McDermott (1997) “The Art of Systems Thinking: Essential Skills For Creativity and Problem Solving, is important in ones understanding of organizational culture in the Digital Era.

“Systems thinking is seeing beyond what appear to be isolated and independent incidents to deeper patterns. So you recognize connections between events and are therefore better able to understand and influence them.” (Introduction)

“Interconnecting parts functioning as a whole. Changed if you take away or add more pieces. Its behaviour depends on the total structure. Change the structure and the behaviour changes. (p.3)

“The relationship between the different parts of the system determines how it works, so each part, however small, can affect the behaviour of the whole.
All parts of a system are interdependent, they all interact. How they relate to each other gives them the power to affect the whole system. This suggests an interesting rule for influencing systems, particularly groups: the more connections you have, the more possible influence. Networking brings influence. Indeed, research suggests that successful managers spend four times as much time networking as their less successful colleagues.” (p. 15)

Many organizations are set up into departments with some crossover among departments that rely on one another to complete specific tasks. Such departments are generally organized to be efficient by reducing ‘noise’ – not having distractions that are not directly related to the day-to-day activities of the specific responsibilities of the department. However, this can also create Silos in organizations with strong Command/Control features that also have limited communication channels.

Silos can thus reduce efficiencies; further contribute to ineffective communication; does not take into sufficient account how actions (or inactions) affect other parts of the system. This can waste time and resources as the people in one department (silo) will realize more effort to locate expertise or support that is not within their immediate ‘network’. The duplication of effort that also occurs in this set up can create significant frustration over time and leave both employees and customers with a sense that it is difficult to do business in that organization. This leads to a negative impact on collaboration, communication, and cooperation. All of which can lead to a negative effect on morale, engagement and motivation.

Deciding what and how to make changes to an organization that may be feeling those effects of silos depends on what makes sense for the specific business, industry and size of the organization. The following thoughts on Integration, Cross-Functional teams and the concept of “Social” provides some clues to how one may reduce any such concerns.

Wikipedia defines Vertical integration as follows, “combines different products or services under one ‘owner’ to satisfy a common need. Horizontal integration-consolidates like companies to monopolize an industry. And Integration as: “The mixing of people or groups previously segregated. An act or instance of combining into an integral whole. “

Cross-Functional: completing a goal or project using members from teams with different purposes and skills. How effective this is in an organization depends on the culture and communication style predominant in the organization.

Business/Organizational context Also referred to as “Enterprise” by some software/technology retailers. This is a combination of:

(1) Culture- people focused
(2) Organizational Approach- experience driven
(3) Customer Involvement -co-creation and/or engagement
(4) Social technology –social processes that use technology to enhance communication, learning/development/knowledge management and collaboration.

There is some discussion regarding the use of the word ‘social’ as being contrary to business as a productive and efficient orientation and this has given rise to alternate terms being used that encompass the use and effect of social tools; you will see words in various forms such as connected and collaborative that attempt to depict the true value and impact of social tools in organizations.

The next four posts in this series will assume the above is intended as descriptive of the thoughts regarding the opportunities and affect of social tools in organizations. While looking at 'social' from an organizational change perspective over the past five years the gradual shift in the words and terms used has been continuous. In some part, because of the unease with which some business executives view 'social' in a workplace setting, but primarily as the tools and applications have evolved to provide greater opportunities to a wider audience new terminology is needed to be appropriately descriptive.

What do you think? Do you find the many different uses of common words confusing, overwhelming or helpful?

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Get It Done & Priorities

I wrote a few weeks ago that I am writing a 5-part series for this blog that will look at some thoughts on social in the organizational context, what happens in organizational cultures when we introduce tools that open up communication channels, and some thoughts on how to work towards a fluid culture that can adapt to the 'new' that keeps on giving.

I am working on those posts and the first one which is sharing some terms and definitions that relate to this topic so that as readers continue through the next four posts a common understanding will provoke some thoughts and ideas to share. That first in the series will be posted on Tuesday, October 09, 2012.

This series is important to me as it fits in with other projects I am working on; it is taking longer than planned because the major change I am making to my business brand and products is my first priority and will be over the next six months. And realizing how much is now on my to do list prompted me to acknowledge that my calendar can not be as 'flexible' as it has been over the summer.

This means that decisions as to what gets a yes or a no are more tightly and clearly defined;speculative ventures are off the table for now; ill-defined or vague proposals about new projects will likely garner a 'no thank-you' for a while rather than the explorations into new ventures of the last year. My priorities right now meet all my needs which makes it much easier to stay on track.

Where are you in your priority setting? Do you find it easy or hard to make quick decisions on what will or will not be on your list? Most importantly, what really grabs you enough to make you want to hold on to a new project?

Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian readers! We are enjoying one of those beautiful sunny days that make outdoor pursuits very enticing-a great way to give balance to the feast indulgences.