Monday, July 30, 2012
Book Review, Professional
As I mentioned in my last post about my experience with the National Speakers Association (NSA) that one of the speakers was Sally Hogshead. Sally convinced me, among other things, to buy her book Fascinate. But before I get to the book, I should explain how things worked at the conference and what caused me to buy – and read the book.
So Sally got a vignette. It was a small sliver of time between different parts of the program and the sliver of time introduced her fundamental beliefs around fascination and offered the attendees at the conference the ability to take a personality test for free. In a room full of speakers this was all we needed to spring into action. I literally took the test on the floor moments after Sally left the stage.
I found out the next day – in her regularly scheduled time -- that I was far from being alone. It seems that numerous people had taken Sally up on her offer and she had a whole set of data from professional speakers. And in Sally's words the results were "statistically significant" – that is to say the difference between all of the folks who had taken the tests and between all of the speakers who had taken the tests were very different. She didn't provide the slides and I wasn't quick enough to copy all the results but I can say that the distributions were not remotely close. My memory, which may be faulty, is that the results of the tests showed a strong bias towards prestige and power – and away from trust. Speaking as someone who scored with both mystique and rebellion – there were healthy doses of those characteristics as well, but I'm a bit ahead of myself. Let's work backwards a bit.
The story gets a bit interesting. Sally Hogshead has a long history in marketing. That is a place she's been quite successful. The book, Fascinate, was born out of her perspective on marketing. It was and is a book on marketing. However, somewhere along the line she realized that the core insight she had into humans was more valuable when applied to individuals than applied to marketing – or at least as interesting as the implication in marketing.
She identified seven triggers – seven ways that we express our ability to fascinate. They are: (The descriptions are mine)
- Passion – Creating a craving in another person.
- Trust – Fascination through comfort. You're reliable and dependable which helps them to be at ease.
- Mystique – You create curiosity about you and your message.
- Prestige – You are a person to envy. You make other covet what you have and who you are.
- Power – You encourage others to follow you; to allow you to control them.
- Alarm – This is the siren of urgency. You trigger folks to act quickly.
- Rebellion – You encourage folks to view the world differently; to rebel from the status quo.
Before I leave this I need to do a bit of reconciliation. The book speaks of passion as lust and of rebellion as vice. You can see Sally explain the differences here.
Basically after the test you'll find out which of these techniques you use most often. There will be a primary trigger and a secondary trigger. You'll also get a response with your dormant trigger – which is basically the approach you use least often. (In my case power.) I already mentioned that I'm mystique and rebellion – those intersect into an archetype. The 7x7 matrix leads to 49 different archetypes which you can read about on the HowToFacinate.com site. But I should get back to the book.
At its core the book is a marketing book. It exposes a way to look at marketing a product, a service, or a brand. There are components of this puzzle I've seen shadows of before in Demand. Fascinate offers a different approach focused around building your own formula with the seven triggers. While there's scant information on how to precisely mix these triggers to create your own formula, the fact that there is greater definition of the triggers and how they work means that you'll be able – if you want – to build your own map for how to put the pieces together.
I believe that the framework here is already been more helpful in my considerations for how I'm going to brand and market. Admittedly I'm struggling with making the content work for me – but I believe that has more to do with my struggles with marketing in general than the content of the book. If you're trying to figure out "what you want to be when you grow up" – or who – it's a good book to learn more about the model – and yourself. Pick up the book and Fascinate yourself.
Saturday, July 28, 2012
When I joined the National Speakers Association and attended the conference I didn't know what to expect. I don't fundamentally view my world as if I'm a speaker. I don't believe that my primary calling in life is to keynote conferences. However, when I reviewed my speaking last year, I realized that I was in front of crowds publically about 50 times. Effectively I was in front of a crowd for an hour every week of the year. That isn't the distribution of the talks, they come in clusters where I'll speak four times in two days as was the case at SPTechCon in Boston last week. (My first keynote was fun as I got to involve my son.)
However, while I get paid to speak, I certainly don't get the stratospheric speaking fees that some notable speakers get. I'd love to get Bill Clinton's speaking fees, or Michael Jordan, etc. Given that many of my talks are for SharePoint Users Groups where I get paid in pizza and the occasional gas card, I certainly don't get paid in a meaningful way for every talk I give. I do, however, enjoy sharing, as those who have seen my talks can attest. So going to a group whose mission is to help professional speakers become better was at least a little bit intimidating.
Luckily the NSA has a program – the buddy program – run by Michael Goldberg which pairs experienced conference goers with first timers. My buddy was Karen Jacobsen. It worked out great since the conference was in Indianapolis – my home town – and so I was able to provide some ground transportation and some suggestions for things for Karen and her son to see and she was able to introduce me to her friends in the NSA. Karen hails out of New York so I got to meet many of the New York chapter of the NSA's active members. It was great to meet so many helpful and friendly people.
So between the introductions from Karen, the first timers reception, and the fact that the conference was in my home town, I was about as comfortable as I could be in a new environment. Because of that I could turn my observations up to 11 and really try to figure out what was going on.
Perhaps the most striking observation is that no two people seem to do their business the same way. Some of the presentations preached focus in what you do (Peter Sheahan) while others (Connie Podesta) preached generalization. The odd thing is that everyone who was on the platform seems to find a way to make their business successful. It was truly interesting to me to see some folks who swore by having additional products and others who had no use for them, deferring to additional consulting, coaching, training, or mentoring opportunities to drive their revenue engine.
Off the platform I met a wide range of folks. Some were "starving artists" who weren't sure what they were going to be when they grew up and were clearly not making it in the speaking business. (I don't know what I want to be when I grow up either.) Others were looking for contacts – I've gotten a call or two already. Others were successful in their business and were looking to become better – or to share what they've learned. I met someone displaced by the financial industry downturn and someone who does forensic engineering. It was definitely a cornucopia of different folks who were available to meet.
The presentations were some of the most amazing I've seen. Robert Fishbone launched the conference with the assistance of the drum line from Center Grove High School. He had everyone standing and "shaking their booty" – and absolutely fired up to be a part of the conference. Jeanne Robertson's talk was a delightful mix of Aunt Bee and Lucille Ball. I can say I've never seen anyone execute with such precision. Her stories were entertaining and funny. Her stage presence was flawless. My improvisation course taught me the importance of establishing the place for everything on stage – and I saw her execute that with mastery. I should say that all of the main room speakers (and all but two of the breakouts) were very compelling – so the fact that I'm not calling out others shouldn't diminish their value – it's just these were completely over the top. (One short note, Sally Hogshead is getting her own post as a part of my book review of her book Facinate.)
I can say that I used some of what I've learned already. Brad Montgomery suggested using the audience to move you from one point to the next. His idea was to find someone in the audience and ask them to help. At a key point they would ask the obvious question – or at least it would be obvious that they were setup to do the question. I adapted this to have my son ask a prompting question from one topic to the next in my keynote which was met with applause – for him.
I'm also looking forward to the connections I made. Roger Courville and I are scheduled to speak next week – so I can learn more about his experience with the training market – and his thoughts on how I can capitalize on the things I'm already doing. (Roger is an expert in virtual presentations.)
Ultimately I'll be sifting through the presentations and notes I took for weeks if not months trying to filter down the fountain of information I got into the pieces that are uniquely applicable to me.
I should also say that the benefits of the membership, including the Voices of Experience (VOE) CD (seriously, this needs to be a private podcast) has already been valuable. I believe I'll be making special participation coins to give to the audiences where I've spoken – and where folks have participated. I've got some big ideas spurred on by a VOE talk.
It's been a good ride thus far with the organization and I'm excited to see where the journey leads next.
Friday, July 27, 2012
Professional, Book Review
I had read Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … And Others Don't by Jim Collins years ago but I decided to re-read it because for whatever reason when I read it the last time, I didn't have any memorable pull quotes – I didn't have anything specific I could say I got from it. That may seem like an odd reason to reread a book – and it is. I knew there was some wisdom here that I just couldn't put my fingers on. I decided to apply my new approach to reading and researching to the book. (See my post "Research in the Age of Electrons".)
One of the challenges with the Good to Great book – and I believe why I had trouble identifying specific call outs, is that it's focused on large organizations. My organizations don't classify as large. With only myself as an employee and with a handful of contractors – the kinds of pressures that large organizations face are just not the same ones that I face in my organizations. However, that being said many of my clients are large organizations and many of those large organizations are struggling with greatness.
The core of the book is looking for common characteristics of organizations that were able to sustain better than market performance (3x) for a long time (fifteen years). Along the way there were some pretty interesting observations including the fact that CEOs coming in from the outside were negatively correlated with greatness.
Perhaps what intrigued me the most during this rereading was the idea that motivation, alignment, and commitment seem to happen magically if you can determine the one central mission of the organization and get the organization started on that path. Ultimately the book calls the one thing the hedgehog concept, a simplification of what the leader or organization is passionate about, what they can be the best at the world at, and what drives the economic engine. The idea is that we're all off chasing distractions and those distractions rob us of the power we need to be truly great.
I was struck by the ability for organizations to be able to focus on the key things and ignore the rest. Even in the description of the process Collins refers to "dogs that did not bark" which comes from a Sherlock Holmes story. However, it reminded me of Sources of Power by Gary Klein and more specifically about the idea that experts make decisions by seeing the critical elements and establishing expectancies. When those expectancies are violated they know they need to reevaluate.
I was also struck by the dichotomy that the book calls the Stockdale Paradox – "You must maintain unwavering faith that you can and will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, AND at the same time have the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be." The knowledge that you'll reach your goal – not on the timeline you want – and only after you face reality.
One of the key messages – and speaking as someone who continues to try to find the right people is very difficult – is getting the right people on the bus. That is, getting the right people onboard with the company – and then figuring out where the organization is going.
It didn't escape me that much of what the book talks about is subtle. The difference between a vision and the singular focus of a hedgehog concept is hard to see. The difference between respectful disagreement and scientific inquiry compared to a more typical meeting is difficult to diagnose. The short of it is that you have to know what you're looking for – and that can be tricky.
As I'm considering what friction exists for motivation, Good to Great offered some great insight for me, perhaps it can for you too.
Monday, July 23, 2012
The relationship between effective training and fewer, better support center calls is well known, if not very easy to quantify. Sixty-seven percent of support organizations differentiate between incidents (unplanned work required to fix something) and how many are service requests (nothing is broken, but a service is required), but only 43 percent measure those calls separately. It's difficult, though, to predict the effect of better trained customers on those numbers. Of course, perfect training is an improbability, but certainly there's room for improvement and room for fewer calls.
I wrote this article for HDI's SupportWorld magazine, which you can get from the HDI site -- If you have a subscription. If you don't have a subscription you can see just the article here.
Saturday, July 14, 2012
It seems like we've all got social stigmas against evangelization. We think about the sales associates at electronics stores who, hungry for the next commission, stalk customers until the leave the store. We cringe when the doorbell rings early on a Saturday morning hoping that we won't find the Jehovah's Witnesses on our front doorstep. We have an internal fear of used car salesmen who seem all too eager to tell us anything to get us to buy. In the Nine Keys to SharePoint Success, evangelization is the last of the activities that organizations miss. There's little doubt that this one is missed because of the discomfort most of us feel about evangelization but let's look at how we can regain a healthy respect for the word.
To Thine Own Self Be True
There's a special detection mechanism that we all have for detecting insincerity. It doesn't work perfectly but when we realize that someone is being insincere it causes a very large reaction. That detection of insincerity is one factor that leads us to avoid evangelism. We've come to equate that someone who is evangelizing must at some level be insincere.
In some cases that's absolutely true. We've all seen insincere people evangelizing. Think about the person in the chicken suit holding a sign for Great Clips. We know they're not happy to be there.
Knowing this, the suggestion isn't that you should be insincere in your evangelization of SharePoint, in fact that would be detrimental. However, just because it isn't the greatest thing since sliced bread doesn't mean that there aren't good things that you can talk about.
In some cases the person who is knocking on your front door on a Saturday morning isn't insincere – perhaps misinformed – but they're not insincere. They believe with all their heart what they're "selling." The problem with this sort of evangelization isn't an insincerity problem. It's what I call PhD.
I've noticed as a rule that those folks who have earned a PhD have developed a very nasty and debilitating disease. I call it Perfect Hearing Disorder. The disorder prevents folks who have a PhD from hearing other people. Their ego has become so inflated that the ears no longer function – or rather they're not connected to the brain any longer. (Before I offend too many folks, I do have friends who have earned a PhD who have not developed this disorder but they are somewhat of an exception.)
This is the core problem of a zealot. They're not interested in your position, situation, or perspective. They don't want to hear it. I encourage you as you're evangelizing SharePoint to listen to the alternatives and evaluate other options. You can't imagine how powerful it is for me to say "SharePoint isn't a good fit." Or "Work on the core business problems now and get to SharePoint later." I've not had to pick any clients off the floor – but that's probably because they were already sitting down.
One of the other characteristics of a zealot – because of the hearing problem – is that they talk about the features of what they're selling – and not how it solves a problem you have.
Problems and Solutions
Perhaps software companies are not zealots but they do spent a lot of time in marketing the features of their products. They talk about how the XYZ feature revolutionized the market or how with ABC you can make the best posters – without any indication of how to do that or who decided they were the best. The problem with this approach is that users don't need features. Users need solutions. They need solutions to the problems they face.
As you're evangelizing SharePoint in the organization, I'd strongly encourage you to focus on the problems it solves rather than the features. For instance, there's a problem that 30% of an information worker's time is spent trying to find the information they're looking for. The solution is SharePoint. The features are search, metadata, and version control – however, those don't solve the findability problem – they are the tools to solve the findability problem.
If you continue to focus on how you're solving problems – rather than being a purveyor of features -- you'll find that users will start to actively look for your communications because you're doing something impactful for them.
Everyone's favorite radio station is WIII-FM – that is "What is in it for me?" It's not a matter of being ego centric, it's about being human. We are always trying to translate what is happening around us including the opportunities, changes, and threats into what it means to us. Perhaps that's still a bit ego centric but it's the way evolution hard wired us – we have to look out for ourselves. To do that, we also need to ascribe meaning to the events around us.
When you propose a solution that will save the company money but it requires some additional action on the part of the individual, you've got some selling to do. The traditional rational model of thinking would say that employees want to support the organization and therefore what is good for the organization should happen as a matter of course. However, take this simple example. If you're working from home you probably have unlimited long distance. When you call in to a conference call you almost invariably will call into a toll free number. The organization pays a per-minute fee for those toll free number calls. Calling a toll number is actually cheaper for the organization but almost no one dials them.
Sure that's a silly example, but the point of it is that just because it's good for the organization doesn't mean that someone will automatically do it – you have to make it personal to them. Run a campaign which offers gift cards for folks who routinely use the toll numbers for conference calls and you're likely to change behavior – because they're something in it for them.
I'm not saying that you have to incent every behavior you want – rather, I'm saying that you have to make the value personal and not some abstract concept of how it will make the organization better someday.
There's no time like the present. That's rarely a motto that someone inside the organization has posted on their cube wall. Most organizations have everyone doing so much that it's a constant juggling act just to keep things going. Some employees feel like they're the proverbial plate spinner working on something just long enough to keep it from crashing.
In this environment, where you're overworked and you have too many priorities how do you get employees to spend their time learning about and using SharePoint? The answer is to make the problem that they're solving urgent. We've all seen those advertisements that explain that this is a "limited time offer." Perhaps we're even aware of businesses that are perpetually having a "going out of business" sale. They're trying to create a false sense of urgency – which as you might guess from the discussion above I'm not advocating.
There are times when you can see the problem more clearly and sense the impending danger of the lion on your heels. The more clearly you can articulate the danger of the problem (and the impact to the person with whom you're speaking) the greater their sense of urgency and the greater the likelihood that they'll work on the issue – instead of burying it with the other thousand or so things they can't get to on a daily basis.
Energy in Evangelism
As we wrap up, the trick here isn't a trick. It's being honest and sharing openly the opportunities that you have to make the business better. If you focus on how SharePoint can solve common problems and creating a real sense of urgency to solve those problems you'll avoid the negative stigmas associated with evangelism – and create a lasting impact for the organization.
Friday, July 13, 2012
In my blog post, "The Nine Keys to SharePoint Success" I called out Planning Measurement as the number three key to success. In this blog post we'll delve into what measurement is – and how to measure the right things.
Measurement is at its heart a standardized way of evaluating something. The essence of measurement is knowing that one road is longer than another based on the measurement of its length – without having to have traveled them both. Sometimes we wrap up the usefulness of the measurement and the fundamentals of measurement and confuse whether a measurement is "right" or whether it's "useful."
Central to the discussion about measurement are two broadly misunderstood terms: accuracy and precision. Precision refers to the repeatability of the result – multiple measurements of the same thing will result in tightly clustered values. Precision does not, however, tell you how close those values are to the real or true value – that's accuracy. Accuracy is, in other words, the "rightness" of the results you get. If I throw four darts at a dartboard and hit the very top, very bottom, very left, and very right of the dartboard, my dart were accurate in that they average to the center. They are not, however, very precise because they're all over the board. Conversely, I could put four darts practically on top of each other on the rightmost edge of the board and I'd have precision without accuracy.
Sometimes we find that in our quest for precision we'll often overlook simple ideas that lead to accurate but less precise results. In the case of SharePoint, let's assume we're trying to determine the relative levels of activity on different days of the week. We could take the file sizes for the IIS request logs – rather than the individual number of requests and get a roughly accurate comparison between the days.
The precise answer would require we count every request, eliminate those not caused by users, and establish daily request values. However, this level of precision is probably not necessary if we have a few weeks' worth of logs to evaluate – the relative sizes of the log files will roughly equate to the volume based on day of the week. Measurement is as much about knowing how to find the level of accuracy needed – without driving unnecessary precision.
One of the interesting challenges about measurement is that in most cases performing measurement means effort on the measurement process – which ostensibly takes away from the ability to spend the effort on production. This begs the question "How do you know what to measure?" Certainly there are some measurements which will be clearly impractical to perform. However, in many more cases the decision between deciding to measure and not to measure is difficult.
Douglas Hubbard, Author of How to Measure Anything suggests the following, slightly complex, set of questions for evaluating a measurement:
- What is the decision this measurement is supposed to support?
- What is the definition of the thing being measured in terms of observable consequences?
- How, exactly, does this thing matter to the decision being asked?
- How much do you know about it now (i.e., what is your current level of uncertainty)?
- What is the value of additional information?
However, I believe these can be simplified into a simple litmus test. The litmus test question is: "Can I reasonably expect that I'll make a decision based on the result of the measurement?" If you will never make a decision based on a measurement then you probably don't need to do it. You'll note the word "reasonably" in the question. It's there to extend it to situations where you don't know for sure what you're going to get – and so measuring the results for at least a short time are called for. The word "reasonably" is also to constrain the analysis from the radical extremism that we can sometimes enter into in a meeting. Sure anything taken to an extreme would lead to a decision but is that case even remotely likely?
Leading, Coincident, Lagging
When we're measuring, we have to look at what we're measuring not only from the perspective of value but also from the perspective of their place in time. Ultimately our measurements turn into a set of numbers and those numbers are indicators. They're indicators of the level of some function.
The indicators that we're measuring can be leading – in that they signal an event to come, lagging – they demonstrate something that's already happened, or coincident – signaling something that's happening right now.
Let's say that your goal is to monitor the amount of cash we have on hand – our cash flow. A leading indicator for cash flow is invoices. We can be reasonable assured that we'll receive money for an invoice we produce. A coincident indicator would be a bank deposit. We'd be seeing the actual amount deposited at the moment it was deposited. A lagging indicator would be the bank statement. It would say what has already happened in terms of cash flow.
The good news is that lagging indicators are almost always correct – they're documenting things that have already happened. Coincident indicators are mostly correct. In most cases you're measuring something that is happening so there's little chance for accuracy issues. However, leading indicators are sometime wrong – and are often subject to manipulation. For instance, in our invoice example above, it's possible to create fake invoices which customers will never pay. This would make the invoiced indicator look good leading to the conclusion cash flow would be good – until you realize the invoices aren't real.
When planning measurement you have to consider what decisions you're going to be making and whether a leading, lagging, or coincident indicator is the best answer. The obvious answer is that you want to have a leading indicator so you can make changes before things happen – but the obvious answer is sometimes so difficult to get that the right answer might be a coincident or even a lagging indicator.
Measuring the Right Things
Some organizations believe that they have the metrics problem down. With sophisticated tools they measure service availability, utilization, and hundreds of system-automated metrics. From a systems management perspective they have all the data they need – however, despite all of this data they still cannot communicate whether their solutions are adding value. The fewer the number of links between the item you're measuring and business profitability, the better the measurement is at measuring something that matters.
In the following sections we'll look at measurable metrics and their ability to illuminate business value in a solution.
Service Measurement (Availability)
If you're in IT service delivery then the metrics that you care are about are largely the metrics for which you have service level agreements (SLAs). You'll be concerned about up-time and performance – how many seconds that it takes for a page to load. These are essential service delivery metrics but they don't tell you much about the users or the business. They tell you exclusively (or nearly exclusively) about the system itself.
Scalability Measurement (Visits)
Often a marketing or communications department will insist on metrics like the number of hits or perhaps visits that the site receives for a certain period of time. The metrics can be generated through sophisticated tools or simple IIS log analysis and provides a level of awareness of what the users are doing – or at least that they're showing up and using the system. However, this is a measurement of activity. It doesn't talk about the results that are being driven through the system.
Even if the monitoring can tell you the number of new documents uploaded or the number of records edited in addition to just the number of visits, these still don't lead to business results.
Business Measurement (Dollars)
Business measurements are those measurements that are tied to business results. An example might be the value of the increased number (or percentage) of closed deals. Another example might be the amount of reduced costs based on the use of the system.
Most of the time in SharePoint projects when I start to talk about measuring business value, the IT folks in the room start to squirm. That is because SharePoint is delivered as a platform to enable business solutions – it is rarely sold with a specific set of objectives. That means that there's little direct value from deploying the platform, except for the occasional cost replaced by an older system. The other problem is that measurements tend to get used for bonuses and performance appraisals. A technologist doesn't want the messy business stuff to get in the way of their compensation.
If the measurement is reduced cycle time for responding to a request for proposal (RFP) then the technologist is being judged not just on whether the system is available, or even how many people use it, but also on the ability of the business to use the system in a way that transforms the way the business works – and that's scary stuff. Measurements based on the business outcome being driven force the technologist to get in the boat and row with the business towards mutual goals. While this is scary – sometimes to the business as well – it helps get the alignment that's necessary for success.
Putting Measurement Together
The key thing to remember about measurement of your SharePoint project isn't the distinction between accuracy and precision (though that may help); the key is to realize that no matter how difficult you believe measurement will be there's almost always an easier way to get a "roughly right" result. You can then use these "roughly right" answers to start to measure more important items pertaining to the SharePoint implementation – like how much money it made (or saved) for the organization.
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Professional, Book Review
Reading The Anatomy of Peace completes the trifecta of books from the Arbringer Institute. I've already written reviews from Bonds that Make Us Free and Leadership and Self-Deception. All of these books are really a continuation of the thoughts of Martin Burber in his book I and Thou written in German and translated to English. Continuation in that they make real and accessible the wisdom of I and Thou.
The Anatomy of Peace offers a few key things to the insights of the other works. In the Anatomy of Peace we get to see the four kinds of boxes we can get into – the four ways that we can see others as objects rather than seeing them as people. The boxes are:
- Better-than box – In this box you see yourself as better than other folks. They're not as human as you because you're better.
- I-deserve box – The key world is entitlement. You don't see others as people because you're not getting what you believe you're entitled to.
- Must-be-seen-as box – In this box you are focused on your appearance – and because of that you can't see folks as people. You're too focused on how you appear to be.
- Worse-than box – In this box you believe that you're not worthy and therefore can't relate to others as a caring person.
The book also offers helpful suggestions for getting out of the box:
Finally, the Peacemaking Pyramid offers suggestions for how to build to a place of being able to resolve problems – and how much time you should spend on the things that go right compared to the time you spend when things go wrong. Take a look:
The book will help you determine how to create peace, not just find it. That's a pretty cool thing.
Monday, July 09, 2012
Two guys walk into an office. The first one asks, "Do you know what's different between searching the Internet and searching your intranet?" The second one exclaims "Just about everything!" Sometimes it can seem like everything that you know about searching on the Internet just doesn't apply to your intranet. You expect when you search the Internet you'll find something. (It may not be the right thing but that's not relevant right now.)
eDiscovery activities can leverage search to dig up more dirt than a Caterpillar convention. Do you want to know the best data discovery tool that auditors have right now? It's your search engine. You've already indexed the content. All they need is an account and they can find any piece of information that you didn't want found by just anyone in the organization. Maybe they're searching for credit card numbers for a PCI audit, or social security numbers for a PII audit, whatever it is the search tools are going to find it. And yet, when you want to find something you're left out in the cold.
Monday, July 09, 2012
For whatever reason over the last few weeks I've been asked in several different ways how to build (or rebuild) trust. I'll share an oversimplification here and recommend you look at my book reviews of Trust & Betrayal in the Workplace and Building Trust: In Business, Politics, Relationships and Life, if you're interested in more details, techniques, or background.
Building or rebuilding trust is as simple as: making commitments, renegotiating commitments, and meeting commitments. Whether you're in an organization or are working one-on-one this seems too simple to be true – however, sometimes the solution isn't as large as the problem.
Making a commitment may seem like something that you do every day – however, if you're like most folks you don't really make commitments daily. Most folks make agreements daily but rarely do you find someone who makes commitments. What's the difference? Well, it's indifference. If you have any level of indifference about whether you'll be able to actually do the thing you're making an agreement but not a commitment. Commitment means committed.
I don't mean the sort of "I'll do it or die trying" level of commitment is required for everything you do but when you're building or rebuilding trust even small things can be big. You want to ensure that you're meeting every commitment so that you develop a pattern of the other person expecting you'll meet your commitments. (Sounds a bit like trust doesn't it?)
One key point in terms of making commitments is the level of specificity that you use. The problem is sometimes that we're not specific enough about our commitments so we have one idea of what we're committing to and someone else has a different interpretation. All the time we have folks commit to get something done by Tuesday. However, they may be thinking end of day – where we're expecting first thing in the morning. For even more clarity we might define end of day – what time? 5PM? 6PM? 11:59PM? What timezone? In our multi-location business world sometimes even the timezone can trip us up.
Any commitment you make, you should fully expect to meet.
This is an odd placement. You would think that the thing you would want to do most when it comes to commitments is meeting them and yet that's our third item not our second, why? In short, renegotiation can be a positive thing – even more than meeting a commitment – but only if it's handled before the time to meet the commitment has passed – and only if done in the right spirit.
It's possible to renegotiate because of truly exceptional circumstances (a death in the family) or truly trivial circumstances (I wanted to watch a TV show.) The greater level of respect that you show the other person through what you renegotiate for, the quicker you'll build trust.
Clearly you want to minimize the number of times that you have to renegotiate in the first place, however, the key is to renegotiate openly and that you do it before you've missed the commitment in the first place – if you can. If you happen to miss your commitment and don't renegotiate first, don't give up. You should still renegotiate the commitment, just know that you've lost some ground and what you're doing with the renegotiation is trying to not lose more.
Meeting a commitment has the same level of apparent simplicity as making a commitment and the same level of possibility for misunderstanding. Certainly you should meet your own standards when meeting a commitment – you shouldn't try to "pull one over" on yourself and say it was "good enough." That is a slippery slope and one that no one ever navigates for long. However, more important is that you get the party (or organization) to whom you made the commitment to positively acknowledge that you've met the commitment.
For instance, on occasion I've presented to a group where we made a list of things to cover in the presentation on the board. During the presentation as I believe I covered a topic I went to cross the item off the list – and as I did I asked the person that raised it to acknowledge that I had met their expectations – or they told me what I didn't meet and I tried to work on it. In short we renegotiated because their expectation couldn't be met – or I delivered the missing material. Notice here I'm not perfect in setting expectations or communicating my commitments either – I use renegotiation to help me get more clarity when necessary.
Wrap Up – Expectations and Perfection
Really when you're building trust you're trying to create the expectation that you'll do something. You're trying to build an expectation that your word, your commitment means something. Trust is really that expectation. It's someone else accepting an expectation as more or less a fact.
I need to end that you won't be perfect in meeting your commitments, no one is. What you want to do is be as close to perfect as you can be. The best way to do that is to make and meet small commitments and gradually expand them larger and larger. If you're an alcoholic don't make the commitment to never drink again – ever. Make the commitment to not drink tomorrow. After a while you may expand and commit to not drinking for a week. 12 step programs, of which Alcoholics Anonymous is the creator, recommend one day at a time. It's good advice. Commit to things that are so close that you know you can meet them.
Saturday, July 07, 2012
So for the past five years or so, I've been a skeptic when it comes to social software. (Take a look back early in my quest at my review of Wikinomics, Groundswell, The Wisdom of Crowds, The Long Tail, or Linked.) It's not that I don't believe that social software can't add value – rather it's I believe that it's too often poorly understood by business and it's seen as the cure for whatever ails an organization. Over the years I've tried to keep a healthy respect for folks who are social advocates while simultaneously viewing the prospects of social in the enterprise with some level of doubt. Over the years I've had experiences with how people and organizations have trumpeted the value of social only to leave it on the broken road of failed initiatives quickly thereafter. In all fairness, I've seen an unreasonable number of social projects killed because of management misconceptions and fears. So as a result I wanted to post my top six social myths that organizations believe with the warning that some of these support the deployment of social software – and some do not.
6. Build It and They Will Come
When Amazon.com started reviews it didn't take off. Seriously, Amazon.com people. When they built it no one started reviewing. They had to kick start the review process to get it to a critical mass where the reviews would keep coming in on their own. They had a cold-start problem. No one knew what reviews were supposed to be so no one did it. It took seeding the system with reviews, getting folks to take that first step to get the ball rolling to the point where it's a very effective review center now. It should be said that Amazon.com's marketing and analysis engine sending out reminders for folks to do reviews even today is probably a contributing factor to their success – but I come back to reviews weren't easy even for the juggernaut of the Internet. So what makes you so certain that on your Intranet you can get folks to review – or even rate – documents?
Ultimately every social initiative in the organization will have a cold-start problem. There won't be any social norms and most folks neither want to create them nor violate them because they didn't understand them. As a result there's a huge inertia to getting a social project started. If you think that you can just build it and the "social" will magically happen, you're likely to be quite disappointed. So if you're planning to implement social software, plan how you're going to launch it – and support it for at least 90 days and ideally longer.
5. "It's Just as Easy to…"
Someone will say something like "With Yammer I can post a short update to a group that cares about what I'm working on." The immediate response from IT will be, "You can post that to a discussion forum in SharePoint." Um, yea. Sure, 20 clicks later you'll have an update that people can find if they do the same 20 clicks – instead of having a "river of news" type update on their screen. You'll excuse me this isn't the same. Ease of use and the experience of the interaction does matter.
A fundamental lesson I learned from eCommerce years ago is every action you require decreases (sometimes exponentially) the probability of the result you're looking for. In the eCommerce world that was a sale. Take a look at Amazon.com's checkout process. There are few steps (who came up with one click ordering?) and the number of distractions when you're going through them is cut to the minimum. In the organization that's simple communication (and coordination) – or it's an attempt to capture knowledge. (See my book review of Lost Knowledge.) So there is a difference between 2 clicks and 20. Between seeing something without action and requiring action.
If you organization is ready to share information and the tooling is getting in the way – you may need to deploy a social tool to reduce the friction in communication and collaboration. When you deploy it, you'll want to make it clear what the expectations are, make it easy to get to, prominent, and easy to use.
4. Pent Up Demand
I opened the door to this myth. I opened the door to the idea that an organization may have a large unmet appetite for a social tool that has not yet been deployed. This myth is so prevalent there are law suits from big foot and the lochness monster asking for a restraining order. Everyone believes that the problem is that IT isn't delivering the social tools that the Gen Yers in the organization are clamoring for. If IT would just implement some sort of Facebook for the enterprise the problems would somehow magically evaporate and every meeting would cease to be boring. I believe, it would be replaced with the incessant sound of people quietly stamping out a million short messages instead of feigning attention to the meeting leader.
There is no doubt that there is some pent up demand. There's pent up demand whenever you don't have something – but how much pent up demand is there? I've owned a pinball machine for a number of years now. For the first few years I played it a lot. Recently, I've not played it so much. (In fact it's broken if anyone knows a pinball repairperson around Indy.) So there was some level of demand when I got it but not 10 years of demand. How much demand do you really have for the latest enterprise social application?
If you believe there's pent up demand for social in your organization, measure it. If you don't know how, check out How to Measure Anything. You won't be able to get an exact sense for the pent up demand but you'll have the opportunity to better understand what the biggest demand really is.
3. We're All One Big Happy (and Dysfunctional) Family
No matter how good the commitment to an organization is, people are people. We may not openly behave as teenage children in high school forming cliques and openly jeering at jocks, nerds, or people who are simply different than us – but the dynamics are largely the same. We form alliances with people in the organization whose ideas and needs are most like ours. We bristle when someone from outside our camp suggests that we're doing something wrong – or even that we could be doing something better. As much as we like to see ourselves as one big organization we're really a set of overlapping circles of influence and agreement. (If you want to see the idea of organizations as a network of commitments you may want to read Understanding Computers and Cognition.)
What does this have to do with social software? Well somehow we picture that after implementing social software we'll have a world with rainbows and puppies and people playing harps around a fire singing Kumbaya. However, while social software may make it easier for us to be more social – to share who we are – it won't inherently help us to like or respect the folks that we work with.
So if you're going to deploy social software you're going to want to get some family counseling too. Make sure that you support the objective of making the organization work better together with the software – not just assume that if you get everyone together that it will all be alright. Do you remember your last family reunion? Do I need to say more?
2. Water Cooler Effect
It's time to return to an objection leveled against social software that isn't fair or accurate. One of the often leveled accusations by senior management is that if we implement social software we won't get anything done. It will be like putting the proverbial water cooler in every cubical. The problem with this thinking is that it ignores the social aspects of our human existence. It ignores our need to be connected and care for each other. Without trust we can't get anything done and to build trust we have to feel like we know another person. There's a lot of evidence that a lack of trust reduces performance substantially – so anything that can be done to build trust is critical to long term success. (Even those silly team building exercises – sorry, they work.)
No large business deal has been done without the leaders of the organization going to dinner, playing a round of golf, or connecting in some non-business way. We simply do not function as humans from the perspective of logical decisions devoid of emotion. We need the emotional connection to the other person to trust.
When you create the right atmosphere where everyone wants the best for the organization, the problem of folks wasting their days won't really be an issue – besides that's really an HR issue that has nothing to do with social software. If folks want to not do their work – they'll find a way to do just that. Look for and direct the behaviors you want and deal with individual performance problems as that – individual performance problems.
1. Silver Bullet
No, social software doesn't kill werewolves, though I've not seen any studies to this effect. It really doesn't matter what your problem is – if you believe it doesn't matter what your problem is and you believe social software will fix it. (You may need to reread that.) Just like SharePoint, social isn't a silver bullet. For that matter there are no silver bullets. You're not going to solve a problem that you don't understand. So I'd encourage you to look deeper when you're confronted with a problem that you think social will solve. What is the real problem? Are we dealing with human behavior or some technical limitation?
To believe you need a silver bullet is to believe in werewolves. You might as well believe in unicorns – I think you've got an equal chance of finding either in your organization.
Ultimately, I'd support your organization deploying social software if you've got an organizational change initiative that it supports. I'd encourage you to rethink deploying social software because "it's cool" and in the absence of a real effort to change the organization. Please don't implement technology for technology's sake.