Nancy White and I have been working on a project to help our client enhance their collaboration practices. In the process we’ve identified three types of enterprise collaboration. Love to hear what you think of the idea. Nancy is riffing on this topic too and has added a bunch of other cool resources in her post.
Collaboration is the act of working with people to get something done. We can look at collaboration at three levels within the enterprise.
In Team Collaboration, the members of the group are known, there are clear task interdependencies, expected reciprocity, and explicit timelines and goals. To achieve the goal, members must fulfil their tasks within the stated time. Team Collaboration often suggests that while there is often explicit leadership, the participants cooperate on an equal footing and will receive equal recognition. An example is a research project to develop a prototype for X in five months with six team members and a set of resources.
In Community Collaboration, there is a shared domain or area of interest, but the goal is more often on learning, rather than task. People share and build knowledge, rather than complete projects. Membership may be bounded and explicit, but periods are often open or “ongoing.” Membership is often on equal footing, but more experienced practitioners may have more status or power in the community. Reciprocity is within the group, but not always one to one (“I did this for you, now you do this for me.”) An example might be a community of practice that is interested in the type of research mentioned in the team example above. A member of that team may come to her community and ask for examples of past projects.
Network Collaboration steps beyond the relationship centric nature of team and community collaboration. It is collaboration that starts in individual action and self interest and accrues to the network. Membership and timelines are open and unbounded. There are no explicit roles. Members most likely do not know all the other members. Power is distributed. This form of collaboration is driven by the advent of social software, a response to the overwhelming volume of information we are creating. It’s impossible for an individual to cope on their own.
An example of network collaboration might be members of the team in the first example above bookmarking web sites as they find them. This benefits their team, possibly their related communities of practice but it also benefits the wider network of people interested in the topic. At the same time, they may find other bookmarks left by network members relevant to their team work. This sort of network activity benefits the individual and a network of people reciprocally over time. The reciprocity connection is remote and undefined. You act in self-interest but provide a network-wide benefit.
Social searching is the next big step in helping you get the search results you need. This is how it works. Someone in your community creates a community search engine for your group and then everyone in the community starts using it. When the results appear you add value by telling the engine which results don’t belong and which ones should be promoted to the top of the list. The more the community uses the engine the better the results.
I’ve created three social search engines using Swiki from Eurekstar:
- people issues related to knowledge management
- evaluation of hard to measure initiatives
- meaningful organisational change
If you are interested in these three topics please bookmark these links and use the search feature as much as you can. We can then see, as a community, how we can improve our searchability.
Filed in .
We often describe anecdote circles as being a bit like dinner parties, with the exceptions that we try have just one conversation at a time, and there is no wine. Well, last night I facilitated an anecdote circle that was exactly like a diner party…
SMS Management and Technology, an Australian consulting company (that both Shawn and I worked for in a previous life), is holding a series of dinners to get new starters and account managers together so the new starters can share their experiences and background and the account managers can share stories around the values of the company. Last night was a fantastic experience. In ending the session I asked them to reflect on how they felt and there were three distinct themes. One was that participants felt privileged and humble for people to have shared their stories. Another was concern about a decline in the humanity in our organisations and how events such as last night were fantastic at providing a forum where people could connect at a meaningful level with each other. The third was that the event reinforced to the new starters that they had made a good career choice.
This is an example of how narrative approaches can be used in creative ways to restore dialogue and humanity in 21st Century organisations.
Filed in Knowledge.
I’m reading Stealth KM: Winning Knowledge Management Strategies for the Public Sector. It’s a well written and comprehensive approach to implementing KM. And the author, Niall Sinclair, understands public sector environments. My only criticism would be its overemphasis on capturing knowledge but this is a minor point because there is a lot of good, practical advice on how to get your KM program up and running.
I love good questions so when I read Nial'’s “checklist of process improvement criteria” I thought they make a good set of questions to ask when trying to decide what aspect of KM might you implement for a specific business unit. Here are the 14 questions:
- What do people know?
- What people do not know?
- How to best leverage people’s knowledge?
- How to convince people to share knowledge?
- How to map what people know to a business process?
- How to fill knowledge gaps?
- How to capture unique knowledge?
- How to prevent knowledge loss unless such loss is planned abandonment?
- To whom or what to turn when people need to fill a knowledge gap?
- How to get people the knowledge they need, when they need it?
- How to repair knowledge processes if they fail?
- How to capture and advocate lessons learned and best practices?
- How to value unique and proprietary corporate knowledge?
Here’s a great video describing how a collaboration between Rob Fulup and Michael Schrage (author of Serious Play) hit a low point but got back on track with assistance from Bernie DeKoven. There are a couple of reasons why I liked this clip: the information is presented as a story where Rob and Michael recount their poor collaboration experience and how it was turned around—it makes the 8 minutes compelling; and, the use of a facilitator and a communication tool to somewhat depersonalise their ideas so the collaborators (antagonists) could focus on content rather than each others’ failings (as they saw them).
In one of my first blog posts (Back again bemoaning the limitations of text), three blog-sites ago, I made the observation that communication tools and artifacts (perhaps related to boundary objects) are important devices for co-creating meaning. Back then I was particularly interested in the role of diagrams.
The ability for collaborators to sketch diagrams as a way to create and communicate ideas has considerable advantages over collaborating using a discussion forum approach that relies predominantly on text . The key difference lies in the fact that a diagram is co-created and its meaning is developed through the interchange between the collaborators. The meaning of words, however, are generally predefined and significant effort is required to convey accurately what you mean.
In the case of Rob and Michael they used a software tool that enabled them to capture and prioritise their ideas and project them on a wall. Nothing new there. Mindmanger could be used, for example. I think the real transformation was facilitated by Bernie as he asked questions, rephrased statements and gently guided the conversation.
Filed in Knowledge.
del.icio.us is a free social book-marking web site which can help a group share useful links. Instead of one person relying on their own efforts to find relevant and useful information, with social book-marking you can distribute the effort among your group. Teams, communities and networks within and across organisations can make use of this simple and effective capability and enhance their collaboration practices.
This is how you do it.
You’ll find the ‘register’ link at the top right corner of the del.icio.us home page.
You will be asked to install a couple of buttons to your browser. These buttons are essential and hopefully you will be able to do this inside your firewall. The buttons make it easy for you to bookmark web pages as you find them.
Now you are logged in and ready to add some bookmarks. Your delicious home page will look something like this:
To add a bookmark go to a web site like www.anecdote.com.au. Click on the ‘tag’ button that has been added to your browser. A window like this will pop up.
Fill in the description, notes and tags. I recommend you follow a practice of noting whether you have read the article or web page so colleagues know who has just skimmed it and who has read it.
The ‘tag’ field provides much of the power behind social book-marking. delicious will start to recommend tags as you use the system based on tags you have used before, what your network is using and what’s popular throughout delicious. Rather than have pre-defined categories you can record the web page using any tags you like.
To get the most value as a group, however, I recommend at the outset you decide on some tags you will use to categorise the web sites you find. Don’t attempt to develop a full taxonomy. Let it evolve by listing a few common tags and then as new ones are needed let your group know as you create them.
Now add your colleagues using the ‘Your Network’ link at the top left corner of your del.icio.us page.
Find out your colleagues’ delicious usernames and add each one. Make sure they add your name to their network too.
If you want to notify a particular member of your group of a web page you think they might like to read, use the special tag ‘for:username’. Links directed to you will turn up in your ‘links for you’ page.
Now you can keep track of what your group is book-marking on the web using del.icio.us.
I discovered Instructables today. A web site for sharing ‘How To’ advice. Imagine if organisations had a similar capability. It is interesting how many entries link to YouTube or upload a video to convey how they do things. How many organisations are you aware of actively using video on their intranets?
Wherever I go I hear the same thing, “I’d love to do it, but we just don’t have enough time.”
‘It’ is anything they know is important, and could make a difference, but they are totally overwhelmed with their current tasks. The thought of something else is just too much.
So why is there such a lack of time? Here are my top 7 reasons:
- Someone else sets your agenda and fills you schedule with tasks
- You don’t know what to say ‘no’ to
- We can do so many things these days, so we do
- We want to keep an eye on everything because the world is complex and changing and we are constantly distracted
- Our physical workspaces encourage distractions
- We are more connected than ever and technology keeps the channels open
- Being generalists we tackle new things over and over and never are really proficient
These suggestions will help you wrest control of you time.
- Learn a task management method like Getting Things Done. I’d recommend getting David Allen’s book of the same name and put it into practice. Better still, get your organisation to invest in a GTD training program (addresses issues 1 and 3).
- Understand your priorities and work out how your work fits in to the big picture. If it doesn’t fit in to either the big picture or your priorities then say ‘no’ (issue 2)
- Get into a community of practice and learn how to work smarter from your peers and with your peers that already do it. Rather than try and keep up with all the changes in your discipline, share the workload. Social book-marking is one possible tool (issues 4 & 7)
- Periodically close down the communication channels. Turn off the mobile, Skype, email and then find a cafe where you can work anonymously. You’ll be amazed at how much work you’ll get done (issues 5 & 6).
Obviously this is not a comprehensive assessment of the why there is such a lack of time in organisations and what to do about it (I just don’t have the time ). But what advice would you give to someone who seems to be flat out like a lizard drinking?
[Thanks to Nancy White for a conversation this morning about this issue]
Filed in Knowledge.
1. Gather raw material
You need to collect specific and the general information about the issue you are working on. I like to gather my raw material using Mindmanager. I also gather material on the web and tag it using del.icio.us and then link key pages to the mind map. It’s important to be a maven and get interested in the peripheral areas and keep saying to yourself, “this might be useful.”
2. Digest the material
As James Webb says, “This part of the process is harder to describe in concrete terms because it goes on entirely inside your head.” Play with the material you’ve collected. Look at it from different angles and perspectives. Don’t be too literal, use metaphors and most importantly jot down partial ideas as they come to you, regardless of how crazy they seem. Keep going until you get to the hopeless stage and everything seems like a jumble.
3. Put the issue out of your mind completely—incubation
This is the easy bit. Forget about the problem and just like Sherlock Holmes, abruptly drop the case mid-way through and got to a concert. Do anything that keeps you mind off the issue at hand and engages your emotions. Movies, music, reading, lively conversation.
4. An idea will appear
At some point the “ah ha!” moment happens. Don’t let it slide past. Write down the idea immediately.
5. Expose the idea to reality
The idea is likely to need work. So now is the time to build it up, think about the practicalities, and work out how it might really work in practice. Test the idea with colleagues and clients and be ready to adapt.
Now these five steps might seem bleedingly obvious but you will be surprised how many people want to just jump to steps four and five. I recommend buying a copy of this tiny book. It will take you an hour to read, costs $6 and does a terrific job of explaining these five steps in much greatly detail and humour.
Filed in .
At the upcoming Australian Facilitators conference I’m looking forward to the “Facilitator Archetypes” workshop that I’m running alongside a great cartoonist, Simon Kneebone. This workshop was inspired from some work we did earlier this year exploring language in facilitation. When I asked “what metaphor describes your style of facilitation” I had no idea it would result in such an interesting collection of characters. Characters like; The invisible facilitator. Facilitator as chameleon. Facilitator as dictator. Facilitator as conductor. Thanks to Simon, we have translated our initial findings into some great cartoons that capture these characters. I can’t wait to see what characters emerge from our workshop!
Figure 1. The invisible facilitator
Figure 2: Facilitator as Chameleon
Figure 3: Facilitator as Dictator
Figure 4: Facilitator as Conductor
Figure 5: Facilitation is like moving with the elements and sailing the seas
Figure 6: Facilitation is like a parent holding a bicycle and then letting go
What metaphor describes your style of facilitation?
Filed in .
Then don’t miss out on the Third Annual Australian Wellness Conference to be held in Brisbane November 30 – December 1, 2006.
The feature topics will span areas of personal wellness, self-management, worksite wellness, wellness coaching and wellness in the health professions.
Filed in .
A couple a weeks ago we released our guide to anecdote circles and it has been extremely popular. We tried our best to give an expansive description of how you run these simple gatherings designed to elicit stories. Today on Working Stories Victoria made a substantial contribution by relating the techniques she is learning about how to trigger memories so people can reminisce. Once again we can learn so much from looking over the fence at other disciplines and I wasn’t even aware that there is a field called Reminiscence work. Here are the reasons, principles, and memory triggers for Reminiscence work.
UPDATE: The following material was developed by Bernie Arigho (www.age-exchange.org.uk) and reproduced with Bernie's permission.
Reminiscence: the recollection of one's own life experiences
Reminiscence work: The stimulation of social, education and creative activities that value people and their reminiscences
Ten good reasons for doing reminiscence work:
- It connects the past with the present
- It encourages sociability
- It helps to make care more person-centred
- it preserves cultural heritage
- It reverses the gift relationship (I.e. the reminiscences become an offer which makes the offerer more of an equal with someone who is caring for them)
- It enhances a sense of identity and self-worth
- It helps a process of positive life review
- It modifies people's perceptions of each other
- It helps with assessment of needs and functions
- It provides enjoyment on many levels
From Faith Gibson, Reminiscence and Recall: A Guide to Good Practice
Principles of good practice in reminiscence work:
- Person centred approach
- Good communication, active listening, recognise non-verbal signals (it is not a 'normal' conversation)
- Genuine interest
- Respect for personal choice (do not push the person into a selection, allow them to chose their story, this is important)
- Fidelity and confidentiality
- Establishing trust and rapport
- Support for painful emotions
- Non-judgemental attitude
- Good facilitation skills
- Use of memory triggers that stimulate the 6 senses (see more below)
- Use of inclusive and relevant themes
- A range of imaginative and creative opportunities
- Monitoring and evaluation at every stage
- Support, advice and guidance for fieldworkers
The memory triggers,
reminiscence themes (in this case the Royal Festival Hall), active verbs (e.g. doing), specific technical language related to one's work, proverbs, mottos, poems (apparently very good), 'naughty' words, personal idiosyncratic words, catch-phrases, ‘old’ words, hymns, songs, brand names, advertising slogans, nursery rhymes, skipping songs, names of special people and places
Visual: photographs, newspaper cuttings, personal collectibles, film, slides, colours, birthday cards, scraps, old films, dreams, fashion magazines
Hearing: music, film scores, children, traffic, coughing,musical instruments, instruments tuning up, fireworks, transport, the sea, different kinds of work, birdsong, railway whistle, the weather, street calls
Tactile: animals, fabrics, carpets, coins, people, sand, water, artifacts
Smell; food, drink, tobacco, flowers, herbs, perfumes, cleaning and polishing materials, creosote, manure, the seaside
Taste: Food and drink, tobacco, the air, tastes of the past from old-fashioned sweets
Movement: dance, games, crafts, rocking, skating, cycling, holding a baby, different kinds of work, washing
Filed in Changing behaviour.
Gallup has done a survey of 1000 US employees investigating the relationship between engaged employees and innovation. At first glance it seems impressive. There are lots of numbers, a couple of graphs and even a statement at the bottom of the article describing the survey limitations. The results, however, hinge on their definitions of employee engagement (see pretty graphic).
So how did they determined who fell into which engagement category? This seems to be a vital missing piece. There is no indication of the questions they asked or the scales they used. Without this information the rest of the ‘data’ is nonsense to me. Here are some of the findings.
When GMJ researchers surveyed U.S. workers, 59% of engaged employees strongly agreed with the statement that their current job "brings out [their] most creative ideas." On the flip side, only 3% of actively disengaged employees strongly agreed that their current job brings out their most creative ideas.
The study also showed that engaged workers were much more likely to react positively to creative ideas offered by fellow team members. When asked to rate their level of agreement with the statement "I feed off the creativity of my colleagues," roughly 6 in 10 engaged employees (61%) strongly agreed, while only about 1 in 10 actively disengaged employees (9%) gave the same answer.
In the race for evidence-based management I imagine people are taking these results and believing what they read and quoting the figures (fully referenced of course) in business cases as if they are gospel. Perhaps I’m missing something but without an understanding of how these categorisations are made it’s difficult to assess the results’ veracity.
I would love to hear what Bob Sutton thinks of these types of ‘evidence-based’ pronouncements masquerading as research.
Metaphors are powerful for understanding what makes people really tick. Forget asking people what they think about a situation; ask them what comes to mind regarding how things really get done around here when you see these three characters?
Each character is from Arthur’s The Organizational Zoo, a humorous collection of animal metaphors depicting people in workplaces. Great for helping people see their workplace from an entirely new perspective.
The whole fraud is only possible because performance metrics in knowledge organizations are completely trivial to game. Joel on Software
Joel demonstrates a weakness of metrics in assessing the performance of software developers and somewhat cynically suggests that large management consulting firms actively exploit this weakness. Whenever I have a choice between malicious intent and incompetence I tend towards the latter as an explanation. Personally I believe large consulting firms have these problems because they are steeped in particular mental models, namely the idea that organisations are machines and if you can’t measure it you can’t fix it. Fredrick Brooks understood this and painted a clear picture of the complexity of managing software development projects in his classic, The Mythical Man-Month.
So what is the weakness Joel uncovers? Companies want to improve performance (excellent objective) and consulting companies have methods to measure the current performance (it’s good to know where you stand). But here is the big mistake: the consulting company makes the measure of performance a target. And this is what happens:
Consulting company comes in, gets all the programmers in a room, tells them all about Function Points [the measure of performance] and stuff, and how productivity is REALLY IMPORTANT.
Programmers remember that scene from Office Space where Bob and Bob, the consultants, recommended all the people to get fired.
Programmers start writing a heck of a lot more function points. For example you can triple the number of function points in your code simply by round tripping everything through an XML file. Big waste of time, prone to bugs, does nothing, but each file you touch adds a function point. W00t!
Consulting company comes back, measures again, and lo and behold, with all the round trips through XML the function point count is up drastically. Consultant announces that Oil Company is now at 151.29% productivity. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.
Here is an alternative approach.
- Work with the leaders to get a broad picture of what they think performance is in the context of software development. Get them to paint that broad picture while resisting the temptation to fill in all the gaps.
- Ask the software developers to define the performance measures and keep them to a minimum.
- Be clear what will remain measures and what will be the targets
- Add to the metrics approach a qualitative assessment of impact using Most Significant Change (see Zahmoo to learn about this technique).
This approach is based on the idea that any journey of change (actually I prefer the metaphor of the expedition) should be created three times. The first creation is in the minds of the leadership group (however you want to define that). The second creation of the journey is in the minds of the participants. Finally the journey is created for real as everyone sets off together and it’s here that everyone discovers that is never turns out the way they expected, so a willingness to monitor and adapt is essential.
[thanks to Les Posen for the pointer to Joel’s post]
I’m planning to be in Hong Kong for the The 3rd Asia-Pacific International Conference on Knowledge Management (11–13 December) and as part of the conference I will be running a half day workshop on Starting and Sustaining Communities of Practice on the 15th of December. You can register for the workshop here. Here is the description of the workshop. Of course there will be a good amount of narrative included the workshop.
Communities of practice are one of the most powerful organizational structures available to connect people, access expertise, facilitate learning and create business value. But communities of practice are often fickle, and present paradoxical challenges in their design and management.
This interactive half-day workshop is designed to help participants to design and foster sustainable communities of practice within their organizations, be they public sector, private enterprise or not-for-profit. The workshop will address the creation of social structures that can take responsibility for fostering learning, developing skills and artifacts, and managing knowledge. It will help participants to understand how to balance the need for sustainable communities by having both autonomy and informality; and for the community to be structured to support organizational objectives.
Filed in Business storytelling.
A simple yet effective use of stories is to get staff to recount experiences of success (perhaps using an anecdote circle) before facing the new challenges of the day.
Using positive reinforcement always works better than, “If you don’t do this, you’re going to get written up,” says Steve Baker, training director at Morton’s the Steakhouse, the Chicago-based up-scale steakhouse chain.
Restaurants say positive reinforcement is often the most effective way to motivate workers. At Morton’s, which is owned by Morton’s Restaurant Group Inc., workers have mandatory meetings before each shift, where they share a meal and give examples of times when they provided good service during previous shifts.
The managers also tell servers about which VIPs plan to visit that evening. For Morton’s, encouraging servers with pep talks and stories of others’ successes generates energy for the workers and is more effective than having managers tell workers they’ll face consequences if they don’t perform, says Mr. Baker.
Notice how staff simply “give examples of times when they provided good service.” It is good practice to avoid the word ‘story’ when you are eliciting stories because the word confuses people into thinking they have to make it grander or even possibly make it up. Everyone can provide an example.
[thanks to Michelle De Lude from the Working Stories list]
Paradoxically, one of the dangers of specialising in the practical application of narrative techniques is their wide applicability; sometimes the people who might be interested in your services are unsure what business issues you can help with because you appear to do so many things. So last week we decided to focus on four business issues. We selected these four because our clients are asking for this type of assistance, we’re experienced in helping clients address these business issues and each issue is a natural fit for story-based approaches. They are:
- how to keep your people and knowledge
- facilitating meaningful and lasting change
- assessing the impact of difficult to measure initiatives
- getting knowledge flowing and enhancing collaboration
Cynthia Kurtz and Dave Snowden have written a thought provoking chapter on inter-organisational learning networks. I’ve seen their ideas develop over the last few years (on listservers, Skype chats, rare meet-ups and presentations) and this paper is an excellent synthesis and application of three key ideas (in my words):
- idealistic approaches predicated on predictability, analysis and the depiction of ideal future states are total nonsense for making progress in a highly connected, complex environments.
- dispassionate and objective observers can carefully analyse and diagnose ‘the problem’ then implement a solution—more nonsense. The fact is observers impact what they observe and every diagnosis is also an intervention.
- experts have the solution—even more nonsense. The knowledge required to change and successfully adapt exists within the group and participatory approaches seed and harness natural social processes.
The chapter goes on to say:
Two of the most important elements of the naturalistic sense-making approach are narrative (as one of the primary mechanisms of complex knowledge transfer, creation and interpretation in human society) and networks (as one of the primary realities of human life – we are still, unless artificially constrained, tribal and clan-like in our needs and perspectives).
The rest of the chapter looks at inter-organisation learning networks from the perspective of tangible benefits delivered by this type of organisational structure. K&S note that “Inter-organisational learning networks are valuable yet intangible: while participants feel that they and their organisation have benefited, they struggle to explain what exactly those benefits are and how they can be expressed.” According to K&S, the broader literature points to speed of innovation difussion and improved knowledge creation as tangible benefits of these types of networks, but Cynthia and Dave suggest three more:
- improved negotiation of multiple identities
- increased discourse regarding trust and rule structures
- greater productive conflict
I’m not going to give a blow by blow description of the paper. Instead I will highlight a few of the ideas that grabbed my attention—mind you, it sparked many thoughts.
Naturalistic approaches … seek to understand a sufficiency of the present in order to act to stimulate evolution of the system. Once such stimulation is made, monitoring of emergent patterns becomes a critical activity so that desired patterns can be supported and undesired patterns disrupted.
Most Significant Change is an obvious technique for monitoring because of its participatory nature and it’s story based. I know Dave has a slight reservation about MSC because he sees it as privileging some stories over others. I think Dave makes a fair point and MSC done badly will focus on the selection rather than the dialogue that’s created by the selection process. This is a danger to keep in mind for MSC practitioners.
Many employees do their work without being able to answer the question, "Who are you in this organisation?" (And possibly just as importantly, "Who are the others in this organisation?" and “Who is this organization?”).
When I was in London last week I met Martin Clarkson from the Storytellers and their business is entirely focussed on using a story approach to address “Who is this organisation?”
I was reminded at this point of the simple test I use to assess the likelihood a community of practice forming. If you can sensibly complete the sentence, “I’m a <blank>”, then there is a chance a community might form. For example, I was helping a Defence organisation start a community of practice for project managers. I asked them, “do people ever say, ‘I’m a project manager.’?” Absolutely! Great … people identify themselves as project managers so we could get a community going. The next community was more problematic. They wanted to create a community around the competency of ‘technical.’ Does anyone say, “I’m a technical.” No… I suggested they think of another possible community to establish.
One of the ways people have always talked about identity has been through the telling of identity stories which feature the individual or group as a coherent character with certain highlighted characteristics – the lone genius, the band of principled rebels, the misunderstood nobility. Stories told for purposes of identity negotiation (both individually and collectively) are fundamentally different from stories told for other purposes.
K&S point out three characteristics of an identity story:
- the story is well known
- they tend to have a dramatic or performance nature
- they are apparently useless; they appear to be about nothing
These stories help people understand what it means to be part of the group. I heard this story last week which I think is an identity story:
A new salesman joined the company and a week after joining was told by his manager that the team was meeting in Jervis Bay. On the day of the meeting the salesman got up at 4am and made the trip down the coast and on arriving at the bay phoned his manager on his mobile to find out the exact location of the meeting. The salesman was told the Jervis Bay is the name of the meeting room of their conference centre in the city.
The example of a sacred story of the nine day fortnight reminded me of the importance of trying to find these stories in organisations. One way might be to ask, in the middle of an anecdote circle, whether anyone is aware of stories that are told and retold. I did this a couple of days ago and the fellow I was talking could immediately recall two negative stories. I’m not sure these are the sacred stories described in the chapter but I’m sure they are important to how things get done.
I loved the analogy between a Tour de France team (a peloton) and an organisation dealing with complexity.
K&S suggest a set of three heuristics for ethical narrative work:
- always declare up front the use of narrative techniques (no stealth story work)
- if asked any question about what sort of narrative intervention you are doing (such as instructing executives in how to tell stories for cultural change), answer honestly
- appoint an independent arbitrator for any dispute over the use of narrative techniques in organisations
The last section of the chapter is about productive conflict. I have to admit that before reading this section and before chatting to Dave about the use of debate in a variety of forums I was sceptical about its effectiveness. As I saw it practised it seemed to be very much “I’m right, your wrong” approach that seemed to me less that productive. But I think if productive conflict is practised as described in this chapter I can see how a level a friction can be extremely beneficial. K&S’s main point, as I understood it, is that if a group focuses on conflict around ideas (cognitive conflict) and avoided conflict associated with interpersonal relationships (affective conflict) and conflict over who should do what (process conflict) a product outcome can emerge. This also assumes the group has a desire to improve the understanding or has a group problem to solve. Using a sporting metaphor, “play the ball, not the player.”
This chapter is well worth a read. The only criticism of have of it is the slight feeling of disjointedness throughout. Each section was interesting and useful but I couldn’t always see how it fitted into a larger picture.
Filed in .
I was chatting to a HR Manager from a financial services firm this week and he told me this story about a workshop a management ethicist ran for their leaders. Over a week the ethicist collected stories from staff about how work gets done. Her aim was to create a convincing scenario that would be used in the workshop. During the workshop she read out the scenario and asked the participants to raise their hand when their gut instincts suggested there was something not quite right going on.
I would imagine everyone would be keeping an eye on one another to see who would break first. Public recognition of something going wrong is an important aspect of the exercise because that’s what it takes for someone to metaphorically raise their hand when they think there is a problem. Peer pressure is involved.
The discussion that followed was rich and intense. Exactly the sort of thing people need in any organisation. Builds intuition, or as blokes like to call it, gut instinct.
Just a small thought for the day.
I was chatting to the knowledge manager for a large Defence contractor today and he mentioned he’s having difficulty getting people to share information in an atmosphere of security consciousness. Whenever information is created the authors restrict its accessibility, effectively locking the resource away. If another team, in another part of the organisation, needs access to this information (and somehow they discovered the information exists) they must request permission, a process involving filling in forms and obtaining relevant levels of authority to sign off on the request. As a result people rarely bother.
This is a common problem in organisations that value security. There is, however, a simple solution. Turn the situation upside down.
The policy should be that all information is available to everyone in the organisation and if someone wants to restrict its availability they need to seek permission and fill in the relevant forms and gain the appropriate authority. Why don’t we go one step further and require everyone in an organisation to publish their information as RSS feeds inside the firewall.