E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

From the blog

One Month Anniversary on the New Job as Lead Social Business Enabler

Gran Canaria - Puerto de MoganI cannot believe that, in just a few minutes from now, I will be celebrating the first month anniversary in my new job as the Lead Social Business Enabler at IBM and I hardly did notice how fast and furious it’s gone by. Goodness! One full month already?!? Where did April go? Even more important, what have I been up to during that time? Well, time for an update that I will try to summarise briefly with these few key words to then perhaps expand further along a single key point that has been my major learning throughout the first month on the job: culture clash, hard reset (Or even a Reboot) from last 5 years of living social, octopus effect, Organisation Change Management (a.k.a. OCM), execute, and, finally, meetings galore. But here is my favourite one from them all: a real blast! 

Yes, indeed, I have now been one full month in the new job and I can tell you that it’s been quite a culture clash the one I have experienced in these first four weeks. And I know that for most folks out there it’s going to sound like a little bit strange. I mean, how can you go through a culture clash in your new job when you are still working at IBM? Well, that’s what I thought, too! And yet, moving away from the Software Group into the CIO Organisation is like two separate worlds altogether. The challenges, as well as the opportunities, are just so different, yet so rewarding. Back in the Software Group the main hat I was holding was always along the lines of that one from a Social Business Evangelist. Within the CIO Org. though, it’s more like let’s get down to business AND do some work on helping facilitate the adaption of fellow colleagues to both Social / Open Business.

The hard reset (Or reboot even) comes from the perspective where my mantra of LivingA World Without eMail” has just gone 5 years back in time. Not so much because of the amount of emails I have received from my immediate team(s), but actually because of the good increase of email traffic I have been receiving from colleagues outside the CIO organisation. Go and figure this one out, but going from 15 emails per week to 23 per week, which is what I am currently averaging, is not one of the things I expected to happen. But then again, I am looking into it as a new exciting opportunity. How? Well, since it seems that not many people know I have given up on corporate email over 5 years ago, it’s time for me to start things up again, continue to walk the talk in showcasing how it is possible to live a work life without email, but this time around with an additional 5 years more of experience. Not to worry, I will be reflecting plenty more on this one in an upcoming blog post that I am already working on after I share the yearly progress report from last year, which will come along with a couple of lovely surprises to celebrate that 5th anniversary of #lawwe.

About the Octopus Effect. That’s something that I came up with on the first week and a half on the new job. I guess I was not expecting it to happen, at least, this soon, but the incredible excitement around the new role and responsibilities as Lead Social Business Enabler from a good bunch of people both from my social network(s) and all over the place for that matter has meant that all along I have been feeling like an octopus, as in everyone wants to have a little piece of me, whether it’s attention, support, advice, consultancy and what not, and therefore everyone wants to have a tentacle or two without not giving me much breathing space to do anything else.

At the beginning I thought it was all due to that novelty effect of being new into the job, but I guess that after one full month gone by, it’s more the excitement of seeing me going back to my roots as an internal social / open business evangelist that keeps dragging people around asking for help and for support. Except that now I’m not longer an evangelist per se. And you will see why shortly… 

Here’s the most interesting piece though. Organisation Change Management. That’s what both Social / Open Business seem to be all about, apparently. I guess those of us, social evangelists, have never seen it before, at least, so far, but OCM seems to be at the heart of provoking that open business transformation everyone keeps talking about, but very few may have seen it happening. On my day to day job I am starting to see how OCM is taking over everything and I literally meant that: everything. As I am getting more and more involved with it though it’s starting to make sense, after all, it’s all about how you manage and facilitate change to take place. The interesting thing though would be to figure out whether OCM would eventually manage to help commoditise and industrialise Social / Open Business in a corporate environment. I, for one, would not want to see that happening, but this is something that I will have to come along and play with it as I keep iterating more and more on it over the course of time. So I am sure you will be seeing plenty of this one soon enough! 

Remember when I was mentioning earlier on how I am starting to feel I’m no longer a social / open business evangelist, at least, in its purest of senses? Yes, that’s right. That’s how I feel at the moment. So you may be wondering, if you are no longer a social / open evangelist, what are you then? Well, I am what I would call an executor. That’s right. I have now moved from being an evangelist into execute mode, meaning that I am spending a whole lot more time helping others adjust their learning curves, adapting to new behaviours, new ways of doing work, inspiring a new mindset altogether realising that my good old days of an evangelist are gone. And, somehow I have noticed it doesn’t bother me. In fact, the way I look into it is how I have been all along doing those very same tasks already, except that they were done in a minor scale, while nowadays it’s a massive one. To the point that it’s starting to explain why I’m slightly quieter on the external Social Web.Gran Canaria - Puerto de Mogan 

Will it change me for good to the point where I may not come out of the firewall in a good while? Hummm, I don’t think so. I am sensing I need to have these escapes into the outside world to give me a different perspective, a valid touchpoint  to confirm whether I am on the right track or not, and while I recognise that my external social presence may suffer to some degree, I guess I will just need to re-consider my involvement and participation in the Social Web out there and become a whole lot more focused on what I want to learn and contribute to helping others, rather than just “being out there” trying to keep up with what’s happening throughout the various social spaces. Not to worry, I will be expanding further on with regards to this one, since I think that the new job role is going to help re-shape, once again, how I would want to participate in social networks out there outside of the firewall. There will be a need for some re-adjustments, although I don’t know at this point how much and how far or for what purpose. We will have to wait and see about that one…

And, finally, the one you all folks have been waiting for all along and which has been my main key learning this first month on the new job. Meetings galore. Yes, I know what you are all thinking at the time I am writing this. I’m starting a movement, a new movement. Actually, I am not. It’s been already there for a good few months, so perhaps I will just join it. My good friend Kevin Jones coined, not long ago, “A World Without Meetings” (#lawwm), following the same moniker from “A World Without eMail” and I am thinking he was just right! 

Game is ON! 

In the last couple of weeks, and not going to consider the last three days since I have been away celebrating some bank holidays, I have gone from 10 to 15 hours of meetings, weekly, which is not too bad, rather doable, to 30 to 35 hours of meetings per week, which I am finding it’s a lot!, considering that vast majority of knowledge workers, myself included, are just hired to work 40 hours per week. Now, since I am new on the job I decided to go along with them to figure out what they were all about and to confirm whether I could then go back and challenge each and everyone of them, in a rather constructive and helpful manner, of course, and instead of hosting them in real time, provoke the conversation on whether that meeting, or this other one, or that other one, could be moved to offline social networking tools to carry out the work in an asynchronous way. 

So now that initial influx of meetings has gone through, I am going to consolidate an idea I have been toying with for a couple of years now, but that I’m starting to become more serious about: restrict the amount of time that I am spending on meetings per day to eventually not do more than 4 hours of meetings or conference calls. And use the rest of the time to just get work done. It’s going to be a rather interesting experiment, although I am hoping over the course of time it may also become a movement, just like #lawwe is. We shall see… 

One thing that I know, for sure, though is that I’ll need to do something that I never thought I would be doing while working in a corporate environment: protect my own working time from being abused left and right. Don’t take me wrong, I quite enjoy meeting up with my colleagues and extended fellow IBM teams across the board, real-time meetings can be very effective if conducted and done rather well. However, they are also very much time consuming, since it’s always rather tough to do multitasking. But if there is anything that I have learned in the last couple of weeks is that if you don’t protect your own working time, it will get abused left and right by others, which means you will be spending plenty of extra works hours out of your own private time to then get the job done. Something that I am not sure I would be willing to go for, since the last thing I would want to it would be having to go through a significant impact on my private, quality time. 

That’s why I quite enjoyed the recent article published by Jeff Weiner under the rather suggestive title of “The Importance of Scheduling Nothing“, where he is proposing to create “buffers” of between 90 minutes to two hours in your day to day workload, so that you don’t get stuck in back-to-back meetings throughout the whole day and can therefore get your work done, whatever that may well be, whether tactical or strategic. With perhaps this quote as my favourite one from the entire piece: 

“Above all else, the most important reason to schedule buffers is to just catch your breath. There is no faster way to feel as though your day is not your own, and that you are no longer in control, than scheduling meetings back to back from the minute you arrive at the office until the moment you leave. I’ve felt the effects of this and seen it with colleagues. Not only is it not fun to feel this way, it’s not sustainable.” [Emphasis mine]

That’s why I have decided, from now onwards, to start working my way around putting buffers throughout my whole day. Even if I don’t mark them in my calendar to eventually make them happen. And thinking I’m going to start with it in a rather aggressive method, because, if I don’t, I sense I won’t get away with it. So instead of putting buffers of 90 minutes to 2 hours, I am going to start with those buffers to make up for up to 4 hours per day. Anything else that comes afterwards, in terms of meetings, will have to rather be rescheduled for another day, or, even better, carried out offline through social technologies. And dedicate that buffer time gained for doing my real job, as well as having thinking time. That rather important task we seem to have forgotten more and more within the corporate world. 

Gran Canaria - Puerto de MoganBack in the day, at IBM, we used to have what we called Think Friday! which were periods of time, during Friday afternoons, where we could catch our breaths with the rest of the world, do plenty of thinking on the side, and whatever other work related tasks that didn’t involve going through meetings. And that worked really well, in fact, it is still there. Alive and kicking, but I am thinking that with “The Importance of Scheduling Nothing” I am just about to take things into a new level. Because that Think Friday all of a sudden has turned itself into Think Weekday.

Thus we will have to wait and see how things will progress further. I may be able to go ahead and create a number of reports to see whether I would be able to manage it and make it happen, that is, to keep my meetings galore to just 4 hours each day. It surely is going to be rather interesting and intriguing from the perspective of whether my (extended) teams would be willing to play along as well in terms of experiencing the many benefits of working offline through social collaboration tools. I will keep folks in the know as we move forward… 

For now, that’s it! That’s what my first month has been pretty much like as Lead Social Business Enabler at IBM. There are a few other things that I would want to bring forward and share some additional insights about, but that would be the time for another blog post.

For now, Game is ON! 

Let’s live “A World Without Meetings”.

[Fancy joining me along the way, please?]

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    1. Hi Mat! Thanks! Ha! Yeah, who would have thought, eh? It feels like it at the moment, and enjoying it very much! On the email topic, I guess a bunch of folks have already found out about the punisher effect, mainly when they start playing the very same games that made me abandon it back in the day, over 5 years ago, but more on that soon enough in an upcoming blog post on the topic. It’s going to be quite interesting and perhaps a bit shocking for some folks 😉 hehe

    1. Hi Kim, ROFL!! You can definitely relate to? Any areas in particular please? hehe You know, one of the reasons why I decided to use this blog to share these kinds of insights about the new job was to eventually find out how much of what I do daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, relates to other folks having a similar role, but in different organisations. I can imagine how there are plenty of commonalities, despite the various different corporate cultures, so I would be very interested in finding out some more about the items from the original post that you can relate to… Perhaps we could learn from each other’s experiences 😀

      Thanks for the feedback shared across so far though. It’s much appreciated I am not alone! hehe

  1. Hi Luis
    It is great to see how excited you are by the challenges of the new job and how in so short a time you are reconsidering how and when you do things both inside and outside the organisation. There is a nothing like a new job to re-align oneself and re-purpose all ones’ skills.
    And where would the business world be without email and meetings?
    You are right to question both – and build in strategies to help minimize the impact of too much of either! Especially if you work in an organisation that has a long established tradition of social tools that “should” invalidate the need for extensive use of either! Should it not? 🙂
    Of course we know the reality to be different… so hopefully you’ll carry on evangelising alongside your executing – I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive are they?
    I was entertained by IBM’s “Think Friday” concept – surely thought up to ensure that no-one scheduled a meeting on a Friday afternoon?! 🙂 As for thinking anything sensible or productive at that time of the week (if my brain is anything to go by) I’d love to know the ratio of thoughts to actions produced during that afternoon time (OK so I won’t be very popular with IBM….!). That said – “Think Weekday” is absolutely how it should be and if I was going to have a Think day I would definitely put it in the first half of the week and have Friday afternoon for something different!
    But nor should thinking be confined to one day as you intimate. So here’s to Think Weekday! Love it!

    1. Hi Marie-Louise, my goodness! This quote is just so priceless: “There is a nothing like a new job to re-align oneself and re-purpose all ones’ skills.“. Amen to that one! You are so spot on, indeed, on what I am currently going through at the moment and glad you shared it across to remind me of it. Terrific!

      Well, that’s the whole thing… I think what I am after is not necessarily trying to kill email or meetings per se, but the inertia that comes with both where it looks like once you are dragged into them by your peers while attempting to get work done you eventually find out you can’t to the point where you can’t even liberate yourself from the spiral you have been dragged into in the first place!

      It’s that inertia that I am really interested in fighting off and see how social technologies can help out disrupt the whole entire status quo of both email and meetings, not so much the “tools”, but the inherent behaviours!

      I, too, don’t think the evangelising would be mutually exclusive from the executing. I think it would just become more focused and targeted, which is also perhaps what I should have done a while ago as well for that matter.

      RE: Think Friday!, that’s a great question for which I don’t have an answer at the moment, since I don’t recall that kind of un-activity being tracked, but it would be interesting to eventually ask and see what happens…

      And Think Weekday it is! 😀

      [Thanks much, once again, for the wonderful feedback! Much appreciated, as usual!]

  2. Luis, As always, insightful, helpful and inspiring. I’ve been getting some push-back as I’ve been trying to take my evangelist role into what you’ve so aptly termed as executor. I’m trying to lead by example and hopefully inspire others to be more social, knowing that it will ultimately make them more productive and effective. It’s nice to know that I’m not alone and I’ll continue to fight the good fight. Cheers!

    1. Hi Kelley, thanks a lot for dropping by and for the heads up! Glad you are finding these blog posts helpful and relevant to your work as well. Appreciated the feedback. I was thinking that we may be able to work together on some additional plans I am working on in terms of adoption & enablement. Feel free to reach out to me on Sametime at some point in the next 3 to 4 weeks when I am hoping to finish off the plan itself, and I would be looking forward to learning how you move along from evangelist to executor, without leaving the former behind for the latter 🙂

      Keep up the good work as well and let me know how I can be of further help as well, please. Speak soon!

  3. Interesting discussion on meetings. I would say that at certain levels in an organization, ‘getting work done’, is pretty much going to meetings. That is the ‘work’. 🙂

    1. Hi Dave! Thanks a bunch for the heads up and for the feedback comments! I can certainly imagine that situation, which I would say is a bit sad and disappointing if, once again, we justify “work” through the meetings we attend and everything! That’s not supposed to be the “work”, just like we were trying to justify our email use as work as well for that matter. Guess we would need a bunch of work in that area, still!

      We will have to keep pushing, gently, for that transformation piece 🙂

  4. Hi Luis! Interesting blog on congrats on your new role… change is good! I have utilized the “buffer” strategy quite and bit and it works wonders. Also, I am an OCM IBMer and we are currently doing OCM for a Social Business Project in DC – trying to change the culture from one in which folks are rewarded for the knowledge they own to one in which they are rewarded for the knowledge they share, and giving them the SB tools to do that. Let me know if you would be interested in seeing any of the materials!

    1. Hi Caroline, thanks much for the heads up and for the wonderful feedback! Appreciated the kind comments as well! Glad the “buffers” are working with you and I am suspecting I will have to be doing the same thing very very soon! It’s getting even more interesting at the moment! haha Seriously, need to figure out a way to #lawwM !! And soon!

      And glad there is another OCM IBMer out there! I will certainly be in touch in its due time once I adjust the learning curve to learn some more on what you are working on and will connect with you internally as well on w3C… I surely am interested in taking a peek at the materials!

      Many thanks for the kind offer to share and right on the money with this fabulous quote: “trying to change the culture from one in which folks are rewarded for the knowledge they own to one in which they are rewarded for the knowledge they share, and giving them the SB tools to do that

      That’s the journey, that’s the fascinating journey, indeed! 😀

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