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

Enterprise2.0

The Beginning of a New Work Adventure – Joining panagenda!

Joining panagenda!

 

On January 20th, it will mark the 20th year anniversary since I started working in the IT industry. A lot has happened over the course of the last two decades both on a personal and work levels, as you can imagine, and, yet, it feels as if it was just yesterday. That is, probably, why, over the course of the last couple of months, a growing urge to find a new work adventure has taken over yours truly. Till now. That search is now over. 2017 will, definitely, be a year of change and milestones, I’m pretty certain, but it’ll also be a year of excitement, of new dazzling opportunities for learning and growth, of discovering wonderfully inspiring initiatives to experience, experiment with and learn from. In short, it will be a year of new beginnings. And, for yours truly, that time has, finally, come. As of January 16th, I have now joined panagenda. Let the new adventure begin!

Now you know why I haven’t blogged much over the course of the last four weeks. It’s been a bit hectic with the Christmas holidays, the time off with family and friends, the search for a new work adventure, the rather nasty flu I’ve just recovered from, the time to unlearn and relearn while deciding what I wanted to do next pondering whether it was a good time to go back to basics or not, etc. etc. all in all confirming a lot has been going on so far, but when the right opportunity shows up you know you just have to go and grab it, before it vanishes into thin air. And that is exactly what I did! I grabbed it, or, probably, better said, it raptured me big time. It all started with a short conversation in an online collaborative space that is not even widely available to everyone out there just yet. It all begun by tapping into one’s own social networks, where, usually, the magic happens: you know, you get to talk and converse with people who know you rather well (probably even better than you do yourself!) and who are willing to help open up new paths for you, because they feel the timing is just perfect. That’s why I’m pretty excited and rather enthused, beyond words!, about having already started writing a new page in my 20 year long career in the IT industry by joining panagenda this past Monday. 

Those of you who are already very familiar with panagenda will know what a real treat, honour, and true privilege it is to say I’m now a panagendean as well. Those of you who may not know much about them and what they do (just yet!) I can tell you they are an amazing team of rather talented, gifted, very helpful and knowledgeable folks doing some pretty mind-blowing things while helping organisations transform the way they work as they join the 21st century. They do walk the talk. Every time. And you will know what I mean very soon.

So, ‘what is panagenda, again?’, you may be wondering, right? Well, they are an international company with offices in Austria (The HQ is in Vienna), Germany, The Netherlands and the United States. They primarily focus on helping organisations understand and make sense of the different IT and Collaboration solutions they may have been using over the course of time in order to help accelerate and improve their various business transformation processes and tooling. Their motto is ‘Make Your Data Work For You’, so they work with a good number of customers helping them understand how to work smarter, not necessarily harder (Which is, as you well know, my favourite mantra) with the data they produce within their own collaboration landscape. They provide a good number of different analytics solutions, extensive expertise (advisory work) and consulting services around both traditional communication and collaboration tools, as well as emergent enterprise social networking software, bridging both worlds rather nicely and intuitively to help address whatever the different business problems customers may face, as well as help them identify new business opportunities.

Don’t worry, over the course of time I plan to put together over here a number of different blog entries explaining more in detail what panagenda has got to offer as well as the kind of work my colleagues and myself do for our clients, which I guess has just triggered an additional thought from all of you out there in terms of what I will be focusing on myself from here onwards, right? As a starting point, I’ll continue to do lots of advisory work and consulting services around Social Business and Digital Transformation, along with a specific focus around Analytics, covering areas such as Corporate Communications, Collaboration, Learning, Knowledge Management, Digital Workplace, Adoption / Adaptation of Emergent Social Technologies and, in general, Business Transformation. My goodness, quite a challenge trying to summarise 20 years of working experience, don’t you think? Phew!

Either way, did I already say how excited and thrilled I am about having such a fantastic opportunity of working together with quite a sensational team of very smart folks always willing to help their customers, business partners and fellow colleagues become better at what they already do? Well, if I didn’t say it before, I will now: I’m beyond words, literally, to have been given such honour of working on this new work adventure I just started a couple of days ago and that it’s beginning to feel like the 20 year long wait doing other things was just totally worth it! Every single minute of it! 

Thus with all of that said, it’s now time for me to go back and get on with the overall on boarding process, and in case you are wondering about whether the themes and topics I cover in this blog will substantially change from here onwards, fear not, you are just about to get exposed to some rather thought-provoking write-ups on what purposeful digital transformation programmes are all about.

Are you ready? I surely am!

Go panagenda!

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What’s in a Name?

Gran Canaria - Meloneras Beach

 

 

Why is it so difficult to change the title of your own personal business blog, specially, after such a long time? I mean, really, I’ve now been blogging for over 14 years and I still find it quite a challenge every time I decide to change the name of my own. You would expect, by now, I would have gotten the gist of it all and be done with it in a heartbeat. Yet, here I am, struggling, pretty badly, just as much as ever, for the last three weeks and counting… Who said business blogging was this easy? I guess this is what happens when major changes in your work life are just about to happen and you don’t know yet how to name the blog that’s been with you through thick and thin from all along, so one can continue moving forward. What if you were the one(s) to find a new title for this blog instead? How would you call it? Would you be game? Can you help me? Read on please … 

If you have been reading this blog for a long while, you would know how last time I changed its name, if I recall correctly, was back in 2008 (‘E L S U A ~ A KM Blog Thinking Outside The Inbox by Luis Suarez’) and it took me several weeks to, finally, come to terms with it and feel good about it. Now, fast forward to January 20th, 2017, a bit over a month from now. A date that will mark the end of a life cycle for yours truly, as I will be celebrating my 20th year anniversary in the IT industry. I am, indeed, starting to feel the urge to look for a new title altogether for this business blog. Why? Well, mainly because almost everything I have done for work over the course of the last 20 years, specially, that piece of work related to plenty of the heretic topics I have blogged about over here, may well be a thing of the past. It’s a new, changing time. It’s a time to move on and start again (almost) from scratch into whatever comes next. So, what name do you think should I pick for this blog? Any suggestions or ideas coming out so far? 

I know what you are all thinking, but no, don’t worry, this isn’t any kind of existential crisis of this business blog or anything. Nor of myself either, for that matter. This is more an opportunity to reflect on a massive change that will kick off in the next few weeks and that’s certainly going to reflect a before and an after around a good number of topics I have written about over here. Mind you, I am making a differentiation between topics and themes. The former will, almost definitely, change substantially, the latter won’t. Next year, I will still be writing, with a gentle twist, about the themes I’m truly passionate about: KM, Collaboration, Learning, Online Communities, Social Business and Digital Transformation, etc. etc. but a good number of the most provocative topics I have written about will be left behind, perhaps for good. It’s time to move on and do some other interesting things…

So the challenge to find a new name, or title, for this my business blog still remains, even more so when I am yet to announce the major changes happening to yours truly from mid-January next year onwards, upon my return from the Christmas holidays. I know, I know, I am just such a tease, aren’t I? Well, all will be announced, properly, in its due time, don’t worry, I am not planning on leaving you all in the dark, just like that, but today I thought I would perhaps reach out to all of of you folks, long time faithful readers of this blog, if you are still around, to come to the rescue of this poor blogger who can’t think straight anymore about a new title for his own blog, before he can move on.

What do you think? Based on 11 years since I published the first blog entry over here, how should I call it? How would you want me to call it? Any ideas or suggestions I should consider, please? Now, I realise once that major announcement comes out, things will become clearer in terms of potential names and titles I could choose from, but since blogging is just such a personal activity (including you all as well, of course) I guess I could just continue searching for that new name. Why not, right?

One thing I have got very clear so far and I will be sticking around to even more so from here onwards, specially into the new year when that announcement I mentioned above would go live, is the Tagline itself for this blog: ‘A blog about working smarter, not necessarily harder, through social networking, digital technologies’. Indeed, I have just updated it this week as well. It has been the mantra from yours truly I have blogged about over here several dozens of times over the years and it just felt right to perhaps incorporate it at a higher level as well. I suspect the new name I may be picking up for the blog (with a little help from you folks out there) may have to do quite a bit with that motto and you will see what I mean shortly…

Of course, I would also need to include ‘elsua’ as part of that personal branding touch one needs to have for one’s blog, so other people don’t think I play football for vast majority of the time 😜, otherwise when they go and google my name they will have to filter through pages and pages of football related news before finding what they may be looking for. By that time, they may well be long gone, so I need to make it a bit easier for everyone…

So far then we have got the following: ‘E L S U A ~ A [insert new title here] Blog by Luis Suarez’. Hummm, I am still struggling coming up with something coherent, concise, and relevant to the main themes from this blog. What are your thoughts? Can you please help me pick up a new name / title for the blog based on what your perceptions may have been throughout all of this time? In return, I promise I will be announcing very very soon what I will be up to during 2017… and beyond. You will then know as well why I have been relatively quiet this week on the blogging front …

Deal?

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Stop Blaming the Tools when Collaboration Fails

 Gran Canaria - Pozo de las Nieves

We, human beings, seem to always be very keen on blaming the tools (and technology, in general, for that matter) whenever things just don’t work out all right, specially, in the collaboration space. Apparently, it is way easier to blame them (or others!), when our very own things go wrong, than to look into one self and question whether either our mindset or behaviours, for instance, have got some blame to be accountable for as well. By and large, we just can’t shake off our technology fetish, but, you know, when different problems come around, typically, associated with some kind of fatigue or overload (insert your favourite moniker here), or, just simply, plain collaboration failure, we seem to have developed that gift of shaking it off ourselves rather promptly and, instead, blame the tools. Seriously, why do we keep doing that?

Of course, we all know the tools can’t talk back to us, so they can’t defend themselves. We also know that, over the last few decades, we have been taught, rather well!, how we can shake off ourselves, and very efficiently, whatever sense of accountability or responsibility we may have got left. We will just go ahead and keep blaming the tools. Over and over again. Deep inside, we all know we just can’t face any other reality that may point directly at us, so, instead, we point elsewhere to deviate the attention. And it works. Every single time. It just works. #lesigh

You know, it’s so tiring sometimes. Even more so when there seems to be this cycle that keeps repeating itself, every few years, where collaborative tools may well be different, but we still blame them, just in case, when we start noticing how our productivity levels are not getting any higher anymore. Well, perhaps we may need to start realising it may well not be the tools, nor collaborative technologies, in general, but ourselves, the ones who, at long last, may need to come forward and acknowledge our very own culpability. Collaborative technologies by themselves are not the problem. They never have been. It’s been, essentially, our very mindset and behaviours of how we adapt to them, or fail to, what’s at play here. If anything, that’s who we need to start blaming, instead: ourselves. 

Why am I saying all of this? Well, mainly, because of an article Sean Winter wrote at CMSWire yesterday under the rather suggestive title of ‘Do Collaboration Apps Make Employees Less Productive?’ which seems to be repeating the same good old story as ever: we just can’t collaborate effectively because technology is getting in the way. Again. Hummm, not really. It’s us the ones who keep getting in the way, and, somehow, we don’t seem to want to change that much. Instead we justify it. Yikes! We need to smarten up, collectively. We need to start elevating the discourse and begin asking the really tough questions. If collaboration is failing, if productivity has been tanking since the 1980s (and still going strong!), maybe, just maybe, we need to think really hard whether it’s us the main problem. Something tells me we are, so how do we change it? How do we shift gears and stop barking up at the wrong tree?

Well, how about making use of some fresh, new thinking? How about applying some new lenses? How about if instead of aiming for a single collaboration solution to all of our business problems, which seems to be what most Enterprise Social Networking vendors keep advocating for, wrongly, we start acknowledging that it’s a bit more complex than that? How about if we, at long last, understand, comprehend, and fully embrace, the notion that fragmentation is good? It’s healthy. It’s something that should be very much encouraged as our mere means of survival for us all knowledge Web workers. And, finally, how about if we shift gears and realise that different people have got different needs and wants based on the context and interactions at play for the different outcomes they may want to execute on, whether individually or in groups?

At the end of the day, it’s all about choice. It’s all about understanding that different groups (and individuals) have got different needs to cater for; that is, diverse sets of habits, mindset, behaviours, corporate culture, contexts, constraints, conditions, understanding of the business world surrounding them, etc. etc. Have you noticed how, perhaps, a decade ago we were having the good old discussion about having a single one tool that could do everything and therefore there wouldn’t be a need for anything else, because, you know, we all thought we knew better and how nowadays it’s become rarer and rarer to see a single business or organisation making use of a single tool to do everything related to collaborating more effectively?

It’s all about choice, indeed, or, better said, it’s all about fragmentation, about having various lenses that could cater for distinct audiences to achieve a specific set of business related goals using the several (social) collaborative tools at their disposalThat’s why collaboration keeps failing us all, because we keep thinking about how we all view traditional collaboration, through 20th century models, (i.e. *cough* email *cough*) and we expect today’s emergent social collaborative technologies to behave pretty much the same way. When they don’t. They never have. Things are a whole lot more complex than that and that’s what we may need to think about and change altogether: our very own notions and perceptions of what constitutes effective collaboration. And start applying some brand-new, refreshing, 21st century thinking. 

At the moment, my current favourite trend of thought to counteract our obsession with either collaboration overload or failure, while we keep blaming the proliferation of either tools or input sources, is to think in terms of Social Lenses. A concept my good friend, Thomas van der Wal, coined back in 2008 and that he presented at this year’s KM World conference in Washington DC with a superb slide deck I plan to keep reusing over and over again every single time I hear, or read, how collaboration has failed us. No, it hasn’t. We have failed it. We have failed it, because we haven’t acknowledged how we need to think bigger, different, more diverse, context driven, accommodating not only the different types of interactions one can expect at the workplace, but also based on the different groups we may be part of, whether individuals, teams, networks, communities, or whatever else. Each of those groupings will have distinctive needs and wants to cater for, which is why we need to start coming to terms with the fact that not a single tool in any organisation would feed everyone’s needs anymore, regardless of whatever the collective.

The moment we understand that and fully embrace it, that’s probably the moment as well when we will all stop talking about how multiple (social) collaborative tools have failed us all along till today and, instead, while shifting gears accordingly, we’ll really start focusing on getting work done more effectively, which, after all, has always been the main premise of Productivity with a capital P.

Work smarter, not necessarily harder.

Don’t you think?

 

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Teamwork Needs Healthy Friction to Collaborate and Get Work Done More Effectively

 Gran Canaria - Guayadeque

Who would have thought something so relatively simple and mundane as food would be the glue for your team(s) to work together more effectively? Who would have thought cooking together would provide just the perfect level of healthy friction you would need to help your team(s) members collaborate more openly and effectively to get even more work done? Who would have thought cooking food would help your team(s) members bond together in much more meaningful ways than whatever other team building activity you may have thought of in the past? Is your kitchen ready?

A couple of days ago Tim Beyers wrote exactly about that very same subject in a rather interesting Fast Company article under the suggestive heading ‘Why Teams That Cook Together Work Better Together’, where he shared a couple of relevant stories from companies like PLAE and Segment that are using cooking food as an opportunity to help their teams get together and collaborate more effectively in an environment that’s totally different than their day to day operations. To quote Milbank, from the article itself, here’s the main reason why they do it: 

Ultimately, it’s about teamwork, thinking creatively with one another and working under a time and budget constraint.

My goodness! I can totally relate to it and big time! Over 4 years ago, Bob McMilan once asked me, while he was interviewing me for his Wired piece on ‘IBM gives birth to amazing e-mail-less man’ (as part of the #NoeMail experiment), where did my inclination to connect, learn, collaborate and work together closely with other people come from? Where did it start exactly? What was the trigger? Well, my first initial reaction was to eventually mention the very first project I started working on at IBM back in January 1997, but he kept insisting to go even further back, before I started working in the IT industry. And I had to think… 

I had to think really hard, because it wasn’t very obvious at the beginning, but once I realised about it, BOOM!, it was right there, right in front of my face! Two different activities, one followed after the other, were the ones that triggered that spark towards understanding the importance of teamwork no matter what you were doing or working on. Funny enough those two activities were related to a couple of passions of mine that decades later are still pretty much intact: basketball and cooking.

I started playing basketball (point guard, in case you were wondering…) when I was 10 years old (Thanks to my older brother and his own school gang) and I continued to play it till I left my home country when I was 23 years old. Throughout those 13 years, and after having played in a good number of different teams across different divisions, you get to understand how you, as an individual, are pretty much nothing, unless you are a team player and help your team win collectively through each and everyone’s individual effort.

Yes, everyone knows it, basketball is a team sport, who doesn’t, right? But what most people won’t tell you about it is that in order to do something rather significant, as a team, you need to learn how and when to sacrifice the individual for the collective good (i.e. learning to tame the ego, as I usually call it), so you can win the game. That looking after one another, no matter what, helping each other address our very own weaknesses and turn them into strengths, as a team, is probably as good as it gets. It teaches you plenty of understanding of the conditions and constraints around your team, about building enough empathy to utilise it wisely when needed, about helping one another altruistically so that the team benefits in the long run and, finally, about learning to master the art of healthy friction and negotiation that comes through from compromise. Gosh, I still love the game, don’t you? 

After I left the country and before I started working in the IT industry, I was a cook, as I mentioned in another blog post last week, in several different types of restaurants in multiple countries (Spain, France, Germany, UK, etc. etc.). It was the experience of working as a cook in an Argentinian restaurant in London though the one that taught me the importance of diversity, of inclusiveness, of understanding everyone’s needs to be different, while still being together, of embracing different cultures, customs, languages, traditions and what not. All in all, you learn to embrace all of that, and so much more!, for the benefit of the cooking team you work with, because everyone in the team knows, no exceptions, we are all on a very specific daily mission: delight our clients (so they keep coming back and keep us employed!). 

Of course, there are different kinds of pressure: time, stress, hectic (crazy) schedules, impossible goals to achieve, multitasking, not much thinking (just execute), yelling and screaming at others, and the list goes on and on and on. If you have ever worked in a kitchen environment I bet you know exactly the kind of pressure you are exposed to on a daily basis. The thing is all of those pressures are easily tamed if the team stays and sticks together, that is, if the whole team understands that healthy friction of rubbing it against each other has got one specific purpose: get the work done, effectively, as a team, delighting your clients, whomever they may well be. Yeah, indeed, I still get goosebumps, wouldn’t you? 

And then fast forward to 1997, when I started working for IBM as part of the IBM.HELP.NET project team. A team of teams of about 450 people from 40 different countries, 5 continents, speaking multiple languages, doing customer support for the mainframe and PC environments. A melting pot, indeed, of cultures, languages, customs, traditions AND, of course, people, vast majority of them without prior knowledge about the IT industry (Had to be acquired while doing the job after a couple of weeks of training) and yet working really hard every day, neck and neck, to address and fix as many business problems from our customers as we could possibly do.

You knew there always was something up in the air as you would enter the building and meet your colleagues: an inner urge to help them become successful, because the moment they were successful you, too, would be successful for that matter. Part of that collective team of teams effort, hard work and energy, for sure, but there was something else special that glued everything together in a very engaging manner. And it was food. 

At one point in time, one of the teams decided that every first Monday of the month, they would gather together for lunch on a single table and each team member would bring in with them a typical dish of their country. The purpose was to lay on that big table some pretty amazing, colourful, incredibly tasty and overall gorgeous dishes everyone in the team could nibble on, while standing and moving around, talking to one another, sharing experiences, recipes, childhood memories, weekend activities, personal hobbies, hints and tips, tricks, perhaps the odd customer problem that needed fixing right after lunch in a timely manner, etc. etc. It was just buzzing altogether! 

Soon enough, on that first Monday of every month, another team joined in, and then another, and then another one, and another one, and before we realised it, we had an entire floor of multiple large tables with all sorts of wonderfully yummy dishes from all over the world, literally, waiting to be enjoyed and talked about by everyone who wanted to come along. Yes, that was a very important aspect that most people kind of took for granted, but that those of us who knew what was going on appreciate it the most: it was an open environment and everyone was welcomed! Even people from other floors, other projects, other parts of the business. You can imagine what happened next.

You can imagine the huge impact in the overall team building activities that we had that such a small initiative of gathering people around some delicious food did have over the course of time in terms of helping just that, build community, because that’s exactly what was happening back then and that most people didn’t even notice. We just took it for granted. Yet, whether we like it or not, we are all, after all, social beings eager to connect, learn, share and work together with others and if food can help us achieve that, why not embrace it, right? It’s what makes us all human, that strong sense of belonging, of connecting, of caring for one another. I tell you, it was just mind-blowing altogether!

You know, all of that happened nearly 20 years ago and I still remember it today as if it were just yesterday! I bet that some time soon we may be having a few of them dropping by this blog post and leave a comment to say ‘Hi!’ It pretty much reminded me of this wonderfully inspiring short blog post by my good friend Tony Holder under the title ‘A sense of community’ where he pretty much nails it in terms of defining succinctly what it is like building an engaged, sustainable, committed, involved, open and overall participatory community: 

All it takes is a smile, a cheery greeting and a few seconds treating people like you want to be treated, as a human being.

Well, if on top of that you add some really good food (and drinks, of course!) I can imagine only great things will happen: some bloody good conversations. Conversations through which we can master the art of collaboration and fine, healthy friction.

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When Context Transcends Change Management

Gran Canaria - Puerto de Mogán at sunset

What if everything we have been told about Change Management over the course of the last few decades was all just … plain wrong? What if research keeps telling us, over and over again, how ’most change efforts fail’ ? What if we have been approaching change initiatives from the wrong side of the spectrum and we never realised about it till now when it might be a bit too late already? Isn’t it time for us all to shift gears and, at long last, change? Oh, the irony, right?

Over the course of the last few months there have been plenty of really interesting articles around the discipline of change management itself (out of the several dozens of millions of publications, practices, methodologies, processes, and what not), whether it’s been talking about its many different mythsits various principles, along the science behind change in itself, or perhaps some forgotten questions, or comparisons between leading and managing change, where does it belong within the organisation?, how it tights everything up altogether around technology (as its main key enabler), or, questioning, as McKinsey put it recently, how, in a nutshell, we may need to change change management itself after all, given that massive statistic of how over 70% of change programmes fail to achieve their goals, whatever those may well be. Ouch! That hurts. A lot! 

Yes, I know, the links I have shared above are just a glimpse of an entire industry talking and writing extensively about what change management has always been all along: an obsolete change methodology using 20th century mindset, processes, tooling and practice while trying to address plenty of the organisational challenges from the 21st century in a more complex business world than ever. And, somehow, technology seems to be making things much worse, like two completely different worlds colliding with one another! 

What if all of that literature around change management could be smashed with just a couple of tweets? Yes, indeed, two different tweets, with a few weeks in between each of them, that have recently captured my attention, more than anything else, because of how both of them have undermined, and challenged at the same time, in a very healthy, disruptive, enlightening and rather provocative manner, everything I have known about change management in the last 10 to 15 years. So much so that after reading the second tweet shared across just last week I’m going to start challenging, not only my very own change practices, but also everyone else’s who may keep neglecting the fact we are living and working in completely different times, and therefore we need some fresh new thinking around change altogether coming further along.

Indeed, I love Twitter, specially, when people use it to school me, and everyone else for that matter, directly or indirectly, about things I stopped challenging myself some time ago, because I started taking them for granted and let inertia do the rest. Complacency can be so brutal, so lethal, so deadly, it’s not even funny anymore. The thing is, when looking into those two tweets, in the context of change, with new, fresh eyes, AND thinking, you wonder why you didn’t do it much much sooner.

Unlearning old, useless, obsolete stuff we keep clinging on to no matter what (even if we are wrong) to then relearn again about new ways of getting work done, specially, in change initiatives, is really hard, we all know that, but, at the same time, making it happen successfully can be rather intoxicating and enticing altogether, if anything, because it helps us all open up a new window of opportunity into thinking AND doing things differently, which is exactly what I will be doing from here onwards as a result of those couple of tweets I have mentioned above already. 

At this point in time I bet you are all wondering about those rather impactful tweets, aren’t you? The suspense may even be killing you, right? Well, let me share them over here with you all, so you can see what I mean about how a couple of sentences may be able to challenge every single change management programme you may be involved with, or know, out there within your own organisation, to the point where it may take you back into the drawing board and start again. I know it has done that with me big time. You will see what I mean shortly. 

Ok, here we go then. Both tweets come from Sonja Blignaut after having attended two different events in time around complexity and change from the one and only, Dave Snowden. To quote each of them: 

And here is the second one, shared a couple of months later, perhaps even more wonderfully poignant than the previous one:

As you can see, there is a lot of meat to chew on for a good while with regards to both tweets, but, on their own, they remind me of a superb recent blog entry Dave himself wrote where he pretty much nailed it in terms of why change management needs to shift gears of its collective mindset and change (pun intended). To quote him: 

Now there are a whole group of consultants in this field who focus on the idea that changing individuals is the best way to change an organisation. The worse ones come with a ideological view of what sort of people they want to create and a process of self-reflection that draws on the worse excesses of the counselling movements that took off a few decades ago. […] It’s the preacher man phenomena, in which the preacher is the privileged interpreter of the word and has achieved a heightened state of enlightenment to which they invite to you to seek to attain.

But it gets better, much better, because from there onwards he shares a rather thought-provoking reflection that has intrigued me to no end and I am pretty sure it’s going to make lots of people out there rather uncomfortable, but, hopefully, in a good way, that is, unlearn to relearn effectively about change and its many nuances too often ignored, or neglected. To quote him again: 

Now don’t get me wrong, individual change is important, meditation has huge value (I am less sure of mindfulness as that has become a simplistic fad), most practitioners are well intentioned. But the real change in organisations is when you change the way that people connect, and the most profound way in which that connection can be achieved is through small actions that change perceptions in an evolutionary way. People argue that it is easier to change an individual that to change the system and that may be right. But if you want systemic change there are simply too many individuals to change to achieve it and it is a lot easier to change the interactions and allow people autonomy over what they are.’ [Emphasis mine]

Whoahhh! If neither of those tweets, nor Dave’s quotes, shared above (never mind the fantastic blog post he put together), don’t persuade you to help evolve your own change management practice, I don’t know what would, frankly. Do we still think that organisations can change? That we can change people, even one individual at a time? Hummm, we may need to think again… And think hard! Seriously. 

You would remember how a few weeks back I wrote about the Social Business Adaptation Framework I am currently using with my clients to help guide them through their own Digital Transformation journey and that has evolved over the course of the years; well, next to each of those different five pillars I covered back then I shall be remembering, from now onwards, those terrific tweets and noteworthy quotes, put in context, where it matters, to essentially do just that: override the change management practice from the 20th century and fast forward into the 21st century. 

It will be high time to start catching up with this rather complex business world we live in, don’t you think?

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Happiness at Work Starts with #NoeMail

Gran Canaria - The Monk

After nearly 9 years of actively advocating for #NoeMail I guess I can now say this pretty safely: doing #NoeMail all along (and still going rather strong at it, by the way, in case you are wondering!) has always been an excuse, a distraction, an icebreaker of sorts to entice people into stopping for a minute in whatever they are doing and ask themselves, and those around them, why certain things work the way they do within the workplace and yet, in our personal lives, they just don’t happen anymore? I mean, when was the last time you sent out a personal email to your kids, or your spouse, or a close relative, or even a good friend? I bet it’s been quite a while, isn’t it? Why is it so difficult then to challenge the status quo of corporate email and somehow accept its extended (ab)use as a necessary evil? Is it inertia? Is it because it’s hard to break away from our (good old) habits? Is it perhaps because it’s just too easy, pervasive and inexpensive, so that we can keep justifying how busy we all are, after all, despite the harm it’s doing to our very own health? Or is it, maybe, because, you know, changing the nature of work is really hard, so why bother doing it anyway in the first place, right? Well, there you have it. Just like that, all along, it’s been our choice to do something about it, and yet, are we up for the challenge? I think we, finally, might well be…

It’s been a long while, since the last time I wrote a blog post over here about the latest status of my #NoeMail journey, and very often nowadays, not sure why, I keep getting asked about how things have progressed further along over the course of time and whether I’m still doing it and what not, as more and more companies are starting to challenge that same status quo of corporate email I mentioned above and plenty of Messaging & Collaboration, as well as Enterprise Social Networking, vendors begin to market and sell their products as an opportunity to also reduce your inbox clutter. Not to worry, at some point in time I will write as well about all of those different companies and vendors that are starting to not just talk, but also practise actively as well #NoeMail, so you can see how we, true die-hard advocates of new ways of working, are no longer alone by ourselves out there. For today, though, I will just focus on giving you folks an update on how things have progressed since the last time, so you can see what I have been up to, even as I went independent nearly three years ago.

But before I go ahead and do that, I’m going to do things slightly different this time around. I will start by saying that I’m still, indeed, practising it every day. I am still keeping track of the incoming email volume and the great news over here is that when I was a salaried employee my weekly average of incoming emails usually was around 16 emails per week. Fast forward to 2016 and that weekly average is at 2,8 emails per week, as we speak. Yes, you are reading it right: 2,8 emails per week, which I guess is not too shabby, right?, more than anything else, because it confirms you certainly can live without work email either as an employee of a firm (no matter how small or large it may well be!), or if you decide to go and do freelance work. Remember, currently, 2,8 emails per week and still going down…

Ok, since I mentioned how I got things started with A World Without eMail as a rather unique, thought-provoking and somewhat mind-boggling opportunity to open up the conversations and start the dialogue about what I have been really interested in all along, that is, Social Business and its Adaptation Framework, I think it would make sense to put it together into the larger context and start connecting the dots as to where it fits in that Digital Transformation journey itself, so instead of updating you all on what’s been happening around it in isolation, I’m going to start, with today’s blog post, putting it into a larger context of a number of different conversations I have been having over the years with other people on this very same topic and see where we ended up eventually. That way you can see how I have used it as an initial conversation starter to then converse and learn plenty more about other related aspects of that transformation process, and the corresponding change initiatives, that have emerged over the course of time.

Yes, indeed, this means, from now onwards, I am planning to start sharing some additional insights about presentations, interviews, recordings, vlogsvideo clips, etc. etc. I may have done in the recent past on this topic and link to them accordingly adding, hopefully, some additional input into the mix from when I last did them. That way, it will help me keep you folks in the know, so that you can see how close, eventually, #NoeMail is to the overall Social Business journey, to the point where, sometimes, it’s even a tad scary how deeply ingrained it is into the overall transformation process.

So, let’s get down to it then. I shall start today with one of my all time favourite interviews I recently did around mindful social marketing, (and mindfulness, in general, for that matter) and happiness at work. Now, who would have thought both of them would be related to #NoeMail, right? Well, they certainly are! Hang in there for a minute …

Back in July, Janet Fouts kindly invited me, as a guest speaker, to her wonderful #MindfulSocial interviews to talk about a good number of different topics over the course of one hour: employee engagement, mindfulness, happiness at work and, of course, A World Without eMail. Those of you who may be interested in going through the full interview can start playing the recording shared below:

 

For those of you though who may not want to jump into the recording itself just yet and may be looking for a teaser or two, I have also taken the liberty of re-listening myself to the entire interview and take some copious notes about some of what I think would be interesting and relevant insights worth while mentioning in this article as well and share them across, so that you can judge for yourselves how #NoeMail is all tied in to those same topics I have mentioned above and many more! At the same time, and where appropriate, I have added additional links and reading materials that hopefully will contribute to enrich the actual conversation itself I had with Janet as I keep reflecting on what we talked about back then. See? That’s one of the many reasons why I quite enjoy as well going through the rich media recordings I may well have done over time, because I can remember then other interesting thoughts and reflections I can add into the mix, but that I forgot to mention during that time. Yes, I know, my short term memory is not very good sometimes. Thank goodness we’ve got blogs, right?

Like I said, the interview itself with Janet lasted for a bit over one hour and it was mainly divided in three different blocks of conversations covering #NoeMail, Happiness at Work and Mindfulness. So here are some of the highlights on some of the things we touched base on:

  • #NoeMail: We talked extensively about the main three reasons as to why I got started with it back in February 2008 in the first place, as well as explaining some of the tricks that still help me today go rather strong at it; we discussed as well plenty of the scientific research coming out as of late about some of the different health risks associated with processing email; what current digital tools do I use the most often at the moment (Hint: IBM Connections, Twitter, Slack, Telegram); the importance of filtering; BACN, everyone loves BACN!; the loss of critical knowledge for good once your mailbox gets deleted confirming the good old mantra from Bill French ‘eMail is where knowledge goes to die ; the importance of building bridges between the old world and the new, that is, between email and whatever ESN option(s) you may have at your disposal, etc. etc.We conversed as well about the much needed transition from knowledge stocks into knowledge flows; about the ever increasing importance and relevance of networked driven, open knowledge sharing (That is, from ‘Knowledge is power’ to ‘Knowledge SHARED is power’); about the additional perks (visibility, digital footprint, stronger personal brand through blogging, etc. etc.); about exposing one self and one’s work out there in the open for everyone else to benefit from it through working out loud, narrating your work or observable work (#owork) techniques.We also mused about the many benefits of relinquishing control into your social networks to then regain it back at a later time a whole lot more amplified when you realise your knowledge is no longer yours alone, but your network’s; we listed some of the main use cases for #NoeMail (Finding experts, embracing the power of networks, answering questions, etc.); we talked about the power of #notknowing; about the perils of the Cult of Busyness; about how our perceptions of how people work define what we expect from them, something email has been really good at all along (Remember ’I sent you an email 5 minutes ago and I still haven’t got an answer from you just yet. I wanted it yesterday already, by the way!’?).
  • Happiness at work: From there onwards, we switched into the topic of Happiness at Work citing one of my all time favourite presentations ever around employee engagement. A presentation done by Alex Kjerulf (Chief Happiness Officer at Woohoo inc) at #MeaningConf back in 2012 where he talked about what employee engagement is all about: Results and Relationships.From there onwards we talked about how we are currently going through a time where we have the lowest number of friends at work than ever before; how, more often than not, we work nowadays with total strangers, with no attachments; how we have stopped talking to people, conversing with them, learning from them; how trust needs to become, once again, the defining factor of fostering personal business relationships at work, which is why networking is so critical when nurturing relationships through conversations; how it’s much tougher to leave a company behind while your good friends are still there, rather than with total strangers, due to that natural, stronger sense of belonging, of bonding together, of connecting with one another. Eventually, we mused, further along, about how we can improve our relationships at work; rediscover why social capital still matters in the 21st century, and how, now more than ever before, it’s really important that we get  to know closer the people we work with.
  • Mindfulness: The last block of our conversation was perhaps the most exciting and re-energising one, because we ventured into potentially defining what the present of work may look like over the course of time. So we discussed how we may need to start fighting that Cult of Busyness I mentioned earlier on; how we need to live AND work in the moment, without having to worry too much about the future of work; how just being busy kills the conversations right there, right at the start, way before you even attempt to engage. Somehow, we should start growing the need to slow down; does mindfulness help employees become more engaged, motivated, involved in the work they do? Probably. What do you think?That’s probably one of the many reasons why we are witnessing a renewed focus around the wellbeing of the employee, about the overall employee experience itself, understanding happy employees = happy customers; how we seem to be transitioning from assets and resources to people and relationships; how meaning and purpose become the key drivers of re-engaging the employee workforce; what’s your purpose, after all? When was the last time you asked yourself that question?From there onwards we pondered about how multiples generations have different expectations, and how businesses need to meet them all up accordingly, as they may see fit. We talked as well, again, about an important topic, the perils of email inflicted upon our very own health, regardless of the mindfulness initiatives you may have in place so far; examples like Germany and France are just a couple of many attempting to forbid the use of email after office hours and do something about it. It’s just that bad, really.

    At the end of the day, we concluded we need to redefine work to respect people, and their own time, by regaining control of the interactions and the conversations; we also needed to stop appearing to be busy, because otherwise people think we are lazing about, even though productivity has been tanking already since the early 1980s!; working out loud can help out a great deal in showing your presence, showing you are there, available to help, caring for everyone’s time respecting each other’s, even your own. All under a pretty simple guideline, often either ignored, or neglected: if you care for me, I’ll care for you; if you don’t care for me, I won’t care for you (why should I?).

    At the end of the day it’s all about being more empathic about your colleagues while facing the situations they go through; ’how can I help my colleagues be less stressed out?’; ‘when did we stop caring for people?’; ‘What do you care about?’; ‘what’s your purpose?’; that’s where it all starts, challenging the status quo of how certain things operate and how we seem to take them for granted without questioning them. We need to shift focus and treasure the good habit of evaluating one’s strengths vs. our weaknesses and focus on what we would really want to do, following our passion(s).

    At long last, after such wonderfully inspiring conversations, we convened change is all about providing the right conditions for people to decide for themselves, one at a time, as a personal transformation journey, whether it’s worth it changing one’s mindset and behaviours, for their reasons and theirs alone, or not; change is a personal endeavour while traditional change management is all about control by keeping people in little boxes, which is why social business adaptation plans fail big time, because the focus is more on managing change than in creating change; yet, control still is an illusion; we should focus, instead, on influencing (people) by mastering the art of persuasion; HR needs to step up their game in terms of treating people as hard working networked professionals instead of treating them as immature, incompetent jerks (or sheep); we need to get better at asking questions and it all starts by asking even more questions, tons of questions; how are we connected to the experts who may help us solve our business problems? It’s no longer about finding out who the experts are, but also about how we may be connected with them, and, if not, why not? What’s stopping us? How could we get connected? Bridging networks; be willing to always learn, live life in perpetual beta; the moment we stop learning, that’s the moment we start dying. 

    It’s our means of survival by frequently questioning what we know, why we do certain things the way we do, who are we connected with and for what purpose?; we need to, constantly, challenge ourselves on how we learn, or we will have a problem; in this day and age of machines and automation, what do we need to learn (as new skills) to make ourselves *not* redundant?; machines should augment the human capability, not necessarily replace it (and us!); need to redefine a new social contract: what would we do, if we no longer need to work?; can we transition successfully from homo sapiens into homo ludens? It becomes a bit ironic how we now have got an imperative to re-humanise ourselves, once more, but this time around through technology itself as the key enabler. An example: if billions of people become unemployed over time because of that automation, then what?; can (or will) work turn itself into a voluntary task, a hobby, a passion, perhaps even a calling, not necessarily something you just do, you know, to keep paying the bills…? 

     

You can see how the conversation ended up eventually … Whoahhh! I was completely jazzed up altogether! Pretty amazing to think that all of that happened as a result of that icebreaker of doing #NoeMail, don’t you think? Now you know why I got started with it back in 2008 and why I am still going strong at it. More than anything else, because it gives me an opportunity to keep learning, and iterate again, by always questioning and challenging the current status quo of how businesses operate while we get to redefine what open, transparent, engaging, meaningful, purposeful, caring, empathic, autonomous, motivating and involved organisations should be all about and if that means I will need to continue living in a world without email, so be it!

We are just getting started!


[A big thanks to the wonderful, very talented and incredibly smart Janet Fouts for the kind invite and for the superb, delightful and very much inspiring conversations!]

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