Reading Euan Semple’s book ‘Organisations don’t tweet, people do’ - he’s preaching to the converted with me, I think - having had a long conversation with Euan on many of the topics in his book it’s a little like deja vu but none the worse for that. I think it’s a very useful book for people who have responsibility for communication in their organisation (and that’s a lot of people, certainly everyone in management and arguably everyone period) who may be nervous or unsure about the role that the growing presence of social media has to play. It dips in and out of subjects with the result that it can be read in short bursts, but I’d have liked a more descriptive index that explains what each chapter is about, to enable that ‘pick and choose’ mode of reading.
There is a chapter which touches on my previous blog post about blocking social media, I recall Euan making this point a year or so ago and it made me smile because I hadn’t thought of it before - that we should be judging the ROI of *blocking* social media sites, since that costs more than not blocking them, rather than trying to answer a challenge of proving ROI for social media. This is typical of the kind of questions Euan throws out, and it makes for good reading.
I’ll be sharing my copy with people in my organisation that will benefit from the wisdom within, let’s see how that goes :-)
I could write a long post about why blocking social media sites at work is counter-productive, but I’m not going to for two reasons.
Firstly, my philosophy is actually pretty simple, if you manage people properly, and motivate them to be valuable employees, it doesn’t matter what they do between 8am and 6pm, it matters what they produce and how they interact with their colleagues.
If people want to waste time, they’ll do it in any number of imaginative ways that don’t involve your company internet. I heard a semi-serious suggestion the other day that productivity would increase in companies that blocked 3g access in toilets. When everyone has a smartphone, what good is controlling interaction (because that’s what social media is) on corporate networks.
Secondly, because Sean Nicholson has done a grand job here, why should I re-do his hard work!?
If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.
General Eric Shinseki — Chief of Staff, U. S. Army
I don’t know why it’s taken so long for me to come across this quote, but I love it. A bit brutal, maybe - but very true. For all of us.
I guess everyone comes across bullshit in business from time to time. Whether intentional or accidental, little phrases creep into speech that mean very little, but happen to be fashionable or have been used at the initiation of the current project and so gather a little moss of their own. This is probably unavoidable, I do it, everyone does it, and it takes a lot of effort and self-censorship to banish it completely.
However, there are some people that appear to have embraced the concept entirely, that communicate exclusively in these empty phrases to the point where you have to go away and think about what they’ve said to garner any actual meaning or intent from it.
Here’s an example
“Our linear hierarchy has changed dramatically. There will obviously be some lateral overlaps of responsibilities that won’t cause shrinkage detrimental to service delivery”
“We have several projects that are co-terminus in that timeframe”
“Our organisation has an end-to-end governance framework ”
Would you react unfavourably hearing this from a colleague, or would you let it pass and assume you’d be able to figure out what the hell they were talking about later? Most of us do the latter and feel we’ve got away lightly with not having had to listen to a lot more of it.
The trouble is, that this bullshit comes from senior people - people that have risen to their positions despite, or more frighteningly because of, this propensity to bullshit. This has an unfortunate effect, in that it teaches others that one path to success is the liberal application of the rule ‘Bullshit Baffles Brains’. Sadly, it’s a tactic that can be successful.
It appears that some people think that if they can spout this guff convincingly enough, it will convince others of their intellectual superiority. If you stop understanding what they’re talking about, the act of asking for clarification becomes a risk, will it show you up to be unsure of your subject? My experience is that it’s never worth worrying about this. Some areas of business are simple, some are complex. If you’ve misunderstood one of the complex parts, big deal. If someone is talking about a simple subject and made it overcomplex, you’re within your rights to ask for clarification.
Resist the bullshit. Resist the temptation to use it for your own ends, and resist it from others. It’s not a matter of winning battles, it’s a matter of seeking clarity, because in the end that’s the only way teams can succeed. There is a serious point here, because bullshit is unproductive. Talking for a long time without imparting any useful information is waste of at least two people’s effort. We can’t afford to be wasting time on this.
Of course IT is a breeding ground for bullshit because it is so complex. If you’re an expert in one area of IT, you’re necessarily not an expert in many others. This gives plenty of opportunity for folk to assert their superiority by referring to their own subject in overcomplex ways. This is the ‘TV Repairman syndrome’. The fact that these guys (ok, this is a slightly elderly reference) know where to look to fix your TV, when you would have absolutely no idea, and probably electrocute yourself if you tried, means that they’re highly intelligent and superior, right? That’s why they spend all day crawling around in the dust at the back of your TV.
Don’t tolerate bullshit in your IT department. If one function can’t explain what it does in simple language to members of another function, who don’t have domain expertise, then they’re doing it wrong. Good communication is so vitally important that tolerating anything less will cripple the capacity of the department as a whole.
It’s almost certainly impossible to eradicate bullshit from business. There will always be people that find they can use it to advance their career and become hooked on it. We can fight it, though!
As someone who has learned to dislike the term ‘social media’ but still uses it in the absence of anything better (and in order to be understood by those that love a label), I have to love this breakdown of the whole shebang.
Without meaning to, I’ve left this blog unattended for a mighty long time. This could be down to several factors, not least a new job that’s both enjoyable and hard work(!). I’m going to make an effort with it again though - for my own benefit if nothing else. Writing my thoughts down in a blog helps me clarify them and sense-check them. It turns me into my own sub-editor. Given that I’m so fond of telling people what I think this is probably a worthwhile activity.
And what of the fear that someone will read my words and think them naive, stupid or worse? I’ve probably got nothing better to say on this subject than Euan Semple did in this post on his blog in 2011.
This article on ciodashboard.com made me smile, it hits a great many nails on their heads but is aimed at the CIO that doesn’t want to lose the ‘C’. I’d go further and say it’s relevant to any IT leader, and required reading for any geniunely innovative CEO or MD. It quotes a survey that recorded 25% of CIOs that were involved in the creation of market-facing innovation. I think that’s a shocking number and quite frankly, if you’re a CIO and not adding value to the core activity of the business, you’ve no business labouring under that false title.
The power of data mining, infographics and social media are really only just being understood, but the CIO should be there to enable, encourage and evangelise about such things.
It’s getting late in the day for organisations to realise what an incredible contribution an innovative CIO can make to the bottom line - but not too late, yet!
Matt Richman: A Consequence of Losing the PC Wars -
Apple brought in $4.976 billion in revenue from the sale of 3.76 million Macs last quarter. Divide the $4.976 billion in revenue by 3.76 million Macs and you get an average selling price of $1,323.40.
A June 1st research note from Peter Misek of Jefferies & Company pegged Mac gross margins at…
Active Listening -
When we’re trying to figure out the best solution to a problem, we talk to a lot of people with various angles on the issue. Some are IT users with good feedback on what they struggle with, some are the organisation leaders with requirements and preconceived ideas on the solution.
Our job as IT practitioners is to really understand the ‘need’, whilst taking into account the ‘want’. However, sometimes you’ll come across a problem you’ve solved a hundred times before, and you’ll be impatient to describe the obvious (to you) solution to your grateful client. I know I do this!
I saw this short presentation on Active Listening and realised I could use the advice! Just because you might have come to a conclusion (and that’s not always right) it doesn’t mean you should stop listening or manhandle the conversation toward your solution.
Well worth a watch!
Huzzah for this a) because it’s enlightening, and b) because it uses what is becoming my catchphrase ‘20th Century Enterprise’ to describe those organisations that are mired in the past. We’re into the second decade of the 21st Century, still too many IT functions base their operating models on that of the 20th. WAKE UP!
Click the image to go to the original article from Enterprise Irregulars
A couple of really interesting experiments in changing behaviour here, that have crossed my screen in the past few weeks. One is more scientific than the other, but both have an important message for anyone that despairs of changing the way people work and interact. The first is Hyrum Grenny’s All Washed Up, which applies different influence factors to persuade young kids to wash their hands, the second is one of VW’s ‘Fun Theory’ videos, one of my favourites, in which the poor old stairs, sadly disregarded next to the escalator, get a makeover.
Last week I attended the IT Directors Forum, for the second successive year. Last time a lot of the conversations were around cloud computing, a trend that carried on into this year’s event. However, a subject that has certainly moved up the agenda for many IT leaders is Social Media. As an advocate of social networking tools and their worth in the workplace, I had expected this, and I’d also expected to see a lot of enthusiasm, given the demographic.
I was surprised to find that it wasn’t as straightforward as I’d assumed it would be. Many of the people I talked to were very nervous about the use of social tools at work, they either didn’t trust their users, or didn’t see the worth of the twitter/blog/linkedin type sites.
I’ve got a lot of time for many of these people, and put great store by their views, but listening to this conservatism I was nonplussed. Social media is happening, younger employees simply expect these tools to be available, and if they’re not available on the corporate network then they’ll be used on smartphones and tablets that the employees own. Of course T&C’s are enforced around what can be published by an employee, and rightly so, but the assumption that tweeting or blogging about your work can only lead to bad things is firmly based on 20th century thinking.
Organisations that stop their employees communicating in the way that has become entirely natural to them will lose their brighter people and dig themselves a mighty hole. Of course, it’s not incumbent on IT to be advocating changes to social media policy, this is about culture rather than technology, but in many companies we’re the ‘owners’ of the communication systems and have a responsibility to the betterment of our organisations.
A welcome affirmation of my view came from Euan Semple, who hosted a seminar on this subject during the conference. I’d urge anyone who wants more information to visit this site (http://www.guruonline.tv/euansemple/business-social-media) where he discusses many of the burning questions about social media.
So the conference was a wake-up call on social media for me. Not in the sense that it was happening faster than I expected, but that my peers were less convinced, and more conservative, than I had ever expected them to be.