Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Social Learning for Leaders

We know that a critical component of effective leadership is a commitment to developing talent and helping people reach their full potential.  This most often takes the form of formal training opportunities, like workshops or seminars. But we know that most workplace learning occurs not in a classroom. Where and how does one learn – really learn—to be good at one’s job? Through daily interactions with others. Through coaching and feedback from supervisors, or mentoring from others. And yes, through trial and error.  While formal training can lower that error rate, and can provide theoretical foundations of how to lead, it is what happens in those spaces between formal training events that supports or hinders the developing leader’s growth and ultimate success. And as often as not, this real learning is also social. At the water cooler, yes, but also in casual conversations, in meetings, in discussions of what-happened-and-how-I-solved-it, in “Hey Joe!” interactions- as in, “Hey Joe! What do I do if the check is going to be cut after the deadline?”

New social tools and technologies give us more access to those spaces and those social interactions, to support learning as it is happening. Through social tools, from popular public products like Facebook and Twitter to internal products like Yammer and wikis – most also accessible from smartphones -- leaders can access information and expertise when and where they need it. A Facebook group for employees in similar jobs, a site offering social profiles of expertise within a work area or across an organization or professional field, a private group for new hires, overseen by a mentor, or a collaborative wiki documenting FAQs or best practices are only some strategies for supporting social learning. Talent can interact and engage with other talent wherever it resides.

If you’re doubtful, take some time over the next few days to do a quick scan. How much time do leaders in your organization spend looking for something, or someone? How much time do you spend looking for something or someone? What is the cost of not using social media more effectively?

Jane Bozarth, cutting-edge author of Social Media for Trainers, has written or contributed to several other books that contribute significantly to the talent management and leadership development conversations.  Jane's day job is eLearning Coordinator, North Carolina Office of State Personnel.  Connect with her at: http://www.bozarthzone.com/, http://www.facebook.com/Bozarthzone, and @janebozarth on Twitter.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Saturday, June 19, 2010

To stimulate adoption, just say no.

About mid way into the pilot phase of the open collaborative workplace project, we added Karl to the team.  This is the story of his adoption of a wiki approach to preparing a large document. Karl had joined the Canadian Public Service 6 years earlier, after surviving most of the Nortel Networks meltdown. He had a background in large-scale learning, IT development and management and he knew this web 2.0 stuff was probably a good thing, he just did not know exactly how it should be used. This is the story of his initiation to a wiki, specifically the MediWiki install known as GCPEDIA. It is a story you may be able to repeat.

One of Karl's first tasks was to prepare a formal project charter that would begin the process of taking us from pilot to enterprise solution. As you can imagine preparing a project charter in a government central agency is a significant task. There was a prescribed outline to follow, four primary authors and an executive  level steering committee of 20 or so to be consulted. In addition to the immediate circle there were perhaps 100 or so interested parties.

After obtaining the requisite word processing template from the project management office, Karl came to me to discuss the approach for developing the charter. We had a tight deadline and I told Karl that we should use the wiki to create the document.

Two days later Karl showed up with a draft. As a word processing document. He was in a hurry he said and did not have time to learn how to use a new tool. He would put it on the wiki later he said.  I was keen to see the document, but refused to look at it, telling him to "do it on the wiki".  Apparently he did not believe me because a day later he was back with another word processed document, this time printed!  I rejected it outright. He left in a bit of a huff, probably thinking I was being unreasonable.

After a few minutes of instruction he was working away in the new tool. Some copy and paste and a little formatting and he had a rough wiki version. Commenting that maybe that was not so bad he sent a link to the small group of original authors.

Over the next few days we all contributed to the document and Karl began to smile as the benefits of writing on the wiki became obvious. No  emails with attachments.  No confusion over what version was the most recent.  A consolidated revision history and immediate notification of changes. We worked on it when we could, in the early morning or late at night, from the office or from home, I even made an edit from my BlackBerry.

In a few days we had created a version that we were happy with as a first draft and invited the larger group of executives to take part. A couple of them did, and we also had comments from interested bystanders.  By the time we got to the committee meeting everyone had had their opportunity to contribute and the document was quickly approved.


Most people will naturally resist change, even when they know it good for them. If there is a familiar alternative they will use it, particularly when they are under pressure. By removing the familiar, users have no choice but to try the new way.

If it is possible to make your collaboration space the only way to do something important, make it so. It will force that critical first step.

What do you think, is this something you can use?

Do you have any adoption stories you would like to share?

Thom Kearney is a partner in Rowanwood Consulting and can be found online at strategyguy.com. This post refers to a time when Thom was a Senior Director with the Canadian Federal Government leading the introduction of the Government of Canada internal collaboration space known as GCPEDIA.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Gov 3.0 - Engagement in the year 2030

Reflecting on events in Gov 2.0 over the past year or so and the many blogs, web sites and reports across the globe it seems to me that there are some common threads. For example:

  • People wanting to become involved in the day-to-day affairs of government.
  • Governments increasingly realising that they need to engage with citizens to solve problems and deliver more efficiently.
  • A drive to get the complex processes of the public service on a human scale.
  • Public servants collaborating with one another despite the silo mentality of the departments or agencies they work for.
  • Demands for increasing transparency and accountability.
  • People gravitating towards causes and challenging governments that are far from engaging.
Sitting slap bang in the midst of all this are the very technologies that, in many respects, are Gov 2.0.

So what we are witnessing is a fundamental change in how people see government and the very notion of public service. Unlike in the past, that change of view is being increasingly shared across the globe. And as it is shared the voice of the crowd grows and the pressure for change mounts.

Many governments clearly realise this. Some struggle with it and others resist. Some violently. However, through all of this what stands out is:

  • The increasing ubiquity and engagement capacity of technology.
  • An increasing convergence in the expectations people have of their governments and public servants.
  • The increasing connectedness of people, systems and things.
  • Increasing recognition by governments of the desirability of harnessing the intellectual capital of citizens.
  • Re-emergence of the view that governments are a platform for social good.
  • A need to use resources more efficiently to ensure that services fit and reach people efficiently and reduce environmental impacts.
Now let’s fast track to 2030.

Most governments have realised the need to engage more closely with their citizens. The European Union and Russian Federation have all but merged in name. Such is their economic and social interdependence. Citizens of both enjoy ready access to Gov 3.0 technologies and regularly shape economic and social policy. Differences between political parties amount to little more than nuances over when things get done and in what order.

The People’s Republic of China is the dominant nation state in economic terms and the Communist Party has been progressively modifying its administrative apparatus to allow more direct citizen participation.

Australia, along with the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia made more rapid steps to engage and harness the intellectual capital of their citizens. This was partly due to philosophical and political similarities, but also due to economic necessity. The age of rampant consumerism and unfettered capitalism had become socially and environmentally unsustainable and so a new path was needed. Gov 3.0 was seen as the solution to many of the challenges that lay ahead.

The countries making up South America saw a need for greater citizen engagement. In part due to the demands of their citizens, but also to engage more fully with the United States due to their geographic proximity and possibility of establishing a strong economic block.

The situation in other countries resembled that in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia in the first decade of the 21st century. This was partly due to history, but mainly due to economic, environmental and social problems. The United Nations was taking a strong role in empowering these countries. Some regional conflicts remained, but these were largely driven by long standing religious and cultural conflicts. The vast majority of countries acknowledged the need to move forward and engage their citizens as never before. None could afford the costs of internal social conflict and wasting the talents of their people.

Public servants played a key role in the engagement of citizens. The public service is increasingly the ‘shop front’ of citizen centric governments. This shift has all but broken down the organisational silos within jurisdictions and, due to the global nature of the technologies that first underpinned Gov 2.0 and then Gov 3.0, has sparked global collaboration between public servants from most countries.

Governments share various degrees of unease over this development, but most grudgingly accept that it is socially and economically necessary as we all have a stake in ensuring excellence in public service. The effectiveness of government as a platform for social good is increasing viewed as being dependent on:

  • Collaboration between public servants.
  • Direct citizen engagement.
  • Harnessing the ideas of all people (intellectual capital).
The above, and the technologies that support it are what make Gov 3.0.

So what are the barriers we face in 2010? And what will it take to give us Gov 3.0 - Engagement in the year 2030?

Steve Davies lives in Canberra and can be found online at OZloop. When not engaged in his day job as Communications Consultant, Australian Taxation Office, he is exchanging ideas and knowledge to help build an engaged Australian public sector.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

1.16.10 Event with Elena Rapisardi: Civil Protection 2.0

Dear Senior Fellows and Friends,

On Saturday morning, January 16th, members of this network held an experimental webconference that linked 19 Americans in Virginia, New Orleans, and Boston with 6 like-minded Italians at the University of Ferrara and in Dublin, Ireland, for a couple of hours.

The purpose was to introduce you to ground-breaking volunteer training and coordination done in Italy following the Abruzzo earthquake on April 6th last year. According to Elena Rapisardi, our presenter, Abruzzo was the first earthquake in the Web 2.0 era in Italy. “Lots of students were messaging in L’Aquila at the time. People were connected, and then they weren’t there. People died.” A practice conducted later in the year, involving shifts of volunteers who arrived for a week at a time, leveraged the new possibilities enabled by easy availability of free and low-cost social media. A number of lessons were learned and have begun being presented. Management Concepts executive Barbara Beach, with excellent technical assistance from Larry Walters, Stephen Martin and Drew Guman, partnered with us to create a novel experience that would enable us all to learn about this local emergency preparedness project. The value of experimentation and practice during calmer times cannot be overstated.

Everyone recognized the interrelated topics that came up on the call. One challenge was the randomness of knowledge transfer between outgoing and incoming volunteer workers. An InSTEDD platform was developed – and then it was necessary to convince people to adopt it, and that worked imperfectly, as will always be the case when human beings are involved. Our speaker also mentioned Ushahidi as a way of collecting information from people; please go look at these sites. One necessity is to write, not talk, what one has learned, even though writing takes more work, so that critical information can be captured and shared over time and space.

What we think of as the “digital divide” here came up, although under a different name; a big constraint on the use of Web 2.0 tools can be the unfamiliarity of a subpopulation with the Internet itself. Also, surfing the Web is not the same as Web knowledge when you’re looking for volunteers to help with communications. Also, if worker productivity is critical, then the focus must be on outcomes rather than on outputs. And, innovation requires momentum; starting and stopping make it much more difficult. Better to do at least one small thing each day. There were comments about the need for “public employee 2.0” and opening the organization, making it more transparent. There’s the issue of control – there has to be some. Everyone can’t do anything they please; it simply won’t work (this was reminiscent of last year’s OpenGov dialogue, which got out of hand when a group of malcontents bombarded it). Further, she asserted that even Facebook could be used for proactive collaboration, and that it is crucial to allow the public to make decisions on how to cope with risk. The latter point was also made by Peter Koht last fall, as he presented on the City of Santa Cruz’s budget crisis solution.

Elena Rapisardi, a consultant in Web content coordination and community management who was presenting her work for a second time – following an in-person presentation at the NYC Web 2.0 Expo on November 19th – learned from Giuseppe Zamberletti, who managed emergencies resulting from earthquakes in 1976 and 1980 as a Government Commissioner in charge of coordinating relief. He and she set up ispro.it, a collaboration network for mayors, and she and Sabina Di Franco have worked on this together. The Mayor is the core of civil protection at the local level. Ms. Rapisardi has made her slides available here. We are continuing to talk via Skype, and it is my hope that we can create further opportunity to talk with her interesting and accomplished colleagues:

Giorgio Poletti – Professor, University of Ferrara
Sabina Di Franco – Geologist, emergency manager, web expert at Formez
National Research Centre in Rome
Antonella Ongaro – Lawyer, civil protection volunteer belonging to a
municipality group of the Province of Padova
Silvio Francescon – Architect, civil protection volunteer; responsible for the volunteers in a district of the province of Padova
Roberto Pizzicannella - CNIPA, National Centre for Innovation in
Public Administration (who participated from Dublin)

A list of American participant affiliations follows:

Consultant, Advanced Research Program Analysis
Department of Defense /DTRA
Department of Education
Department of Transportation /FAA
Department of Treasury /Bureau of Engraving & Printing
General Services Administration
Cisco Advisory Fellow
Infragard New Orleans (participating from New Orleans)
MacNeil/Lehrer Productions (our photographer and new journalist, Kurtis Lee)
Management Concepts
Public Sector Consortium /The Glastonbury Company (participating from Boston)
Senior Executives Association
Storyteller /Librarian

Ellie Seamans, who e-mailed participants later in the day, said that “the issue of emotional maturity is key to people working together on constantly shifting dance floors.” The Italian experience reminds us that improvements in local emergency preparedness, or any other changes to the way government functions or relates to citizens, can’t be forced by the application of new technology – one reason why flexibility and resilience are included among the leadership core competencies recognized by the Office of Personnel Management.

Also, Fred Thompson forwarded a new Australian government report about “Getting on with Government 2.0,” available here. Three key points:

  • Government 2.0 or the use of the new collaborative tools and approaches of Web 2.0 offers an unprecedented opportunity to achieve more open, accountable, responsive and efficient government. Though it involves new technology, Government 2.0 is really about a new approach to organising and governing.
  • Leadership, and policy and governance changes are needed to shift public sector culture and practice to make government information more accessible and usable, make government more consultative, participatory and transparent, build a culture of online innovation within Government, and to promote collaboration across agencies.
  • Government 2.0 will not be easy for it directly challenges some aspects of established policy and practice within government. Yet the changes to culture, practice and policy we envisage will ultimately advance the traditions of modern democratic government. Hence, there is a requirement for co-ordinated leadership, policy and culture change.
See the “people stuff”? Near the end of the webconference, there was some discussion about slow government adoption of Web 2.0. The thing that’s really different about Web 2.0 is that it enables and sets an expectation for two-way communication. Mastery implies relationships that are enhanced by emotional intelligence. Clay Shirky, New York University, writes in Here Comes Everybody that this change has as many ramifications as did the invention of the printing press and movable type. A permanent shift is occurring, and I think we should be paying attention. That governments “figure it out” is really important – because their people are adopting Web 2.0 social media tools at warp speed. Barriers to entry are falling in some sectors and “mass amateurization” and other trends are changing the game, remaking industries or driving cherished institutions out of business. Public expectations of government are changing.

Here are a few sources that will help, if you decide to pursue this topic:
  • Contact with university professors and federal/state/local government people who may be doing social media research through ASPA: http://www.aspanet.org/
  • Last but not least, conversation with others around the world who are thinking about how to improve government: GovLoop
Finally, if you are in contact with emergency management professionals who would like to know more about Civil Protection 2.0, please ask me to introduce them to Elena Rapisardi.

Best wishes in the coming year,

Kitty Wooley
U.S. Department of Education

Mind is not a recipient to be filled, but a fire to be excited. Plutarco, I° century AD

Students are not turkeys. They are to be engaged, not stuffed. Carol Willett, GAO Chief Learning Officer, retired January 2010