Openness & transparency in Government – Microsoft Politics & Technology Forum #poltech

Just finished a dinner in Canberra with @IainDale @msgovtech @craigthomler @purserj @piawaugh @stilgherrian @peterjblack @nickhodgemsft @markpesce @gcarraro before the forum tomorrow.

We had some really lively discussions about politics, society, transparency and government. With this group one must really fight to get a word in edgewise! But Iain Dale, who is presenting the keynote tomorrow, managed to hold his own with aplomb.

Iain is an interesting character whose involvement in Conservative UK politics made for some remarkable stories (a few of which shall remain untold here) and insights. I enjoyed finding out about some of the a differences between the British ways of politics and our local customs.

You can follow tweets for the forum tomorrow on Twitter on the hashtag #poltech and there’s some more information on the Microsoft GovTech blog.

Social capital, karma and getting things done

I’ve never been a big fan of David Allen’s Getting Things Done® method – all that sorting and categorising of endless lists bores me. But I am a huge fan of getting stuff done. Many years ago after yet another time management course at work I realised that what helped me to get things done was to have a very short list of to-dos everyday.

MerrillCoveyMatrixIn a later course I realised it was an unconscious use of Steven Covey’s notion of assessing tasks in terms urgent/important.

It was then I realised that what I valued was getting stuff done. Not sitting down making lists and categorising. But rather clearly identifying actions that would lead towards achievement of my goals and objectives. Identifying the top three or four things I could do everyday to help to make those things happen.

But many of my goals, both business and personal, needed the assistance and cooperation of other people, and it became clear that social capital was an important consideration.

The bigger the goals the more likely it is that social capital will play a significant part in the process. The big question for getting stuff done is how to marshal sufficient resources (money, people, effort, time). But the next most important thing is how to turn ideas from just my ideas into our ideas. That is, ideas into which a group of people are willing to invest their resources.

This remains true for any group activity. It means that we get things done in a social economy and that we are constantly trading in social capital.

For most activities goodwill and intrinsic motivation are the things that get people involved. Even for projects where there is strong extrinsic reward it is my experience that those rewards do not motivate people in sustainable ways. This is borne out by research by Dan Pink.

We need to build good relationships and share social capital in order to be able to find and maintain collaborators.

Thus lists are only as good as the social capital that can be harnessed to get things done. It means that we need to be storing up goodwill, good karma, for when we need it.

Psychologists talk about the importance of reciprocity . It is interesting to consider how ideas like social capital and reciprocity are important for getting things done.

Enterprise 2.0 is making me cranky again

Enterprise 2.0 is one of those terms that’s been going around business circles for the past few years. I’m not sure it ever really meant anything sensible and I’m not sure it is a meaningful way to approach a very real problem in business.

The big problem we face in business is that of communication. We face challenges in communicating with each other, with our consumers, our staff and with other stakeholders such as boards, the general public and government.

If communication is the problem then I don’t really understand how enterprise 2.0 is the answer. Rarely has the answer to an actual business problem been to throw another layer of technology at it.

The people, like Dion Hinchcliffe, who are approaching this problem from the angle of social business design seem to have more relevance and more insight to offer.

But if one more person suggests that simply installing YASMT (Yet Another Social Media Tool) as the solution to the problems of internal or external communication in business I will probably throw something (possibly a crying tantrum on the floor).

If anyone seriously wants to tell me that installing something like Yammer or Jive (both tools of which I am a real fan) or the latest trendy thing will miraculously transform a company into a happy tribe singing kumbuya around a campfire I’ve got some reality to introduce them to.

Success in changing how people behave in organisations rarely happens from randomly throwing tools into the workplace without a plan. I’ve been re-visiting Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (inspired by the MEGA NSW program) and these remind me of some important things that are also useful to consider when creating change within organisations.

  • Habit 1: Be Proactive
  • Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
  • Habit 3: Put First Things First
  • Habit 4: Think Win-Win
  • Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, then to be understood
  • Habit 6: Synergize
  • Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

These are all good points to keep in mind when embarking on an effort to change the way people behave. And behavioural change is the intended outcome of most enterprise 2.0 efforts.

Typically I see enterprise 2.0 programs rolled out in a big bang way, with little appreciation for the need to start small and to use an iterative approach based on results and feedback to improve and extend the program.

Alternatively I see the approach where an executive within the organisation notes that they already own product ‘x’ and just install it and call enterprise 2.0 done.

Each of these approaches has the seeds of its own failure built-in. Take up rates can be low, user behaviour may not be that desired by management without effective rules of engagement spelled out, results might be hard to measure if metrics were not part of the design.

In an ideal world people would think about the end they seek to create and determine a path towards it. The tools would be among the last considerations in this instance.

Instead the key considerations are people, how they behave now and any barriers to changing their behaviour. Also key is understanding why people might agree to change. Then last of all comes the technology that might assist in delivering the desired change.

99.5% of self-proclaimed social media experts or gurus are clowns according to @garyvee

This kind of stuff is why I love Gary Vaynerchuk! As he correctly identifies, we have people who are clueless about business and about technology hyping that which they do not understand. He also correctly identifies the looming social media bubble:

”99.5 percent of the people that walk around and say they are a social media expert or guru are clowns,”

he says, continuing with

“we are going to live through a devastating social media bubble.”

Source: Techcrunch


Inspired and delighted with people’s willingness to work for positive change #sibsyd

I’m exhausted after a busy weekend and totally inspired by the people I just spent the weekend with!

We held the first Social Innovation Sydney Startup Camp this weekend. It was great to see so many people willing to work together in an open and collaborative way on developing social innovation projects.

It really inspires me with hope for the future of our world to see people join together, starting as strangers, and collaborate on social innovation ideas so effectively.

There’s a nice round-up of Startup Camp from @lucyjjames on her blog: day 1 and day 2; and a some feedback from the participants on Social Innovation Sydney.

Innovation: operational excellence is not a path to sustainable growth

I’ve been thinking about innovation a great deal lately and am fascinated by how many people confuse two different kinds of innovation.

The two different kinds of innovation are:

  1. continuous improvement – the drive for operational excellence, which is driven by optimising existing business processes and products (in the Six Sigma world the DMAIC approach is used for this kind of change)
  2. step-change innovation – creating new ways of thinking, new products and new ways of doing things (in the Six Sigma world the DMADV or DFSS approach is used for this kind of change)

It often seems that the revenue and cost impacts of these two different kinds of innovation is little understood.

The former, optimisation, generally has the effect of reducing costs. This is an admirable thing and is always worth doing.

However, I sometimes think that we are in danger of optimising the customer service and humanity completely out of our business operations by focusing so much on cost out initiatives.

The second kind, step-change innovation, is more focused on new revenue opportunities. This is the lifeblood of any business, it is not sustainable to keep taking costs out of the business and merely optimising the existing business and products.

Sustaining innovation within existing businesses is hard. Academics have been researching for years seeking the secret sauce of innovation so that we can pour it into our businesses and succeed according to some formula.

But it is not that easy. Innovation is hard. I’ve done it from inside of large organisations. New ideas are difficult to achieve consensus upon. New products are hard to bring to birth when everyone is already doing well with the existing products. It is hard to get people to buy into change unless there is a substantial reason to get their attention.

Everyone is usually running hard to keep up and to meet the current KPIs and the last thing they need is some crazy innovator trying to stop them from getting business as usual done.

Innovation is risky and entails the possibility of failure.  It is important to ask ourselves how we can make this risky business of innovation work for our particular organisation.   A key factor is how failures are treated.  Another important factor is allowing some time out of normal business to build the innovation idea into reality.

In my experience innovation within a successful existing business is only possible with the help, protection and support of highly engaged senior executives.  Every time I’ve tried it without this type of support it’s been almost impossible to survive the political tension between innovation, business as usual and meeting existing KPIs.

However, there is one certain thing.  Operational excellence and continuous improvement are not the way to grow a business.  But they are a great idea for freeing up some funds to invest in step-change innovation that creates new business models and new products.  Thus it is important for an organisation to make space for both kinds of innovation.