Individual Productivity

This is blog 1 of 3 blogs I will be writing on the subject of Web 2.0/ Social Media tools and productivity. The first will be on Individual productivity, the second on Team productivity, and the third on Community of interest (COI) productivity.

These blog entries are focused on my primary customer set – the government

For this first piece on individual productivity I am assuming that you have a subject you are interested in or responsible for, and that you are open to using some of the social media / web 2.0 technologies to potentially increase your efficiency, and or improve the quality and quantity of your work.

I will assume you want or have a body of knowledge (BOK) that you consider to be true, but that you can add too or modify as appropriate, and that much of the content in your BOK has sources that can be referenced for more information. For some of you, this BOK may be a cabinet with folders and reports, but as we move along in the digital age, we may want to start to hold / put that knowledge into a knowledge management system. For many enterprise workers, your BOK is a personal folder on a network drive, but although that may work for you, when you are looking to work with others (team or COI), then some attributes of this folder you will want should be: well sourced, linkable, taggable, indexable, searchable, extensible to a Natural Language Processing tool (NLP), and some kind of tool that you can use to identify and remove probable duplicates, and a folder you can share with many people (fellow collaborators). If you are looking for a recommendation on that body of knowledge, I would suggest an enterprise wiki for the desired capabilities stated above.

I will assume that you are willing to be a part of a network of people interested in the particular subject you want to or are compelled to follow. I will assume you are active in forums or newsgroups on the subject you are interested in, and that you have established a community of interest (COI) or network of peers that you discuss the subject matter with. This is your known network.

I will also assume that you trust that the actions of other the other collaborators to be in good faith. You acknowledge that there are people working in the subject area you are following that are not known to you and are not yet a part of your known network. This is your unknown network.

In pursuit of understanding your subject, you read books, magazines, blogs, and internet content as well as view videos, and participate in chat on the subject you work. I also assume you have a standing search (discovery) for new content being created in blogs, wikis, forums, etc… This is your pulled information.

In addition to your personal search, I am sure your established colleagues and peers send you things to review and comment on, as well as include into your BOK. This information that they send you may come in various forms, email, blogs, twitter, facebook, links to journals, etc… This is your pushed information.

For this discussion we will call this new pushed and pulled information your discovery process.

This newly discovered content needs to be aggregated (gathered), self and peer vetted for accurate or inaccurate, information, and if warranted, merged with your BOK on that subject. We will call this filtering. As you filter and discard information that is not important, inaccurate, or already represented in the BOK consider tagging the articles you found new and useful information in. You may choose to also tag the ones that you discard with some kind of comment as to why you did so. With the information that you want to merge with your BOK, you will need references to the source person, journal, article, magazine etc… in accordance with local directives (ICD 206 – Sourcing requirements). We will call this merging and sourcing.

Those changes to your BOK are your own, and you may choose to modify it with comments from your peers and peer group (Potential use of Discussion Pages). Does this new information change any of your previous assessments? Is it consistent with your previously published work? Is it consistent with the work of your peers? Who should I send this too? Customers? Peers? (push). What should that update look like? Link to BOK, or tailored product in response to a vetted requirement? Some questions to act as a threshold for deciding whether to produce on this new information or not.

If based on this threshold, I have chosen to produce, has someone already started a new tailored product on this new information that I can comment on or add my information and thoughts too? Can I be a coauthor with them? I should probably search for who may have started it, and I would likely search our wiki’s, our social bookmarks, our blogs, our forums, our social networking sites and communities of interest in an effort to ensure I am not duplicating effort already underway. How and where should this tailored product be built? Where are my customers? Where are my collaborators? Can I write it in the domain of my collaborators, and then move it to the domain of my customers? How can my customers provide me good requirements if they can not view the “sausage being made”? Can I send them occasional or incremental updates to meet this need? Can I build this product in a place that my network of peers can watch it or take part in it as it comes together? Is this something we are going to claim as a jointly created product? What is the publication deadline, and who is going to ensure that it is cogent, meets the analytic trade-craft standards of (ICD – 203), is written for maximum utility (ICD – 208), can be reviewed for correct classification markings from the “Authorized Classification and Control Markings Register“, and have all of this done in a timely manner that allows the information to get too the customer before it is no longer relevant? Once I am reasonably assured it has not been started, I can start the tailored product to meet the specific customer requirement. We’ll call this production search.

So I have started a tailored product, how can I make it the best that it can be? I created the page in a wiki, and I gave it a smart descriptive name that is consistent with naming conventions. I have laid scaffolding (sections) to the tailored product that are consistent with previously published works, and with current guidance on how that information should be formatted and the content of those articles. I have included some initial metadata in the layout as well. I have added “Categories” to it to act much like tags. Now I can copy the link (URL – uniform resource locator) to it, and go back to the same areas that I went too for production search of someone already starting that report, and post a notice or statement that I have begun work on that product at the following URL… With a note on what it is, and who it is for. I leave a blog entry that describes the work to be done, and what specifically I am trying to answer. I link to it from social bookmarking (for the unknown collaborators that search for tags in social bookmarking tools). I send it to my established network in channels that I know they use. Some only use email, some are members of communities of interest, so I will post the work I have begun in a thread there because I know that they will see it and have the opportunity to work on it. They probably have an rss feed set up for new threads as well as other signals that identify when I am working on something of interest. I also mention it and the associated keywords (metadata) for that product in a chat room or two related to the subject if it exists with the knowledge that chat room tools that search for key terms will notify others as from my unknown network as to the work I have begun. It is not much to start on, but it clearly states what I am working on, the requirement, the customer, and is a call for collaboration. We’ll call this production declaration.

Now that my known network and potentially my unknown network of peers are aware of the work in progress, I can get to work on the meat of the tailored product. In general, there will be a executive summary and bottom line up front along with why it matters, who it is for, and what the particular, specific, requirement is that this product is in response too.

This is similar to college writing in that each part of the summary should link to some part in the document. I may have already laid out the scaffolding if this is a standard type product that is done fairly often. My choice and recommendation would be to use a wiki for the creation of and collaboration on this tailored product. I can slap on a (in draft banner) and (after sending a link and making discoverable via social bookmarking) my known network, my unknown network, and others can comment, change, improve, watch and edit the content that is being created – as it is being created. Those same people can invite others to watch and participate on the article or simply ensure that related content is correct that may pertain to their subject matter expertise either directly or indirectly. It is important that I set a date for completion, simply so that I can publish, but that does not mean that the content cannot live on as a living document. It also means that this is where we can pick up from again when we get back to the topic.

Another important part of completing the work in the article is to wikify and link parts of the report to related content. I may include a link to my peers related content on that subject as well. Make it rich and include a link to a survey if they choose to take it.

Once the document is completed, then distribution becomes the focus. You should send a note to the same locations that you did your “production search” for work in progress, and where you sent your “production declaration”. Whatever distribution medium you use, I would recommend you enable a way of tracking who downloads the document, and a way for readers to rate and comment on your work. We’ll call this the feedback loop (required by ICD – 208). In addition, you should make it easy for others to tag the document in its natural location so that it can be found more easily. Register the product in several places and give it meaningful metadata and tags. Again, use the chatrooms and COI pages to advertise the completed work. You may think that mentioning it earlier for people to watch may have been enough, but a lot of times, people will want to just wait for the finished product, and not be a part of “making the sausage”.

The information you get in return on who downloads the document (happens when you use knowledge tree document management system), and who comments can indicate your unknown customer base, that along with your established customer base you can start to work with for future articles that address features you may want to have and include for future work. Lets call this customer service and closing the loop as well as generating requirements.

Who tags the article is another source of information, and you can search for pages that link to that article as well (see google hacks tip on using “link:”).

So what you may see is that there are the tools, (technology) which has something to do with enabling this kind of approach to individual collaboration. Then there is your known network of people, and the unknown network of people that may be able to contribute to your understanding of the subject. There is a body of knowledge on the subject, and there is ongoing discovery of new content related to your subject that is continually taking place. There is a source repository, There is tailored product creation, continual product vetting, and then distribution, feedback and planning for future work. Looking at each piece a little closer, you may see that key technologies enable this kind of production, and I think I have described when you may use some of these here.

Your known network of peers is important, and that would be people on distribution lists, and previous work that you have established means of communicating with. Then there is your unknown network of potential collaborators that you will want to find and add to your network of people that work on your subjects. These people can be found in emails, forums, linked in, history of wiki pages, “who is watching” on a wiki page, bloggers in same subject area, people in social bookmarking that tag things the same way, chat room people searching for the same terms, authors of books, journals, articles, videos, podcasts, and other media. These people can have a huge impact on your work, for better or for worse, but your network is worth trying to expand.

There is a body of knowledge (knowledge management tool – wiki) that is easy to search, link to, author in, tag, extend, and get signals from. This body of knowledge should be indexed by something like Google desktop, or Aduna – Autofocus so that you can find information easily. To extend that, if you can get a program with a natural language processor to ingest the files there you can do a lot more with them. These items should be something you can tag as well. There is a method of discovering new information, and getting signals that the new information exists and needs to be ingested and vetted for consideration of the accuracy and meaning of as well as possibly added to BOK and whether a tailored product is warranted and if older assessments can be confirmed or need to be reconciled with the new information. Discovery is important and there are many ways to search many sources, this is where considerable work and efficiencies can be made.

I made the argument that content creation can happen in a blog with comments, but that an enterprise wiki for production would be the preferred way to go. This differs from a non enterprise wiki in that in an enterprise wiki – you are not anonymous. You have the indirect comments of the discussion page and the best track changes and logging of who is doing what that I have ever seen. You can “watch” the sausage being made, and receive notifications when someone changes or adds to the content. I think this is a far superior content creation and vetting tool that puts the content in a place where others can do anything from watch it, to just waiting for it to be finished. Everyone comes to the content, not the content being sent all around and then hobbled together in a less than timely fashion prone to mistakes and loss of time.

Lastly in distribution and advertising. These tools are very useful in getting the word out and linking to new and relevant content. Some allow you to see who is downloading the information, and some allow you to link to surveys and to tag documents into social bookmarking systems. These have numerous benefits to future work and tracking down the customers you know and those you don’t know about and should start to add to your information distribution network. Some of the tools I mention getting familiar with for ease of use in this kind of environment would be: Google notebook, or MS Onenote for easy sourcing and compiling research notes A chat tool or two, not all protocols are the same, so I would suggest you use Pidgin or Trillian that support more then one protocol A Sharepoint folder (or personal folder) of your own, or knowledge tree document management system that allows you to index and search your content as well as tag that content and create links to individual files in that content so that you can send out links, not documents Image gallery with tagging/linking capability – Picasa, Flickr Video gallery with tagging/linking capability – YouTube Email system with distribution lists and the ability to tag and share documents/ calendars, etc… – Zimbra Aduna Autofocus for indexing and search Google desktop for email and content indexing Feedreader or other RSS aggregator for RSS feeds (signals of new content) A Mediawiki driven wiki (Oh the power of a wiki- living documents with embedded history) Something like FaceBook (Keep me in touch with my colleagues/friends and their activities) Podcast aggregator (to keep track of new content in podcasts for listening to on the way to work) WordPress blog (blog in as big a space as possible) Chat room surfing tool that notifies you of new content or keywords – Google alerts For other suggestions, see my list of favorite software here.

Some everyday items/actions to consider: * Log in too and check to see if any of my watched pages on any of my wikis have changed. I may want to set up an e-mail or RSS signal/service for those notifications. * I may want to listen to podcasts on topics I care about for the rest of the time I am driving in or just NPR. * Once you have your network of known colleagues, search for other areas they are tied into like blogs, twitter, linked-in, facebook, and search for ways to automate notification of activities on their part. Refresh that network each time you start a project in a certain area because it will change form time to time. * Search for new writing on your topic at all times, and grow that list of contacts continuously (google alerts are excellent way of setting up searches for new content). * Figure out who you are a kind of consumer of, and who is consuming your information. * Set up a feedback loop *Continually groom your BOK, network of collaborators, and document your work. On a final note, this is only a beginning, and this information will grow and improve. To you, good luck, and thank for reading and leaving any thoughts you may want to leave on this post. I genuinely hope it helps you in your endeavor to collaborate more effectively as an individual or team, and to the contribute to the accurate information available to myself and others.

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7 Responses to “Individual Productivity”

  1. Brevity.

  2. Erica Morin Says:

    Great blog, Lance! Very concise and logical flow of info. When you get all your comments included, it would make a resource for my MIDAS course where collaboration is still a foreign word to many. This will make it very clear. Consider adding an actual “story” of how this would all flow as most people remember a good story over stark fact (however good the facts are presented). Also, with time, consider breaking it down into modules for easier digestion.

  3. Hiya Garrett. One thought I’d throw at ya. A lot of times we have certain processes in place and then some new tools get introduced, and there is this sort of pattern to adoption. Stage 1 I guess would be, how do these tools fit into our existing processes – we select a couple tools that may help make existing processes faster, but don’t really threaten anything at the core.

    Stage 2 would be sort of the beginning of examination of processes against the available technologies – do the processes themselves actually make sense given the toolsets available to us? How many of our fundamental processes and workflows were constructed simply because toolsets that exist today didn’t exist 5 or 10 years ago? These are the harder and more threatening questions and when they start to get asked, people start getting uncomfortable.

    I suppose stage 3 is where you have actual fundamental process change, and it’s usually not pretty or graceful, there are usually a lot of feelings getting hurt, and it’s also usually driven by market forces, public demand, you name it – over shrill objections.

    That said, your ‘customer set’ is probably not going to be driven by market forces. I would say that it is probably in stage 1 there. Nobody feels too threatened because none of this stuff has moved past the marginal areas. Most people at the worker level are powerless to choose what environment they want to work in. Core issues that need to be addressed are: hiring and firing, manning, duplicative offices – these are the 800 pound elephants in the room and have very little to do with technology or even “culture” in the sense its often spoken of… it’s more the fact that this ‘customer set’ is insulated from any market realities whatsoever and thus has no real reason to modernize or change. Also, there is this idea that there is a middle ground that can eventually be reached, which just isn’t true. There is so much staggering waste in the system as it is that there is virtually no middle ground to be gotten, better to toss out the whole lot of it and start over from scratch. The only thing that could actually really force change is a generation of leaders arriving with their current intellectual/technological perspective intact. Not sure what the chances of this is, I’m not terribly optimistic though.

  4. […] first was on Individual productivity, the second on Team productivity, and the third on Community of interest s(COI) […]

  5. […] first was on Individual productivity, the second on Team productivity, and the third on Community of interest (COI) […]

  6. Lance,
    I like the process, details, and recommendations you’ve laid out. I would suggest a visualization of the process would be very effective in summarizing your points. Although you call it “inidividual productivity”, in years past this type of process could be termed “personal knowledge management”. Regardless of the name, the process for building one’s body of knowledge and being able to expand it, exploit it, and use it for informing decision making is what really counts. Thanks for taking the time to document this and I look forward to the second and third installments.

  7. […] of the topics I discuss in Individual productivity, Team productivity, and <a href="Community of interest (COI) productivity“>COI […]

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