Archive for productivity

It’s not about the tools or technology – It’s about the culture

Posted in Web2.0 Productivity, work with tags , , , , , on May 31, 2011 by Lance Strzok

DRAFT – asking for interaction and comments below – include your name with worthy comments and I’ll include your name in the contributing authors)

In pursuit of sincere and additive collaboration, we must understand what collaboration is, the value of achieving it, what factors effect it,  and how to set up conditions for a successful collaborative environment that are optimized for the product, and sustainable for the future.

Many of the conversations I have on getting people to adopt collaborative technologies are focused on improving the ease of use of a particular tool or service, how to link it to other tools, and improving how they interact with one another to put useful information in front of an end user.  It is believed that we will get more users to use it as a collaborative tool or service if it is more intuitive and fun.  We look at Facebook, and can talk about the numbers of users, ease of use, no users manual, and go on about its growth and the platform that it is for sharing information and maintaining situational awareness.  We labor under a false belief that if we could somehow make our tools and services that easy, than people would share more and collaborate more.  When in truth, we have been putting great collaborative tools and capabilities backed by leadership and guidance in front of our workforce for over a decade now and have only moderate gains in collaborative activity and the network effect to speak to.

Although amazing progress on tools and services have taken place, and are indeed important, I don’t believe that this is where the battle for the hearts and minds of our potential collaborators  is.  Rather, I believe that the value of collaboration, how much effort it takes, and the alignment of tools, services, and processes that optimize collaborative opportunities while simultaneously removing older systems and processes is essential to maximizing the various aspects of knowledge products.

This “build it and they will come” sentiment has taken us pretty far, but there is growing recognition that the tools and services alone are not getting us that much further down the path. Tool fatigue, and password overload as well as watching software come and go over the years has taken its toll on the willingness of the workforce to engage and learn new software tools to the point of people just saying – “No”. In addition to that, we have left the old, comfortable tools in place rather than burning the ship behind us, and forcing the use of new – uncomfortable,  processes and tools. This may well be another factor in why there has been only moderate gains over the last ten years in the methods and the numbers of collaboratively produced products.

Why do tools matter?

E-mail and client side authoring software like MS Word, are largely responsible for shaping our methods of collaborating to date, and they perpetuate an individualistic authoring environment and linear processes that are quite inefficient.  What is needed is to shift from tools that support very private, inefficient content creation that is linearly pushed through an editing model followed by a dissemination process, into tools and software that facilitate situational awareness of changes, and continuous engagement and monitoring options across the continuum of activity that is knowledge production, dissemination, and updating. One that is algorithmically involved with discovering, suggesting and notifying others with similar interests, responsibilities, or expertise, and helping to connect them.  In other words, implement processes and modify the existing suite of tools to enable personalization of an authoring / engagement environment that optimizes the desired collaborative activities that benefit the knowledge worker and the knowledge product.

What needs to change?

A sense of pride in what we can achieve over that of what any one individual can achieve on their own, and a stake in ownership of the knowledge products that bear our organizational name over that of a product that has any one individuals name.  A willingness to view all production from our workforce as something we are each individually accountable for, and that each item reflects our culture of excellence and is of the highest standards and quality.

Barriers to collaborative environment establishment?

Along with the modification of tools, processes and ownership in a brand, there is a longstanding perception of individual worth that is fostered by “putting people in a workplace and establishing incentives for competing, rather than sharing. We set up processes as barriers to creative thinking and learning along with policies that fail to accommodate how people actually work together” – (John B).  We also see individual names on knowledge products along side that of our organization, thereby crediting the product to the person, not the process or collaborative environment that has created a piece of work. This individual achievement is further encouraged by our organizational awards and recognition of individual efforts, many of which carry financial reward. This perpetuates the individual author over that of the community of interest authoring of knowledge products, and sends a clear signal to authors that is in opposition to the desired collaborative environment.

Recognition

It takes work

It takes time

It takes real thought, patience, courage and professionalism

Willingness to educate

Willingness to be honest

A sense of team

A firm understanding of and belief in the benefits of the collaborative process

It takes tools that support each of the above and are embedded in the process

Communications, incentives, training, and recognition need to convey and support the messages that support a collaborative environment

 

So what do we need to get comfortable with in order to optimize collaborative benefits and activities as individuals?

Collaboration, is not particularly easy, even in the best of environments where people are seated at the same table, given even footing to speak from, and with a common goal in mind for which their expertise has been selected. Yet, it bears good fruit, while improving understanding by all group members.  This isn’t what you would normally do, nor how you would normally do it, but you are going to go, and with good intention, represent the information you believe, and the viewpoints you have in the creation of a product that several people will be working on. You must be articulate and professional in arguing your viewpoint, or if during that professional discussion you change your view in light of new information, be willing to express how or why your viewpoint has changed. In the case where your view may not be represented, you should ensure that documentation of the fact of your discussion is incorporated into the record, so that others can see the viewpoints that are opposed were discussed, and remaining arguments are supported individually with sourcing.

In sitting down and chewing on Individual productivity and Team productivity, here is a list of things I am comparing:

Speed

Richness

Quality

Points of View

Agreements and Disagreements

Knowledge transfer

Signal to noise

Author/s

Outlier – repetitiveness

Quality vs experience

Chart of speed vs richness, quality, and number of collaborators

Contributing Authors: John Bordeaux,

Again, please feel free to share thoughts, this is a start, and will be finished in the next couple of days.

Thanks – Lance.

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The Future of Writing at Work

Posted in Telecommute, Web2.0 Productivity, work with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 30, 2011 by Lance Strzok

As more and more people are writing and professing their opinions across more and more platforms of information sharing, one thing remains true across all of them – Content it King. Yep, what you say, its validity, conciseness and tone are all part of good content that will keep people coming back. In a world where people value every second of their time, if you can not provide that content consistently, then you can make it look pretty all you want, and tweak formats all day, but that won’t bring them back to read you again.

I suspect the future of writing in the office place will shift from Word and Open Office to open platforms where the words that you write are what is most important, and computers and editors will apply style, images and links to related content to enrich the content as a workflow process following its initial creation.

This makes the transportation and transformation of the words from one product into another so much easier, and style can be changed quickly and easily for past and future content. It is also easier to use and re-use it again in other products.

Think about it, how many times does the Word file you spend half an hour tweaking just so it looks right end up in several places and different platforms looking completely different? My own experience in this has lead me to writing in blogs, because it is just so easy to do. The files are small, transportable, accessible, open with a simple browser (no special or expensive software) and have some of them have built in spell checking as I write – not as a separate function. I can write from my desktop, laptop, phone, or TV and the content can be styled in any way I or someone else pleases. Not to mention that people can index it and discover it, as well as comment on it and share it with others quickly and easily. It also fits with my hope of where things will go in the future with regard to IT and work. Simple really, all I should need is an internet connection and a browser. Which is also why my recent work has been focused on browser wars and how they are doing against one another.

So to wrap things up, spend that extra half hour working on the content, collaborating with colleagues, checking your sources, and making your inner author voice shine through, and give a blog a chance – you might just come to like it for the same reasons I do.

-Lance.

Telework – Telecommute – Tell me more…

Posted in Telecommute, Web2.0 Productivity, work with tags , , , , , on January 27, 2011 by Lance Strzok

***Readers – This is a draft starting point, not a finished piece of work – I want to incorporate your good ideas (please add them to the comments section). Tell me which of the ones I have listed are ones you would have mentioned, and which ones you have issues with. If they are not listed and you share them with me I will add them to the post with attribution. Thank you in advance. – Lance.

—-

Two concepts of telework;
1) Work from home (the main thrust of this article)
2) Work from a location close to home that supports work activities (lease a desk at another building that has the network connectivity and access required – a second article if desired)

Business Pros

– Maternity
– Sick leave
– Phone call costs
– Food choices are your own, not what is available in the cafeteria (save money in food costs/ healthy choices).
– Handicapped workers have options from home
– Parking
– Savings to analysts ($400) per month in my case in gas alone
– Time saved in commute 2.5 hours in my case
– Tools required for the job – Software that helps make analysts more productive is available at home
– Bandwidth at home may be better than at work – and is subtracted from business bandwidth use, therefore bandwidth at work is better
-Hiring incentive
– Retention incentive

Business Cons

Source = http://fcw.com/Articles/2010/04/08/Teleworking-evolution.aspx?Page=1
-“There are challenges: you get less face time, you can’t do all the work from home, there can be limited accessibility, people might think you aren’t really working,” said Steve Koenig, director for industry analysis at the Consumer Electronics Association.
-Bandwidth constraints through the technology used may cause slowness
– WRT facetime, how much facetime do you really get with your manager?

Enabling technologies

– Google Voice
– Unified Communications
– DC Telework Solutions
– VM ware
– Google Docs
– Drop Box

Employee Pros

Employee Cons

Business savings (money)

-More savings are expected over time because of the hires the county won’t have to make — due to the increased output from its existing workforce.Source=
http://faribault.com/news.php?viewStory=104640

Business costs

– “A lot of information in an office is passed passively or informally,” he said. “So we are still adjusting and addressing things.” Source=
http://faribault.com/news.php?viewStory=104640

Shaw estimated a 25 percent increase in productivity, but that does come at an up-front cost.

Startup costs are $1,500 more for those working from home, according to county documents. Those estimates are based on a total of 50 county employees telecommuting. Once 100 users are added to the current system, an additional $18,000 is needed in infrastructure improvements to the county’s computer system.

“I’m definitely a supporter,” said IT Director Melissa Reeder. “But costs do not go down when you add large numbers of users to the system.”

After the initial start-up costs, telecommuting is not, as a whole, less costly. During a standard four-year technology cycle, those employees working from home still cost several hundred more dollars in upkeep.

She also said the pilot study did not factor in overall technology maintenance for telephones, computers and Internet — including licensing and labor.

But the commissioners saw those costs as manageable compared to the “real” cost savings: Labor and space.
Source=
http://faribault.com/news.php?viewStory=104640

Additional ideas related to telework-
– Keep even spread across the week, rotate to keep it fair, and lottery or luck for initial days
– If you telecommute 1 day, rotate on an annual basis by two workweek days Friday goes to Tuesday, etc…
– Traffic congestion
– Statistically, fewer accidents
– Educate managers and workforce on how the program is run – add to cornerstone
– Hiring benefit
– Retention benefit
– CO2 emissions
– What does being distributed mean to hacking attempts?
– Telework success improves COOP success
– Bad weather options
– Average commute? 37.7 miles (one way) Source = http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policy/2008cpr/chap15.htm#5
– Wireless
– Reduce command footprint within the building, and lease out additional space – potentially for the case two situation in which local Federal Employees that work for someone else can access networks not available from home. Unintended consequences of employees from diverse agencies co-located could prove to be amazing!)
– More flexible work hours
– Reduce heating and cooling costs
– Reduce electrical energy consumption
– Reduce the total number of machines and the per unit cost of replacing and maintaining them
– We will have to look closely across the organization to determine which jobs can be done remotely and how many days a week that job can be done remotely
– Telework should be framed as a privilege, not an entitlement, and it is maintained and revisited every year to determine effectiveness
-Planning ahead and having some work related projects that you can work on pre-defined should be a part of that plan
– Must be results based, monitored, and a part of the employees annual performance evaluation
– Lockers at work that allow desks to be universal when employees come in. Grab your picture, leave your lunch, have a seat, log in, and get to work locally.

——
Source=
http://faribault.com/news.php?viewStory=104640
“All the participants said their quality of life improved, they were more organized and got more done,” he said. “I would call it a success.”
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Source = http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/217919

When you pay workers for their time, they’re willing to give you as much of it as you are willing to pay for. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re maximizing productivity during that time. If you told workers that they can have the rest of the week off as soon as they complete their assigned tasks and meet their deadlines for the week, you would find that five days of effort can probably be compressed to two and have a very empty office after Tuesday while everyone is out golfing.

Workers know, though, that they have to be present in the office from 8am to 5pm, Monday through Friday regardless of how quickly or effectively work gets completed, so instead the work gets dragged out. Finishing quickly is likely to result in additional assignments to fill the time, so there is no incentive to maximize performance. Instead, the work week is filled with unproductive time — chatting with co-workers, reading personal e-mail, surfing the Web, smoking breaks, long lunches, etc.

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Home > Human Resources > Managing Employees > Telecommuting Is Good for Employees and Employers
Telecommuting Is Good for Employees and Employers
Many managers struggle to embrace telecommuting, but it makes happier workers and has many benefits for the company as well.
By Tony Bradley | January 21, 2011
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Comments (8) Share 92
PCWorld

As technology evolves, many of the barriers that have traditionally limited telecommuting continue to disappear. The tedious standard of spending 40 hours a week sitting in a cubicle is fading as employers and workers both embrace the benefits associated with telecommuting.

When you pay workers for their time, they’re willing to give you as much of it as you are willing to pay for. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re maximizing productivity during that time. If you told workers that they can have the rest of the week off as soon as they complete their assigned tasks and meet their deadlines for the week, you would find that five days of effort can probably be compressed to two and have a very empty office after Tuesday while everyone is out golfing.

Workers know, though, that they have to be present in the office from 8am to 5pm, Monday through Friday regardless of how quickly or effectively work gets completed, so instead the work gets dragged out. Finishing quickly is likely to result in additional assignments to fill the time, so there is no incentive to maximize performance. Instead, the work week is filled with unproductive time — chatting with co-workers, reading personal e-mail, surfing the Web, smoking breaks, long lunches, etc.

A research study conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and published by the National Communication Association found, “Employees who telecommute the majority of the work week are more satisfied with their jobs compared to those working mostly in the office because working remotely alleviates more stress than it creates.”

Kathryn Fonner, lead researcher for the study, explains, “Results of the study pointed to multiple reasons why telework is linked to high job satisfaction, namely that employees working remotely are, on average, shielded from much of the distracting and stressful aspects of the workplace, such as office politics, interruptions, constant meetings and information overload.”

*

Home > Human Resources > Managing Employees > Telecommuting Is Good for Employees and Employers
Telecommuting Is Good for Employees and Employers
Many managers struggle to embrace telecommuting, but it makes happier workers and has many benefits for the company as well.
By Tony Bradley | January 21, 2011
Print Email Share
Comments (8) Share 92
PCWorld

As technology evolves, many of the barriers that have traditionally limited telecommuting continue to disappear. The tedious standard of spending 40 hours a week sitting in a cubicle is fading as employers and workers both embrace the benefits associated with telecommuting.

When you pay workers for their time, they’re willing to give you as much of it as you are willing to pay for. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re maximizing productivity during that time. If you told workers that they can have the rest of the week off as soon as they complete their assigned tasks and meet their deadlines for the week, you would find that five days of effort can probably be compressed to two and have a very empty office after Tuesday while everyone is out golfing.

Workers know, though, that they have to be present in the office from 8am to 5pm, Monday through Friday regardless of how quickly or effectively work gets completed, so instead the work gets dragged out. Finishing quickly is likely to result in additional assignments to fill the time, so there is no incentive to maximize performance. Instead, the work week is filled with unproductive time — chatting with co-workers, reading personal e-mail, surfing the Web, smoking breaks, long lunches, etc.

A research study conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and published by the National Communication Association found, “Employees who telecommute the majority of the work week are more satisfied with their jobs compared to those working mostly in the office because working remotely alleviates more stress than it creates.”

Kathryn Fonner, lead researcher for the study, explains, “Results of the study pointed to multiple reasons why telework is linked to high job satisfaction, namely that employees working remotely are, on average, shielded from much of the distracting and stressful aspects of the workplace, such as office politics, interruptions, constant meetings and information overload.”

Think about it for a minute. Even if the amount of non-productive time is the same to the employer, working from home enables workers to put the “wasted” time to better use. Instead of just chatting or surfing, the worker can take care of household chores and tasks that have to be done but normally fill up “personal” time — laundry, dishes, prepping dinner. That also means that when the work day is done, the worker is free to actually use the personal time for more enriching activities than simple mundane chores.

There are a variety of other benefits for both the worker and the employer. No commuting enables the worker to avoid the stress and dangers of rush hour traffic and reclaim many hours of time that weren’t even being compensated anyway. Not sharing a work environment reduces the chances that a cold or flu virus can spread throughout a department and cripple productivity, and not having to get up and drive to work enables even marginally sick workers to continue being productive from the comfort of home. (sick leave)

Businesses can also reduce costs associated with the office itself — the size of the office, the furniture, the electricity used, the cost of heating and cooling the office space, etc.

Small and medium businesses in particular should embrace cloud-based productivity and collaboration platforms such as Google Docs or Microsoft’s Business Productivity Online Services (soon to be rebranded as Office 365). Services like Box.net, Dropbox, and Syncplicity also provide a means of sharing information between remote co-workers, and even online tools like Skype and Facebook enable communication and collaboration. Bottom line — the tools are out there and they are free, or at least very affordable.

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Source = http://venturebeat.com/2011/01/25/5-reasons-you-should-care-about-the-flexible-workforce/

Flexibility as a recruitment tool – Quickly do a mental check of how many people you know, either at the office or personally, who require “flexibility” as a key requirement to their job. They may be caring for an ailing parent, work two jobs, move often with their spouse/partner, or have young children. Regardless of why, they make decisions on where to work not just based on pay and benefits. Rather, they balance those items with how flexible their job can be in terms of hours, days of the week, commuting requirements, etc. Be flexible, because it has value in the minds of the candidate you are trying to hire or the key employee you want to retain.

It’s only getting bigger – Demand for comprehensive, real-time communication with a company’s labor force will continue to grow. Companies large and small are managing a larger, less rigid network of employees, contractors, and part-time labor. More team members are working odd hours, or working in different cities, or rarely work in the office. Companies that provide seamless products and services to tie together those distributed workforces together, allowing them to collaborate and communicate via web and mobile platforms, will have a lot of market to run with.
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Source = http://fcw.com/blogs/john-klossner/2011/01/john-klossner-federal-telework-policy.aspx

In reading about this year’s resolution one item in particular caught my attention — “Currently, 102,900 of the 1.9 million federal employees regularly work remotely. Of the total workforce, 62 percent are eligible to telework. To encourage the practice, the Obama administration has set a goal of having 150,000 government employees teleworking on a regular basis by 2011.”

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Source = http://gcn.com/Articles/2010/11/01/Telework-NMCI-Access.aspx?Page=2

The Air Force Research Laboratory’s Software Protection Initiative has produced Lightweight Portable Security, a tool created in-house that essentially creates trusted endpoints for remote access. It is a bootable CD developed with open-source software that works with most Windows, Mac or Linux computers to create a nonpersistent trusted node for secure Web browsing, cloud computing or network access. It boots a Linux operating system from a LiveCD and installs nothing on the client computer, running only in RAM to bypass local malware and leave no record of the session.

The LPS-Public edition is small, with a 124M image that can fit on a mini-CD. It is available to government and public users as a free download and is intended to be used for casual telework and on untrusted systems needed for sensitive tasks. It also can be used to access CAC-enabled websites. The government-specific LPS-Remote Access creates a virtual government-furnished equipment node on a private computer and is available for all federal agencies and contractors. It was developed in 2009 to provide a telework tool for continuity of operations in anticipation of a possible flu pandemic.

Approved by DOD’s CIO in December 2009 for continuity of operations, LPS-Remote Access has since been adopted by more than 30 DOD organizations with more than 58,000 employees. More than 35,500 copies of LPS-Public have been downloaded from the Software Protection Initiative website since 2008.

A far cheaper, more portable, and more secure solution is SPI’s Lightweight Portable Security – Government Remote Access Edition (LPS-Remote Access). With only a CD and smartcard reader, you can have your enterprise or NIPRNet desktop appear on almost any computer in the world. Its accredited and usually free. See spi.dod.mil.
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– Primary resistance is from managers Source = http://gcn.com/articles/2010/11/01/telework-technology.aspx
However, security doesn’t have to be a deal breaker. Virtual private networks, network access controls and virtualization, which can separate data from the hardware using it, can provide adequate security. “The technology is mature at this point, but it is still relatively recent,” Quillin said.

USPTO is one of the pioneers. The agency has been promoting telework for 10 years, and as of Sept. 30, 5,654 of its employees regularly worked outside the office. Speaking at a recent conference hosted by the Telework Exchange, Turk said 75 percent of the agency’s workforce is eligible to telework, and 80 percent of those eligible employees are doing it.

To ensure security, teleworkers use remote desktop connections and save their work in USPTO’s data center rather than on their laptops.

“There should be nothing from work on the laptop they use,” Turk said. The laptops also are encrypted so that any information on them is inaccessible. “It’s a defense-in-depth process. Our risk from loss of a laptop is small.”

“Security was a big deal for us” because of the sensitive personal information that the agency maintains. “But it turned out that there was better security on the laptops than anything we could have gotten on the desktops.”

The Dell laptops that CMS uses have webcams built for videoconferencing, in addition to VPN clients, hard-drive encryption and support for two-factor authentication, including the government’s Personal Identity Verification card.

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Source = http://www.teleworkexchange.com/teleworker-12-10.asp
Today’s workplace, Berry noted, has changed and the Federal government must change with it by adopting more results-focused management and telework. “In example after example, it leads to happier, more productive employees,” he said. “And organizations that are slow to adapt will miss out on being able to recruit from among the best and the brightest.”

‘Why aren’t you teleworking?'” she told the audience. “I would rather hear about the obstacles that we need to remove, rather than all the justifications for why somebody should (telework).”

The agency is considering a boost to the number of days that most employees can telework. “We really are beginning to understand that it isn’t just a one-day-a-week thing that makes the benefit,” Johnson said.

A GSA pilot program in Kansas City seems to bear out that theory, she said. The program involves 42 colleagues from the same office and 66 percent of them now work from home five days a week. In just a few months, 77 percent of participants reported significant productivity increases, and absenteeism was down 69 percent.

The program also offers some initial lessons about how co-workers can remain connected with colleagues even while working remotely. Those who telework as a group seem to pay better attention to keeping in touch, Johnson said.

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Source = http://www.teleworkexchange.com/teleworker-05-07.asp#p3a

“My message to managers is to try a center for one day. See how productive you can be. Let others try telework, and watch what happens to productivity and morale. It is a real eye opener.”

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Why a joint publishing environment?

Posted in Web2.0 Productivity with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 9, 2010 by Lance Strzok

The urgency on this issue is because everyday that passes, another “collaboration site” gets created within our enterprise (government) which serves to divide collaborators that work specific topics.

This is bad because for fast, accurate, and rich content, we want the greatest number of collaborators to apply their considerable depth of knowledge to fewer products and knowledge bases which enable decision makers (political or tactical) to make the most informed decisions as quickly as possible.

Example situation:

Twenty people across the enterprise (DOD, IC, and other governmental bodies with access to the network) have expertise on a subject, but are not necessarily geographically located near one another.

From blog_pics

Twenty people (collaborators) across five companies or (agencies) that typically write on a given subject or topic. Four people at each of the five companies.

From blog_pics

Each of the five companies creates its own collaborative environment for its local employees with some limited ability to share with external collaborators. This could be a Mediawiki site, Sharepoint site, Lotus Notes, or any similar collaboration environment (Collaorative software list).

Each of the four members at each of the five companies use their companies collaborative environment to collaborate on their individual product on the same topic.

From blog_pics

Five “collaborative products” are created, with four primary contributors to each product.

A decision maker (political or tactical) may receive all five products on which to make a decision, and the burden of analysis is put on the decision maker (with less expertise on a topic) rather than on the community of practice where that expertise exists.

From blog_pics

What we want to do is put one product in front of a decision maker that represents the collaborative efforts of the community of practice on that topic (all twenty people), and allow them to make decisions based on that information. The richness and depth of knowledge applied to one document where the differences and facts are agreed upon (or highlighted when not) and available as a product and a living knowledge resource.

From blog_pics

Although there are several publishing and knowledge management products in use across the services and agencies, many of these systems are not shared, nor do they allow for collaboration outside of their component in an effective way. The data and products as well as those items in production are not discoverable by the other components and the costs to maintain each of these systems is considerable. Even if each component wanted to share their databases and information, it would be technically challenging based on the varied systems in use.

Intellipublia is authoring and knowledge management software that enables joint production of products and knowledge management on topics across the entire enterprise (where the enterprise contains all of the agencies, commands and DOD components). All of which can use Intellipublia to create component specific products, or collaborate on joint products. Additionally, members at any component can discover, and contribute or comment on any product that is in draft, or completed.

Intellipublia takes the worldwide scalability of Wikipedia (Mediawiki software) and has been modified to work as a production system that has many features of modern production expectations“.

Intellipublia is operational, as well as still accepting requirements for improvement.

The most notable features are:
* Web based and accessible from any computer on the network
* Scalable to millions of users
* Changes are tracked and attributable and commented
* Notification mechanisms for various aspects of user activities
* Produce validated XML for registration with the Library of National Intelligence IAW ICD 501
* Static html output for local server usage
* Searchable, linkable, taggable, extensible, and has RSS output

In conclusion, I wish to convey that within an enterprise as large as ours, where knowledge on any topic exists in more then one component, it is imperative that we drive collaborators to fewer collaborative spaces in order to maximize collaborative effects and achieve decision superiority while reducing duplication in both products and knowledge databases. This means making a joint decision on which environments we are going to use, followed with how we will integrate them, regardless of the environment or software tools that we settle on.

As always, thank you for reading, and I would appreciate your candid and constructive feedback.

Slaying the email monster

Posted in Web2.0 Productivity with tags , , on April 24, 2010 by Lance Strzok

If you get way too many emails, consider creating and sharing your own set of rules that you will generally enforce when it comes to email. Work with your friends and coworkers to reach a common understanding of some kind of architecture that will work for all of you.

Here is a possible example of some common rules that may help you and your group:

If you want me to do something with it now, put me in the To: line, add an importance (!) to it, and in a short paragraph, explain what you need from me with regard to the issue that follows in the email below, and when you need that decision made and back to you. You can include a desire for a phone call, or any other type of returned communication in order to meet your timeliness needs. (Remember, I may be checking my email from my phone while traveling). 

If you put my name in the CC: line, your email will go into a cc: folder by way of a “email rule” and I will not likely look at it. But if it makes you feel good, and the person on the other end of the email feels better knowing I am on the cc: line, then feel free. Do not put my name on the cc: line if you want me to read your email.

Draft your emails with purpose and brevity in mind. Tell me what you want from me, why I am involved, when you need it, how you want it, who else is involved, and what it is going to be used for.

Do not use the “reply all” feature and explain to those that do use it that those emails will likely be deleted by any of us involved.

Make sure your Subject line tells me something about the topic, and if applicable, time and importance, action or decision and dollar figure associated with that action or decision. Doing this correctly will get your email read by me, and incorrectly done will likely lead to a conversation on time management. If it is an announcement, put “Announcement” at the beginning of the Subject: and then the announcement topic.

Ask yourself if email is the appropriate tool for communicating the information at hand or the activity that is taking place. Often, there is a better tool available for the work that is being done. Examples: Is this a task? Do we have a tasking system that will handle this information more appropriately? Is this a discussion? Can anyone else benefit from the discussion? Then let’s move the discussion into a tool that handles discussions and captures that information in a place that is useful to the others involved. Allow others to subscribe to the conversation or unsubscribe based on their own desires. Some other tools to consider before email are: Chat, Blogs, Wiki entries, Document management systems, Microblogging, Social media, or Social bookmarking tools. Don’t forget the phone, it can be the right way to communicate in a lot of cases as well as the fastest way to resolve issues.

Do not attach files to your emails. Instead, put the file you want to attach in a document storage location with a URL that will allow those people you want to read it to have  access to it and be able to edit it with the permissions you have set on it. Again, no attachments, just links to the file in one location. In short, this will save money, time, and confusion since the document exists in one place and is edited by all there. See the “office rules for editing documents” write up for more on editing documents, check in, check out rules etc…

Check email three times a day. In the morning, lunch, and 30 minutes before you leave for the day. While you are checking the mail, consider using the three folders (follow up, archive,  and hold) mentioned in “The trusted Trio“. One that you will handle immediately, one that you will put emails that need greater time and attention, and then one that holds longer term issues.  When you open your inbox, put them into one of those folders and then handle the ones that need to be or can be handled immediately.

Turn off your email when you are not doing your email. This will stop the popups, and distractions. You can stay focused on doing your tasks rather than thinking about the one that just popped in.

Don’t use email for communications that involve a lot of money or people’s livelihood or lives. It is one thing to hold a meeting or have a phone call and follow up with information in an email, but the mixture of hands on, phone calls, and emails should be a good one. If it is important, make sure you have a conversation first, then follow up with an email reminder or summary if you think it is wise.

Please share your ideas and thoughts on additional ways to control the flow of email in your work by commenting below.

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Links to email related resources:

Email Overloaded http://email-overloaded.com/

The trusted trio http://lifehacker.com/software/email/geek-to-live%E2%80%94empty-your-inbox-with-the-trusted-trio-182318.php

The inbox makeover http://www.macworld.com/article/44327/2005/04/tipsinbox.html

Inbox Zero By Merlin Mann http://lifehacker.com/282544/merlin-mann-presents-inbox-zero

As always, thanks for reading and commenting.

What am I going to tell my boss (Draft – still want comments)

Posted in Web2.0 Productivity with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 9, 2009 by Lance Strzok

The internet just turned 40 last month, and no one would argue that the result of enabling 1/6th of the people on the planet to communicate and share information using this network has lead to enumerable unforeseen and unplanned benefits.

Web2.0, and its derivatives- Enterprise 2.0, Social media, Government 2.0, are now collectively a combination of ideology, and technologies that together are a disruptive technology with the potential to bring great power to those that leverage it.

We are not fostering the ideology or leveraging the technologies to an appreciable extent, and risk loosing much in the way of power and influence.

The problem is that we have had access to these Web2.0 tools for over 5 years now, with little progress in the way of integrating these tools into our business practices or replacing older tools and technologies. Leadership puts these concepts into vision statements, but does little in the way of delivering actionable plans and integration strategies. Meanwhile the grassroots efforts of many line employees that leverage the technologies have marginalized success, and meet with resistance from supervisors and middle management that have no direction from above on how and what to implement or allow.

This is further muddied with the heavily publicized failings and issues of the use of these technologies on the world wide web (www). You hear about negative issues spanning opsec of personal information and computer cyber security issues and concerns that do in fact exist- on that network. What they don’t talk about, and how the issues you hear about with these tools on TV and in various other media is the difference in attribution. Simply put, on the web, you can be anyone, and say just about anything. Whereas within enterprise
environments, many of these concerns don’t exist because your actions are attributable to you, and your cyber issues are largely behind the firewall. So it is clearly an unfair comparison, and damaging to adoption.

Discussion-
1. Ideology, values, and culture of the “adopters” -It’s about attitude, not Gen-X, Gen-Y etc…
2. Tools and Technologies that facilitate integration of the ideology in business and personal performance
3. Benefits of Integrated Social Media Strategy
4. Not a Utopian solution
5. Current and future tools and technologies
6. What is needed from leadership

The Ideology – (Heavy influence by Gary Hamel)

– Contributing and Sharing – The speed, agility, access to information and communication of the network surpasses individual performance
– Transparency – We each can see what and when others contribute
– Trust – Through transparency we can develop trust and meaningful relationships
– Impact – Desire ability to impact my organization
– Agility – Facilitate a fast pace, minimize bureaucracy
– Easy – Low barriers to contribution
– Egalitarian – Your ideas sink or swim on their own merit and are not based on personal credentials
– Networks are self organized and defined – not prescribed
– Leaders serve rather then preside
– Resources get attracted not allocated
– Power comes from sharing accurate information not hoarding it
– Opinions compound and decisions are peer reviewed

The tools and technology –

There was a time when the tools we had at work were far superior to what we had access to at home, and in some areas, that pendulum has come 180. These tools are readily available at home, and are a large part of many people’s personal productivity. These tools enable and enhance the activities that are valued in Social Media ideology.

Tools and Technology
– Blog (WordPress)
– Wiki (Wikipedia)
– Instant Messaging (Chat)
– Web based file servers for various media (Flickr, Picasa, Google Docs)
– Social Bookmarking
– Keywords and Tags
– RSS
– Social Media platforms (Facebook, MySpace)
– Emergent Social Software Platforms (ESSPs)
– Podcasts
– … Many more

Not really going to talk tools, there are too many, and I am grateful to have access to so many for my work. There are classes you can take to learn about the tools and how to use them to achieve results. What is important to mention is that I have a choice, not one solution that was handed down from corporate IT with a mandate to use it.

These tools have some characteristics in common. I like the mnemonic SLATES coined by Andrew McAfee to discuss those similarities.

– Search – Ability to search within the tool
– Links – Ability to link to other information
– Authoring – Give people the ability to interact with or author
– Tags – Keywords associated with an item
– Extensible – Can be improved and made to work with other tools
– Signals – Can send you an option in notification (email, or RSS)

Benefits of Integrated Social Media Strategy –

Not a Utopian solution –

Current and future tools and technologies –

What is needed from leadership? –

Stated social media goals and guide rails that provide and encourage adoption within the firewall while considering security and expectations when using tools that interact with the world wide web.

Verbalized recognition and encouragement of the use of these tools by managers and employees whenever possible within the firewall for enterprise related work.

Encourage leadership to create a culture in which calculated risks can be taken without fear of loosing job, innovation can take place at the lowest levels of the organization, employees can and do impact how things are done. Understand that flaws will come to the surface, and be ready to engage the workforce on how to fix them in an open and transparent way. I am reminded of forums, and the solution cannot be to simply turn them off. They may have shed light on some of the shortcomings, but ultimately, they represented the silent voice at the table.

Recognize the values of the coming workforce. Understand the tension that may exist with current leadership that came into power under a somewhat different set of values and a different culture to form the existing business model. State a desired direction to evolve from that model toward a new model in which risk, trust, sharing, and collaboration resulting in products with great depth of knowledge and transparency of contributions are to be rewarded.

Empower and encourage network and team building across the entire enterprise utilizing these tools and leveraging those networks and teams against mission areas. Actionable plans put into place and motivated engagement.

Search out and hire people that demonstrate high performance and the skills to integrate their talent with a network of similarly interested and talented people.

Recognize and reward adoption and evolution toward the new model.

Ensure that middle management and immediate supervisors encourage the use of and adoption of these tools by the workforce.

I believe that general
managers are the single most important constituency for tech-
nology success or failure within an organization; yet very few
books or other materials are written especially for them.

[Andrew McAfee]

—-
Thanks to Contributors:
-Dave McDonald
-Joseph Boutte
-Justin Franks
-Andrew McAfee
-Nick Charney
-Brock Webb
-Chris Rasmussen

—-
Resources and links
http://andrewmcafee.org/enterprise-20-book-and-blurbs/
http://oreilly.com/web2/archive/what-is-web-20.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WEB2.0
http://blogs.wsj.com/management/2009/03/24/the-facebook-generation-vs-the-fortune-500/

What am I going to tell my boss?

Posted in Web2.0 Productivity with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 9, 2009 by Lance Strzok

I am drafting an argument that I am presenting to leadership tomorrow. I have 15 minutes to describe, educate, and influence our organizations burgeoning Social Media strategy.

For those of you that both actively and passively interact with this blog, please consider taking a moment to comment below with what you think the most important points of that discussion should be.

My outline thus far has (in no particular order):

Quick intro to E2.0, Web2.0, Social Media, Gov2.0 terms.

The social media tools and the properties of what makes those tools successful, (SLATES).

The values and culture of the coming workforce that want access to these tools and are used to working as networks toward a common goal.

How to create an environment that allows these new workers (and their networks) to succeed or exceed current efforts against stated goals.

This culture is not about superstars, but large numbers of high performing individuals working as a network, enabled by these technologies, and motivated by common values.

Again, if you see anything glaringly absent, or you think it more important, please let me know.

I am going to post this work this evening when I am done writing, and your thoughts and comments will have been considered.

(Have a terrific week).

– GLS.