Making Assumptions

My first post of 2012 is one which is very much a reflection on 2011 and also about looking forward.

One of the things I did last year which I have now firmly embedded in my approach to work and actually life in general is to never, NEVER, EVER make assumptions.

Assumptions about:

  • people – this is an obvious one really, people are unpredictable and act differently when faced with hugely challenging situations as well as other personal and professional pressures.
  • processes – there are a range of processes which are logical but most don’t actually make sense when looking at them…I have made mistakes in the past about assuming that a particular process would result in specific actions taking place – but they didn’t and unfortunately i spent some time remedying that which if I’d thought about it and checked the process then it would have saved time.
  • technology – technology amazes me, at a basic level, remote controls for TV’s still blow my mind…as do mobile phones. However we can never assume that people use technology in the same way…my use of computers, mobile phones and technology in general differs greatly from my mothers for example…I can’t and must never assume people operate the same…
  • organisations – some organisations don’t actually act as you’d expect in certain conditions, for example the restructure process last year here at the council highlighted a few things to me personally which I’d not experienced before and ultimately led to me staying with the council.

One area where all of these assumptions come together is when you start to write and share strategies, plans and projects.

Now you can create very lengthy documents which allow you to capture all the “strategic assumptions” but this isn’t always a practical approach, nor is it what your readers actually want (no assumption made here as this is based on actual feedback – shorter and clearer documents are preferred)…however it is worth capturing and highlighting the assumptions as it does avoid the unnecessary discussions about all the stuff that “isn’t written down”.

Anyway…the key point to this post is that I can’t and mustn’t assume anything and that is a key lesson which was validated through last year.

What do you think?

What assumptions do you or are you making?


Presenting to the IMKS Forum

On Tuesday this week I gave a presentation to the new and growing IMKS Forum (Information Management and Knowledge Sharing) which is facilitated by Kingston University and in particular Chris Head.

To be honest the I was a last-minute booking so to speak, as a previous confirmed speaker had to pull out, so Chris asked me late last week if I could stand in, which I was happy to do. The nice bit was that I was allowed to speak on any topic related to social media.

So last Friday lunchtime I pulled together a very quick presentation based on the majority of my blog posts over the last few weeks which have all pretty much focused on the people and behaviour aspects to social media and not the tools themselves.

However I also decided to try out some new things in the presentation which I thought would offer a different perspective and also a different experience for the audience. On reflection and based on the feedback I’ve had so far, it was very well received and also light-hearted.

A few of the new things I tried which I personally felt gave me more confidence to deliver the content alongside the slides was:

  • manage expectations – never assume you are the most knowledgeable person in a room about any given subject. I had thought that most if not all people in the room would have heard some form of social media speaker before and wanted to offer something different…
  • Reflecting on my own personal journey – for example, when I first started using social media – I was seduced by the tools and thought that everyone had to be on twitter and everyone had to be in Facebook, but as my understanding matured, this isn’t really the case, it really does require you to reflect and understand that these tools whilst popular and powerful are changing behaviours (obvious stuff) and it is these behaviours that we ought to understand and not always the tools…
  • Using little “on-screen” notes – I thought about whether or not this would work, but it seemed to provide a good way of stating the obvious or avoiding particular topics but most of all adding a bit of humour. I also used this as a way to acknowledge the short comings of the presentation…after all it was created in my lunch break and I didn’t really have time to add images, photos…I guess that is why i used some basic customer animation to try to bring it alive.
  • Referring to my family to help illustrate points – Dave Briggs is a master at this and if you have ever seen him talk, you’ll know about his Dad on Facebook. So my version of this so to speak was to use my Mum and her addition to Farmville as a way to make some points about the tools are not always used in the ways they were intended…My mum doesn’t really use Facebook to connect with people, she uses it as a games platform first and in particular Farmville and then uses the network features as an after thought.
  • Avoid the common place stuff – I didn’t bother quoting statistics, mainly because I always get caught out as the stats change so often, but also because I don’t think they really help illustrate the point….yes they say this stuff is big and you tube has more video than well the world has time to view, Facebook would be the 3rd biggest country, but I’m not sure this helps people to be honest…trying to get a manager to appreciate that this stuff can help them engage with service users is important – saying Facebook has over 500 million users simply reinforces the issue that engaging with large diverse audiences is hard and will get even harder with these new communities – so I simply just acknowledged that this stuff is pretty popular and you may have heard of these tools called twitter and Facebook etc – and went back to the behaviour and expectations that these tools create in our friends, family, co-workers etc.
  • Acknowledge the technology – I couldn’t ignore my geeky nature and therefore had to include some aspects of technology, but I treated this as a “future trends” aspect and made some observations on how I thought some of the technology developments will impact on behaviour.

Anyway here is my presentation, It doesn’t give the full effect as I used custom animation in the presentation but you should at least get the flavour – for those who can’t make out the title – it supposed to say – Social Media, which then fly’s out and is replaced with People and Behaviour.

I think we are missing the point

I have written quite a few posts recently about not focusing on the technology or the tools when speaking about social media and that is what I believe (I could be wrong), but we really have to take people on a journey in order that they can see the real impact of all of this stuff and that is the “behaviour change” and “expectation” this all creates in individuals (staff and citizens), mostly everyone recognises this but we rarely focus on this when speaking to folk.

Ok so twitter, Facebook, WordPress, Flickr, YouTube and many others are all the tools that people use to share stuff with friends, family and pretty much anyone interested in their stuff.  But the key point to focus on is the behaviour change all these tools are driving and the expectations they are creating in everyone we meet.

I’ve been to two events in the last week where this issue has popped up – last week I attended the Guardian ICT Leadership Forum in London and yesterday I attended a lecture at the Met Office (for Met Office staff primarily) by @AnnHolman on the impacts of social technology on business.

The thing that kept coming up was that people get fixated on the current tools and make comments like “I’m not in Facebook, or on twitter so I can’t see the value” or “surely Facebook and twitter will go away of be bought by someone and we’ll need to get on the next big thing”.  The answer to both of these comments is “your missing the point”….

The point is (for me anyway) and I made this at the Leadership forum as well as the Met Office meeting (although Ann had already said exactly the same thing at the beginning of her talk – it is about behaviour) is that these tools are not the things we should be primarily concerned about, it is the impact on people and the expectations and behaviour changes they foster in people…

  • the fact that friends and family can instantly communicate via any device to each other from anywhere in the world.
  • the fact that I can share precious moments with people via video or photo as soon as something happens or even broadcast it live over the internet
  • the fact that i can learn new topics and subjects and watch videos on how to play the guitar or learn how to use a software package by simply searching google
  • the fact that i can access a huge amount of information about what my friends like and what they are doing, thinking, watching, listening to, who they are with all from my mobile phone
  • the fact that email seems like it takes too long to get a response and I might as well instant message someone instead
  • the fact that i can touch a screen and it responds instantly to my gestures and I can explore information in new ways
  • the fact that when i work on something i expect friends and people I’ve never met to help and assist me with my tasks.
I’ve not mentioned any particular tool here, but I could…but what value would that add to the conversation?
These are simply some of the basic changes people expect to see, I’ve not mentioned or referred to location based services, mapping, workflow, task management, i could go on and when you take these expectations into a local government context you can see the challenge we are facing. Challenges we *must* overcome or we will become irrelevant to pretty much everyone.  The issue is we expect these kinds of solutions in an organisational experience.
The challenge/question for ICT leaders and managers is can consumer grade products provide 80% of the functionality to reduce costs across the sector…or do we spend lots of cash on enterprise grade products that can’t change as quickly and force uniformity on everyone – the web allows individuality?
The impact of social media isn’t whether or not you have a twitter account, Facebook profile, YouTube channel, Flickr stream – It is whether your organisation wants to be relevant and able to communicate with people how they communicate with each other.
This all means we need to rethink everything about our organisations and keep the stuff that is relevant and change the rest that isn’t…for some (if not most) that will mean everything.  We do need to face some potential obstacles though and we can not ignore them.
  • Security – we need to think about security in a pragmatic way that allows us to stay in touch and relevant whilst maintaining our legal duty.
  • Risk – we need to think about our approach to risk, we need to manage and mitigate, not avoid.
  • Thinking – we need to change our thinking, we *must* focus on opportunities presented to us by new thinking
  • People – we need to accept that all of this is about people and changing people’s behaviours.
  • Culture – we need to challenge existing cultures by empowering people to adopt new thinking, to take risks.
But saying all of this, sometimes it helps to start with twitter and work out very quickly to the wider issues, but we need to make sure we don’t stay focused on the tool, it is the behaviour change we need to champion.




HBR – Social Intelligence and the Biology of Leadership –

Found this article via this Tweet from Dominic Campbell. To say it was VERY interesting is right on the money.

Over the last few years i have started to develop a fascination with , which has kind of led me to where i am now – Enterprise Architecture. Forget the perception that Enterprise Architects are technical experts, there is a shift and it is more about facilitation, communications and strategy. In my opinion it requires an understanding of people, business and in particular Leaders who make decisions.

The subject of Leadership has always been something which kept coming up in that we need “real” leaders to drive dynamic customer driven organsiations forward, people who are prepared to enable and support people to take measured risk and to innovate and strive for greater creativity in the way we work, live and play.

This Harvard Business review article “Social Intelligence and the Biology of Leadership –” struck a chord and has confirmed my desire to study in this area and to look at expanding my knowledge in this area.

If anyone has any suggested materials or articles worth reading in this area, please let me know.

Connecting with former colleagues – Mike Ellis – Life Work and Growing up

One of the great things i love about social media tools, is the obvious ability to reconnect with people you once worked with even if they are located close by.

Sometimes maintaining an online connection becomes the only practical way to stay in touch, that way it makes the physical connections seem more valuable when you do get around to meeting.

Anyway, the reason i mention this is a former colleague (Mike Ellis) who i reconnected with via Facebook and more recently Twitter has set up his own blog.  His expertise and knowledge is vast and what struck me about his blog was his comments about collaborative leadership and partnership working.  I’ve highlighted the section which i think represents my view around how social media is helping to transform culture and challenge current thinking in society, a kind of leadership 2.0 approach.

I am doing a lot of work on collaborative leadership and partnership working at the moment. It’s an intriguing area of work that I want to say more about in the next few months. I want to try and get to the heart of what it takes to work effectively with others to deliver real change and improvement for the citizen without becoming bogged down or retreating into a mindset that protects individual or organisational interests at the expense of making real improvements for the citizen. My emerging view is that it is about people and leadership not rules, procedures and protocols. It’s about behaviour and commitment. It’s about practical changes not policies, strategies and glossy plans. I want to develop my thinking here in the coming months.