No more excuses – A commitment to be better at what i do

For reasons i will keep to myself at this point in time I am entering a period of personal reflection and learning. I have started to look back more proactively and make sure that i take notice of my observations and thinking as i go along. The reason is, quite frankly, to help me improve the way i do my job. Part of me feels that i am failing to do my job properly and part of me thinks i do a good, no great job. The truth is i do both at the same time.

I found myself humming a song the other day when i thought about how we might mainstream the wider use of web based technologies including social software. I noticed that i was humming: Rufus Wainwright – He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother.

The particular part i started to sing was the start:

The road is long
With many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where
Who knows when

It pretty much sums up the mood around social media “professionals” in government at present, but i think the issue for this is partly down to the people who are promoting it and becoming by default social media gurus. I am sadly one of those people so before anyone shouts me down i am taking responsibility myself here as well for a failure to really engage the people in my own organisation who can actually help enact change at an organisational level. This stuff really needs to go deeper into organisations. It simply isn’t just about Communications and Marketing.

BUT isn’t this what the social media gurus are all about, new ways to communicate and engage with people, social connecting and reaching out beyond traditional boundaries etc? So why are we not very good at doing it in our own organisations and becoming frustrated at the lack of progress. If this is you, i would suggest you also take some time to reflect about how you have or have not engaged with people and what value you have presented to them?

Well the fundamental flaw in this approach is that –  what change and value am i adding into my organisation if i all i do is network and influence people outside the walls and boundaries of my own organisation?

Now i know am being overly critical of others and myself and there have been some amazing examples of good practice and learning that needs to start getting deeper inside our own organisations to really make that learning valuable.

I do have to acknowledge some major successes here in Devon that i have been involved in: Chief Executive as Social Media/Social Networking Champion, Youth Participation using Facebook and Bebo (this was mainly Katie Bacon), Social Media Policy and Guidelines developed and agreed by key business stakeholders (we have just updated these, so i must post them up to share) and an Internal Social Networking pilot using Blue Kiwi.

But i have failed to realise the benefits of the above and i want to change that. So i am creating a personal charter for business change and i’d like to extend it to others as well.

  1. I commit to engaging and involving key Council stakeholders internally and externally in the design, development and implementation of innovative solutions including the use of social software and social media for increased business value and business change.
  2. I will only do so where a clear connection to business outcomes and objectives can be demonstrated.
  3. I will ensure that a plan for realising the value and benefits is in place.
  4. I will ensure that appropriate risks are acknowledged and mitigated and any successes and failures are shared so that others can learn from the experience.
  5. I accept that technology on its own offers no value and that i must ensure that there is clear ownership of the business change.
  6. Value is a set of measures and is whatever the organisations strategies and operating plans say it is.
  7. I must not refer to myself as a guru of any kind, my role is to guide, support and influence.

None of the above is rocket science and you will probably find similar ones around the web, but i feel that i have to revisit my purpose and question what value i am creating in the organisation. The moment i stop creating and adding value, is the moment i decide to leave. (I hope that is some time in the future if i’m honest, but you never know)

I hope that those of you who are engaged in this agenda are doing and demonstrating some of the above, as that is the only way we can stop seeing social media as a “special set of tools” and mainstream the opportunities and innovation into the heart of Government (Local and National)

Effective Risk Management is the driver for Social Software adoption

Updated: to include link to “Are you risk adverse

I hear a lot of conversation about the barriers around social software, social media and similar tools. The most common ones i hear apart from “we can’t access the stuff” are “Risk”, “Information Security” and “FOI”.

All of these are critical views to take on board when looking into social software whether you are looking at an internal implementation of an external implementation.

However my belief is that instead of these views being considered as barriers to progress, in fact they should be seen as critical in supporting the adoption of social software platforms and projects.

Why and How?

Well let me explain my viewpoint and please feel free to comment, contribute or propose a different view.

First lets look at Risk – Most views or comments i hear around Risk are in fact not about the management of Risk but are always about the avoidance of risk. This approach is counter-productive. If you take a proactive approach and engage your risk managers effectively and ensure that you focus on “mitigation” and “management” of risk you will in my opinion end up concluding that the best option is to in fact provide corporately supported solutions or make recommendations on policy and guidance around the usage etc.

I’ll explain a little further – When identifying risks within a local government context you will more than likely pick out some along the lines of “impact on reputation”, “information in public spaces” and impact on FOI requests”. You should however also include the risks of not doing it which might include “likelihood of staff creating spaces for collaboration anyway”, “lack of information management processes”, “difficulty of finding information in private email pst files” and “impact on reputation if left un-managed and un-guided.

Taking the above approach, i would conclude that on balance the better management of Risk would be to:

  1. open access and provide appropriate policy and guidance to all staff/members (building on existing policies such as code of conduct etc).
  2. provide a platform or identify appropriate platforms for use by staff for collaboration and conversation.
  3. reduce the use of email for internal communications and promote the use of social software solutions to enable better indexing and findability of information.

It would be safer in terms of information security to understand where and what systems your information is being held in and then ensure appropriate security is in place to mitigate the loss of information. From an FOI perspective information which is easy to find and easy to access is better and more productive.

The point to remember about Risk is that risks should only be classified once you have determined the mitigation steps and not before the mitigation is identified. The idea around mitigation is to reduce the risk.

Here is a link to a Martin Howitts blog post on “Are you Risk Adverse“, which is useful in terms of explanation of Risk

I was asked to summarise my views on camera at last Saturday UK Government Barcamp event at Google HQ in London by Nick Booth (aka podnosh).

NB: I make no apologies for the way i look in this video, i was very tired and my brain was on overload.