2 weeks in and what have I achieved….

I have now been in my new post for almost 2 full weeks and to say it has been a whirlwind is a bit of an understatement – meetings, discussions, ideas, planning and strategy…It has felt a bit like a localgovcamp event to be honest – but with the added bonus of actually being able to progress work and initiate stuff straight away.

I thought I’d use this post to reflect on the last two weeks and share some of the plans and ideas we are developing which you will hopefully learn more about in the coming weeks and months either here on my blog or the upcoming team blog “Project Beta”.

As referred to in my previous post I am now back to being a line manager of 6 people and I’m very pleased with the team as they are all highly skilled, very motivated and already making stuff happen – I mean what more could I ask for…

So what have I done, I’ve sat down with the team individually and have found out what their expectations and requirements are of me as a manager and what they need me to do to help make them productive.  We also have a draft work programme agreed which is still evolving and has a team member identified for everything task/project.

I’ve had many meetings with people ranging from our improving the corporate website, redefining the intranet, explaining and promoting the digital communication opportunities and I’ve written some documents and have sold ideas…. These conversations have been with the team itself, Heads of Service, Governance Groups, Elected Members and colleagues and staff in general.

A few highlights for me include:

  • sitting down with one of the councillors who attended my social media session and helping them get set up with a personal blog, all in 2 hours. (I won’t share the link yet as they are finalising some early content for a launch shortly)
  • getting agreement and commitment from one of our new Heads of Service to publicly blog about their service.
  • agreement to a programme of work to consolidate the micro sites the council has and to reuse or refocus the content to improve the public website.
  • agreement and support by one of our governance boards to improving and redefining the councils intranet.
  • listening to and seeing first hand the excellent contribution members of the team make in meetings around web and digital communications projects.
We are only at the tip of the iceberg in terms of what we can do ourselves as team and what we can facilitate across the council.  There are many more things I’m proud of personally and that of my team and would love to share but will leave these for another time.
My challenge and the teams is to keep up the momentum going and keeping pushing things forward.



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.




Social is a pain in the a**e

My previous post about closing the social media gap raised some interesting discussion on twitter around how we start to approach the issue of narrowing the gap between those who are active in social media and those that are not, for various reasons – getting access to such websites is still a major block, but also and more importantly is the term “social”.

Social as a term for practically nearly all managers and senior managers in local government (through my limited experience) is something that conjures images of staff not working and chatting in corridors or by coffee machines exchanging stories about the weekend football match or even the latest gossip.

But fundamentally organisations are powered by social interactions in one form or another, however because we don’t often capture these kinds of “informal” social interactions in formal business workflow we fail to recognise that they exist at all.  This is one of the reasons why in my view the term “social” is counter productive, it actually becomes a pain in the a**e when trying to engage people in conversation.

The interesting part of the twitter discussion was actually when we started to talk about what word or words we could use instead of social. The trouble here is, I don’t think a single term works to solve this issue.

I think the most logical way to approach it is to focus on the business challenges and outcomes and then consider how a new set of tools can support, resolve or even solve those challenges. Again my rule number 1 is critical.

An example here is some colleagues our workforce development team wanted to promote the use of the internet and of course some of the social platforms that exist as a way to support self-directed learning within the workplace. Social tools were part of the solution and the word social didn’t come into play at any point really and we had a good level of response from people. It might sound tactical but we did social by stealth and it worked.

So my current view is that use terminology that is context specific to ensure that your audience are able to engage in conversation and dialogue about the possibilities and opportunities of using new tools.

We can’t however ignore that the generic term of social media and social networking represent a set of tools which many of us exploit individually and organisationally…but we should focus on what we are doing and not on how we are doing it.