Thursday, April 30, 2009

Team Content Gardener

I had someone suggest the other day that our team should have a content gardner - someone to organize team content, develop play books, educate on the use of blogs, setup standards, etc. Here's why I don't think this is a good idea:

This is counter web 2.0. One of the driving forces behind web 2.0 is user initiated content organization and sharing. Tagging, blogging and wikipedia applications are a perfect example of this. Tagging came about because we all got sick of that other guy who thought he knew how to organize everyone else's taxonomies.

If there are issues concerning how the team is using it's social networking tools, it's up to the team to communicate and this needs to start with the leadership of the team, but also needs a team that initiates dialog.

The team needs to know that reminders are okay. We're all super busy and can drift into old patterns of doing things. Reminders given in the right spirit build trust and help the performance of the team.

Consultants are good. If the team can bring in someone with an outside perspective on how to leverage social networking tools, that's a huge plus. It's up to the team to internalize these suggestions and practices. The consultant needs to realize this and go away when the consulting is over.

Those doing the work will have greater insight into how content should be organized.

There are exceptions to this rule. For very large programs, a content gardner may be just the thing. Pick you gardner carefully. Some people get hooked on the power they get by taking control over other people's content - you don't want that person. Also, mistakes are okay. There are not a lot of people that really know how to do content gardening - give them a chance to try new ideas out.

The bottom line is that teams need to internalize best practices. The team that realizes that it needs to take time to dialog about how their using the tools, will be the more productive team. Team leads need to make time to talk about how to organize content and make sure that their folks will be assessed on how proactive they are in this area.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Stupid Requests

I got a stupid request today - someone wanted an architectural diagram so that they could figure out something concerning disaster recovery. For this person, it was kind of like saying, "I need to find a coffee shop in NY City, can you give me a detailed map of the water system, I mean, you need water for coffee right?" I said something witty and scornful and moved on.

Here's the problem with the word stupid, it's a loose-loose word. The person it's direct towards now feels pissed off, shamed, etc And I've just feed my big fat ego. It can get even worse - the person doing the asking may be stuck in the middle and now has to satisfy someone who doesn't know what their talking about with someone who's being to knuckle head. Both accomplish nothing.

But here's the crazy thing: these are great opportunities - their easy! All I have to do is send a diagram and tell them if they need help, let me know. That's it! Sure you and I can see the problem a mile off, but who cares? We've engaged in a dialog (good thing), offered to help (good thing), and they get something to start thinking about (good thing).

So, loose the attitude and use the opportunity to foster a dialog.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Making Sure They Connect

As a project lead, probably my most important job is simply to make sure people are talking to each other. I've found that it's best to treat this as normal business: no hysterics, no beating people up, just simple, 'have you talked with so-n-so?'. Since project leads have the big picture of a project, they tend to have a good idea of who to talk to.

Here are some reasons people get stuck:

  • They don't know who to talk to.
  • They believe their part is done. We get stuck in our own little world and forget systems have pieces that need to come together.
  • They sent an email and didn't hear anything back. We rely on this one too often.
  • They have bad information. Someone told them why it doesn't work and their waiting for a fix, when in fact it's not the reason they were given.
  • They don't have the power to speed things up. This is where the project lead comes in. Sometimes a word from the lead or escalation, and things get moving
  • They get lost in the weeds - too many things going on, and they drop the ball. Just need a reminder or some quick help.
So to help, the lead needs to start with a status question. If it isn't moving, then ask, who have you talked to, or who are you waiting on. Simple follow the lines of communication.

These issues are amplified on virtual work teams and project leads needs to be more diligent on this issue. It would be nice if everyone would follow through, but often times reality is something else.

So, make sure they connect!