Showing posts with label Reading. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Reading. Show all posts

Friday, December 30, 2011

50 Posts and Articles that Made Me Think in 2011

Inspired by Jane Hart’s Top 100 Articles of 2011, I thought I should put down at least the top 50 that has made me reflect and ponder in the past one year, has changed the way I do things and shaped quite a bit of my work-life decisions. Not all the posts have been written in 2011, but since I either stumbled across them in 2011 or read them with greater appreciation this year, I thought it fair to include these in the list. In the past one year, I have made a career shift or should I say expanded my work portfolio (and I have described the move here), and these posts and articles have been instrumental in helping me make sense of the move and impart some value to the work I do.

I have divided them across five categories for easy reference. From the categories, you will be able to see what has influenced me the most in the past one year. At times, I have also had difficulty in “slotting” an article under a specific category. Many of the articles span groups and are interlinked. I have listed them in some sort of reading order or the way they made sense to me…

Social Business
  1. The future is podular by Dave Gray
  2. Putting Enterprise 2.0 into Context by Andrew McAfee
  3. Factories: the original social businesses by Anne Marie McEwan
  4. The Path to Co-Creating a Social Business: The Early Adoption Phase by Dion Hinchcliffe
  5. Moving Beyond Systems of Record to Systems of Engagement by Dion Hinchcliffe
  6. Seven Lessons Learned on Social Business by Dion Hinchcliffe
  7. Systems Intelligence, Serendipity and Listening for the Better Decisions by Riitta Raesmaa
  8. From social intranets to collaboration ecosystems by Fred Cavazza
  9. What is a social intranet or an intranet 2.0 ? by Bertrand Duperrin
  10. How Digital Business Will Evolve in 2012: 6 Big Ideas by Dion Hinchcliffe
  11. Why social business is different - Part 1: Reusing stored collaboration by Dion Hinchcliffe
  12. Social networks are becoming your personal operating system by Brian Solis
  13. Five Emergent Strategies for Improving Social Business Performance by Dion Hinchcliffe
  14. Open Work: Using Social Software To Make Our Work Visible Again by Dion Hinchcliffe
  15. Why E2.0 and Social Business Initiatives Are Likely to Remain Difficult by Jon Husband

Community Management
  1. Community Management: The Strategic New IT-Enabled Business Capability by Dion Hinchcliffe
  2. Community management: The 'essential' capability of successful Enterprise 2.0 efforts by Dion Hinchcliffe
  3. How to Build an Online Community by Vanessa DiMauro
  4. 11 Social Media Yodas Define Community Management “Passion”by Baochi Nguyen
  5. Who's To Blame For A Failed Community? by Claire Flanagan
  6. Social Software Is Not Enough by Rachel Happe
  7. Community Managers are Human Experience (HX) Professionals by Rachel Happe
  8. Top 15 Ways to Kills an Online Community -- Again by Vanessa DiMauro
  9. Community Managers’ Reading List: 27 Books fromQuiip
  10. Why You Need to Foster Community at Work by Shawn Murphy

Content Strategy and Curation
  1. Capitalizing On Curation: Why The New Curators Are Beating The Old by Drew Neisser
  2. Manifesto For The Content Curator: The Next Big Social Media Job Of The Future? by Rohit Bhargava
  3. Return of the Editor: Why Human Filters are the Future of the Web by  Karyn Campbell
  4. Are curators the missing thing in enterprise 2.0 approaches? by Bertrand Duperrin
  5. The Seven Needs of Real-Time Curators by Robert Scoble
  6. Curation in the Enterprise: Actionable information by JP Rangaswami
  7. Curation and the enterprise: part 2 by JP Rangaswami
  8. Curation and amplification will become much more sophisticated in 2012 by Vadim Lavrusik
  9. The Future Of Journalism – By Ross Dawson
  10. ‘Controlled Serendipity’ Liberates the Web  by Nick Bilton

Complexity and the changing face of 21st C Workplace
  1. Moving Beyond “Work as Usual” in a Complex World by Thierry de Baillon
  2. Why Is Knowledge Sharing Important? A Matter of Survival by Luis Suarez
  3. Essential Skills for 21st Century Survival: Part I: Pattern Recognition by Venessa Miemis
  4. Connected companies, complex systems, and social intranets by Gordon Ross
  5. Diversity, complexity, chaos and working smarter by Harold Jarche
  6. The Satir Change Model by Steven M. Smith
  7. Connecting Agile Business with Social Business by Dion Hinchcliffe
  8. Avoiding Chaos, Losing Serendipity? by Julie Hunt
  9. The Collapse of Complex Business Models by Clay Shirky
  10. The connected company by Dave Gray

Workplace Learning
  1. Social Learning and Exception Handling
  2. Disrupt Yourself by Whitney Johnson
  3. The Five Failures of Workplace Learning Professionals by Will Thalheimer
  4. Social Learning is NOT a new training trend by Jane Hart
  5. Jobs, work and technology by Harold Jarche

There are plenty more but in the interest of keeping the list manageable, I have limited it to 50 articles. I have not included posts around learning and instructional design or elearning —still my first love—and will add a separate post with the links to resources I have found useful.
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Thursday, April 14, 2011

17 Books for L&D Folks...

My bookshelf...
More than 6 months back, in the September of 2010, I wrote the post: 27 Books for L&D Folks... It's time for part 2 of the post. Since then, I have acquired a Kindle and, very recently, an iPad. Kindle has reshaped my reading dramatically--making it social and part of a larger whole, connecting me to a set of folks similarly impassioned. Reading moved from being solitary to social. I became a part of a worldwide reading club. Somehow, and social psychologists will understand this--the ability to share and connect motivated me to read more, taking me beyond my domain, making me exploratory. I thought I would share my reading list of the last 6 months here...It's a random assortment but each one has expanded my thought-process in some way. Not all are related to learning or the workplace...This time, I came up with a list of 17.

  1. The New Learning Architect by Clive Shepherd 
  2. The 2020 Workplace: How Innovative Companies Attract, Develop, and Keep Tomorrow's Employees Today by Jeanner Meister
  3. Pragmatic Thinking and Learning by Andy Hunt 
  4. The Art of Community: Building the New Age of Participation (Theory in Practice) by Jono Bacon 
  5. The Agile Samurai: How Agile Masters Deliver Great Software by Jonathan Rasmusson 
  6. The Knowledge Evolution: Expanding Organizational Intelligence by Verna Allee  
  7. Community: The Structure of Belonging by Peter Block 
  8. If You Want To Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit by Brenda Ueland 
  9. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
  10. The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies by Scott Page
  11. Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman  
  12. Flawless Consulting: A Guide to Getting Your Expertise Used by Peter Block
  13. Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire  
  14. Crucial Confrontations by Kerry Patterson 
  15. Deschooling Society by Ivan Illich 
  16. The Medium is the Message by Marshall McLuhan  
  17. Building Expertise: Cognitive Methods for Training and Performance Improvement by Ruth Clark

Monday, January 3, 2011

Books I Wanted to Read in 2010: Reality Check

Update: I have highlighted the books from the list below that I did manage to read in 2010.

Some of the books I am planning to read in 2010...this is not a definitive list and is likely to expand. I am putting up the names here. If you have ready any of the books, do share your comments/reviews/key learning.

Five Minds for the Future by Howard Gardner

Winning E-Learning Proposals: The Art of Development and Delivery by Karl M. Kapp

Non-Designer's Design Book by Robin Williams

ASTD Handbook for Workplace Learning Professionals by Elaine Biech

Delivering E-Learning: A Complete Strategy for Design, Application and Assessment by Kenneth Fee

Creating Messages That Motivate
by Bert Decker

Turning Training into Learning: How to Design and Deliver Programs that Get Results by Furjanic & Trotman

The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature by Steven Pinker

A Fine Line: How Design Strategies Are Shaping the Future of Business by Hartmut Esslinger

Envisioning Information by Edward Tufte

The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward Tufte

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2010 in Retrospect: Top Few Blogs and Books

This post should have made its appearance a few days back—at least a day back—but procrastination sometimes overtakes me. This time, it was compounded by the lure of spending more time with my daughter (since I am in Mumbai after quite a few months) and the writing of the post just never got done. But I have promised myself that this year I will turn more ideas into actions and will not let procrastination rule. In that spirit, I am aiming to get this post out.

This is a quick recap and a list of the posts, articles, and books that have shaped my thinking, provided me with insights and supported or challenged my assumptions. To make it slightly easy for myself, I have divided the list into two parts—1) posts and articles and 2) books.

Posts and Articles

1.       Corporate Learning’s focus by Harold Jarche
2.       Where Social Learning Thrives by Marcia Conner
3.       Designing Training for Organization 2.0 by Gautam Ghosh
4.       21st Century L&D Skills by Charles Jennings
5.       2010 Shift Index - Passion and Performance by John Hagel
6.       Why we need to kill "social media" by Rob Key
8.       Generations, Social and Enterprise: adopt vs adapt by Martijn Linssen
9.       The Evolving Social Organization by Harold Jarche
11.   The Wolf Pack and Learning by Dan Pontefract
12.   No silver bullet in KM by Nick Milton
13.   Rendering knowledge from Cognitive Edge
14.   Work is learning, learning work by Harold Jarche
15.   The Power of Meaning by Thierry de Baillon
19.   Success depends on who we work with by Harold Jarche


  1. The Power of Pull by John Seely Brown
  2. The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Create Better Groups, Firms, Schools and Societies by Scott E. Page
  3. The Drive by Daniel Pink
  4. The Adventures of Johnny Bunko by Daniel Pink
  5. Beyond E-Learning: Approaches and Technologies to Enhance Organizational Knowledge, Learning, and Performance by Marc J. Rosenberg
  6. The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande
  7. The Future of Management by Gary Hamel
  8. Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations by Clay Shirky
  9. Collaboration: How Leaders Avoid the Traps, Create Unity, and Reap Big Results by Morten Hansen
  10. Getting Things Done by David Allen
  11. Building Expertise: Cognitive Methods for Training and Performance Improvement by Ruth Colvin Clark
  12. Pragmatic Thinking and Learning by Andy Hunt
  13. Social Media for Trainers by Jane Bozarth
  14. The New Social Learning by Marcia Conner and Tony Bingham
  15. The Non-Designer’s Design Book by Robin Williams
  16. Crucial Confrontations by Kerry Patterson
  17. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
  18. Working Smarter Fieldbook

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Training, Instruction and Education...we need 'em all...

This was written almost a year ago...but re-posting it here...

I just finished reading Telling Ain't Training by Harold J. Stolovitch and Erica J. Keeps. I am going to quote them liberally in my response here. This book, incidentally, is a must read for all trainers, HR professionals and anyone remotely interested in understanding the nature of learning and in making a difference through training and instruction.

Purpose of Training:
1. To create a change
2. To make certain behaviors automatic
3. To enable the trainee/learner to apply as is to real-world situations
4. To enable learners to produce learned behavior with fewer errors, greater speed and under more demanding conditions
5. To focus ONLY on what is the performance outcome desired

Just being able to follow training guidelines and perform perfectly is not a necessary condition for survival; hence, the need for instruction.

Purpose of Instruction:
1. To help learners generalize beyond the specifics of what is taught
2. To apply learned behavior to similar but maybe not the exact same situation
3. To enable learners to act thoughtfully
4. To facilitate adaption of learning to each new situation

Purpose of Education:
This cannot be taught. This is an act the learner performs when s/he becomes capable--through experience, reflection, assessment--of pulling together all the strands and forming highly generalized patterns. This is directly linked to a learner's value system and outlook on life.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Sawyer Effect: Turning Work into Play

I have just completed Drive and was reminded of Tom Sawyer (quoted by Dan Pink in the book) and my own childhood. 

I was never a very docile child and have been sent out of the classroom on more than one occasion. Mainly for asking too many questions or talking to my neighbour. While the first two minutes or so of standing outside the classroom saw me repentant and subdued, I would soon be engrossed by the black and white marble flooring of the long corridor. This would then turn into a game of hopscotch. I had thus effectively turned the 30 minutes of punishment into play drawing covetous glances from my friends inside caught in the trap of world history or whatever else happened to be going on.

This is what Tom does when Aunt Polly, as a punishment, orders Tom to whitewash her 810 square-foot fence. He's not exactly thrilled.

Excerpts from: The Adventures of  Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

Tom appeared on the sidewalk with a bucket of whitewash and a long-handled brush. He surveyed the fence, and all gladness left him and a deep melancholy settled down upon his spirit. Thirty yards of board fence nine feet high. Life to him seemed hollow, and existence but a burden. 
Till a sudden burst of inspiration hits him. When his friend Ben appears, he makes the job seem like a fantastic privilege.

He had discovered a great law of human action, without knowing it — namely, that in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to obtain.
Tom soon turns the act of whitewashing the fence into a game with more and more of his friends joining him.

Thus, Mark Twain drives home the great motivational force that works with all human beings...

Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do. Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.
And, Dan Pink arrives at the following:

"Drawing on four decades of scientific research on human motivation, Pink exposes the mismatch between what science knows and what business does—and how that affects every aspect of life. He demonstrates that while carrots and sticks worked successfully in the twentieth century, that’s precisely the wrong way to motivate people for today’s challenges. In Drive, he examines the three elements of true motivation—autonomy, mastery, and purpose—and offers smart and surprising techniques for putting these into action."
Once Tom takes control of the task and behaves autonomously, he is able to arrive at a purpose for performing it too...

Can we similarly find a purpose in our daily, mundane tasks and turn work into play?

This book is a must read in this age of concept workers, where intrinsic motivation will play a much greater role than extrinsic ones in deriving the best from the work force.  

Also read:
The secret to great work is great play
Effortless Success – How to turn work into play and succeed on a massive scale

Listen to: 
Tim Brown on creativity and play

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Importance of Questions in the Concept Age


Powerful questions are viral. 

A powerful question also has the capacity to “travel well”—to spread beyond the place where it began into larger networks of conversation throughout an organization or a community. Questions that travel well are often the key to large-scale change.
I was reading the white paper “The Art of Powerful Questions: Catalyzing Insight, Innovation and Action by Eric E Vogt, Juanita Brown, and David Isaac. I came across this paper via the World Cafe site: Conversation as a Co-evolutionary Force. I have quoted liberally from the paper below to substantiate my analysis of why this age demands that we develop the art of asking questions. 

The irony and the truth is that we are so busy coming up with what we fondly believe are the right answers that we forget to ask the right questions.If asking good questions is so critical, why don’t most of us spend more of our time and energy on discovering and framing them? 

One reason may be that throughout our educational life, the focus on having the “right answer” rather than discovering the “right question” has been emphasized. “Talking” in class was discouraged; discussing was not the norm; individual excellence was stressed; there was always one right answer. Questions were uni-directional—from the teacher to the student, from a source of power to the subjugated. Questions came to be seen as a means of wielding authority or, in rare cases of order reversal, as a sign of rebellion or disrespect. 

Thus, right from our school days, we are “trained” to provide the right answers else our grades suffered, entry to sought-after colleges/institutions were blocked.After that, once you enter the “jobosphere” of the corporate world and start your work life, the likelihood is that you will come across managers and bosses, 99% of whom:

  1. Hate to be approached with problems

  2. Are extremely wary of questions and deem that as a threat to authority (ask too many questions and the chances are you will be thought of as a rebel, maybe even a negative influence)

  3. Expect you to approach them with questions as well as the answers (solutions)
How often have you heard a manager say: “Don't come to me with a problem (most managers hate to use the word problem thinking that existence of a problem is a slur on their management skills instead of embracing each problem as an opportunity to probe and explore and make better); come with the solution as well.” Unfortunately, that has become one of the tenets of traditional, authoritative style of management. 

OTOH, how often have you heard a manager say: “Hmmm...that seems to be a “problem with possibilities”. Let's thrash it out, frame all the critical questions we can ask to get to the root of all the possibilities; then we'll try to see what can be the solution(s).” 

The aversion in our culture to asking creative questions is also linked to an emphasis on finding quick fixes and an attachment to black/white, either/or thinking. This approach worked well enough in the Industrial Age and the process-driven work culture (where there was a clear relationship between cause and effect) set in place by Frederick W Taylor with his Efficiency Movement and, subsequently, in the Information Age dominated by lawyers, programmers, MBAs, MTechs, and CAs. 

However, it no longer answers the needs of this age of right brain driven, conceptual, creative thinkers. It is no longer a viable option in a culture that requires innovation, conversation and collaboration to move ahead, to make sense of the chaos, to see the emerging patterns in the change. 

The black and white approach worked when work processes were simple, linear, could be standardized, and yesterday’s best practices still worked just as fine today. Today, according to Dan Pink, Automation, Asia, Abundance have forced creative thinking out in the open. The ability to ask the right question has become more important than the ability to come up with quick fix, short-term solutions.

Asking questions indicates a desire to listen, to probe and understand, to share and converse. All of these are pre-requisites for success in the Concept Age, where organization have moved from simple to complex and approaching the chaotic, where yesterday’s rules cannot solve today’s problems.  

Refer to the Cynefin Framework developed by David Snowden for an understanding of the increasing complexity of today’s environment. The following two posts by Shawn Callahan are an excellent introductions to the dynamics that drive today’s work culture.

  1. A simple explanation of the Cynefin Framework
  2. When should we collaborate?

Thus, the importance of conversations cannot be over-emphasized in this age of high concept and high touch, where effective “knowledge work” consists of asking profound questions and hosting wide-ranging strategic conversations on issues of substance. 
Conversations start with the right question, which brings me back to the topic of my post.  
Suggested readings to understand today’s world…
2.      A Whole New Mind
3.      Informal Learning
4.      Drive
5.      Switch      

The most fascinating find in the white paper was the following bit of information: 

Are there organizations that do place a high value on questions? Consider this: In Germany, the job title Direktor Grundsatzfragen translates as “Director of Fundamental Questions.”As a German colleague aid: “Yes, there’s a job title of Direktor Grundsatzfragen. Some of the larger German companies have an entire department of Grundsatzfragen. These are the people who are always thinking about what the next questions will be. Of course, these people are only in the German companies headquartered in Germany, such as Daimler, Bayer, Siemens, or SAP. If the German company is acquired by a U.S. company, they usually eliminate the Grundsatzfragen positions.”
It is small wonder given the culture that gave birth to some of the most profound philosophers and poets of our time like, Nietzsche, Kant, Goethe, Rilke…

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Metaphor of Personal Space

Personal space is a metaphor of our existence! 

Here's a little story before I get to the crux of my post.

A few years’ back, in an earlier organization where I used to work, I was sent onsite for about 8~9 weeks. When I came back, I found someone else sitting at my workstation. Initially thinking this to be a temporary arrangement, I was deeply hurt to find out that the arrangement was permanent. However, chiding myself for being childish, I wandered around in search of an empty workstation. Feeling as I had felt on my first day in office—lost, confused, rootless—I wondered why it affected me so.

In retrospect, I realized how that incident had almost symbolically marked the beginning of my disconnect from that team. Till the end of my stay there, I could never regain my sense of belonging.

The incident came back to me today as I sat leafing through one of my favorite books, Dan Pink’s A Whole New Mind during one of the fever recession periods normal in Typhoid.

In the book, he talks about the importance of Design and the value that titans such as Karim Rashid and Philippe Starck add to human life. They have moved beyond the merely utilitarian and have added significance to the daily, mundane articles of human existence. Imagine this: “Target and other retailers have sold nearly three million units of Rashid’s Garbo molded polypropylene wastebasket. A designer wastebasket!”

Does it mean people with ample money are throwing their money around? No! Those who bought this item are quintessentially middle-class, and Target is a quintessentially middle-class, middlebrow store.

This need for beauty and elegance, of leaving a mark of our individuality is an essential part of being human. Think of the cave dwellers who painted their tales of valour and passion on the walls of their caves. Think of the remote Warli tribes who simply narrate their lifestyle on mud, charcoal and cow dung based surface. 

People project their identity on to the space they occupy—be it their home or their workspace. Many are willing to pay shocking amount of money to interior designers to create spaces reflective of their uniqueness and individuality. In this way, the space surrounding us becomes the metaphor of our existence.

How often have you walked around your office and on encountering empty workstations of friends or colleagues, commented: “Look at all those Dilbert artifacts! Only L would have a workstation like that.” OR “Those crazy post cards are so typical of A.” The workstations are redolent of a person’s distinctiveness, identity, and sense of belonging.

When we visit a friend’s home, we associate the place with his/her uniqueness. I have a friend whose washbasin is a designer piece with a flower in the middle that acts as the water outlet, and who prefers a wine cooler over a refrigerator in his kitchen. Coming from anyone else, this would have seemed an extremely odd behavior but coming from S it reflects his personality to a T.

Anyone familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy will immediately note that these are directly linked to the Social Need for Belonging and the next level of need, that of Identity.

This brings us back to the importance of Design as the metaphor maker. The design of the space surrounding us is who we are because we fill it with personal metaphors. “A large part of self-understanding,” says George Lakoff, “is the search for appropriate personal metaphors that make sense of our lives.”

Going back to my little tale, since I was moved from workstation to workstation, I could not personalize any of them. I never stayed in one place long enough to build a connection. I used these workstations merely to keep my laptop and complete my day’s tasks, sometimes preferring to work from the privacy and peace of my home.

And each time I passed my original workstation and saw my key chain dangling from the drawer, I felt a small ache. My daughter had bought that key chain for me on one of our trips to Crosswords.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Adaptive Project Framework in Celebration of Change...

A colleague pointed out the article from which I have pasted the excerpt below. Since my primary job is that of a learning solutions consultant and designer of training to corporate organizations, I tend to  apply my learnings to today's training design scenario...

The traditional world of project management belongs to yesterday. There will continue to be applications for which the traditional linear models we grew up with are appropriate, but as our profession matures we have discovered a whole new set of applications for which traditional project management (TPM) models are totally inappropriate. The majority of contemporary projects do not meet the conditions needed for using TPM models. The primary reason is the difficulty in specifying complete requirements at the beginning of the project. That difficulty arises from constant change, unclear business objectives, actions of competitors, and other factors.

While the article is targeted at project managers, anyone who is involved with designing training for a product that is being developed in tandem will understand the challenges such a scenario poses. Trying to pin down the overall scope at the initial stage is like trying to hold on to a handful of sand...You cannot prevent the grains from trickling out no matter how tightly you close your fist. And waiting for clarity on scope and all other "changeable" aspects of a project at the outset will be akin to Waiting for Godot...

The only constant will be the change and change can no longer be perceived as a challenge...

Change will now be a constant parameter in all projects and how we deliver the end solution while embracing change is what will distinguish today's project management from yesteryear's TPM.

What this also means is being comfortable with less-than-perfect information, being able to envision the end without knowing each and every step in-between, being able to ADAPT as the project moves without going off-track, having a finger on the pulse and thinking innovatively...

"From its very beginning to its very end, APF is designed to continuously adapt to the changing situation of a project. A change in the understanding of the solution might prompt a change in the way the project is managed, or in the very approach being used. Learning and discovery in the early cycles may lead to a change in the approach taken...Nothing in APF is fixed. Every part of it is variable, and it constantly adjusts to the characteristics of the project."

I think such dynamic projects have three key requirements for successful delivery:
  1. Collaboration
  2. Communication 
  3. Creativity

I urge all concerned with project management or designing training solutions that the client can use to read this report...Personally, I look forward to such dynamic projects. I will share my recent experience on one such project in my next post.

Introduction to the Adaptive Project Framework

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

In response to: "Motivation is not what you think" by Jay Cross

People need free reign in making their work what they want to do; that’s what works with intrinsically motivated workers. The big payoff arrives when companies are doing the sort of greater good that makes a team proud.

This is an excerpt from Motivation is not what you think from the Internet Time Blog. In Informal Learning, Jay writes about knowledge workers as:

I like to work on things I  help create. I'm always building for the long term while getting today's work out the door. And if I don't feel good about doing something, I probably won't do it well. I work for me first and my organization second.
The two passages talk about motivation in a manner that I completely identify with. Today's workforce need to be kept motivated to deliver their best which culminates in value for the customer. Today's managers and team leads need to be aware of more than just the "facts and figures" and "deadlines and schedules" of a project.

Such knowledge workers who are intrinsically passionate about their work are notoriously difficult to find and keep, writes Jay. And I can understand why! Such people do not work for money, power, position, or credit. They work because they love what they do. They work to be involved in areas they can contribute best. However, when the work environment ceases to reward this passion , they fast lose interest. Such innovative knowledge worker is a "different beast" to use Jay's words.
  1. They are on the constant lookout for knowledge.  
  2. They network to learn.
  3. They collaborate and share.
  4. They are open to change.
  5. They love what they do.

They seek sincerity, honesty, transparency and a free hand to shape the work the way they want to...

What do such workers seek in their managers?
To ensure involvement of such workers, I think managers need to develop some intrinsic skills as well. Some of these, according to me, are:
    1. Ability to listen with an open mind
    2. Probe and question and never cease till a satisfactory answer is found
    3. Constantly seek answers and not take incidents/events at face value
    4. Have the power of empathy (means being able to step into the other person's shoes and put on different lenses)
    5. Be comfortable with laying things out in the open 
    6. Be able to synthesize information from diverse sources and see the larger pattern that emerge
    7. Be appreciative of the fact that for such workers "work is learning"
    8. Realize that involvement motivates them
    9. Appreciate analytical as well as synthesizing abilities
    10. Try to understand instead of trying to convince
What do such workers seek in their work ?
  1. Opportunity to learn
  2. Challenges
  3. An atmosphere of collaboration and sharing
  4. Openness and transparency in communication
  5. Involvement vs. instructions

I am soon going to start reading Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. There will be a part II of this post once I am done with it...

Monday, March 8, 2010

Virtual Team Management

I was going through the Demonstrations and Case Studies on the Enspire Learning website when I came across a marvelous simulation on Virtual Team Management.
You can access the demos by registering.

I recommend this simulation to all those who either are handling a globally distributed team or a project, and to all managers who feel that effective communication is one of the keys to business success. As a part of a project team that is globally distributed at the moment, I realized how important the parameters mentioned in the simulation are for the success of such projects.

The simulation is built to solve the following problem:
Problem: This software company's business continues to grow worldwide, and with that growth new challenges arise. The company sought a way to teach virtual team management skills to a multicultural, transglobal audience of project managers.
The simulation covers some key points that can help to avoid miscommunication, especially for a distributed team:
  1. Important principals of virtual project management like,
    •  Sending the meeting agenda ahead of time
    • Inviting the right people 
    • Following up on decisions
  2. Key stages of a successful meeting--local or global
    •  Preparation
    • Facilitation
    • Follow-up
  3. Criteria for planning virtual meetings:
    • Agenda
    • Communication media
    • Different time zones
  4. Most critical to a project
    • Invite the right people
I will highlight my takeaway from this; I personally found the choice of communication media and inviting the right people two very critical components of successful meetings.
Choice of communication media: Some meetings demand more high context communication than others. High context communication tools like video conference communicate more than just words. These communicate body language and gestures and are best for decision making and addressing problems. Most requirements fall in between and can be addressed by using WebEx or net meetings or phone conferences.

The image below from the demo shows the spectrum of context and the corresponding meeting options.

Inviting the right people: Sending out meeting invites seem to be a fairly easy task; but a failure to do this right can "weaken team trust and rapport". Assuming that someone is busy and hence would not attend or wish to be involved is one of the fundamental mistakes that is often made. Never assume! While, notes the simulation, people on your project team may not be able to refuse to perform, they can give less than their best if they believe they have been slighted.

Do view the simulation for a better understanding of how:
  1. A well-designed simulation can drive the point home
  2. A choice of communication medium impacts meetings
  3. Selecting meeting attendees requires forethought and clarity about the purpose of the meeting

The Anatomy of Bad Communication

"It's the communication, stupid!" as Terry Holley aptly said in the comment.

I found the following post from Quit List #997-Quit thinking you are a great communicator. You ain’t! 
The post seemed particularly relevant to me in this age of information overload where SYNTHESIS and not only ANALYSIS is the key to success.

The anatomy of bad communication...
There are 4 reasons we unknowingly communicate poorly.
1. We don’t realize the listener does not have access to the other thoughts and images in our head which have contributed to a particular thought or idea we have just shared .

2.  We are biased to our own communication
We assume that because we know what we want, and we say the words of what we want, that people will simply understand what we want. 

3.  The picture  in our mind that we are trying to communicate is most likely not the same picture generated in the minds of our listener.

4.  Assuming someone understands simply because they say they understand.

As I mulled over the points, I realized how these parameters can impact all relationships. Taking care of these can help:
  1. Ensure you get what you expect from a job (at least your boss may understands what you want even if unable to provide it)
  2. Prevent employees/team members from being demotivated
  3. Set the right expectations with a client
  4. Prevent "I don't think you understand what I meant" moments
  5. Motivate people to take the desired actions
  6. And most importantly, ask the right questions

Increasingly, in today's complex, information-loaded, globally-scattered work environment, effective communication is the key to business success, team bonding, a unified workforce. Effective communication is the key to successful decisions.
  1. Effective communication enables information to be distributed to the right sources. 
  2. This information through discussions, brainstorming sessions, collective sharing of inputs become knowledge.
  3. This knowledge drives the decision-making process.

Books like Made to Stick, Switch, Naked Conversations, etc., that have become chart-busters are all about effective communication. The need for this is becoming acute as the output demanded to excel require greater innovative skills, creativity, and above all, SYNTHESIS.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Project Management for Trainers: Key Concepts and Learning

I have just finished reading the book, Project Management for Trainers by Lou Russell. At the outset, let me admit that this is a somewhat unusual book for me to read. I am more into books about learning and performance, training, design, creative thinking, innovation and management, writing, and the like.

However, increasingly in my role as an Instructional Designer (ID), I have run up against the necessity to not only multi-task but also to think beyond training solution, learning needs and design. I have also realized that to be an effective ID, there are certain aspects of a Project I would need to understand better and get a handle on.

With this thought in mind, I took some time out to sit down and take stock of the tasks I have found myself doing in the last three months (in varying proportions). I have listed the broad categories of the tasks below (each task has many and varied sub-tasks that I will take up in subsequent posts):

  1. Business Needs Analysis
  2. Performance Consulting 
  3. Learning Solutions Design and Development
  4. Project Management (PM)
  5. Communication (both internal and client facing)
Having arrived at the list above, I did the next level of analysis to find out my weakest area. Project Management jumped out at me in a font size 10 times larger. I admitted to myself that I sucked at, not sucked...had no clue about PM.

This self-analysis became the stepping stone for my research into the kind of books I need to be reading and the resources I should be referencing.

And I picked up the book I have mentioned above. This engagingly written, practical, interactivity-filled, slim book is a wonderful introduction to the basics of Project Management. It covers all the fundamentals in a manner that is easy to understand and does not overwhelm with details. It gives you enough space and opportunity to think over what you have read and apply that practically. The book also provides a list of references and resources and is a must have on the shelf if you want to learn how training projects need to be managed and executed.

Some of the key concepts explained in the book that I have found particularly useful are:
  1. Differences between project and process
  2. Project Management Activity vs. Project Development Activity
  3. The Dare Approach (Define, Plan, Manage, Review)
  4. Arriving at Business Objectives mapping to IRACIS (Increase Revenue, Avoid Cost, Improve Services)
  5. Creating a visual scope document/project charter as baseline
  6. Risks and constraints analysis (measurable methods)
  7. Risk-scenario planning (extremely useful, especially for high-risk project with changing busienss needs)
  8. Building the project plan--step-by-step (creating the Work Breakdown Structure [WBS])
  9. Creating the schedule using the Critical Path anlaysis
  10. Difference between and measurement of Project Duration and Project Elapsed Time (Two Types of Time in Project Schedules)
  11. The Learner First Approach for accelerated learning 
  12. Managing change and change request (everybody's bug-bear and a must know)
  13. Time, Cost, Quality: what's the most important?
  14. Post-project review process--using Systems Thinking 
  15. Using the PACT model to carry out Performance Consulting 
  16. Differences between Learning Event Development and Performance Consulting
  17. Managing external suppliers and vendors
I am planning separate posts on each of the topics above--mainly for my clarity and depth of understanding.

One self-discovery I had post reading the book: I immensely enjoyed reading it. And I can see how if one truly gets involved in managing a project, it can be a challenging, innovative, analytical and highly satisfying task. There are a multitude of variables one can play around with, and these keep changing from point to point within the same project. I have seen it happen and now reading about the levers that can be used to control these make the task so much fun...I also feel it could be addictive...

Some of the resource and reference links from the book:
  1. The International Project Management Association 
  2. International Society for Performance Improvement
  3. Project Management Forum
  4. Project Management Institute
  5. The Training Professional's Gateway



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