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Large team challenges

Posted: - Modified: | enterprise2.0, sketches, web2.0

What collaboration challenges do large teams face? Here are the key problems I often hear from people, organized in a rough flow of how teams encounter them within each category. Can you help me improve this list?


Assets and knowledge

  • Large attachments: People feel this particularly strongly in IBM because the system imposes “mail jail” if your mail database goes over a certain size, and it can take hours for people to archive and reorganize their mail in order to accept the attachment. The problem is exacerbated by large distribution lists that include people for whom the attachment is not relevant. Costs: Wasted time, increased server storage costs, increased bandwidth costs
  • Knowledge maps: Assets are scattered in different repositories and websites. People don’t have an overview of the different information sources the team uses, what to find where, and what to look at first.  Costs: Wasted time figuring things out again or answering FAQs, duplicate work, duplicate storage, time spent answering FAQs
  • Getting knowledge out of people’s heads: When teams start building their knowledge maps, they often realize that much of the knowledge their team relies on has not been written down. Costs: Wasted time figuring things out again or answering FAQs, duplicate work, increased risk of project delay or failure if a team member becomes unavailable. This challenge is usually broken down into:
    • Expertise mapping: Without a shared understanding of team roles, the team can suffer lack of coordination and duplicate work. Even with a rudimentary expertise mapping system such as a list of people and their roles, new team members can begin to find people who may have the assets they need. Without an expertise map, team members must rely on a few well-connected managers or team members to find people, and the process of personal referral can take time.
    • Products and assets: The next step after expertise location is asset-sharing. Without an asset repository of deliverables and working documents that people can reuse, team members may need to keep reinventing the wheel.
    • Experiences, ideas, tips, and best practices: If people can invest in examining and improving their processes and tools, they can share these tips with other team members and contribute towards emerging best practices. Without this kind of reflective practice, however, team members may waste time and miss opportunities due to ineffective or obsolete processes.
  • Managing turnover and risk: As new team members come on board and other team members leave or become unavailable (vacation, retirement, sickness, etc.), the team needs to adapt. Without documented processes and easy-to-find assets, new team members can’t work as effectively. Onboarding effectiveness also affects  morale for both new members and existing team members. If team members become unexpectedly unavailable, the project could fail or be significantly delayed. Costs: wasted time, missed opportunities, less flexibility


  • Meetings: With an increasingly globally-distributed workforce, teams need to learn how to use virtual collaboration tools more effectively. Telephone-only meetings can lead to limited interaction or disengagement. Face-to-face working sessions can incur significant time and financial investments. Costs: Wasted time, travel costs
  • Teambuilding: Without traditional team-building events, team members may not feel as vested in their team’s success, or as comfortable collaborating with people they rarely or have never met. Costs: More friction in communication and teamwork, less effective work, less trust, limited growth opportunities
  • Communication: Multiple one-way broadcasts can be overwhelming for team members, who may end up ignoring newsletters and other e-mail. Without broad feedback channels, team leaders risk having limited insights and lack of buy-in. Costs: Lack of communication and shared vision, duplicate work
  • Peer-to-peer communication: Without a way to communicate with the larger team without being overwhelmed, members may end up collaborating with only a handful of people. They don’t benefit from other people’s experiences or shared resources, and other people can’t build on their work. Costs: Wasted time, duplicate work, more limited growth opportunities


  • Working with people outside the team: Team members often need to work with people who may not have access to the team’s resources. This collaboration typically involves lots of e-mail. New collaborators may not be aware of the project history or assets. Distribution lists go out of date or are not consistently used. No one has the complete picture of the project. Costs: Wasted time, frequent miscommunications
  • Working with people on multiple projects: The problem of coordination is exacerbated when team members juggle multiple projects. Making sure that new collaborators receive all relevant, up-to-date information can take a lot of time if the assets and project decisions are scattered among lots of messages in people’s inboxes. Costs: Wasted time, frequent miscommunication
  • Publishing externally-facing information: A team often needs to provide overviews and other information for other groups. Without a single up-to-date collection of information, team members need to find and send the most relevant information each time it’s requested. Costs: Wasted time, inaccurate information
  • Regularly coordinating with other teams: A team may need to regularly keep up to date with the work of relevant teams, without being overloaded by updates. Cadence meetings take time and can be difficult to schedule. Without a record of the discussions and other ways to share updates, team members may struggle to identify relevant news in a time-effective manner. Costs: Duplicate or incompatible work, leading to wasted time

Does that resemble what you see? How can we make this list better?


Goal: Map the challenges, look for teams that address these challenges well, make preliminary recommendations based on their practices, and  then help teams identify their priorities and next steps

I’d like to build the post-connector workplace

| connecting, enterprise2.0, ibm, social, web2.0

In a large organization, there are two ways to create great value: you can know a lot, or you can know a lot of people. Even within formal hierarchies, there are connectors who influence without authority. As organizations take advantage of social networking tools, connectors can keep in touch with more and more people.

Even new hires can be connectors. It’s a great way to get all sorts of interesting opportunities.

It can be tempting for connectors to try to hang on to that power. They might introduce people to each other, but not share their organizational knowledge of who’s where.

Me, I want to build the post-connector workplace.

I don’t want the power that comes from being the relationship or information broker. I don’t want to be the perpetual go-between. I want to build what I know into the foundation, so that everyone can use it. For me, that means building strong communities and knowledge maps.


Even connectors who can remember thousands of people are biased by recall and limited by their networks. Passing a question through personal networks take time and result in a lot of duplicates. Networks that depend on connectors lose a lot when those connectors leave.

I’d rather look for new talent than just refer people to the people who come to my mind first. I’d rather build the capabilities into the organization so that everyone knows where to go and how to connect. I try to share everything I’m learning, and I work on connecting dots in public instead of in private.

It’s not about how many followers you have or how influential you are, but about how well the organization and the world works even after you move on.

Thanks to Rosabeth Moss Kanter for the nudge to think about connectors!

Thinking about the Smart Work Jam

Posted: - Modified: | enterprise2.0, work

The Smart Work Jam discussions will be available until October 3. I’m strongly tempted to figure out how to slurp down the content into a database so that I can look for patterns and insights, but I suspect they’d mind. So I thought I’d think about what I want to get out of the Jam, and maybe I can find more effective ways to do so. At 2262 posts, the Jam is overwhelming. Can I focus in order to pull out the insights I want?

Jams are great for IBM in terms of tapping collective insight, but they’re also good for individuals like you and me. I like reading Jam posts in order to find out what people are thinking about, what they’re concerned about, what needs they see, where they think we need to go. I love it when people share their thoughts and I can think of a tool that does most of what they want, or I can introduce them to other people who are working on the same ideas. So the key things I’m looking for here are:

  • What do people want or need?
  • Who are interested? (This may point to the need for a community, or something I can do to help connect the dots.)
  • How can we continue the conversation?
  • How can we act on these ideas?

I’m particularly interested in virtual collaboration, and I’m also interested in multi-generational workplaces. I care more about collaboration tools than about multi-generational workplaces because I think that globalization and work-life integration place more stress on the workplace than generational differences do. I’m interested in the specific issues people run into when working with globally-integrated teams. I’m interested in the tasks people often do, and how we might use collaboration tools to do that work more efficiently and effectively. I’m interested in helping people connect and collaborate. So in terms of the Smart Work Jam, that would be “The Future of Team Work”, “Work Without Boundaries”, and “Smart Work 2020”.

… some time later…

Okay, I’ve blogged about some of the insights I picked up. (See blog posts immediately preceding this one.) Here’s another highlight that didn’t neatly fit into a blog post:

Successful Teamwork does not Need High Tech! – turned into a great discussion of group dynamics when text chat is available. One group found that when they were using Second Life without the VOIP chat (so text only), colleagues from Asia were more likely to participate than usual. Once VOIP was integrated, that dynamic shifted, and the colleagues from Asia were quieter. Another group had the same experience, so possibly voice chat inhibits both voice and text chat for people who are less comfortable with the primary language. The thread also has interesting insights drawn from research into the Fedora open source development community.

So I’ve stuffed lots of posts into my brain and contacted a couple of people. Now it’s time to let them percolate for a bit…

Enterprise 2.0: The business value of social networks

Posted: - Modified: | enterprise2.0, happy, research, web2.0

Both our internal Social Networks Analysis community and Colleen Haikes (IBM External Relations) tipped me off to some absolutely fascinating research on the quantitative correlation between social networks and performance based on an analysis of IBM consultants. You can read the research summary and view the presentation, or read the research paper for all the details. Highlights and what I think about them:

  • Structurally diverse networks with abundance of structural holes are associated with higher performance. Having diverse friends helps. The presentation gives more detail – it’s not about having a diverse personal network, but it’s about connecting to people who also have diverse networks. I suspect this is related to having connectors in your network.
  • Betweenness is negatively correlated. Being a bridge between a lot of people is not helpful. The presentation clarified this by saying that the optimal team composition is not a team of connected superstars, but complementary team members with a few well-connected information keepers.
  • Strong ties are positively correlated with performance for pre-sales teams, but negatively correlated with performance for consultants. Pre-sales teams need to build relationships, while consultants often need to solve a wide variety of challenges.
  • Look! Actual dollar values and significant differences! Wow. =)

    Here’s another piece of research the totally awesome IBM researchers put together:

    A separate IBM study, presented at the CHI conference in Boston this week, sheds light on why it’s easier said than done to add new, potentially valuable contacts to one’s social network in the workplace.  The study looked at several types of automated “friend-recommender” engines on social networking sites.  The recommender engines used algorithms that identified potential contacts based on common friends, common interests, and common hyperlinks listed on someone’s profile.

    Although most people using social media for the workplace claimed to be open to finding previously unknown friends, they were most comfortable with the recommender engines that suggested  “friends’ friends” — generally, people whom they already knew of.  The friend-recommenders with the lowest acceptance rates were those that merely look at whether people have similar interests — although they were the most effective at identifying completely new, potentially valuable contacts.  Friend-recommenders that took the greatest factors into account were deemed the most useful.  (IBM’s Facebook-style social networking site, Beehive, uses this type of friend-recommender engine.)

    Personally, I don’t use friend recommenders to connect to completely new people, but they’re great for reminding me about people I already know.

    Check out the research – it’s good stuff. =)

    (cross-posted from our external team blog, The Orange Chair)

    Recording of Enterprise 2.0 and Knowledge Management lecture

    Posted: - Modified: | enterprise2.0, kaizen, presentation, talk

    So here’s my first experiment with publishing a picture-in-picture recording of one of presentations – specifically, the presentation I did last night.

    [kml_flashembed movie=”” height=”355″ width=”560″ /]

    Slides and class notes
    Planning the talk

    Lessons learned:

    • The audio from the webcam turned out to be much clearer than Camtasia Studio’s recording, because Camtasia picked up only the audio from the computer’s microphone. I need to fiddle with the settings some more to get Camtasia to listen only to the webcam. The audio was better than the audio on my voice recorder, too. That’s probably because my voice recorder was on the table behind me, and I didn’t have a lapel microphone. If I add a belt clip to my voice recorder and dig up that lapel mic I bought some time ago, that would be a good experiment.
    • I remembered to set everything up! Hooray! Voice recorder, webcam, and Camtasia recording of slides.
    • Splicing the slides and the webcam video was easy, although I kept running into weird problems – my silenced audio still kept showing up in the finished video. I deleted the Camtasia recording of my presentation and manually inserted my slides.
    • I lowered the video quality to 3 frames per second. It’s a bit jerky, but it does shave off some 20MB of disk usage. What do you think? I could also try rerecording this (or recording a different talk) with a close-up webcam video.
    • I’m hosting everything on my own site, as I haven’t found a good place to put things like this yet.
    • I spoke slower this time. Occasionally sipping water reminded me to slow down and breathe. This is good.
    • I enjoyed answering and asking questions. If I were to do this talk again, I’d probably trim this down to five or seven items and then have more of a discussion.
    • It was a good idea to get someone to promise to take notes and share them. Yay! I should build up a store of things to give away.
    • My computer was at stage left, so I could read the screen without looking back.
    • I suspect I’m right-biased in terms of eye contact, so I can make more of a conscious effort to look to the left. I did make sure to make eye contact with folks there some of the time.
    • My left mouse click is still broken (it’s software, not hardware; very strange) and my wireless mouse ran out of battery. Fortunately, I figured out how to use Microsoft Windows MouseKeys, so I could still set up everything I needed to set up before the presentation.
    • W- was there for transportation and moral support. I’m so lucky!

    To make this even better next time, I can:

    • Put the webcam on stage right instead of stage left, for a more natural orientation when viewing the video and slides. This could be a challenge, because projecting stations are usually on stage left.
    • Offer other incentives for people to take notes and share them
    • Figure out better hosting for the video
    • Experiment with different video and audio settings
    • Start saving up for a digital camcorder?

    Kaizen – relentless improvement! =)

    Notes from Enterprise 2.0 and knowledge management talk at Schulich

    | enterprise2.0, talk

    Thanks to Michael Woloszynowicz for typing up these notes from my talk last night!

    • What is KM?
      • Lots of value if you can share the knowledge in peoples heads with others
      • Finding the person that is best suited for a project
    • Enterprise 2.0
      • Like web 2.0 but geared towards companies
      • Utilizes user technologies e.g. Blogs, Wikis, etc.
    • Why care about enterprise 2.0
      • Differentiate yourself, give you an advantage
      • Broaden your network
      • Number of knowledge issues that companies are struggling with
        • Companies don’t know what to do
      • You will be in the position to make a difference
        • Companies will turn to younger generations to help
    • Enterprise KM is not about the tools
      • Tools change
      • It’s the changes they bring that is important
    • Knowledge is power, 10 areas of questions
      • What is knowledge (document? person? interaction?)
        • Can take a document centric view
        • But you can’t write down everything
          • This  is where people come in, find the right person
          • Not what you know but who you know
        • Sometimes you need the combination of the people and the situation
        • When looking at a paper, you need to know what view the author is taking
      • What do you do with knowledge? Hoard? Share?
        • Knowledge is power
        • Knowledge is something to be kept secret or controlled
          • You can charge lots of money for it
        • Another view is that you can share it, and that is power too
          • Why only limit your knowledge to a few people
          • By sharing it you become an expert
          • People come to you looking for advice, this gives you job security
          • People will also come to you with ideas
        • Differences between hoarding and sharing mindset is important
          • The success of your web 2.0 initiative depends on it
          • Some people do not want to share
        • What’s in it for you?
          • In the short term it can help you to find the information you need and help you practices communication skills
          • You get scale, people know about you
      • Formal vs. Informal
        • Sometimes input involves filling out set fields
        • Things such as Wikipedia are much more informal
        • Newer technologies are much more informal then older ones
          • Get the information out quickly and refine over time
          • There are advantages and disadvantages to this
            • Some people like structure
            • Others like the freedom and not be constrained
            • Constraints may stymie information sharing
              • Informality is quick
        • Informality has a lot of value
          • You can refer back to your old information
          • You can pass it to others
          • People can find it through searches
        • By making it easier to contribute knowledge, you get more of it
      • Relating to formal vs. informal is who has the information? Experts? Novices?
        • Sometimes experts are not the best resource
          • Experts can leave out steps because it is second nature to them
        • Really what you may need is someone that knows more than you
          • Novices can teach you the pitfalls and issues in language you understand
        • Enterprise 2.0 is about everyone contributing what they learn along the way
        • People often don’t contribute because they feel they are not an expert
          • But by learning, others can learn from you
          • For example, have a new hire record their learning
            • Expert can check it to make sure they are on the right path
            • Other can then learn from it
        • Experts and novices can get into conflict
          • Novices that share information become go to people and eventually become experts themselves
          • Mentoring can help to prevent this
      • One tool vs. many tools
        • Some people wait to try things only when others are using them while others want to be early adopters
        • Late adopters and early adopters are sometimes in conflict
          • Email vs. Blogs
        • Too many tools lead to integration issues
        • What happens if a tool goes down?
        • In enterprise 2.0 it pays to introduce one thing at a time and choose the tools carefully
          • Start with your business needs and find the best tool to solve the problem you are working on
      • Managing or facilitating?
        • One of the key things about enterprise 2.0 is collaboration
          • It’s not about submitting a document and closing the process
          • Capture what people are doing and learning along the way
          • Facilitation of collaboration
      • Inside or outside?
        • Companies used to feel that they are the experts in what they do
        • Hire other experts and give them tools to collaborate
        • Now people outside an organization are collaborating
          • Opens up lots of opportunities for companies
          • Can pose problems to the general public for a reward
          • When you can tap the knowledge of those outside the organization you can get more variety and better results
          • E.g. ideastorm
        • Enterprise 2.0 blurs the boundaries between inside and outside
          • Co-creation
      • Adoption is not always easy
        • Culture has a lot to do with it
          • Social, generation, etc.
        • How do you deal with these problems?
          • You have to tell people what the personal benefit is
          • If there are no benefits, people won’t participate
          • Monetary incentive is not the greatest approach
            • Can lead to gaming
          • Appeal to other aspects
            • External recognition? Self fulfilment?
          • Make it part of the way people work
            • Otherwise there is no time to input information after the fact
          • Innovators and early adopters are not a great example, find people in the middle to serve as ambassadors
      • Metrics and ROI
        • How do you quantify these initiatives? What do you measure?
          • Do you measure time savings?
            • Maybe time saved isn’t used to the companies gain
          • A lot of the value is intangible
          • Measure savings on travel or other costs
          • Gather metrics on search results
          • Before and after studies
          • What is the percentage of people using it
        • Metrics you choose will influence user behaviour towards the things you want to gain
      • What next?
        • A lot of value is gained by trying it out
        • This can be outside of work, things that you are passionate about

    Talking about Enterprise 2.0 and knowledge management

    Posted: - Modified: | enterprise2.0, talk, web2.0

    UPDATE: Fixed Wikipatterns URL


    I’m giving a lecture on Enterprise 2.0 and knowledge management at the Schulich School of Business (York University). There’s so much to talk about, but I’d like students to walk away with:

    • an understanding of how this is personally relevant to them, and
    • an understanding of the cultural and technological changes,
    • some resources they can check out for their paper,
    • concrete next actions they can take to learn more and make the most of the opportunities.

    What I’ll discuss

    Enterprise 2.0 encompasses many things. For this talk, I’ll focus on how emerging tools help us organize and share ideas, information, and experiences. I won’t dwell on emerging tools for communication, collaboration, or other aspects of Enterprise 2.0, although as you’ll see in a bit, those capabilities are difficult to separate from knowledge-work. I’m looking forward to finding out what tools class members are familiar with, and which they participate in: blogs, wikis, social networks, asset repositories, and things like that.


    Let’s start with why it matters. Why should these MBA students care about Enterprise 2.0 and what I have to say about it, and why do I care that they care?

    The first and most immediate reason is that their professor has assigned them (or will be assigning them) a paper on knowledge management and Enterprise 2.0, and my lecture can help them find out about resources and understand some of the key concepts.

    The second and much more valuable reason is that if they start applying these concepts now, they can deepen their knowledge, broaden their network, and strengthen their reputation – helping them differentiate themselves from other applicants when they look for a job, or helping them differentiate themselves from other companies when they start their own. These ideas can also help them share even if they’re not experts, make a difference even as newcomers, and create value on a scale that was difficult to do before.

    The third and most far-reaching reason is that if these MBA students graduate and go into companies with a deeper understanding of what Enterprise 2.0 is like, then eventually, these seeds can grow into the bottom-up and top-down support that can really change the way we work. In Enterprise 2.0, many companies look to new recruits and fresh graduates for a deeper, almost instinctive understanding of new tools and concepts. If these students understand the ideas and tools behind Enterprise 2.0, then they can help their companies move forward.

    That’s why I care, and I hope to help them learn more about why they should care too.

    Cultural and technological changes

    On the surface, it’s easy to talk about tools. E-mail, blogs, wikis, asset repositories, shared drives, group websites… All those tools have different capabilities, and each has advantages and disadvantages. If you search the Net, it’s easy to find examples of companies using any of these tools for knowledge management.

    What I’m really interested in, however, is culture. Mindset. Attitude. And I’m interested in that at the individual, team, community, network, organization, and ecosystem level.

    So I came up with a list of interesting contrasts. The core idea is still the same (“Knowledge is power”), but there are all sorts of aspects around it.

    Document, person, or interaction? What is “managed” under knowledge management? What does knowledge management really mean? Is knowledge all about documents that need to be organized, categorized, and stored? Does it live it people’s heads, so the “killer app” is an expertise locator? Does it come out in the interactions between people and other people, resources, and situations? I want to call their attention to different ways of thinking about knowledge, so that they can be aware of their perspective and they can recognize the perspectives taken by the different papers and resources they’ll come across.
    Hoard or share? Is knowledge something to be hoarded and kept secret so that you can gain power by controlling access, or is it something that you share widely so that you can gain power that way? The difference between these two mindsets is one of the key challenges of adoption.
    Formal/structured or informal/unstructured? (or the spectrum) Is your end-goal a neat repository of cleaned-up documents, or a platform for ongoing work? In the past, most knowledge management initiatives focused on formalized assets. With Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0, we’re finding that making it easy to share ongoing work can create a lot of value and get better participation. That brings in its own challenges, too, like finding things. Taxonomies vs folksonomies also come into play.
    Experts or novices? Do you want contributions only from experts, or can you get value from the work of novices and amateurs? This has implications for learning and search.
    One place or many? Are you looking for just one tool for storing, organizing, and searching all the knowledge, or are you looking at ways to integrate many tools with each other? It’s a mess either way. The mix of mindsets adds conflict and tension to adoption, so watch out for that.
    Knowledge management or knowledge creation? Do you see KM as the end-point of a process, or as something done throughout a process? This affects adoption, culture, and lots of other things.
    Inside or outside? Is the knowledge and experience you’re looking for entirely within your organizational unit, or can you find a way of engaging and learning from people outside?

    Hmm, I think Wikipedia would be a good example to use, because they’re probably familiar with it, and I can also talk about corporate use. I’d like to talk about blogs as well, because that’s something they can take away.


    • Check out bookmarks: enterprise2.0 + km
    • Search for Web 2.0 or Enterprise 2.0, knowledge management (anything recent probably talks about Web 2.0 as well), or specific technologies such as blogs and wikis
    • Read analysts such as Forrester and Gartner
    • Find research papers
    • Read books like Influencer and Generation Blend
    • Check out Bill Ives’ blog (link is to KM posts) and other blogs about knowledge management
    • Find case studies on Cases2.
    • Look for Enterprise 2.0 and KM-related conferences, and look for related speakers and bloggers.
    • Check out Wiki Patterns for adoption tips and ideas about the challenges people face when introducing KM tools into real-world groups. (UPDATE: Fixed URL, thanks!)

    Next actions

    If people want to try these ideas out, they don’t have to wait until they graduate and join a company with Enterprise 2.0 tools.

    Here’s how to get started:

    • Set up a blog. Share your experiences and your lessons learned. Share what you’re learning. Share what you’re good at, and share what you want to get better at. Teach people along the way. This will help you learn even more and connect with more people. It’ll help you when you’re looking for a job, too – it’s a public portfolio of how you communicate and how you think. If you’re intimidated by the idea of writing in public, give yourself permission to figure things out, and just get started.
    • Organize and share what you know. You’ll probably come across lots of resources while reading. Bookmark them and share them with others. You’ll all benefit in the process.
    • Read a lot. Look for blogs related to your passions and career interests, and add those blogs to your feed reader. Find other resources related to your interests, too. You’ll learn a lot, you’ll pick up the vocabulary and jargon of an area, and you’ll get a better sense of what’s going on.
    • Experiment. Try things out. Curious about wikis? Find out how other people use wikis, then make one. Bonus points if you explore group knowledge management tools with other people, because then you’ll also learn along the way about the challenges of adoption and how to deal with them.

    I don’t feel anywhere near ready, but I do feel as if I have something to share, so that’s good. =)