You wouldn't let a single team member dictate all activities to the rest of the team. You wouldn't ignore a member of the team either. Why then is it so difficult to engage in organizational design that considers the people involved, the organizational practices, and the available technology all at the same time? The people involved are certainly considered as we put together a team or task. The practices may or may not be on the table (too often we just do a task the way we've done it before). Technology seems to fall at one end of the spectrum or the other -- either we let it dictate our practice, or we ignore it and eventually may try for force a practice on a tool that doesn't fit. What seems to be very hard to do -- or even to get peoples' attention about -- is considering all three aspects of the design at once. In prior posts I've talked about this in general, and as specifically related to team work. Today the issue came up again as I read C.G. Lynch's blog post for CIO "How Much Twitter is Too Much?" -- Many thanks to Debra, the colleague who pointed me to the post. The author provides a thoughtful discussion of how he/she is negotiating and renegotiating the value of Twitter and other Web 2.0 technologies as part of work.
Social networking and Web 2.0 tools help us connect with people who have the same expertise and interests. These tools keep us out of e-mail hell [I strongly agree with this], while helping us collaborate in transparent, open workspaces (think wikis, for instance). We can discover information serendipitously when someone shares something with us we weren't expecting. So for the time we do waste, I believe it's made up many times over. But we still need to be disciplined about it.Few of us have found the perfect balance and tool set. The tools are changing quickly. Our colleagues are more and less on board with our suggestions and so may or may not consider our suggestions. There is clearly no one set way of doing this. I was also intrigued by the comments to this post. They varied from [I'm paraphrasing with great license] "get a life, walk away from social networking that wastes your time" to [true quote] "Focus and diligence are probably more highly valued character traits in a functioning business person than ever before." On the mark! Focus and due diligence about how to get work done in our ever changing environment is key -- but are these character traits or organizational skills? I'm going to side with the latter -- organizational skill. We can learn to do this and we can teach others. [caption id="attachment_369" align="alignright" width="192" caption="http://www.flickr.com/photos/spigoo/"][/caption] This trick is how to make these ideas "stick." Chip and Dan Heath open their book, Made to Stick, by presenting the difficulty of describing the risks of the 37 grams of saturated fat contained in a medium-sized bag of coconut oil cooked movie popcorn. 37 grams of saturated fat, doesn't sound good, but just how bad is it? It's almost 2 days worth of the recommended total amount. They note that Art Silverman of the Center for Science in the Public Interest found a way to make the issue and the risk "stick." The CSPI called a press conference and laid out a bacon-and-egg breakfast, a Big Mac, fries, and steak dinner with trimmings. They made the big TV shows, national press, and were the cause of major movie chains switching to a different oil. Made to Stick is about making your ideas be understood and remembered. What is it going to take to get the idea that we need to manage people, technology, and practice all at once to "stick?" We certainly can't talk about it as sociotechnical process (ok, I sometimes do -- but I actually know better.) What is my equivalent of a table full of greasy food?