Blog #1: Organizational safety - It's safe to ask questions: no judgement, we're all learning together.
"Let me think about the question first and prepare something..."
"I'm hesitant whether i should post a question to the community or..."
"When i have a problem, i'll go to the community..."
It's a reality that some of the team members don't ask questions because they're intimidated and afraid to look incompetent in front of their colleagues. By going online, it may impact their image in front of their managers, affect their evaluation or simply being hesitant about it...Human nature also tends to collaborate in smaller groups, or circles where they have established a solid relationship, a special connection (similar life experiences), an informal bonding (sport, cooking, school...) so they TRUST each other’s. The question becomes: "how to establish TRUST and SAFE CLIMATE to ask openly and freely on a bigger scale? on a much larger basis? among people that have never met or worked together? "
Well, there's no silver bullet or a crystal ball to get a complete answer, but here what we have found while observing the knowledge communities:
1- In the community infancy phase, it's recommended to share solutions/ experiences and to tell success stories of what we have achieved. By doing this, the members will be positioned as knowledgeable with proven expertise and achievements.
2- Co-located meeting at least one time every 6 months will certainly break the ice and establish those special connections (similar sports activities, gastronomy, leisure...) to create personal affinity.
3- Promote knowledge communities as social learning space where we have the right to make mistakes, solve problems, get advice from peers and ultimately learn together.
Blog #2: Escaping the email shadow to organized collaboration.
Were you in a middle of a vacation, meeting, brainstorming, discussion, and you've received an e-mail that distracted your attention? An email that has shift your focus from the present and started to worry about the future? Well now you live in the shadow of that email where you can't finish anymore the ongoing task (enjoy the family time) and can't really solve the upcoming communicated issue in the email.
Emails are one source of distraction in the cognitive realm, that is mainly because the burden to organize the content is on the recipient shoulder. Effectively, the sender is transferring not only the task to execute but also the responsibility to accomplish it.
One way to encounter the emails shadow is to move the technical discussions to online collaborative platform i.e. Knowledge sharing communities where the content is organized through the taxonomy. It's the sender mission to organize the message being communicated and categorize it. The KS analytics engine works to deploy the right message to the right target population. The recipient can opt in for the topics that are most relevant to his/ her daily work. The recipient also chooses the best time to engage in a new discussion or an existing one when needed.
Moving technical discussions out from emails to the community discussion forum can impact significantly the individual as well as the team performance.
Blog #3: Why virtual collaboration is different from remote working or home working?
With the global health situation impacting the way we interact, we find ourselves working from home and are required to continue delivering on our work priorities. Working from home may not necessary present the best ergonomic, private and inspiring space to be productive. Also, to solely rely on virtual collaboration technologies may not fulfill and achieve our work priorities. Still, we are locked down at home and counting on the different collaboration technologies as the only medium to connect with our colleagues and managers.
Some employees may have difficulties in forming a private space to focus on their tasks and keep an optimum performance level. Others are unfamiliar or may feel at unease while using these virtual collaborative technologies. Few employees may lack some suppleness to adapt to the pressing circumstances of being away from their habitual working space at the office. While the rest may lack some behavior agility and find themselves with the inability to handle the new situation.
Practically, we are involved in intensive virtual collaboration activities ranging from simple communication of information to much more complex technical knowledge exchange for problem-solving and project support. In fact, we are all trying to cope with the new reality, adapt our behaviors to the new working conditions and attempt to accomplish our objectives with the desired mastery level. Consequently, remote working is not the same as of virtual collaboration.
The main difference between virtual collaboration and remote working entails a productive working space and a collaborative working mode – all in a virtual paradigm. The virtual collaboration challenge is elevated to find the right balance between being well at my working space and delivering on the job priorities. More precisely, the challenge to keep engaged and productive knowledge workers in a virtual setup is two-folded:
1) what are the elements of a remote, safe and a productive working space?
2) what are the enablers for an effective virtual and collaborative working mode?
On the first question, I’ll reflect with some elements to consider while working remotely and ensuring a safe and a productive working space. First and foremost, employees are encouraged to declare their remote working days into the company HR systems. Having declared their remote days, they will make sure that they are covered by the health insurance program and are complying with all legal terms. Telemedicine or remote consultation should be provided by the company and recognized by the official and public health entities. Daily routines should be set coupled with their dedicated and private space. For example, at home a meeting space should be arranged to conduct online video conferencing in a well-defined timeslot during the day. The rest of the family members may adhere to this video conferencing routine. Special equipment and network configuration may be needed to access company confidential or proprietary information. A VPN connection is required to access business specific applications. A second screen and any other ergonomic hardware or material might be needed for the comfort and the ease of use while being productive.
On the second question, I’ll detail the key enablers for an effective virtual and collaborative working mode, and they are as follow: virtual leadership, knowledge networks, collaboration-oriented business processes and persistent adoption of collaborative technologies.
Virtual leadership rather than remote management: “…this is not what I asked for or expected to get!” this conflictual statement is increasingly probable in a virtual context. Conflicts generated due to lack of common knowledge, agreed expectations and consensual behaviors may be mediated through learning collectively about the team outcomes and the team constituents. A shared knowledge about each and every members’ skills and competencies, and a clear reflection about the virtual team environment are required to moderate the virtual team conflicts. It’s the utmost virtual leader responsibility to promote relationships building over task-oriented management. The virtual leader may provide necessary coaching, guidance, facilitate bonding activities and informal exchange among the distributed team members. Indeed, it’s the virtual leader responsibility to grow trust-based interaction and connectivity. Focusing on task completion and follow up while suppressing the virtual team cohesiveness may quickly draw quality and performance issues.
Reinvigorating knowledge sharing communities and networks of expertise which are the organization pillars to maintain a cohesive and coherent distributed human capital. Knowledge communities amplify the inherent ability of the human which is Intelligence. Knowledge sharing communities contribute to an effective virtual collaboration by structuring and organizing the technical exchange of know-how and by curating the developed experiences and solutions. Knowledge sharing communities also support the development of new expertise. The knowledge we share is the knowledge we use and leverage through the one-to-many knowledge transfer processes.
Re-designing business processes with collaboration principles in mind. Activities such as: “methodology development”, “standard revision”, feedback collection”, “customer troubleshooting” can all be designed with collaboration as main driver. For example, in a context of continuous improvement, a leader has asked his staff to collect the top 10 most impacting problems for an engineering application. Quickly, emails exchange has become cumbersome, duplicative, chaotic and turned into a noisy machine with a lot of divergence. The gathered engineering problems included personal problems and complains. The same activity was implemented through online community platform where the collected problems and issues were organized, tagged and voted up. The activity of collecting the most impacting problems was better performed through the collaborative technologies. Therefore, activities that are intrinsically collaborative should be accomplished by the collaborative technologies. It’s worth to mention that generic collaborative technologies have the same effect as of email-based communication. It’s crucial to consider a fit between the activity requirements and the technology offered functionalities for the best implementation.
Persistent adoption of collaborative technologies. Despite the fact that we are living in the fourth industrial revolution – disruptive technologies and trends – we are still lacking literacy in the use of the collaborative technologies. Trainings are recommended and they are the preliminary action to get familiar with the tools. A deep understanding of why employees use these collaborative technologies and what do they use them for is critical to assure a continuous adoption of these collaborative tools. With their abundance, employees have an active role to choose which collaborative tool will meet given needs. It’s more likely that employees will seek to reuse a given collaborative technology when they satisfy certain aspirations and achieve gratification. The benefits from the usage of these collaborative technologies are perceived to enhance one’s knowledge, strengthen social interaction, provide learning opportunities, enable discovery, and above all generate a sense of satisfaction and gratification.
If the global health crisis has taught us anything about the way we interact and work, it will be the incapacity of our classical systems and working methods to face the rapid changes in a VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) world. It’s the best time to reconsider some of our habits, purposely re-question our routines, and unlearn some of our biases. We certainly need to leverage our fascinating human ability to adapt and evolve our beliefs and behaviors to survive the new reality!
Blog #4: A conversation between a knowledge sharing advocate and a resistant.
In this dialogue, we’ll consider John as knowledge sharing resistant and Bob as knowledge sharing advocate. John and bob are both fictional personages illustrating the motivations and the challenges towards knowledge sharing.
1- Stating the challenges
John: I don’t have time, too many priorities and my workload is overwhelming.
Bob: that’s why I share my experience so next time you face a similar problem; you can save time by applying a better solution.
John: but it’ll open the door for more work and additional questions for me!
Bob: it’s an opportunity to influence and help your colleagues; you may also specify a time-slot to answer the online questions.
John: I’m afraid I may discredit my image – I prefer to answer questions verbally or by email within my circle of trusted people.
Bob: you may miss the opportunity to learn something new by restricting your circle. You’ll also be able to expand your own personal network.
John: ok! But, I’m not a native English speaker, how I can correctly write an answer?
Bob: Well, it’s an asynchronous communication, invest a little of time to learn new terms to enhance your writing skills – exactly as when you write an email, right?
John: my emails are saved in MS Outlook; the online forum will fade away and so my answers!
Bob: Our Knowledge sharing program is officially recognized by our leadership as valuable business productivity tool. We can collaborate, solve problems, and reuse our technical know-how. All know-how is retained and indexed for later reuse.
2- Mediating the challenges
John: will my contributions be recognized, and will my efforts be rewarded?
Bob: the program is sponsored by business leadership and all contributions are tracked and rewarded on a quarterly basis. Contributions can be expressed as experiences, questions and helpful answers.
John: if my direct manager tells me to engage in knowledge sharing activities, I’ll do it.
Bob: Direct managers expect to get the work done in most efficient way. They are aware that one of the drivers for the knowledge sharing program aims to increase connectivity & productivity.
3- Transforming challenges into opportunities
John: Fair enough, but I don’t know what I’m supposed to collaborate on or share with?
Bob: the desired behavior in networked approach is to share your experience in simple sentences, i.e.: a link to a resource, a methodology; a solution to a recurring problem, or a recommendation for product specifications.
John: what will be the first step? Any available training materials?
Bob: Start by joining the most relevant knowledge community to your daily work. Video tutorials are also available in the program homepage.
John: thank you that was helpful!
Bob: let’s learn, produce new knowledge and solve problems together!