February 10, 2011
In Linked Segments I worked hard to be succinct. In doing so, I actually squeezed the life right out of the blog post! Rather than rework it directly, I am attempting to metaphorically add milk, stir, warm, and thus reconstitute the soup rather than a leaving a congealed glob of condensed puree. :*)
I have worked with technical project teams spanning a few to many members . It’s easy to work with a few members – priorities and progress are easy to update – it occurs naturally in the hallway, across cubicle walls, and informal team meetings. It gets more challenging when there are more than about five (5) team members AND when one (or more) is not co-located – the fluidity declines to the viscosity of……..condensed soup!
I could make a list of many reasons why it becomes harder, but I believe the primary one is that with greater visibility (more team members) there is a tendency toward declining informality. Members feel pressure (internally?/externally?) to share only polished work stemming from personal struggles to maintain control and dignity (see my reference to Roger Martin’s work at Technical Complexity). So sharing frequency declines – we wait for members to fully analyze their data, prepare a slide deck, and then present at the next team meeting. These effects mitigate the efficiency and productivity gains of larger groups, because they slow progress down.
Gaining trust and reciprocity that facilitates frequent informal exchange is much easier in smaller groups because protective cliques form readily in small groups. Yet, gaining trust and reciprocity is not impossible in larger groups; it just requires forming a protective tribe – really. This is where the newer ESSP (Emergent Social Software Platforms) have a role. For example, in mid 2008, I began participating in Seth Godin’s online community, Triiibes. I was blown away at how effectively Seth created a large online community that allowed each of us to grow professionally – no polishing required. My blog post On Triiibes celebrates the 1st anniversary of that community and the value that it created — truly amazing!
Two of the very best primers on the subject of forming a tribe:
- Great Boss Dead Boss by Ray Immelman (note: although the title is unappealing, it is an excellent book!)
- Tribes by Seth Godin
When I realized that large organizations (agri-business, pharma, and medical research) were beginning to use larger work groups to increase efficiency and productivity (segment and specialize) I felt compelled to crystallize my most important insights. Unfortunately, my efforts to distill the essence left a blog post with the consistency of solid goo! I hope this greater context makes Linked Segments more readable. 🙂
My long-view message:
- Team members need to feel protected and valued.
Better? Your feedback is welcome and appreciated!
January 7, 2011
A few years ago, I had to sit out a local Valentine’s Day 10k because I sprained my ankle and couldn’t run. Because my friends ran, me and my black-n-blue puffy ankle went and cheered them on. One thing I learned while watching all those runners is that unlike elite runners, very few recreational runners have a beautiful gait. I couldn’t help but wonder how mine looked…that observation planted a seed:
Do I have biomechanical gait errors that could be corrected and that might improve my running and potentially reduce future injuries?
Having flipper shaped feet (very wide toe area and narrow heel), I am challenged to find shoes that fit comfortably enough to allow my toes sufficient freedom. Currently, I wear orthotics to reduce bunionization (due to insufficient toe freedom). Last year, I saw some folks running in the Vibram Five Fingers (VFF) and I was intruiged enough to buy a pair…
As you might imagine, I immediately loved my first pair of VFFs even though they are really UGLY. I am as comfortable walking in VFFs as I am with my orthotics. Although my family doesn’t want to be been seen with me in VFFs, I LOVE them. I wear them everywhere; it’s like going everywhere barefoot but without the acute (puncture) risks! When I first bought them, I was sure that I’d NEVER try running in them, until…
I read Born to Run (McDougall). The concept of barefoot running to improve my gait (and potentially reduce injuries) by improving biomechnical feedback seemed sufficiently compelling that I wanted to try it (remember the seed?). I immediately LOVED how running felt in my VFFs (more relaxed and much more comfortable). Then…
I discovered that I did Too-Much-Too-Soon (TMTS) by acquiring the dreaded newbie barefoot runner Top-Of-Foot-Pain (TOFP). So….
I learned about TOFP on the web, realized my overzealousness and went back to my running shoes. While I healed, I again walked aroud in my VFF’s everywhere until there was no more pain. Then…
I purchased Jason Robillard’s The Barefoot Running Book, to figure out how to get back to that wonderful feeling of minimalist (VFF) running (his running 101 guidance is also on his website) and hopefully learn to improve my gait. Jason recommends that one start very SLOWLY in wholly bare feet because the biomechanical feedback is even more sensitive than in VFFs. He recommends barefoot running on a track: slowly, with very little mileage. So….
I have now run twice (less than a mile) wholly barefoot at my local junior college track. Jason is correct, you feel much more barefoot — who knew that the blue track had a honeycomb surface underneath the rubber? (I can feel it!)
My running gait barefoot is indeed much better (more relaxed, more comfortable, and more joyful), but my real goal is to habitutate my brain to run with this gait even with with my shoes.
Because I just cannot see myself running any real distances barefoot because of the threat of acute injuries – poison oak, puncture, etc., my goal is to be able to run my regular (shorter) routes by spring in my VFFs, but improve my gait enough to be able to half-marathon much more comfortably by mid-summer in shoes. For now, I have blue feet and a friction spot (not quite a blister) to show for my effort, but a commitment to improve. My long-view position on barefoot running:
- Use barefoot running to harness the highly sensitive biomechanical feedback of my body to improve my gait.
- Habituate to the improved gait with running shoes.
- Do no harm – be wary of the perils of barefoot running: TOFP, puncture hazards, latent poison oak leaves on trails, etc..
- Prevent injury and preserve my love of running – strive for relaxed, comfortable, and joyful runs forever.
Jason reminds us, “barefoot running is about feeling, not thinking.” Does your run feel good?
March 25, 2010
After acquiring a handful of consulting clients over the past many months, I have finally embarked on building a real business. I am in the process of creating a manifesto of services and infrastructure to support it.
I recently hired Greg (Cloud Marketing Labs) to build me a website and “market Linda.” He pushed me to define what I represent, how I work, what clients should expect, and more. One of the things Greg recommended was to solicit feedback from my current clients, find out what they liked and what they might value in a future offering. Thinking that I had really over-delivered with clients thus far, I compiled a list of questions and asked for feedback.
It all seemed easy until I received the following feedback relative to Rapport (Beside Manner):
Question: Do you find our interaction to be positive? Did you feel like you better off because you called me?
Answer: I feel that I was better off because of you, but not sure if all shared that sentiment. You have a very strong personality, which is not completely embraced by all.
That was unexpected and I needed to understand how to improve. I immediately committed to understand “strong personality” – it could mean so many things…
I had a follow-up meeting with my client yesterday. (I am grateful that he agreed to discuss this further.) I learned that the negative reaction was associated with a strong recommendation that I had made about how to run a specific experiment and what data should be gathered. In retrospect, I had not taken adequate time to parse, describe the why, and encourage understanding about the data needs. As such, my strong recommendation felt disrespectful and intransigent to some team members. Although there is always tension between Go Fast and Move Slow, ultimately, my desire to execute the experiment quickly got in my way. I must remind myself constantly that a hike is not over until everyone reaches the campsite. It is not possible to go faster (without casualty) than the slowest team member.
My long view advice:
- Slow down – take time to teach and encourage understanding with the entire team. It is not good enough to understand alone, achievement occurs only when everyone has arrived at understanding.
- Stay committed to improvement, know that everyone needs to be reminded to do better – no one is perfect.
- Ask for the last 10%, which is the feedback that is difficult to give, harder to hear, but most important for improvement (described in the book Integrity, pg.120).
- Listen, internalize, and adjust accordingly.
I am extremely grateful for the candid honesty of my client. To that end, I am re-committed to slowing down to ensure that understanding is achieved before asking for execution.
Are you ensuring understanding before asking for execution?
March 5, 2010
In early Feburary, I requested a cab for a 4:00 a.m. pickup from my home to get to the airport. The fare is usually between $36 – $40 (I take the route frequently). I admit that on that morning, I did not notice whether the meter was zeroed before we departed that early morning.
At arrival at the airport, the meter read $52. I unsuccessfully disputed the fare with the cab driver (Chris). When I told him that I wasn’t prepared with appropriate change (I usually paid $40), and that I would need $8 in return (from $60), he told me he only had $3 to provide change. At this point, the driver held my bag (hostage) while I needed to catch a plane, so I accepted the $3 for a total fare of $57 just to be on my way. I explained to Chris that I would be complaining when I returned and I requested that he prepare a detailed receipt including cab #, driver name, and total fare.
I called the cab company several days later (when I had returned), explained what happened and requested a refund. The dispatcher assured me that the manager (Frank) would call me back that day. Days passed, and I called again and explained that I wanted a refund. The dispatcher assured me that the manager (Frank) would call me that day. More and more days passed.
I called my local cab licensing/enforcement agency (an arm of the local police) and explained what happened and how I had tried to resolve the problem. The first thing I was told is that the cab company did not have a driver named Chris, because he was not on their approved (background-checked, finger-printed, allowed to pick up fares) list. I assured her that indeed his name was Chris and that I had paid him $57 for my local trip to the airport.
When the police called the cab company, they successfully achieved a $22 refund and an apology on my behalf. However, it came at a cost — the police opened an investigation because the cab company had allowed an unapproved driver to pick up fares! So even though the cab company had already fired Chris, all of a sudden they are now in the center of a certification investigation. They could have made so many different choices along the way….Karma!
What I don’t understand is why anyone (or any business) freely chooses to be dishonest, deceitful, or exploitative, because it creates only a short-term gain — it is not sustainable over the long-term. Even though it might be “easy” to get away with deceit occasionally in a culture of complacency, it’s a game of Russian roulette. Eventually a strong emotional response to dishonesty (coupled with the energy to pursue remediation) will emerge.
For me, it was initially about my loyalty to a long-term taxi service to let them know about their problem and offer them a chance to remedy my experience. Later, it was about warning others.
People have long memories for both exploitation and generosity. In our crowdsourced world, with services like Yelp! amplifying both, misdeeds/deeds are more durable. Why risk enduring unflattering amplification? My Long View Advice:
- Be honorable; do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.
- Skip the shortcut, especially if safety or credibility is involved.
- Make your choices as if they will be your destiny, they will.
- Eschew complacency and participate in feedback, create opportunity to correct honest mistakes, amplify generosity when deserved, and warn others if necessary.
I have been a long believer that everyone makes his or her own karma. If you live honestly, with integrity, and are generous, you will be reap value and amplify positivity over the long view. Conversely, if you live dishonestly, deceitfully, are exploitative, it will catch up with you.
What kind of karma are you creating and amplifying?
P.S. The destiny poster (at right) is courtesy of my son’s middle school, it hangs on the wall.
P.P.S. I received my $22 check today.
February 21, 2010
I connected more than usual to Seth’s post from yesterday, Moving the line (the power of a zealot). He taps into the conundrum of the community that I exist within, where there is angry division over standards of behavior. Seth correctly observes, “It’s not the principle, in fact, it’s just the degree of compromise we’re comfortable with and content to argue over.” He’s absolutely right!
One of the real challenges is that communities have changed over time and do not respond to the same stimulus and admonitions they used to. We now live in the world of the long tail (many niches), having shifted more and more toward autonomy. As such, individuals expect more fidelity and tolerance for their personal needs/desires than ever before. This requires that communities be more articulate and transparent about what they represent.
I addressed the shift from community to autonomy in my post One Book, Two Months, discussing Putnam’s seminal book, Bowling Alone, and noted that our ability to choose our affiliations is very positive and welcome — we are no longer forced/trapped by ‘tradition’ and/or whatever you were raised. This has meant that community organizations must create compelling reasons for affiliation. And with greater choices, people change affiliations based on whether their needs (autonomy) are being met.
It is no longer sufficient to be an organization that met the needs of past customers to be successful in the future. Every organization must become customer-centric to the currently affiliated (and those they desire to attract). Customer-centric means that when people talk about their experiences they RAVE about how well they were treated, how much they liked the staff and community, and how easy it was to accomplish the ‘why’ of their affiliation.
Organizations must therefore solicit feedback, measure performance, and adapt accordingly (compromise, coexist, and tolerate diversity for mutual benefit). Per Putnam, this must be part of building mechanisms with the tools of our technological age. To survive, organizations need to rise above where they have been, creating accessible guidance and embracing scalable personalization.
Lastly, the shift toward autonomy has intensified long view imperatives for zealots (and the leadership managing the zealots) within diverse communities:
- Zealots need to understand that they are successful when they “move the goalposts” (and not expect to hold out for their ideal if they are a minority).
- Zealots must legitimate the needs of the non-zealots enabling a customer-centric environment (tolerate diversity) to create (more and more) reciprocity, trust, and mutual aid (if they desire to participate within a given community).
Without acknowledging and adjusting to the realities of the shift toward autonomy, some communities are likely to sustain more and more disaffiliation leading to extinction.
Is your community harnessing the tools of the technological age to create coexistence, accessible guidance, and scalable personalization?