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!
July 23, 2009
I love cheering on my friends who are participating in sports because it is a great way to stay connected, to provide meaningful positive reinforcement for the participant, and have fun by participating vicariously. Until now, vicarious participation has been limited by time and proximity or by TV coverage (Olympics, ballgames, etc.). So, unless I have been near enough (and had enough time) to go watch at the friend’s venue or my friend has been an elite athlete that makes TV coverage, I have been relegated to listening to tales and seeing photos later. All that is being changed by customized tracking…
This weekend, a college buddy of mine was crewing on a sailboat that was racing from Chicago to Mackinac (Michigan). During the race, all the boats carried a GPS chip that constantly transmitted data to the iBoat website which then showed the positions and identifying information of all the boats in the race. It was so much fun watching all of the boats race toward Mackinac over the three-day race. As I went about my own weekend, I kept pulling out my iPhone to check-in on the position of my buddy’s boat (the little green dot on the map). What a riot! I would show anyone who would look how my friend was doing in his race – real-time.
Also this weekend, my sister-in-law (SIL) and I ran in a local ½-marathon. Timing was done using RFID technology – a disposable RFID tag was attached to the shoe of every runner. As we crossed the start line, our start time was captured and as we crossed the finish line, our completion time was captured. Because it was a long race, my husband (also SIL’s brother) planned to be back at the finish line to cheer us on (and take our picture). Although we gave him a pretty good estimate (less than 2 hours) of our expected completion time, he tracked our progress via iPhone GPS technology since SIL and I carried phones with remote tracking enabled (my teenagers!). Even though the iPhone tracking worked, it was klugy and not universally available. Imagine what the experience could have been for many others if real-time text-messages (tweets or emails) were being sent via RFID timing portals at milestones along the trail?! I know that I would have paid extra to sign up a for race day texts (or emails or Tweets) as my “bib” number reached various milestones. What an opportunity to create connection and positive reinforcement!
Over the long view, enriching the experiences of others by creating connection and positive reinforcement always pays positive dividends. If you can think of a way to create connection, meaningful positive reinforcement, or camaraderie, as part of your service and/or product, do it because it will build loyalty, returns, and possibly additional revenue! Real-time tracking has added value to many businesses – package delivery, sailboat racing, … I’m hoping that the technology will trickle down to running, cycling, swimming, etc.
I can’t wait to participate vicariously with MORE of my friends through tracking – it will help me stay connected.
Can you create an opportunity to enrich, create connection, and reinforce positively in what you do?