Category Archives for Communications

My five ideas on improving LinkedIn

As a part of me embarking on Harold Jarche’s workshop in Personal Knowledge Mastery (PKM), I decided to expand my use of a social network. Last time I took the workshop (yes, it is awesome), I focused on Twitter. That move has led to a much smarter ways of handling Twitter, including using lists. During this year’s workshop, I decided to become better at using LinkedIn.

It all started with upgrading to LinkedIn Premium to see if that gave me better insights into my professional network plus access to training via Lynda.com. I combined that with engaging in more posts and groups, and so far it is working well. I do, however, think that LinkedIn could be even better at what it does. Therefore, I have the following suggestions on how to improve the platform:

  1. Let me filter the people I follow. This is a must since any professional quickly can pass 500 connections, and then move into thousands. To see all their likes and posts in once central flow creates an enormous noise, and it is hard to hear the signals. I have no clue if I have missed something important. Therefore, let me create lists as in Twitter where I can sort the “Communication Specialist” people from the “Personal Knowledge Mastery” people and the “Haldex people” (or any chosen employer).
  2. Inspire people to connect via mentoring. Learn from the 70/20/10 framework where the 20% of our learning comes from social learning. Being a mentor or mentee can do wonders for your professional and personal development. Therefore, let me mark in my profile if I am ready to act as a mentor, in which professional areas, and for how many people. Likewise, let me mark if I am ready to be a mentee and in which areas. This could connect people in very valuable ways.
  3. Only display relevant job posts. I have written about this before, and it is still somewhat of a mess. Maybe I should be flattered when LinkedIn thinks I can do everything from front-end programming to Key Account Management for used trucks, plus everything in between. But if I was looking for a job, this would instead be stressful. Changing these algorithms should be the easiest thing to fix given LinkedIn’s focus on AI for recruiters. Therefore, only list the jobs a candidate probably would like and where there is a good professional match.
  4. Let me listen more or less to people during set time frames. Even if I follow people that I find interesting, my interests can vary from week to week or month to month. We should all be able to adjust how much we want to listen to certain people during a certain time. For example, since I am soon attending a conference I want to see all posts and interactions from person A the coming month, but only the weekly highlights from person B. Therefore, add a slider for each person in the network where we can say “Listen more” or “Listen less.” Once the time frame expires, we listen as usual again.
  5. Display smarter recommendations of people I should connect with. Given the strong AI focus on LinkedIn, this should be a no-brainer the coming year. Today, there is a very basic recommendations logic where I see former colleagues and their connections. First of all, I should see communications professionals much more often since that is my profession. Secondly, I should be challenged to connect with people that might broaden my views. None of us should sit in echo chambers where everyone agrees, even if it is cozy. Therefore, use smarter algorithms when suggesting who I should connect with and even why. For example, “Connect to Molly since she can challenge your views on the best way of building a digital workplace.”

These recommendations would surely make LinkedIn a pleasure to use. Today it is somewhat of a mess where I feel I miss valuable posts, but LinkedIn can transform this into something good.

Change can be hard, but it is necessary

All companies are going through changes, and must handle them in some way. Things are no different where I work:

  1. Our CEO has resigned to be the CEO of a larger industrial company. Meanwhile, we have a strong and experienced management team to steer the company.
  2. One of our competitors just announced that shareholders representing 86% of our shares have accepted their offer, and they can potentially buy us. Until the deal is signed, if it happens, anything can happen.
  3. We work in a market that is changing rapidly, with self-driving trucks, smart algorithms, platooning, and much more. Our customers are preparing for a trucking and logistics world that is radically different from what we all are used to.

 

70% of the change initiatives fail to reach their targets

One way to handle changes such as these, could be to be worried, complain, and lose valuable sleep. Of course, that is of no use. It is simply impossible to know where all the above lands and we must handle these changes constructively. Meanwhile, many companies approach it the wrong way:

What if everything we have been told about Change Management over the course of the last few decades was all just … plain wrong?

Luiz Suarez hits the nail on the head in his blog post “When Context Transcends Change Management”. 70% of company change initiatives fail to achieve their goals, meaning companies are bad at handling change. Meanwhile, there is a multitude of consultants who want to take our money since they have figured it out, they say. Most of the time, they haven’t. Just look at the numbers. If they were truly good, the results would say far more change initiatives succeeded.

Small actions that change perceptions

Among other things, Luiz highlights parts of the analysis made by Dave Snowden in “Towards a new theory of change” such as:

But the real change in organisations is when you change the way that people connect, and the most profound way in which that connection can be achieved is through small actions that change perceptions in an evolutionary way.  People argue that it is easier to change an individual that to change the system and that may be right.  But if you want systemic change there are simply too many individuals to change to achieve it and it is a lot easier to change the interactions and allow people autonomy over what they are.

Small actions that change perceptions in an evolutionary way. Sounds far more intriguing that the standard grand change management PPT. For those interested, even more myth busting is presented in “Debunking the myths of organizational change management”. Yes, it is presented by Accenture, a consultancy firm, but their presentation is based on a rigid set of data spanning 15 years. For example, it is not the change that causes organizations to go off track. The changes instead just expose what is not working – things you should pay attention to.

Models for change that could work for your company

So, how do we move away from the massive set of bad change programs? There are of course many ways, and I can only mention a few here. Two models that might work are these:

  1. The Cynefin framework, which helps organizations deal with complex problems by enhancing communication and building understanding of the current context, and more. I first heard about it via “A Leader’s Framework for Decision Making“ from a 2007 article and have later learned about it via conferences and more. For an introduction, see Dave Snowden:[x_video_embed type=”16:9″][/x_video_embed]
  2. Moving from traditional Change Management, over to Change Leadership. Yes, it might sound like consultancy speak, but I really believe in the difference. John P. Kotter’s 8-step model as presented in “Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail” – also from a 2007 article – explains this. Also this model focuses on small actions that can change perceptions. Without a sense of urgency, gathering the right people, communicating where we all are going and more, change initiatives grind to a halt. For example, how do you know when the urgency rate is high enough to enable change?

    “When is the urgency rate high enough? From what I have seen, the answer is when about 75% of a company’s management is honestly convinced that business as usual is totally unacceptable. Anything less can produce very serious problems later on in the process.”

    For an introduction to the difference between change management and change leadership, see:[x_video_embed type=”16:9″][/x_video_embed]

Soon, 10 years have passed since the above articles were published. Still, companies fail to change fast enough, and the world that has accelerated even faster during the decade. My advice is to pick a model that makes sense, the above two or not, and then just start. As we heard, status quo is totally unacceptable.

The changing communication landscape

I have worked in the communications and learning areas ever since the 90’s, and my current job is as a communications manager. One thing that has struck me is how the communication landscape has changed the last couple of years. For many, being a good communicator traditionally meant being good at writing. No matter the subject and its complexity, you could turn it into a well-tasting and beautiful dish, that was easily digested. I still see some professional communicators who seem stuck on this “write for the web” island. Now, I would argue this is not enough if you want to be a good communicator.

I recently arrived back from London, where I was invited as a speaker at the Interaction Conference. Luckily, I was also invited to be part of the panel discussion with Gerry McGovern, James Robertson, Sam Marshall, and Andy Williamson. This discussion made me think more about how the role of communicators is changing. Below are some things I think are vital for any communicator, besides the basic writing skills.

As a communicator, you should also know:

  1. Where the company is hurting, and how you can help ease this. For example, if you only listen to top management’s agenda, you might miss a lot. Yes, the new strategy is important, but so are the fundamental communication problems in production unit X that are causing a lot of confusion and potential risk. Walk around. Listen. Make sure you are like an ethnographer at work, trying to understand the daily lives of your colleagues. Once you have this understanding, think about the communication tools and stories to tell. And once you find what is hurting, never mind the vanity figures the statistics give you. If you have 81% or 11% using your ESN is not the important question. Instead, did using the ESN solve your problem?
  2. How people learn at work. Working and learning cannot be separated, and people such as Jane Hart and Harold Jarche (and many more) can guide us in these changes. If you know more about how people learn, then you can tailor your communication to support that.
  3. Business strategy. We are no Robinsonados: Being a communicator should not be a solitary work on a remote island, where we produce funny and well-written stories. Your job is to stand in the middle of the action at your company. You should know where your business is heading and why. Without this in-depth knowledge, your communication skills will not guide your colleagues as well as they could. Here, also read writers like Molly Anglin and for example “5 practical tools for tackling business transformation“. Sources like this can help you as a communicator change how a transformation is done in your company. The clearer you are, the better people will understand what is happening, and new tools can help you do this.
  4. Technology advancements. New tools for communication are arriving every month, and the existing tools are refined. As a communicator, you should know the technical potential of the tools you have, be it SharePoint, Yammer, Skype, or anything else. You should also keep updated on what happens to these tools. For example, if you use Office 365 tools, then follow Microsoft’s blogs for these products. They will tell you which changes are coming and what it could mean to you.
  5. The future of work. As a communicator, I also think you should know how the workplaces are changing. Otherwise, you risk communicating based on older mental models of what is important. Previously, communicators could get away with top-down mass communication. Now, most users avoid this like the plague, and your job is to adjust. Here, the Marginalia blog from Gloria Lombardi can help, plus reading the excellent book “Perspectives on new work,” edited by Esko Kilpi.

I am in no way fully trained in the above areas, but at least they are on my radar. Every day I am taking another step towards being more skilled in these regions. Hopefully, it also makes me a better communicator.

On the road again

This week was the first after the lovely Swedish summer. Once back, I learned that two companies want to buy Haldex. One company, ZF, is now left and we need to wait and see what happens. If they buy us, we take one road, if they don’t, we take another.

Meanwhile, I turn up the sound on the car stereo and have as fun as possible going forward. There is still so much to do to transform our technology into really supporting humans. No matter in which constellation I will work, creating a humane digital workplace is at the center.

Digitalization and culture: From flirt to proposal

Last week, I was honored to be invited as one of the speakers at Intranätverk. The conference, held a few times a year, attracts people who want to talk about intranets and the digital workplace. My talk was (no surprise here) about culture and the intranet: Digitalization and culture – From flirt to proposal. The culture and the technology can flirt all they want, but we must also make sure they walk hand-in-hand.

At Haldex, we make sure we don’t just talk about our culture and the 5Cs. Among other things, we also make sure our intranet serves as a concrete evidence of them. There, we do a number of things to remind employees that our 5Cs are at the center of what we do:

  • The intranet is named “Connect”, after the first C.
  • For each C, we display clear examples of each, based on the business we do. For example, when we presented ‘Collaborate’, we created a video of our product manager for disc brakes telling a story on how great collaboration led to business with a customer.
  • We are building a business portal named ‘Connect the dots’, which is the sub heading for the first C ‘Connect’. Here, we will include all the necessary facts about our company, and the world we work in.
  • The intranet is part of something much bigger, which we can refer to as the Digital Workplace, which in turn is part of creating a great work place. At Haldex, we make sure Human Resources, IT, and Communications drive a mutual agenda for this. At Intranätverk, I included a Venn diagram (they always seem to display the truth and be highly scientific) to emphasize the risks of excluding any of these departments:

DW-group

If Communications is excluded, the workplace can be filled by badly written and overly long PPT files nobody will grasp.

If IT is excluded, people have no access to the tools they need to work effectively.

If Human Resources is excluded, the rest don’t know what to emphasize.

If all play nicely together, we are taking steps to a better workplace tomorrow.

For those who are interested, my full presentation is available at Intranätverk’s Slideshare channel.

Building a humane digital workplace

One of the things that attracted me to Haldex, was the focus on building and maintaining the strong culture. Above, you see an introduction to our culture and its relation to our strategy, as described by our CEO and our VP of Human Resources. Meanwhile, for several years I have been interested in building the digital workplace, but felt that something vital was missing. Why the focus on the digital per se? Why not focus on the goal of building a digital workplace? And how do we incorporate more of Harold Jarche's Personal Knowledge Mastery, Jane Hart's Learning in the Social Workplace, and John Stepper's Working out loud?

When I bought Amanda Sterling's book "The Humane Workplace - People, Community, Technology", the road ahead seemed clearer. In my mind, of course we are aiming to create a more humane workplace, and all companies need to do it their way. That is why the above culture movie is an important start in this work: If culture eats strategy for breakfast, then all efforts to improve a company must start with the culture.

In the coming weeks, I will work more with mapping the typical digital workplace measurements (thanks Digital Workplace Group) to our culture. It is an experiment, but most probably worth doing. Hopefully, other professionals want to join me on this journey. 

No silver bullets among social platforms

Social media has been around for a long time. It has been everything from ridiculed to mind numbingly praised, but still we seem to lack the ONE tool to rule them all. Why?

Basically, working with posting to, and covering, social media channels should be a breeze. But so far, it seems I need to use at least two tools to get my job done professionally:

Hootsuite needs no introduction and it is an awesome tool for covering social channels. I tend to view it as awesome for Twitter, even though they say it is good for everything. Follow and unfollow, use tabs, lists, replies and posts, yes it is all there. I love it for keeping track easily of everything Twitter. But the scheduling function? And the graphical layout? Well, please update.

The other tool is CoSchedule and I heard about it first via Michael Hyatt’s “The one tool you need to master social media“. It looks super cool, works flawlessly, integrates with WordPress and more and is a wonderful gift for global teams. But still it lacks what Hootsuite gives us: Complete listings of social channels.

So my advice for the two companies is: Please marry. Add CoSchedule’s gorgeous layout and scheduling with Hootsuite’s very effective listings and you have a winner. You are both very good at engaging customers via courses, tips and tricks, but you are still two tools.

I also wish all the other tools could find each other, instead of being “91 Free Twitter Tools” just for one channel. Great article, but I need less tools, not more, to be effective.

Sharpest tool in the shed by Lachlan, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  Lachlan