Friday’s Finds: November 16th Edition

by alison

This week I continued thinking about the feasibility of nudging an organisation towards becoming more networked and over the week I ran into a series of interlinked articles that were really helpful. In my travels I also made some related discoveries: one about the need to revisit the standard model for professional development and another that adds insight into the level of vulnerability required for networked work (including some thoughts on how to work on it).

“…implementation has boiled down to two components: individual skills & organizational support. Effective organizational collaboration comes about when workers regularly narrate their work within a structure that encourages transparency and shares power & decision-making. I have also learned that changing work routines can be a messy process that requires significant time, much of it dedicated to modelling behaviours.”

  • Another good piece from Jarche describing why creativity stems from cooperation—it’s not enough to seek collaboration when the work is complex.
  • Clark Quinn has taken the above and run with it, tentatively plotting out the skills and behaviours needed to become a networked organization (or ‘coherent’, as he describes it). UPDATE: Jay Cross has expanded on this work here.

My takeaway: There needs to be both individual and organisational support to foster a networked organisation, and that work begins with individuals seeing the value of working differently. I suspect what I’m sure I’ve heard before—but perhaps hadn’t fully made sense of—that narration of one’s work comes first to demonstrate the value of sharing learning on-the-job and establish trust.

Shell’s Method of Introducing Networked Work

I learned that Shell also has an innovative method to build capacity for networked work. They’ve successfully implemented this withgeographically di sparate teams to help them to work and learn together to deal with complexity. I don’t think there is copyright attached to this work, so I’ll share my notes:

  • Employees refer to a checklist to determine whether a problem is complex enough that neither they could solve it alone, nor could a manager—that it warrants presenting the problem to other team members using the following protocol:
  • The ‘presenter’ prepares ahead to present the problem to two other ‘peer consultants’, who refrain from problem solving and instead ask deep, probing questions to help the presenter to determine the best solution.
  • The result of this increases net learning and knowledge flow beyond one-on-one (reciprocal learning). Having more than one ‘consultant’ holds the peer consultants in check from rushing to solutions, as opposed to asking probing questions. This also works for examining why something went well.

The result:

  • Parties are better acquainted with each other’s work
  • Parties tap into the wisdom and experience of the group
  • Parties learn to see each other as resources
  • Assurance gained that colleagues aren’t alone in their issues (despite geographic isolation, in Shell’s case)
  • Team building effect (trust and support develops)

Introducing the protocol requires facilitation. This process needs to be facilitated in front of the entire team first (at least once or twice) to ensure that all parties know how to use the protocol.

A few alternatives for the facilitation piece:

  • Alternative 1: This can be scaled up a bit, but recommend no more than 10 people and time accordingly. This gives more time to the consultants but can be overwhelming for the presenter.
  • Alternative 2: Can do a large group and run parallel groups (groups of 3 in room). Do 3 rounds. Break into 5 or 6 groups.

NOTE: Virtual teams should try to have videoconference or some other way of having all parties see one another given the level of risk involved in initial practice sessions.

Other Discoveries