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  • December 2017
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Reflection on facilitation of a meeting for community of practice missing the direction

After quite a while, once again I have participated in a facilitated meeting as a participant instead of facilitating it. It was AgNIC (Agriculture Network Information Center) annual meeting, and the facilitator was Jerinyl Veldorf from Library Organization and Development, University of Minnesota.  I liked her approach and decided to write a summary that can be of use in the future.

AgNIC is in a changing point of its history and needs to redefine where to focus in the future. There were many new faces in the meeting, different interests, different level of knowledge and level of engagement.

Facilitator started with SWOT analysis in a World Cafe arrangement – about 50 people in the room split into eight groups (practically running SWOT twice in parallel). Instead of moving the groups around, we have moved the flip charts, and it worked pretty well. In the end, each group that started a topic summarized notes from the flip chart (in some cases more than one) and one person from the group presented the key points in the plenary.

The next task (after a coffee break) was to define possible new mission and key outputs for AgNIC. We all ‘brainstormed’ our brains and presented the ideas to the group around the table (again groups of 6-7 people). The challenge was to come to a mutual agreement/consensus, so if even one person didn’t agree with what somebody else proposed, it wasn’t included in the report flip chart. Then the two parallel groups merged (coming from eight to four groups) and compared their ideas (flip charts) trying to reach consensus as in the previous activity. Final four reports were sticked on the wall, and each participant voted with five dots for the most attractive mission statement and outcomes for AgNIC (DotVoting).

Finally came the time to propose concrete action steps. Jerinyl used Card collection & sorting: each of us got a number of PostIts to write down specific action points/steps, keeping in mind earlier defined mission and key tasks for AgNIC. Again we were eight groups separately sticking the PostIts on the wall, grouping them and defining commonalities for each group in two words – verb & noun. In the end, each group presented the outputs – usually two words describing specific activity – example: ‘setting standards’. Two people were capturing all these outputs in parallel in two flip charts, filtering duplicates and linking similar action points. In this way, we have arrived in about 20 quite tangible action points.

Unfortunately, this was the end of the process, and the next steps will happen through email or online communication, which makes me bit skeptical.  Personally I think it would have been better if we had 1/2 or 1 more day is available. Selected group of people would work overnight on those 20 action points – including some more details/ideas from the PostIts. And in the following day small groups would work on very specific small projects, assigning responsibilities, tasks, timelines, priorities …. However, I have to say, I was impressed by smooth progress and tangible results of the process setup by Jerinyl.  I have very much enjoyed the day and got inspiration for my future facilitation adventures.

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Quo vadis Yammer?

Yesterday (Apr 25) I had an opportunity to participate in Yammer on tour event in San Francisco. It was really an eye opener for me. Currently Yammer has over 5million users and it’s growing in speed of approx 1/4 of a million/month.  If I got it right, it seems that through online social networks we are now witnessing several  paradigm shifts (which are reflected in some upcoming Yammer’s features:

  • The rise of ‘consumerization‘ of enterprise  software = enduser decides
    • due to the fact that today a common employee (enduser) can pull the technology/software that suits him (from the cloud) without waiting on what the management decides and company implement is the utmost usability check – will they adopt or not?
    • Yammer’s CEO presented scheme summarizing, that while in 1990s most companies had their stuff and applications ‘on premises’; in 2000s ‘on clouds’, what leads nowadays is what he called ‘Fremium’ –   limitless number of choices that we all have (Indeed resulting in fragmentation of content/knowledge)
  • Yammer is presented as ‘The new Intranet‘ –  transforming intranet to ESN (enterpse social network)
    • on cloud (instant, no upgrades, low costs)
    • social (people centric – by people for people)
    • mobile (fully compatible with mobile devices, pads etc)
    • viral = voluntarily adopted
    • Social network is about SPEED = sharing now, not tomorrow
  • Yammer acquired One Drum – platform that carries a Microsoft Office app that allows users to edit Excel, Word and PowerPoint documents with colleagues in real time, the feature that is expected to be added to Yammer in Summer 2012. Another new feature that will come in few months is Sync – access to Yammer files from desktop through a shared folder – drag and drop synchronization with the Yammer cloud and coworker desktop
  • Yammer’s Universal Search really works – universal search feature is being released in these days –  which will through individualized search algoritm provide better match for our searches
  • PREMIUM groups – yammer-active teams can upgrade without waiting until (if) the whole company decides to upgrade. Premium features include more space for sharing files, possibility to moderate content and membership, mark files and pages as ‘official’ (e.g. final versions), enable external file sharing, etc.
  • Yammer feeds can be embedded practically anywhere (but I understand that content will be visible only to those who have login credentials for given Yammer group/feed)
  • Yammer guys also see as one of the keys to their success Mobile Apps so they continue to work on apps for all Iphone, Android, Windos Phone and BlackBerry.
  • Philosophy of Yammer is not to rip & replace existing enterprise systems (which costed companies tenths of thousands of dollars), but instead integrating & migrate to yammer (with those most common platforms – e.g. Sharepoint or Microsoft Dynamics) and customizing (see all yammer apps at https://www.yammer.com/yotsf/apps)

 Changing from Intranet to ESN (enterprise social network) indeed is a paradigm shift, which requires thorough preparation. Four keys were mentioned as necesary for social success:

  1. PLAN – roll out and sustain, define where you go, even if the way how to get there changes while ‘on the road’
  2. TEAM – compose team with complementary skills
  3. Create AWARENESS
  4. Governance

As an example was discussed Yammer’s adoption in Deloitte:

  • Deloitte has roughly 190,000 employees in 50 countries
  • One team made experiment to replace email by yammer (nobody from the team wanted to return to use email after one week)
  • Nowadays Deloitte’s Yammer has 50,000 registered users with in average 8,000 msgs/week (seems like 80:20 ration is true here as well)
  • Used AFA concept: Aim – Fire – Adjust

and few learnt lessons/tips:

    • Communicate early & often
    • Adoption needs a lot of attention – it doesn’t happen on its won
    • Expect skepticism
    • There is no wrong way to use Yammer
    • Keep rules to minimum
    • Nurse group of champions (early adopters?)
  •  Three mentioned strategies to speed up adoption:
    • ‘Make them do it’  –  involve managers/directors
    • ‘Make it fun’ – contests
    • ‘Remove other legs’ (cutting other comm channels or letting them naturally die)

Relationship is Conversation‘. If you are not having a conversation, you are missing an ocean of opportunity.

Some interesting resources:

* did you check recently Yammer feature list? No? do so – ever growing list of functions applications and tools at https://www.yammer.com/product/feature-list/

* Aragon Research: Special Report – The social enterprise

Will social media kill off the intranet in years to come? 

* Yammer blogpost about the event itself and the links to PPT  and other resources –http://blog.yammer.com/blog/2012/04/thanks-for-rocking-out-for-yammer-on-tour-san-francisco.html.

Customization of WordPress for kind of intranet

I have got a task from our board – they need a site where to share some documents that are definitely not public and with possibility to comment on the documents. The site shall be private and preferably sitting on our own server due to confidentiality and security of content. Some people board members shall have access just for viewing the docs, some members will need to have an option of downloading and modifying the documents.

I was thinking first of some existing options that we have:

  • Joomla CMS (Content Management System), but I am not a techie guy and would need help with this. Furthermore it is a rather robust system for relatively small site and task
  • Confluence (wiki) – would be my preferred solution, but … for experience with colleagues in my institution it seems to be not so user friendly – most people feel lost and didn’t really start to use it … I guess the same could happen to the board site
  • Google sites / Google docs – quick and easy, but very little customization flexibility and I know that there is a kind of worry among colleagues, about where all that information is sitting and who has access … it was clear no also
  • Dropbox – could be an option for document sharing, but same as in case of Google sites – again – where all that information is sitting and who has access? again no …

Finally, I came to option of WordPress.  I am WordPress (WP) user for years, but somehow I didn’t realize how much the use and the community of  WP users and developers grew over the last few years! Did you know that WP is now a leading Content Management System?

WordPress version  3.1.3. was installed on our server as we need some more customization than what is available in wordpress.com.        I have selected elegant and clean theme ‘Titan‘ (version 1.2.5.) by http://thethemefoundry.com . There is also professional/full version of this theme available for some costs – I may consider to buy it later.

To make the space private, I have implemented plugin called ‘Private Only‘ by http://pixert.com . Other alternative might be e.g. Angsuman’s Authenticated WordPress Plugin (but I have not tried this one).  Installing and activating is easy just following standard WP instructions. One little surprise that came was that  there are actually two plugins – ‘Private Only’ and ‘Private Only – Dissable feed’. Plugin works smoothly, but bit later I have realized when loging in sometimes I happen to enter the blog space (front-end) and sometimes the dashboard (back-end) – I am not sure how to configure where to enter after logging in….

I found helpful post about how to configure WP somehow into form of document repository.  First it is important to set up the system of pages and subpages (child pages) for which later on it is necessary to create new page templates. It was bit tricky, as I have absolutely ZERO php programing knowledge, but searching around I found a lot of pages with examples of php coding for what I needed:

One important discovery – while I can upload docx (MS Office 2007 docs) to WordPress, and create the links, documents didn’t work/download to computer. With MS Office 2003 it is smooth.

And while working on this I have discovered several useful plugins:

Now lets see whether the blue print of product will catch attention of its targeted users – board members ;o).