Clearing My Feeds: Facebook, Change Management, & Personal Learning

Once again, some things in my feedreader that I wanted to get to . .

Awhile ago I wrote a post on using Facebook in nonprofits. I haven't had a lot of time to get back into it, but fortunately for you, Soha El-Borno at Wild Apricot has been hard at work. Her most recent contribution is on using the Causes widget to promote your nonprofit. Also check out her Beginner's Guide to Facebook.

Change Management
Scott McLeod at Dangerously Irrelevant is running a fabulous series of change management resources this week. I haven't had a chance to thoroughly read and digest his posts, but my quick skim tells me that this is some great stuff for organizations looking to facilitate the change process. Which I would assume means ALL organizations, since dealing with change is pretty much what we do in this world anymore. Some of my favorites:

  • Resistance to Change--Reviews the 10 key reasons people resist change and the three things that motivate people.
  • Agreement and Trust--Helps leaders analyze their relationships with essential people in terms of the levels of agreement and trust that exist and then offers suggestions on how to create more of both.
  • Getting to Consensus--This is a great post on which tools of consensus to use, depending on the extent to which there is organizational agreement on how the world works and the organization's goals.

Scott also has some great quotes and suggestions on books to read. While his primary focus is on change in schools, these are resources that are applicable to all change efforts.

Personal Learning Environments
You KNOW I couldn't have a post like this without going back to PLEs. . . First, Beth Kanter has an interesting post on why she loves Slideshare.  She says,  "I use Slide Share everyday to increase my personal knowledge about social media and consume whatever I can find related to nonprofits."  I use Slideshare, too, but have tended to do so when I needed a way to put a Powerpoint slideshow on line for a project or training. Beth's post made me see Slideshare as a potential addition to my personal learning environment.

There's also been a bit of a discussion going on around how personal learning environments fit into organizations. Stephen Downes argues that personal learning is about individuals setting and following their own learning agendas, rather than those set for them by corporations. Needless to say, I agree with this perspective.  Tony Karrer then raises the issue of how organizations will have to wrestle with integrating the notion of personal learning environments into their operations and whether or not employees should set up their PLEs inside or outside the organizational firewall. (I say outside, in case you were wondering).

In my mind, what this comes down to is the purpose of a PLE--is it to serve the organization or the individual? If a PLE is an institutional tool, then it will end up developing along a particular path that includes standards for participation, tighter controls, a greater likelihood of a single "PLE system" and organizational ownership of the contents of the PLE. On the other hand, if PLEs are for the individual, then I think there will be a move toward exploring the idea of different tools, loosely joined and a focus on which tools could be used to engage in which personal learning activities. And most definitely the ownership of the PLE will lie squarely in the individual's lap. Again, I'm clearly advocating the latter, as I believe that this will actually end up not only serving individuals better, but also organizations because there will be greater freedom to create, innovate, collaborate, etc.

On Blogging
Finally, a couple of nice blogging articles:

Happy Friday!

Wikis as Personal Space

Thinking more about wikis . . . After my post yesterday and in light of my recent meanderings about personal learning environments, I've been thinking a little differently about wikis than most people.

We tend to see wikis as social spaces, because they allow multiple people to work on a single document and because they can be great tools for a cumulative gathering of knowledge. But getting to large-scale adoption can be difficult--management resistance, fears about using new technologies, changing old habits. All challenges to the social use of wikis.

Personally, I've been facing my own difficulties in getting people to adopt a wiki as a social space. They love having one place to go on the web to access information on a particular project, but they don't necessarily want to add to what's there. I've also found that people have to feel that they're personally getting something out of the process of contributing to a wiki. Benefiting "the team" isn't always enough of an incentive.

I think that part of helping people develop the skills to participate in a "social" version of a wiki might lie in encouraging people to use them (where it makes sense) for their own personal productivity and learning.

Increasingly in my practice, a wiki has become a tool for me to use for non-social gathering and sharing of knowledge (if we define social gathering as more than one person adding to the wiki).  My wiki has become a personal space that I share with others when it makes sense. So here are some personal ways I've been using wikis:

  • As a personal brainstorming tool--as I mentioned in yesterday's post, I have a "Michele's Ideas" wiki where I gather links, notes, etc. on various personal and professional ideas One section of the wiki has become something of an online journal for exploring my personal mission in life. I'm collecting videos, quotes, articles, etc. that feed my thinking about my purpose and where I want to be going in the next few years. I've also explored larger blogging topics by first outlining some of what I'm thinking in a wiki page and then using that as a place to gather links, videos, etc. In this capacity, a wiki is part of my PLE.
  • As a personal project management tool--As an independent consultant, I manage a number of different projects that I have to coordinate with both clients and staff people from contractors with which I'm working. I've been using wikis to help keep both myself and other people involved in the project updated and on-track with what's been happening with each of my projects. This has saved me a lot of communication headaches, as well as keeping me more organized.
  • As an eportfolio--Taking a page from Beth Kanter's book, I've been working on developing my eportfolio using a wiki. Right now it's something of an all-purpose portfolio but at some point I can see creating more focused portfolios with examples of the different kinds of work that I do.
  • As follow-up to training sessions--In many of my training sessions I have staff work in teams to develop handouts and group notes based on what they're learning in the training. I create a wiki for these sessions where I can later upload what the teams produce, as well as provide staff with follow-up materials for further study.

While I agree that there are incredible social benefits to using wikis and I continue to encourage people to use them in that way, I also think that a strategy for getting people comfortable with the technology is to show them how they can use wikis to improve their own personal productivity and learning. At least that's what I'm attempting to do here.

More on Personal Learning Environments

Not a lot of time tonight and I'm working on little sleep so pardon any errors, but wanted to share a few more things related to Saturday's post on personal learning environments (PLEs).

SCoPE Forum on Personal Learning Environments
Very serendipitous to receive a Google Alert this morning about SCoPE's 3-week online forum on PLEs. You can read the discussion without signing in, but if you want to comment on anything, you'll need to fill out a brief registration. Already some interesting questions coming up, so if you're interested in all of this, it's worth a look.

Personal Learning Environments as Tools to Empower
What continues to excite me about personal learning environments is their capacity to help people take charge of their own learning and their own careers. It was nice to read that other people see it that way, too.

In "Be the Node," Cammy Bean says:

I think maybe PLE is another word for the upcoming Revolution of Enlightenment.

It's a Personal Learning Evolution.

I love that--it's exactly how I see it. Personal learning as both evolution and a revolution.

Tom Haskins continues the revolutionary theme with his post on PLEs as Power Tools:

They empower the powerless to break out of their boxes. PLE's invites self-directed learning. PLE's become a source of discrepancy and deviation from the "party line". It becomes possible to think for oneself and disagree with the groupthink. Learning from a PLE makes it possible to see patterns of abuse, exploitation and neglect in the workplace. PLE's undermine the imposed, top-down, command & control kind of power. PLE's put distributed and democratized power in the hands of the individual. It counteracts the conformity pressures without confrontations or insurrections. PLE's are politically radical and perfectly natural.

Personal Learning Environments and Personal Knowledge Management
Tony Karrer suggests that in thinking about our personal learning environments, we use a personal knowledge management framework to explore how we use various tools to accomplish particular learning tasks. He points to two potential frameworks, although I'm finding I'm more partial to Jeremy Hiebert's:

  • Collecting
  • Reflecting
  • Connecting
  • Publishing

So I'm thinking that over the weekend I may take a closer look at this, both in terms of the tools as well as the skills to use in each of those areas.

Is Your Nonprofit Ready to Stop Watching the Clock?

My husband, like many Americans, is unhappy with his job. It is a job that combines impossibly high expectations with little personal control. There is a strong emphasis on "face-time" and productivity is measured by your slavish adherence to poorly thought-out metrics that emphasize process over outcomes. So it was interesting to find, as often happens to me when a problem is on my mind, this post from Ryan Healey at Penelope Trunk's Brazen Careerist. It's about Best Buy and its current experiment with ROWE--or Results-Oriented Work Environment.

In a nutshell, Best Buy has decided that measuring employees based on the amount of time they spend at work is a useless endeavor. So they have banished all schedules, mandatory meetings, and even the requirement that they show up to the office. Employees know what work needs to be done and their managers assume that because these employees are competent and responsible, they will get it done. If it's work that can be done over a cell phone or on a laptop in your bedroom, so be it. Feel free to do it that way.  You're a grown-up and we trust you to do the work. If you can't handle that, then we'll deal with it at that point. Otherwise, we're all happy.

According to an article in Business Week, since Best Buy adopted this approach, the results have been pretty amazing:

Since the program's implementation, average voluntary turnover has fallen drastically, CultureRx says. Meanwhile, Best Buy notes that productivity is up an average 35% in departments that have switched to ROWE. Employee engagement, which measures employee satisfaction and is often a barometer for retention, is way up too, according to the Gallup Organization, which audits corporate cultures.

ROWE may also help the company pay for the customer centricity campaign. The endeavor is hugely expensive because it involves tailoring stores to local markets and training employees to turn customer feedback into new business ideas. By letting people work off-campus, Best Buy figures it can reduce the need for corporate office space, perhaps rent out the empty cubicles to other companies, and plow the millions of dollars in savings into its services initiative.

So let's see, higher employee morale, reduced turnover, greater productivity, a re-allocation of resources from offices that serve little function to services that actually help customers. . . does this sound like something for nonprofits to consider?

This story really opens up several lines of inquiry for me:

  • What would ROWE look like in different nonprofit environments? Is it just an advanced version of flexible scheduling or does it become something more? Is it possible for nonprofits to untether their staff from their desks? This article in Money magazine says that managers have no say in employee scheduling and can only measure employees on the work they get done--could command and control organizations live with this? 
  • What are the practical/logistical implications of using ROWE in a nonprofit? There are a lot of things that would need to happen differently. There are huge implications for staff selection and assignment, management and supervision, employee evaluations and training, expectations, etc.
  • What would need to be done with technology to really make this happen?
  • What organizational culture changes would need to take place? In addition to all the practical considerations, what cultural changes would need to occur to support a move to ROWE?
  • What are the pros and cons? Does it make sense to go this route? What are the benefits for a nonprofit and do they outweigh any costs?
  • What are the barriers to implementation? The Business Week article, as well as the resources below, indicate that there was a lot of push-back on the concept from old-style managers who'd grown up in a workaholic culture. The experience has also revealed some ugly attitudes--most notably that some managers have a profound mistrust of and disrespect for their employees. It's also made visible an unspoken "rule" of many workplaces--that flexibilty should only apply to certain "types" of staff, i.e., the "professional" or exempt staff. Many managers felt that this couldn't work with hourly employees that they "needed" more guidance and structure to get their jobs done.

More on ROWE and Best Buy from:

  • Time Magazine--Good stuff on results and on the challenges Best Buy faced, particularly from "old style" managers.

And a related article from the NYT on "When Work Time Isn't Face Time."

This is something that I think bears further investigation. I'm also curious about people's reactions to this idea. Do you think it could work? Are there organizations where you think it isn't possible?

Empowering the Change Agents--Consciousness & The 10% Solution

It's interesting the difference a day makes.

Yesterday I expressed my frustration over my inability to change people who are meant to be change agents. Writing it down got most of the negative energy I was feeling out of my system. It also left me some space to think a little more about the problem. And another reason to be grateful for blogging--writing about it brought me some good advice from Tom Haskins and encouraging words from Brent MacKinnon, which also helped. So here's where I'm at now.

First, I think that Tom's right when he says that helping people to become conscious of how they've become disempowered is an important step:

Most disempowered professionals I've coached don't consciously realize how they lost their sense of "can-do" and "can-make-a-difference". They are doing the best they can in their own minds. Once they are aware of how they are getting disempowered in their relationships, they can make the necessary changes for themselves. Meanwhile they are caught up in a spiral, going nowhere quickly and becoming more convinced that no change is possible.

One way I make disempowerment conscious is to prescribe it. People realize what they are caught up inside of when I make it clear how to keep it going intentionally.

Tom goes on to list a series of beliefs that disempowered people tend to hold and suggests that to explore our disempowerment, we should consciously try reinforce those beliefs in ourselves to see how they act in our lives. Good stuff.

As I read Tom's post, I realized that I also had some answers to my problem in my own toolkit. Apparently I got so caught up in being negative, I lost sight of my personal resources. Something I think has been going on with my clients, too.

A few years ago I was working with some people to implement a major organizational change. In that process, we examined the issue of the victim mentality, a belief system that many of us have without really knowing it. 

To explore that concept, I asked what kinds of stories people told about themselves--active stories or passive ones?  With active stories, we say things like "I am in charge" or "I am responsible." When we tell ourselves passive stories, we focus on outside forces and external circumstances. Active stories start with "I" and passive stories start with "They." Active stories make us feel empowered. Passive ones suck away our personal sense of control.

Then, stolen from Richard Bolles, author of What Color is Your Parachute, I asked two questions:

  • Do you believe that with respect to this situation, no matter how much power seems to lie in other’s hands, you still have at least 10% that is in your control or power?
  • Can you work on that 10%?
Not everyone got it. Not everyone agreed. But a number of them did and it started to move them forward a little. So it's an exercise I need to try again, along with Tom's suggestion.

In thinking about this problem, I'm realizing something really important that I know, but seem to forget. Sometimes I'm being dragged down into this disempowered thinking too. It's hard to resist, especially if I'm in a room full of people who have already given up. It doesn't help that my natural temperament is to focus on problems, always looking for what needs to be fixed.

But getting dragged down into the negative isn't helping anyone and in a lot of ways, I can't afford to take that role. Someone has to be the dream keeper. Someone has to keep believing that if we all do our 10%, then it will add up and create change. It's like what they tell you in the safety talk on planes--put on your oxygen mask first and then help those around you. I'm the one who has to keep finding ways to get to the mask first. I'm the one who has to keep working on her own 10%. Without that, we'll all be crying into our beers.

I'm hoping that if I can keep doing that, others will join me eventually. Maybe not tomorrow or next week, but at some point. In my heart I believe this will happen. But if I'm honest, I have to say that some days it's easier to believe that than others.

Do the "Change Agents" Feel Empowered to Change?

Yesterday I conducted a training session with about 65 managers of various organizations. We were looking at the impact of globalization on American workers and what their organizations could do to better prepare their job seeker clients for this new world. It's a big issue that demands systemic responses and everyone has a role to play if we're going to get to that systemic change.

I've done this kind of session a number of times and each time I do, I get a very disconcerting response from the audience. They all feel helpless to do anything. It's a big problem and they just look at it, agree that it needs to be addressed and then say there's nothing that they, personally, can do. This, despite the fact that the organizations they run are charged with exactly this task. It's frustrating and aggravating and I'm not sure what's going on.

I've been wrestling with this for a while and lately have found myself becoming more cynical about these presentations--not good.  Obviously I'm doing a great job of helping them to understand the issue--no one argues about the need to do something. But when it comes to what, specifically, they can do, it all falls apart. What really bothers me about the whole situation is that I want to have impact with what I do, not get high marks on my smiley sheets. If people don't start changing their behavior as a result of these sessions, then what's the point?

Here's what I've tried to help people make the leap from recognizing the problem to taking action to address it:

  • Helped them brainstorm potential organizational and individual actions.
  • Had them develop an action plan.
  • Had them publicly commit to doing just one thing differently.
  • Had them identify barriers to taking action and potential ways to overcome those barriers.
  • Offered follow-up resources and support.

What else is left?

I think what bothers me the most is that I'm sitting in a room with people who are supposed to be helping the disempowered and disenfranchised, yet they are just as disempowered as the people they're trying to help! They don't even really pretend that there's something they can do. They just feel defeated from the get-go.

Even though they are the "system," they don't feel part of it or that they have any control over how it operates. They seem to think that they're just cogs in a machine, helpless to change either their place in the machine or how they operate within it. How can they be change agents when they don't see themselves as able to change anything?

I read a post from Tom Haskins today that has me thinking about how psychology plays a huge role in this. He writes about how dysfunctional systems are a result of dysfunctional relationships and that if we can restore the relationship, we can fix the problem. That's part of what's at work here, I think, although I'm not clear on what relationships need fixing or on how to fix them.

Maybe what I'm dealing with here is learned helplessness.This is certainly a system that serves huge numbers of people who feel that life happens to them. Why wouldn't staff come to somehow believe this too? Although I would have hoped that staff would be changing clients' self-defeating beliefs, not absorbing them!

This all makes me feel like giving up sometimes. It makes me question why I do what I do. I tell myself that if one person walks away and does something different as a result, that's a good thing. But frankly, that isn't always enough. I want something bigger to happen. I want people to rise up and be the change, not wait for someone else to be it for them.

I really believe in giving people the tools and resources for their own empowerment. That's what I always try to do when I work with my clients. But how can I get them to pick them up?