Brian Tullis – Give people tools to get their job done

You know, when we started using social software in my IT group, one of the motivations for me was… I have a large distributed team. I just couldn’t keep track of that, I couldn’t keep track of what was going on. And I think in large organizations, in any kind of organization, you need to collaborate across common silos or common organizational boundaries or whatever, to collaborate across geography, lines of business… You know i have people reporting to me, and friends in Texas, and in California, Arizona, all over the place… my site is in Chicago, and I threw some technology at the problem, we had to rethink a few of the things we did, but, you know, we ended up with… You know, it’s where the documentation lives, it’s where the compliant work lives, it’s where the issues… issue tracking happens. It’s was all of these… You know people talk about these barely repeatable processes, they need not to live in the transaction system but they’re happening all over the place. We really needed to put some kind of boundary around it and say “here is how we do this stuff”, and… you know… a social software platform is really the only thing you could throw away. I mean, I would always sit down and I would try to draw an entity relationship diagram and think about data models and things… And then I come to realize you don’t start with data models when you try such stuff you start with a few principles, you start with a basic framework, and then you kinda have to let things happen after that. That’s some very uncomfortable thing for a lot of managers; you have to get ready for people in your organization, your employees, your managers, coming to you with “you say you hadn’t thought of…” Things are going to happen that you wouldn’t predict. You know one thing we never had happened, we never had any of that “oh no, somebody said something on the collaborative platform that everyone could see that they shouldn’t have said. You know that?”

That doesn’t happen in communities where there is usually high level of trust and this isn’t an enormous amount of people on the internet dealing with each other. And, you know we got a lot of value out of that, but that was finding value in a group of hundred to hundred and fifty contributors with up to a few thousands people that were interacting with this. We didn’t start with saying “we’re trying to solve the problem of 60.000 people”. I’m skeptical of some large deployment because, what I’ve seen is they’re just turning to a bunch of glorified discussion boards online that no one actually uses to get real work done. Starting, to me, is that to achieve the collaboration through the social software, you start small and you scale out, based on examples that work.

You do it through solving people’s problems that they currently have, giving them tools to get their job done, not giving them tools that help the manager provide more control. They can sense that, workers sense that a mile away, if the technology that’s being put in place is something that’s about control and not about really making them more effective

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