Author: Harold Jarche Posted: February 15, 2012 950 views

Over the past year I have been working on change initiatives to improve collaboration and knowledge-sharing with two large companies, one of them a multinational. In each case, 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. 

My Internet Time Alliance colleague, Jane Hart, notes, … as for the new social and collaboration skills that workers require, well you simply can’t train people to be social! What was required was getting down and dirty and helping people understand what it actually meant to work collaboratively in the new social workplace, and the value that this would bring to them.

Jane refers to the collaboration pyramid by Oscar Berg, an excellent model to show what needs to be addressed to become a social business.

The low visibility activities link directly to personal knowledge management (PKM) skills, based on the process of Seeking information & knowledge; making Sense of it; and Sharing higher value information with others. These individual activities are not a single skill-set that can be trained in a classroom. They have to be internalized and perceived as valuable to each person in order to achieve the discipline to use them regularly. Every person’s PKM processes will differ. As Jane notes, one size doesn’t fit all.

It is a difficult path to get acceptance that each worker is responsible for his or her own learning and additionally must be a contributing member of a network. PKM is individuals retaking control of learning, and making it transparent. It takes time, but it also requires a receptive environment.

Creating a supportive social environment is management’s responsibility. These activities are shown on the upper part of the pyramid, above the water line. Some specific examples of activities I have been involved in over the past year include:

  • Support for small innovation teams to initiate and practice the new collaboration and knowledge-sharing skills.
  • Daily routines of posting observations and sharing with team members.
  • Weekly “virtual coffee” to catch up and help build social bonds.
  • Adding activity-stream technologies to productivity tool suites.
  • Constant analysis of activity data.
  • Providing dedicated time for reflection [this is a tough one to get management buy-in].
  • Regular mediated events like “Yam-Jams” on a select theme.
  • Creation of internal communications material to make social learning and social business more understandable.
  • Professional development activities using the same social media as will be used to work.
  • Face to face social activities.
  • Many conversations [usually Skype or telephone] and much one-on-one support as people work at becoming more social.
  • Social & Value network analyses to visualize network thinking.

My experience is that changing to more collaborative, networked ways of work requires coordinated change activities from both the top and the bottom. It has to be a two-pronged approach and it will take some time and effort.

About the author >

Harold Jarche

Harold Jarche passionately believes in the re-integration of work and learning. People have connected with Harold over the past decade, through his blog and consulting practices, for innovative ideas on business, technology, social networks and learning. He also distills heady topics like complexity theory into practical advice. Harold has saved clients time and money by focusing on business objectives and conducting cause analyses, instead of prescribing training as a solution looking for a problem. A graduate of the Royal Military College, Harold served over 20 years in the Canadian Army in leadership and training roles. Harold has held senior positions at the Centre for Learning Technologies and e-Com Inc. His preferred workplace is on his bike, where he gets his best ideas.

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