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Friday, June 12, 2015

How to counter half-truths and lies with a better story

Imagine that you’re responsible for communicating your company’s new strategy, and just as you’re about to do so, you hear something worrying on the grapevine. A lot of employees believe the strategy was created by the new CEO going home one night, digging up an old strategy from his previous company, then making copies of […]

The post How to counter half-truths and lies with a better story appeared first on Anecdote.

from Anecdote

Plan to learn faster

Download a free copy of Building an Optimized Business, a curated collection of chapters from the O’Reilly Web Operations and Performance library. This post is an excerpt by Jeff Patton from User Story Mapping, one of the selections included in …

from O'Reilly Radar - Insight, analysis, and research about emerging technologies

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Decentralization of the Corporate Structure Is Key for Workers with Disabilities

Firms can best accommodate employees with disabilities by delegating authority to their immediate supervisors and providing clear instructions in the HR manual on how to handle workers' individual needs.

from strategy+business - All Updates

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Making Better Choices

What do Leonardo da Vinci, Ludwig van Beethoven and you have in common besides talent and intellect? The 24-hour day. Each day we make choices about how we will spend our time. And those choices determine our output and impact. Here is the underlying truth. We all operate within constraints — whether it is the […]

from Above and Beyond KM

Blog Post: The difference between a Knowledge Cafe and a Community of Practice

By David Gurteen

I am frequently asked the difference between a Knowledge Cafe and Community of Practice (CoP) as it is not always clear to people.

Etienne Wenger defines a Community of Practice as a group of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact on a regular basis.

A Knowledge Cafe on the other hand is a highly adaptable face to face conversational process that can be used in many different business situations to bring a group of people together to have an open conversation for a specific purpose.

A Cafe can be run as a one-off event, for example to explore the impact of a new technology or as a regular series of events, for example a series of talks/cafes on a specific theme or a variety of different themes.

A Cafe or a series of Cafes does not constitute a CoP. And although a series of Cafes for people with a common interest may appear very CoP like, in reality a CoP will adopt many different ways of interacting rather than just the Cafe format. e.g. less structured conversations, open space technology sessions and on-line discussion forums.

So in summary, the Knowledge Cafe is a powerful conversational tool that can be employed by a CoP but is not the same as a CoP.

I hope this helps.

from Gurteen Knowledge-Log

knowledge catalysts

Most people have heard Clay Shirky’s quote that, “It’s not information overload, it’s filter failure.” The professor and author has coined terms such as ‘cognitive surplus’ to explain that we have the mental capacity to do a lot more with our collective intelligence, but too often, societal barriers inhibit us. We are too busy with... Read more »

from Harold Jarche

Build 'Scaffolds' to Improve Performance of Temporary Teams

"Four minutes," a triumphant Amy C. Edmondson exclaims as she arrives at her Harvard Business School office, clutching a bike helmet and explaining that her commute is 10 minutes faster by bicycle than by car. Edmondson, the Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at HBS, knows a thing or two about efficiency.

But it's one thing to make yourself more efficient, quite another to make a team more efficient, and still another when that team's membership is in constant flux. With short-term teams assembled on the fly becoming increasingly common in today's workplaces, Edmondson and a colleague set out to investigate how fluid teams can work better.

In their paper Team Scaffolds: How Mesolevel Structures Enable Role-Based Coordination in Temporary Groups, Edmondson and lead author Melissa A. Valentine show how a very minimal structure can lead to greater collaboration and efficiency on a temporary team. What they call a team scaffold is fixed while individual team members flow through the structure.

The paper, published in the March-April 2015 edition of Organization Science, focuses on the redesign of a city hospital's emergency department around temporary teams called pods. The low-cost redesign led to dramatic improvements, both qualitatively and quantitatively, including a 40 percent reduction in how long a patient would remain in the ED before being discharged or admitted. The hospital, located in the southeastern United States, was an early adopter of a team-focused structure that many emergency departments are now implementing.

The research showed that temporary teams mimic the behaviors of more permanent teams, which have definitive boundaries around a group of roles, a clear goal, interdependent tasks, and stable, appropriate composition, Edmondson says. "Here we say we've got only the minimal version of those four factors-just a whisper of those things-and yet we get an awful lot of benefit."

<divstyle="width:562px;"> Performance of temporary teams can be improved with light
structure—much like how scaffolds are used. ©
Prior research makes clear the importance of team stability, yet that's not always possible when an organization must work around the clock with overlapping shifts.

Given more and more dynamism in the modern workplace, "my interest started to be, how do you have effective teamwork when you can't have the traditional structural features of effective teams, [and so] I shifted my emphasis from teams to 'teaming,'" Edmondson says.

Valentine shared that interest in "messy" teams, making it the focus of her dissertation for the Health Policy (Management) doctoral program at HBS. (Edmondson chaired her dissertation committee.)

Prior to the redesign, the hospital used ad hoc groupings in the emergency department—any available nurse would triage a patient, then return the patient's chart for any available resident, who would then leave the chart for any available attending physician. The nurses did not know which doctor was working on which patient, and vice versa, which led to inefficiencies and a lack of accountability to one another. Schisms between the professional groups also hampered communication.

The redesign divided the ED into four pods, which were essentially bays with the necessary equipment to treat any type of patient. One senior or attending physician, one or two residents, and three nurses were assigned randomly to a pod at the start of their shifts. Patients were assigned consecutively to the four pods, with each pod having ultimate responsibility for its queue of patients. Because of the staggered and differing shifts, the entire team membership could changeover in as little as five hours.

The qualitative data showed better coordination between the pod members because they were co-located, making it easy to know who was on the team. It increased communication, follow-up, and the setting of mutual priorities, especially since the pod members were collectively responsible for getting the patients through the ED.

"The big 'aha' was how very little structure this is," Edmondson says. "We still have no assigned membership to specific teams over time. I think it speaks to the subtle interpersonal challenges we face trying to catch and work with relative strangers, and that even those small moments of hesitation or miscommunication matter."

Pod wars

While the scaffolds helped break down barriers between professional groups, they created new, albeit temporary, affinity groups to some extent, triggering competition between the teams, which the staff referred to as "the pod wars." No one wanted to be stuck in the slowest pod, and other pods didn't tend to help you out if yours was bogged down, the staff interviews revealed. "People were only affiliated with their pod for four or eight hours, and despite how temporary their team memberships were, they were still competitive with one another," says Valentine, who after earning her PhD from Harvard in 2013 joined Stanford University as an assistant professor of management science and engineering.

Valentine says one caveat of the quantitative improvement is that the hospital was not performing as well as its peers before the redesign. Although not every workplace will see such dramatic improvement, the research shows how powerful a tool grouping people deliberately, even if temporary, can be for managers. In other research, Valentine studied four other hospitals that implemented team scaffolds in their emergency departments with less success, which is the basis for an upcoming paper. The city hospital in the joint research with Edmondson had a robust change process, getting a lot of input from staff and buy-in, and used a pilot pod to train staff. One other hospital had a decent change process and bounded groups, but did not assign the pod ultimate responsibility for the patient flow, which hampered the pod acting as a team, Valentine says.

While a hospital may be a natural setting for team scaffolds, Edmondson and Valentine see other applicable sites.

Many large, global companies are trying to enable better lateral coordination to solve client issues more efficiently. "Just the designation that you're part of this temporary group can eliminate some of those bureaucratic layers where the coordination between people laterally is harder than it needs to be," Edmondson says.

Valentine was one of the authors of a Stanford paper on crowdsourcing teams to handle more complex projects, applying many of the ideas of team scaffolds. She has also incorporated the research into one of her courses, with students creating e-books in 48 hours through crowdsourcing on a team scaffold platform. While the hospital's pod members were physically in the same area, Valentine notes that co-location can be virtual in the case of crowdsourcing, using chat rooms, shared folders, or shared websites.

"There's more complex work that really requires this teaming on the fly, and the social technologies make it more possible to find and coordinate with each other," Edmondson says.

About the author

Roberta Holland is a writer based in Norwood, Massachusetts.

from HBS Working Knowledge

Blogging and the Buddha

I have been reading about, and occasionally putting into practice, the principles of Buddhism for more than twenty years now. I first became interested when I got my first "proper" line management role at the BBC. I had had various supervisor roles while still operational in radio, but this was the first time that I truly felt the burden of expectations both from "my seniors" and also from "my staff".

There are lots of air quotes in that sentence because even now the terminology raises issues for me. The idea of superiority implied in the hierarchy made me particularly uneasy. Half of the people I was managing were old enough to be my dad, had been editing since before I was born, and knew more about their craft than I would ever know. They had just had a lot of their friends made redundant with more cutbacks on the way. There were a number of ongoing industrial tribunals involving my group and a lot of understandable anti-management feeling. Suffice it to say I was feeling severely out of my depth.

I started to read management and personal development books in an attempt to find ways to cope. Trying to learn more about what I was meant to be doing and how I could get better at doing it. Sure I went on courses which helped at a superficial level but none of them really got at the deep existential angst I felt about my role, responsibilities, and fundamentally my place in the world.

One of the books I read was John Kabatt-Zinn's Full Catastrophe Living. Dr. Zinn has been applying the principles of Buddhism in healthcare in the US for decades and is really good at stripping away the religiosity of traditional Buddhism and expressing its philosophy and application in ways that make sense in the modern, western, world. I started to apply his teaching and meditating as regularly as I could. I am not going to try to explain meditation, the reasons for doing it, or what my expectations were but I remember one particular session in a hotel room in Hong Kong where something clicked and my level of self awareness took a momentary leap forwards. That has kept me coming back to the practice since.

At around the same time as this interest in Buddhism and meditation was beginning I was also getting into blogging. Although blogging had been going about a year when I started I was still part of a very small group of early bloggers working out what it was and what we could do with it. One of the writers of The Cluetrain Manifesto, David Weinberger, called it "writing ourselves into existence" and this has always stuck with me over the fourteen years that I have been doing it.

In order to blog you have to become more aware. Aware of yourself, your surroundings, and your impact on them. You think about what you have noticed and what it means. You then write about this, refining your thoughts, putting them into words, shaping them. You then publish these words on your blog which hopefully reaches into the minds of your readers in a very direct and immediate way. It feels like a more intimate connection than say writing an article or a book. It's like synapses firing outside your skull as well as inside it, extending your neural network to the rest of humanity.

Most recently I have started reading the wonderful books by American Buddhist Nun and writer Pema Chödrön. She explains Buddhist philosophy in wonderfully clear and understandable terms. She relates it to the strains and stresses we feel in modern life and gives really thoughtful applications of Buddhist thought to alleviating these challenges. Buddha didn't expect to be starting a religion. He was working out the nature of human existence and ways of reducing the suffering and distress we create for ourselves. This starts with awareness. Meditation practice that teaches you to be aware of your thoughts. To identify them as thoughts that come and go, and to realise that you are separate from your thoughts. This feels very similar to the process of blogging. Identifying something as an issue, a thought, a thread, that you want to address. Turning it and twisting it in your mind and then placing it outside yourself in writing. This has always felt very therapeutic. Identifying, articulating, refining the thoughts rattling through my brain.

But it can also feel very narcissistic. What difference does it make to our fellow man. This is where the idea of Tonglen comes in. This is the Buddhist practice of examining thoughts about challenges and stresses affecting you, those close to you, or ultimately anyone else suffering in the world. You might well ask what difference this is going to make in a world full of wars, disease and suffering? But these blights on our existence have to start somewhere. Apart from natural disasters we bring most of our suffering on ourselves. We do this one by one, consistently and inexorably. We identify others as the source of our distress or the perpetrators of our suffering and defend ourselves or attack them. And they will be doing the same to us! This projection of blame outside ourselves is a large part of what perpetrates our suffering. We have to understand and take responsibility for our impact on ourselves and the world around us. We have to get better at remaining detached from our suffering and helping others to do the same.

This is where blogging and the internet come back in. Being able to publish our thoughts instantly in a way that can be taken in, digested, and reshared by others is Tonglen in practice. It is our chance to understand things more and achieve a degree of detachment from our shared problems. We can carry out this approach in public, model behaviours, show the way, and make small ripples in the consciousness of our fellow humans.

There is no other way to bring about change. There is no "them" who are to blame and going to sort things. There is only us and that is where we have to start. With us. One at a time.

from The Obvious? -

Lessons learned when stories are told

Work can move at such a hectic pace that we often don’t get the time to reflect on important projects we’ve completed. But valuable lessons can be learned by doing this, particularly when stories are involved. Lessons learned using the power of stories A team I worked with had toiled on their project for two […]

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from Anecdote