woensdag 19 december 2007

An open message to the team

As 2007 is slowly reaching its final day, it feels like a traditionally good time to reflect.

I'd like to reflect on the team I'm in. We've come a long way this year and we've seen an unfair amount of hard times. Getting a manager for a few weeks, having no official manager for the best part of the year and still winging it, dealing with people that don't share our flexible attitude and openness towards technology, ... I am sure that we all learned valuable lessons and above all, we had a lot of fun.

We are aware of the changes and challenges that are ahead of us, both in the micro sphere of POI and in the company as a whole but I feel confident in taking on these challenges and overcoming the obstacles, knowing that you are on my side.


maandag 12 november 2007

2.0 in the Enterprise vs Enterprise 2.0

2.0 is everywhere these days. It's not a thing reserved for early adopters anymore.  It's found its way into politics, the media, marketing and (no surprise) the enterprise. The enterprise, Did it really? Let's take a sidestep first and explore some basics about communication.

How we communicate

Communication as found on wikipedia:
"Communication is a process that allows organisms to exchange information by several methods. Communication requires that all parties understand a common language that is exchanged with each other. Exchange requires feedback. The word communication is also used in the context where little or no feedback is expected such as broadcasting, or where the feedback may be delayed as the sender or receiver use different methods, technologies, timing and means for feedback."

Let's just focus on the key ideas I conveniently underlined.

Exchange requires feedback
I'd like to rephrase this for the sake of this post to: Thinking requires feedback. Strictly speaking, exchange is not necessary as one-way traffic exists. We all know the typical all-hands meetings where our beloved CEO, CIO, CTO, CFO and whatever CxO we could find comes to tell us how we are doing. It's a form of communication where there is very little feedback generally. You are informed of certain events and general status. It does not require a lot of activity from your side and certainly not a lot of thinking. Now when it comes to thinking, even when doing it all alone, your inner self will use language to help your other inner self (or inner selves) understand the problem and you'll try to describe it. Writing it down, talking it through with others (in or outside your head), ... they all require a common platform...a common language.

Probably the single most important thing I know. Language is your gate to the world and is probably worth an entire weblog discussing it.  The thing is, if you can name something there is a link formed in your brain that allows you to think about it. Arguably the single most important thing about language: Language facilitates thinking.  

If Language is your gate to the world, than information is what is behind the gate. There's literally thousands of information units generated this very moment. And they are all out there, for you to grab, as long as you know what gate to go through.

Let's now have a look at communication in a 2.0 environment.

Communication 2.0

We've spent ages defining language, getting new words and getting our brain to link up everything so we can think about stuff. With great results, no doubt. But exactly what have we been investing in?

As stated above we invested in a lot of words, forming a language. And that language facilitates thinking and we have a lot of information out there. So seems like we did a good thing, we invested in the 3 key concepts. Great job! Go humans!

And yet, there's something missing. Communication amongst peers does not stop because of language, nor does it stop because of information. It's hampered by the feedback part.

Just keep your attention span a bit longer on this article and follow me: you and your colleagues sitting in a meeting room, facing the same problem. There may be 4 of you using language and giving each other feedback on bits of information that could add up to a solution to your problem. Great. There's 4, no doubt brilliant, minds in that room trying to figure out what the hell is going on. Now imagine you would do that with every engineer in your company (assuming you don't have a 4 engineers company). And even better, let's take if full scale 2.0. Imagine solving this problem with every mind on the planet that knows this language. Wouldn't that be something worth investing in? Welcome to 2.0.

Enterprise 2.0?

So there are some tools out there that facilitate communication 2.0. Think about wikis, sharepoint, blogs, ... . Which is easy to set up in your enterprise. So here we are than. We all see the benefit of communication 2.0, we have a central wiki page to capture and discuss our issues and to keep others in the loop and allow them to give an opinion. Enterprise 2.0? I, for one, disagree. You introduced 2.0 in your enterprise, but you're not at Enterprise 2.0.

Enterprise 2.0 is not having the tools in place. Enterprise 2.0 requires an upgrade from Employee 1.x to Employee 2.0. It requires every last one of them (or at least "the critical mass") to actively participate in your company. It requires them to invest time in a philosophy, to maybe pick up the pace on some language from another department. And above all...it requires them to think!

Transparency, open communication, information sharing, collaborative thinking, ... to me they're more than buzzword compliancy for the execs in their speech. They are the next evolution for communication, for better thinking.

vrijdag 12 oktober 2007

Meeting people

Lately I've been spending a lot of my time in meetings, video and telephone conferences, work related dinners and other social business activities. And it struck me that, after 5 minutes in a meeting you can start identifying different types of people, each with their own capacity. All of them unique and valuable if put to the right use. So, here's a shot at what I think people in meetings are (or at least, how I've met and perceived them).

Mister Social
Tagline:"Have you seen the new hottie on 7th floor?"
Mister Social is not particularly interested in the meeting even though he may have an interest in it. One of his main concerns is usually ventilating his opinion on the latest happenings in the business.

Recommended use:
Grab a cup of coffee with this person. There's tons of value in knowing what is happening in the business. Catch up, listen to what they have to say, ask for specific topics you care about. Never forget: they like talking.

The Secretary
Tagline:"Could you repeat those last 2 words, I missed them because of a typo"
The secretary will take notes of the meeting. No matter if she needs them or not, she will take notes. And by notes, I mean a literal transcript of the entire conversation. You were coughing during your second sentence? Be sure it's noted.

Recommended use:
Maximum value in a semi-large group. A too large group she will slow down by asking to repeat everything, a small group can remember the points without a full written transcript. Totally enforces His Shortness as she will write down his statements. When going through these notes just look for what His Shortness said and read around those things for a bit more detail.

His Shortness
Tagline: "So, to summarize the last 30 mins. Very black and white, it's A or B"
Simply put. This person can simplify everything to a degree you don't even think about. Reducing a one hour meeting to a few headlines. Very often his shortness has no direct interest in the meeting but is there to support somebody else.

Recommended use:
Not good for detailed discussions. Usually frustrates the Shy Guy bet reducing massive amounts of detail. Very interesting to have in meetings were you need to report to people higher up the tree. Usually those are not interested in the finer details but just want a short concise overview of decision. They know there's more detail so they know that what you present is black and white, they'll ask for detail when needed.

The Strong Silent Type
Tagline:"Actually, based on all your opinions, we go this way."
By far my personal favorite. Usually this person will sit there, looking semi-uninterested. The new guys usually wonder why he's in the room. He won't speak, he might slightly whisper something to the person next to him, until decisions need to be taken. No bullshit, everybody had their say and based on that this person will tell what the way is and decide. And for some reason, people generally won't argue anymore. He's the voice of widsom in many situations.

Recommended use:
Whenever a decision is needed, this guy will be involved, so you can just as well get him into the meeting if you don't plan on having a conceptual technical discussion.

The Extremist
Tagline: "No, I disagree with your opinion because mine is always better"
Usually so convinced of own point of view that discussions are very hard and irrelevant. Not open for logic or debate, only for people that agree with this character. Can usually only be halted by the Strong Silent Type or somebody that is hierarchically higher and tells them to shut up.

Recommended use:
At all costs, avoid discussions. Whatever bait they use, don't bite. Either try to scope out the meeting very carefully to not hit their sensitive subject (they will try to force it in anyway) or reveal the strong silent type in the meeting soon enough to get the point of everyone aligned and open a structural discussion.
Try to not have the hierarchy play as this will lead to frustration and more extremist in the future.

The Shy Guy
Tagline:"You asking my opinion? Really? Can I still hide?"
Looking away and not saying a lot. A rookie could mistake this guy for the strong silent type but be sure he's not. He's very often the technical guy that understands exactly what the meeting is about. He doesn't by default ventilate his opinion, and if not spoken to will not speak at all. But once you open his door, what comes out is of great value even though too complex and detailed for a lot of people, not clearly making a point or seeming very structured.

Recommended use:
Get him in when you need detailed information on the project. The hardest part is getting this person to speak. Once you've done that the gain is tremendous. It usually seems like every little detail about the project is stored in his head and available within half a second. If you can avoid a discussion between him and his Shortness you're in for a hell of a ride. He will give you all the detail, his shortness will provide the overview.

Laptop dude
Tagline:"Wow. Cool feature"
Will spend all the meeting typing or playing with his laptop/mobile/pda/latest electronical gadget. Laptop dude is usually a character on top of another type. The trick is to uncover him.

Recommended use:
Get this one out of the meeting. Alternatively unlock the other type, just know that laptop dude on his own has zero value for your meeting.

woensdag 10 oktober 2007


It may just be me, but I see tremendous amounts of irony in the sentence "This is pointless."