Hack for No 2 Sun Tzu rule for the networked world

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The 2nd rule 0f the 10 Sun Tzu rules of the Networked World

Make our messages as small as possible.

An example

Once again, this rule is intimidating at first, but we can be assured that if pundits are telling us to do something, then they already know how to do it. So for an example, have a look at the link to BNET that I posted yesterday morning to a handy resource for Prospect Qualification.

Note well how they have worked out a simple decision tree and each step is small enough to do.

The General Idea

This is not a new idea at all. We often break complex jobs into small steps.

We are not, however, making information chunks small for the sake of it.  If we do, we are in danger of disemboding information and rendering it unintelligible.

But feed forward and feedback must come in ‘glanceable’ amounts – like the speedometer on our car. The information must arrive at exactly the point that we need it (not at exactly the point Head Office feels like sending it!)

Our Overall Goal

To think in networked terms, I want to reach everyone one of my fans and I want to reach potential fans – the friends of my friends.

So I have to think like Twitter.   Not only do I keep my messages under 140 chars, I allow for the RT and keep them even shorter!  After all, they are 5 times more likely to be read when they come from a close friend.

The technicalities are easy, it is the substance that counts.

The technicalities can be learned quickly enough. What is harder to work out is when and where people need information.

And the viral potential of the message

Hairdressers are often very good at txting reminders for appointments.

What we need too are messages that will go to the “end of the line.” What are we likely to retweet because we want other people to know that information too?

My local deli for example, could tweet its specials to customers who have requested tweets. That makes it easy for me to retweet and invite someone to lunch.

Hack for the 2nd rule

For each customer group that we have identified in 1a and judged to be a qualified prospect in 1b, we can ask:

  • What information do they need from us to organize themselves with people around them?
  • What is their purpose when they use my message?

Isn’t that why we love resources so much?  They become a lego block in a project of our own.

Recap of the 2nd rule

So we need to go back to the scenarios for defining our fans in 1a and think again.  Do we know what our potential customer is trying to achieve?

When we do, communicating is ever so easy.

(And it is so hard, when we try to jump steps.  Find time this weekend to work on your scenarios!  You can do them in the shower, in a walk in the woods, while waiting for your daughter to finish ballet class!).

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HR leaders: stepping up in the recession

UPDATE: For an HR Managers perspective on the Recession, I have written a summary on a new post.

In recent days, there has been a lot more traffic looking for advice on Human Resources Management (HR) in a recession.  Scott MacArthur posted a good practical list of issues and I weighed in on his post with two catch-all suggestions for opportunities presented by a recession:  Declutter and Build Relationships.

Strategic approach to HR in the recession

The recession is an opportunity for HR professionals to step and contribute strategically.  In the classical strategy paradigm,

  • we begin by looking at the macro economic environment.
  • Then we look at the micro-environment – what affects us and our competitors.
  • Next, we establish which strategic factors HR influences directly.
  • Finally, we drop down to our tactics.

Reach out beyond HR – think economics

HR Managers in large firms in today’s business climate have to start at the very top of the strategic process.   We are on the cusp of the most dramatic shakeup in business conditions in 70 or 80 years.  And, unfortunately, we will be lucky if it is only a recession.

I picked up a very good video this morning explaining how the credit crunch came about.  It uses the example of a pyramid of champagne glasses.  One of the first practical things you can do, is keep this link to help people in your company understand why the credit crunch happened, and why it is so serious.

Think beyond defence.  Lead.

As I write, I feel like one of the gloom-and-doom merchants we are hearing in the media.  I don’t feel the gloom-and-doom, as my previous posts on positive psychology and the best of Britain in this blog will show.

It does seem that business, and not just the banks, may have been dealing in classical pyramid schemes, and that major institutions, like the rating agencies, were utterly out of their depth.

The best of UK

But, we have another foundation to our society which is far more important than they.

I look to the creativity, the wit, the curiosity, and the plain initiative of the ordinary people of our country, and I look particularly to the spectactularly self-driven and honest Gen Y who are just coming into junior management positions.

Boomers and older Gen Xers need to step up and lead!

Boomers and older Gen Xers should be showing clear leadership but I am not seeing a phalanx of senior executives coming together and providing a united front.  I am not hearing a clear cut strategy from politicians.  What I am seeing, or perhaps hearing as someone put it on the BBC, is a loud raspberry being blown at the bailout. The Icelandic prime minister talked of “each man for himself”.

I think our role, as HR managers, is to reverse this attitude, and facilitate clear leadership in each and every one of our organizations.

So how do we support leadership in this climate?

This is what I would be doing.

Facilitate the conversation

#1 Be in on the strategic meetings and facilitate full discussion.  Our job is to stop groupthink, and to keep the conversations grounded and positive.  Negative thought leads to tunnel vision.  Postive thought about collective action generates creativity and sustains morale.

Broker commitments and loyalty to employees

#2 Ask for clear commitments of what the company can guarantee employees in the worst case scenario.  People need a firm bedrock to push off against.

Engage employees in independent scenario planning

#3 With or without these commitments, ask employees to engage in scenario planning on their own account.

~ I can hear the panic – employees think and talk?  Yes, this is the right time for employees to think and talk.

~ I would set up a closed social network on a platform like Ning, and open it up for employees to post videos and discuss ideas directly with each other.

~ By using a social media platform, the discussion is out in the open, and executives are able to monitor morale, and pick up ideas from the very smart Gen Yers who will use the network most.

Our role, as ever, is to facilitate:

  • Get Gen Y to teach Gen X and Boomers networking skills.
  • Moderate any uncouth language.
  • Net etiquette is pretty strong and some diplomatic coaching will smooth away any rough talk very quickly.

Is this too pink when we need strong task leadership?

Why will these actions help fill the leadership gap?  In a phrase, collective efficacySelf-efficacy predicts the staying power of individuals.  Collective efficacy predicts the capacity of a group to overcome adversity.

Collective efficacy is simply our belief in each other’s competence.  Social networks reveal the strengths of individuals across the organization.  We get to know each other, beyond our immediate workgroup, and we begin to appreciate the depth of talent around us.  Experts begin to explain complex ideas.  Non-experts listen, and display talents in their own areas.  Dumbing up, I like to call it.

Above all, we tend to get that jaw-dropping experience of “I didn’t know we are this good”.  Such insight generates the energy for the extra mile, the extra idea, the extra five minutes of patience, and ultimately the thriving that we hadn’t thought possible.

So how do we set up Ning?

It is easy (and free).  If you are unsure, or have never facilitated an online community before, there are experienced social media users the length and breadth of the UK.  For starters, contact SocialMediaMafia and ask them to direct you to a social media expert near you.  They will be happy to help.  This is the age and medium of the generous, the helpful, the connected.

And P.S.

If you are worried about talking about the economy and HR’s role, please do feel free to talk to me too.  This is the worst economic crisis in UK in the last 70, years but other countries have been through this depth of shake-up on a local basis.  I’ve been here before.

Collective efficacy is possible, and we in HR, are the people to fill the leadership vacuum, both online and offline.

UPDATE: For an HR Managers perspective on the Recession, I have written a summary on a new post.

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5 questions to ask when we initiate an online community

A woman reading SMS messages on her mobile phone while standing on a bike in traffic.

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Wise Web Developers from High Wycombe

I am delighted again by the wisdom that flows from High Wycombe. Paul Imre commented on my post about SwarmTeams and the exercise we did comparing soccer and work.

An online community as a rope

This time Paul used the analogy of a rope to think about a “social media community”. The rope becomes stronger the more we add strands. The rope has a past (so easy to forget) and the rope has a future when it begins to “think” for itself.

I think the first two points are useful to remind clients.

  • Ties with a community require constant participation – social media is a “hands-on” business.
  • A community has come from somewhere and is going somewhere.

How does the rope think? In two ways.

  • In a swarm – which for people not from UK is a social media community built up around an SMS system similar to Twitter – we communicate peer-to-peer – this is not unlike birds flying in a flock. P2P messaging allows us to follow the general direction of the flock, keep up, and not bash in to each other.
    • So we “think” by keeping in position by bouncing messages off the people immediately around us.
    • We also think, when gradual changes in what we do make the flock sweep and swoop across the sky.
    • This is what the pundits call low-level emergence. The flock looks as if it is intelligently following a leader. They are just following each other! And they are doing it without bashing into each other.
    • This kind of coordination would be particularly useful in a fleet of taxis for example, who could communicate where passengers are during rush hour.
  • The message board on an SMS system, that we can see by logging on to a computer, gives us the second level of thinking. The message board allows us to scan the overall pattern of the messages and make higher level changes – and any member of the swarm can do that. It is the equivalent of one of the birds in the flock saying “guys we passed that church half an hour ago – can we check our bearings”. My fleet of taxi drivers might scan the message board at the end of the day and observe, say, that it could be worthwhile having one person in a location to alert other taxis. For so many purposes, we don’t need a specialist to do this – we just need the message board and some motivated people.

Using Swarms at Conference

I also thought Paul’s question about when the “rope starts to think” takes us to something I commented about on the NLabNetworks blog – why didn’t we use social media more at the conference? It struck me that DMU had brought together a wide range of people from Leicester and wasn’t energetically linking the strands or developing a group that was “thinking”. After Bucks08, Paul came up with the analogy of a “dam” which stores potential. Toby Moores of Sleepy Dog wasn’t so taken with the image of “blocking”. But a “dam” is what we made when we put 150 people in a university building for a day. It is a pity that at the end of the day, we just let the water out. We should have at least used the water to turn a turbine or two.

The Swarm technology can be used to that effect. By capturing the tweeting for that group, we might be able to move up to another level of emergence where we see patterns, generate other contacts, etc.

So what are the five questions?

1. What will we do to add more “strands to the rope”?

2. Where did the community come from and where is it going?

3. What peer-to-peer decisions is the group making to “stay in position”and how are we going to join in?

4. How can we form an overall picture of the conversation and reflect it to the community so everyone can contribute to the group thinking?

5. How have we enhanced our future by joining and supporting the conversation (or did we just let the water run out – changing the metaphor, I know!)

Thanks Paul. Great heuristic.

Added this a few days later: What voices do you hear?

Social Media, HR and Member-driven Communities

Social Media is dominated in a fair degree by marketing. I am particularly interested in HR and communities like universities where customers and suppliers are the same people. If you would like to collaborate with me, or work with me commercially, please drop me comment. It would be good to expand the network of people interested in HR and social media in the UK.

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