Cost-cutting is upside down and inside out

Inverted by mgjefferies via FlickrTwitter culture

Twitter is such a good example of the benefits of distributed, leaderless, co-creation.  Lots of grown-up lol cats like what we are cooking!  Yes, I am serious.

Today, I was working on some tedious table creation in Excel and I dipped in-and-out of Twitter as brain relaxation between chunks of work.  This wasn’t time-wasting, at least not for me, because as any half-decent psychologist knows, we can’t  work much longer than 10 to 15 minutes at  a stretch without taking a mini-break to manage fatigue and to restore a sense of what is woods and what are trees.

Some back and forth between @loudmouthman @freecloud @dt and I soon created the ultimate Twitter experience – the total confusion much decried by Twitter’s critics and the insights to weave together several half-finished conversations that I’ve had while I’ve been buried in Excel.

I resolved to write down why I find the political conversation around the budget cuts so dissatisfying.

Cost control models are no substitute for strategy or leadership

Controlling costs is nonsensical as a leadership strategy.   Accountants out there don’t have a heart attack!  We still want you to count the beans  but the purpose of life is not to control costs.   Remember what Napolean called us : a nation of shopkeepers?  I rather admire shopkeepers and the till must be ‘manned’ ; but a till does not a shop make.

  1. Cost-added models are passe. I am not going to be happy with a teacher or a doctor because they cost more, or they cost less.  I will not buy a Snickers bar either just because it cost you  a shilling or a florin to make.  Let’s wise up.  Cost is not important. Value to the consumer or citizen is important.
  2. Public services aren’t discretionary.  We have public services because we need them.  Public services are not a luxury.  If we cannot afford them  we are done for.  Though the army is the extreme case it makes the point clear.  If we cannot afford to defend ourselves, then we will have to reconstruct our entire nation-model because, in short, someone else will be in charge. The only discussion worth having in the public service is what is essential and why. What do we have to make happen?  When we have agreed on what is essential, we will make it happen.  We aren’t dunces (or at least we aren’t that hopeless).
  3. Cost-focused models assume virtue matters. Since when did the English believe in cause and effect and a grand idea?  (Not sure about the Scots, Welsh and Irish).   The international financiers may like us because we control our cost; and just as easily they might not.  I am betting they won’t because their essential psychology is macho.  Show weakness and you are done for. Show that you are willing to cut your own people off at the knees and your essential bargaining  position is gone.  They know you will agree to anything.  Bad move.  Any cost-cutting should have been done very very quietly.

What is the alternative to government by book-keeping?

So if I take away your cherished dream of a country run of us, by the book-keepers, for the bookkeepers, what is the alternative?

  1. Do the work.  Decide what is essential and do it.
  2. Understand innovation.  Let people get together and thrash out ideas.  1/200 may be worth it.  Budget for 199 being trashed.
  3. Put in good accounting systems so we can pay Ceasar what is due to Ceasar when it is due.  This is not living by cost control.  It is simply having good book-keeping so we can get on with our lives without constant cash flow crises.   A cash flow crisis tells us that we had shoddy book-keeping not that we spent too much money.  Though both may be true, we cannot have a crisis without bad book-keeping. Restore some professionalism in public book-keeping (=make the data public).

The country is just like our house

Conservatives tell us that running a country is no different from running a household or running a shop.  Many of us might challenge that statement but let’s take what we learn from running a household or running a  shop.

  1. Necessities are necessities.  We can’t provide them unless we know what they are and unless they come before everyone’s luxury.  Necessities are necessities.
  2. A day out designed by Mum and Dad will be a day out with whining kids in the back seat bored at the restaurant table. Plan this outing as a family affair using everyone’s ideas.   Good things do not come out of pre-defined criteria. Good things come out of us working together to enjoy our lives.
  3. Budget simply.  The envelope system works fine.  Put money for the rent, electricity and food aside.  People aren’t daft.  They will figure out how to have fun with what’s left in the fun jar.

Twitter is a fine example

And all this for wasting time on Twitter.   No, all this from following some basics.

  • I had set my goals for the day.
  • I am working consistently.
  • I am putting some ease into my day so my mind doesn’t wander and create rubbish that I will have to redo later.
  • I am being creative in breaks from necessity and the “hardness” of rule-bound behavior.
  • I have a list on my pad and I time myself.  My bean counting adds to my life by telling me where I am.  If something very important came up, I could switch my priorities easily.

A week of Excel is a hard week – not unlike a financial crisis.  I’ll get through it better by keeping my goals clear but in their place allowing some ease and respect for the people in my life and what is truly important.

Oh, let me be blunt.  Some people need to stop behaving like pratts.

Ergonomics 101

Ergonomics

Ergonomics – the efficiency of work.  Can we design work and procedures that are useable? Or somehow does the way we do things create more work, wasted steps, irritation, boredom or fatigue.

Clearly some basic ergonomics is a basic requirement for every manager and geek in this computer world of ours.

Hootsuite

I use Hootsuite as my Twitter interface.  I like the white layout.  I like my stream in three columns – combined, mentions and dm’s.  I like the button to shorten urls. I like the stats.

Over complicating upgrade

But they upgraded recently.  Big fail in my opinion.  We now have to select a social network for our message.  I know they are trying to increase functionality (getting greedy?).  The trouble is they left the send button next to the status update.

So we type a message, press send and go on to the next task.  Hours later we find an error message saying choose a network.  Blah.  Why can’t you remember.  Why can’t I have a default?

Solve a problem by thinking about what users do

This problem could be solved by moving the send button to the right of the social network choice.

This problem could have been avoided by making changes slowly and waiting for feedback to pick up what does and doesn’t work.

Ruin a good design

This overcomplication has changed a good service into a failing service.

For people looking for an Ergonomics 101 project: do an A B test with the button in two places.  Then sell  the results!

Did you think President Obama was tweeting? Himself?

So President Obama has never used Twitter?

Last week, President Obama told Chinese students that he had never used Twitter. Shock! Who sent all those tweets under his name?

I tweet

I am a Tweeter. I enjoy tweeting because I work alone and in a small town. Twitter keeps me in touch with the world beyond my daily existence. It is also a handy diary. I often go back to me tweets to look up something that turned out to be more important than I thought at the time.

But I don’t think everyone must tweet

But I don’t think everyone should tweet just because tweeting is there. I’ve find it strange for example if a surgeon was tweeting. I hope surgeons are concentrating. To tweet about a patient who is unconscious could hardly be done with their consent!

Some people should not tweet, particularly when they are working

I don’t want pilots tweeting while they land a plane. And as a university lecturer, I wouldn’t tweet details about the quality of exam scripts – not because they are private – but because announcing the results is the prerogative of the Registrar. Only the official registry can announce a result.

I don’t expect a President to tweet

Here in lies why President Obama shouldn’t tweet. We voted for Obama, true (or rather Americans did). But we didn’t vote for Obama to do whatever he wants whenever he wants.

We voted him to work within a system and when we voted we assumed that he would be working within a system.

Just as I might ask a pilot to fly a plane, I haven’t asked him to fly any plane. This is a package – you and that plane. Obama and a set of institutions. He becomes part of the institution and it is the institution that is tweeting just as it is the “plane” talking to airtraffic control.

Public office changes the rules

Public office cramps our style! When we accept public office, as President, surgeon, pilot or university lecturer, then we accept that our behaviour is no longer private. And we comport ourselves accordingly. We will say no more on Twitter than we would in the pub. And people are more interested in what our institution does then us personally, it is better not to tweet. Let there be an official tweeter!

Let official tweeters work!

Of course, that means people in high office are not part of the river of information that is available to me and you. Let the official tweeters brief them then! Just as they do about what is being said in newspapers and on the streets.

It is no biggie. But not understanding our institutional role is a biggie. We shouldn’t be in the job if we don’t understand the constraints on our personal lives.

Authenticity means me & my job

And sometimes that means I will be silent

What do you do about local businesses who Twitter but don’t follow back?

Internet reciprocity and local business

Tell me, what is my obligation to help a local business who won’t help anyone else? Or if I am at work, what is my obligation to help a colleague who won’t help anyone else.

Reciprocity norms under scarcity and abundance

My instincts are all wrong.  I come from a country where just about everything is in short supply.

  • We don’t throw away food. Minimally, it will be boiled up in the dog’s food or made into compost.
  • We don’t throw way packaging. It is reused for something else.
  • We don’t even send spam because people pay for incoming mail. They’ll block us in an instant.

Our instincts are never to waste and always to help. Help first. Ask questions later.

In a land of abundance, what is the right response?

Let’s take a local shop who is new to Twitter

  • We can help them out by following.
  • We can help them out by RT.
  • We can help them out by replying and starting a conversation.
  • We can help them out by DM’s useful information.

But of course we cannot DM them if they don’t follow us. And I have to ask, why do I follow them, if they don’t follow me?

What should be my response?

Should we follow everyone who follows us?

I don’t follow everyone who follows me on Twitter.

Lots of people follow me on Twitter. I quickly learned most of them are bots.

When they speak to me, if they speak to me, I check them out.

If they behave “botishly”, I call them out.

If they reply, I check them out, and I help them. I put some time into helping them. I go out of my way to help them.

The instincts of living with scarcity. Always help a stranger.

Maybe I should be following other people more diligently?

I should probably make an effort to follow people who follow me.

The thing is I didn’t get on to Twitter to sell anything. I got on to Twitter to keep in touch with people. I quickly connect with anyone that I meetup with or who might have some common interest with me ~ like local shops.

Well, I suppose I should check my followers to see who is who. Or they could reply to me about something. After all I chatter a lot.

I think I am confused here. I am certainly annoyed that local shops broadcast and don’t listen back.

Have I answered my own question? What is my obligation to local businesses?

In a land of abundance, should I look after the people around me? I am not sure I should. There is another shop down the road.

Get real folks. We aren’t going to carry your baggage for you ~ not on this road ~ lands of abundance require economic reciprocity ~ you help me, I help you, you help me ~

If I am not sufficiently important to you for you to be sociable ~ then you will have to pay me for my time ~ that’s how it works.

But my instincts from the land of scarcity is that I might have to put up with your bad behaviour and to cajole you out of it? Do I? Do I hurt myself by not troubling myself to hurt you?

What if I just sit and watch you struggle? What if I just behave like one of those characters in sitcoms that sits on the sidelines and makes useless comments in the manner of a court jester?

So follow me back and talk to me!

And maybe I should check my follower list more carefully!  Or perhaps it is that those who set out to sell don’t listen. Maybe selling leads to an instinct not to reciprocate.

Someone straighten me out please!

For people who don’t get Twitter, Facebook, etc. Nice story ~ other people can read it too

This is a long story and a tame story in many respects, read on . . .

I am a psychologist. Any one who has majored in psychology knows that we are trained at university and college to be distant from our clients. We are even trained to call people “subjects” – or we were in my day.

We are also trained to see ourselves as people who have facts – to see ourselves as right, because we know the truth.

This is how we demonstrate to ourselves and our peers (other people trained like us) that we are right. We predict what will happen, and after what was supposed to have happened happens, we check whether we were right, preferably by counting something. Not all bad, but wait.

Positive psychology often continues this tradition. Positive or appreciative management goes further. The critical idea is one of generativity – that we engage with other people without defining our objective. So we cannot say what will happen, and because we cannot say what will happen, we cannot check whether we are right. That has psychologists of my generation heading for the hills! And that is a pity, because positive psychology has something to say.

Anyway, that is the back story – psychologists had to learn a way of thinking at college. We learnt it, and learnt it well. Now we encounter a new way of thinking, we find it hard – disorienting actually. Giddy making. It is difficult to follow what is good about appreciative management when it clashes so fundamentally with the way we learned to think early in our careers.

How 2.0 helped me

My task. I undertook to make a presentation on the new psychology to psychologists. Using the principle of going from the familiar to the unfamiliar, I wanted to keep in the step of checking results and I needed a reference or idea to fill the hole.

How did I do it? Fairly predictably, going to Google and Google Scholar didn’t help. What I did was check through my del.icio.us bookmarks and see what who had similar interests to me. And I found my paper on the evaluation of generative methodologies! Bookmarked by one other person! Amazing. In half-and-hour to an hour, using what I saved on del.icio.us for earlier projects, I found exactly the rare article I needed!

How was this different from the way I did things before? Wasn’t that what we have always done? Searched around libraries until we found something? Ah, I didn’t search around the Library. I searched around people I didn’t know and who don’t go to the same conferences and meetings as me. Not only did someone I not know help me, they helped me in good faith, that I would help the next person and the next person, etc. This is the O’Reilly principle that web 2.0 systems get better the more we use them.

So what did I need to do that I didn’t need to do before?

  1. I must join in with a view to finding like-minded people rather than experts.
  2. I must put a trail of my activity out there. The end of the rainbow is where my trail intersects with the trail of someone else – not lots of people – one person. At the intersection is the person who interests me – and it is very likely that I interest them.

Could I have been more 2.0?

Yes. I could have engaged and reciprocated! I could have written to the author, thanked him and allowed him to benefit from my project.

Sorry! I was still in 1.0!

Hack for No 2 Sun Tzu rule for the networked world

Speedometer in Ford Mondeo ST220 (MK3) (highli...
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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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17 facts about Twitter and Facebook graph in UK for your PEST analysis

Facebook is “who knows who” in London?

If you want to find someone in the UK, go to Facebook.  1/3 of the country is there and more than 1/2 of our internet users are there.   3/4 of Londoners are there.

Because so many Londoners are on Facebook, it is also London party.  Just over a quarter people in the UK live in or close to London, but nearly half of Facebook members are Londoners

Almost everyone who uses Twitter is on Facebook.  Its easier to say that 1 out of 7 Twitter users do not use Facebook.

But as 6 out of 7 of their Twitter friends will be on Facebook, they are well connected!

The question is whether you can find the other 2/3 of UK residents through your Facebook network.  It would be work a try, wouldn’t it?  Can you find and meet anyone of the 61 million people beginning with your Facebook network?

The picture

Twitter & Facebook Users in UK
Twitter & Facebook Users in Users

The numbers

I made the diagram using the online chart maker, Chartle, using the numbers below, some of which I got from Google Adplanner on 2 August 2009 and some of which I got from Wolfram Alpha.

1.  People in the UK : 60.8 million
2.  Internet users in UK : 40 million (66%) (2006 – probably higher now)
3.  People in the work force before the credit crunch:  29 million (almost 50%)
4.  Young people 13-16, 16-18 and 18-24 who are not in the workforce but who are active internet users: Unknown (do you know?)
5.  Retired people who are not in the workforce but who are active internet users : Unknown (do you know?)
6.  People in the London : 7 million  (about 13.5% of  UK residents)
7.  People in the wider London metropolitan area : 13 million (about 27% of UK residents)
8.  People who use Facebook in UK : 22 million ( about 35% of UK residents and 55% of UK internet users)
9.  People who use Facebook in the wider London metropolitan area: 10 million (77% of residents, 25% of UK internet users, 17% of UK residents, 45% of Facebook users)
10.  People who use Twitter in UK: 3.5 million (6% of UK residents and 8% of UK internet users)
11.  People who use Twitter and Facebook in UK: 2.9 million (7 % of UK internet users, 13% of Facebook users and 83% of Twitter users)
12.  People who use Twitter and not Facebook in UK:  0.6 million (17% of Twitter users and 1.5% of UK internet users)
13.  People who use Twitter in the wider London metropolitan area:  1.8 million (18% of London internet users)
14.  People who use Twitter and Facebook in the wider London metropolitan area : 1.5 million (15% of London Facebook users)
15.  People who use Twitter and not Facebook in the London metropolitan area : 0.3 million (3% of London internet users)
16.  People from outside London who use Twitter and Facebook: 1.4 million (12% of Facebook users)
17.  People from outside London who use Twitter and not Facebook: 0.3 million (difficult to know the percentages)

Wooo! social media does work!

Image representing Upcoming as depicted in Cru...

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Abrupt change, relocation and HR/OD/Psychologists

Those of us in the HR/OD/Psych trades know absolutely, for sure, that in the next year, we will be helping many people regain their bearings after abrupt changes brought about by house losses, job losses and relocation.  I’ve had some practice at abrupt change because political issues at home have led to relocation first to another country, then to another city, and then again to a third country.

Thank heaven for social media

I arrived in UK 1 year and 5 months ago.  You can always spot a migrant.  We can tell you how long we have been somewhere in months.  This is my third major move and yes, as with all things, we improve with practice.

My last moves were to relatively small places where to all intents and purposes it should have been easy to meet people.  You know, walk down the street and shake hands with each one of them. It didn’t work though.

Coming to the UK was quite different.  There are 60 million people here.  Brits work long hours (50-60 hour weeks) and compute long distances.  I commute  5 hours a day.  One neighbour makes a 100 mile round trip each day in one direction and another goes the same distance in the other direction.  Who has time or energy to say hello?  The commute trains are eerily silent as people sag on well worn seats reading their horoscope in freebe newspapers, playing with their ipod, or just sliding into a fatigue induced sleep.

Yet, is has been easier to meet people here.  And this is why: social media.

What is social media?

Social media is the read-write, two-way web, like Facebook and Twitter.  Social Media is the web we are a little frightened of because we can sit at home and talk to a stranger in a way we might not on that train of exhausted commuters.

So how does it work?  In the ordinary world, to meet people I go along to some semi-public event – like the Christmas party hosted by the gym.  I have nothing in common with anyone else at the party except that we use the same gym.  I hope the gym makes a profit from a party but it is after all a slightly forced and odd social occasion.

Social media has many more applications than Facebook.  A very important one for people who are relocated is Yahoo! Events Upcoming.  By scanning for events within 100 miles of your home  (Brits travel long distances very routinely), you can find events that you are genuinely interested in.  You indicate you will be going and you can look down the attendance list and see not only who else is going but where else they are going.  In that way, you are able to converge very quickly into groups of people who share your interests.

Moreover, the people who use social media understand networking and are more likely to talk to you and introduce you to people at the event.

My experience

I found the inimitable Chris Hambly, guitarist, rugby player, media camp organizer, online education guru and general connector via Yahoo! Events Upcoming.  He kindly referred a journalist to me for an opinion on the media camp he organised, and though my name is spelt wrong, here I am, 17 months after arriving in a new country, quoted in a leading daily!  Thanks Chris.  Thanks, the Guardian.

Social media and HR/OD/Psychology/Coaching

And remember coaches, of all descriptions, when helping people cope with radical transitions, think social media.

And any one interested in the psychology and sociology of social media, please do contact me.  I am also interested in other rapid community building applications which will be important as we deal with the pressures and stresses of the next year to year-and-a-half.

PS The Guardian Link works erratically and often redirects readers to a jobs page.  To get to the article follow [Careers Advice] [Life & Work] [and look for the story on Media Camps]

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