GovLoop - Knowledge Network for Government

OGI Conference - Internal Customer Engagement

As many of you know, I was asked by the folks at GovLoop and 1105 to moderate a session at the OGI conference earlier this week. I hope that you guys appreciate it if I share the results of that session with the rest of the GovLoop community who wasn't able to make it to the conference.

I should tell you that while I was preparing for the session, I spent some time looking over related discussions from other GovLoop members and borrowed a few of the questions I used directly from the GovLoop community. I also asked folks who did attend to join us out here in GovLoop to continue the discussion and ask any question that we didn't have time to answer at the conference.


The session was fun for us and based on the voting results provided by attendees, they got a lot out of the time they spent with us. See the bottom of this post for panelist's bios.

Here is what we talked about. Some of the questions and answers are paraphrased to keep things simple:

Q. (To Mr. David Ferguson) How do you make a big Web 2.0 project like Global Pulse 2010 go?

  1. First, you need to start with a good idea, a tool, a process
  2. Find an evangelist
  3. Expose it to as many as you can
  4. Be flexible enough to change
  5. Engage with the willing
  6. Demand support from the necessary!
  7. Provide leadership - make quick decisions and anticipate needs
  8. Communicate, communicate communicate!

Q. (To Melissa Marroso) What do you say to senior executives who are struggling with making the transition to open and transparent government?

It wasn’t too long ago when leaders were afraid to give our employees computers - because they’d be on email and chatting with their friends. Today, we can't imagine work life without it. There are some things that senior executives can do to make the transition easier:

  1. Insist on, and get insights from your employees about how social media can be used in your organization
  2. Insist that your social media activity is in line with your business priorities
  3. Have a social media policy - inform people about the appropriate use of these tools. Guide people and don’t restrict them!
  4. Acknowledge successes & encourage other people to adopt them as well
  5. Engage! There are small ways that leaders can participate. Sometimes just responding to someone’s blog can have a tremendous impact.

Q. (To Bryan Sivak) What makes the difference between companies who have succeeded in applying knowledge management technologies and those who didn’t do so well?

  1. Defining the metrics for your success is critical. Organizations that do this well succeed more often. Metrics can change and that’s okay, but make sure they are focused on what is important now.
  2. You have to have buy in from across the organization. Key individuals may include executive sponsors, end users, consumers - all groups are important to have at the table when you design your program. Make sure you have the people who are creating and consuming content & everyone who will be involved.
  3. Successful organizations have evangelists

Q. (To the Panel) When we crowd source, a limited number of people end up managing connections with a huge number of participants. What are some of the techniques we can use to effectively mange those one to many relationships?

  1. There are tools available that will help you to organize the content that get’s generated by the “crowd.” For example, people can be given the ability to vote on the content that they believe is most relevant and that content will automatically bubble to the top.
  2. Crowd sourcing takes a lot of energy. When you’re done, the crowd is tired of talking with you and you’ll be tired talking with people, so you really need to organize your crowd sourcing events around a real business need that helps keep you focused.
  3. Other social media like Facebook makes a great cost effective companion to a crowd sourcing events. It helps you to reach many people in a cost effective way & follow up.
  4. Take care to set the right attitude going in. There can’t be an “us vs them” mentality inside or outside of the organization. The one team / one fight approach to a problem helps to equalize multiple organization cultures.
  5. Removal of hierarchical structures and infusing participating people throughout the scope of the project

Q. (To the Panel from the audience) If your leadership is not willing to back you... what successes have you had in getting these leaders to change their mindset?

- Pick off little pieces at a time

- For example, sometimes it makes sense to switch people with similar skill sets and use them interchangeably across the organization.

- In another example, the finance community started to adopt the use of social media to support their ERP implementation. They capture lesson’s learned around accounting best practices, what pitfalls they have around month-end cycle time. They use social media for tacit knowledge capture in Blogs. New hires started to host brown bag lunches. Some staff started to post to a blog in Oracle that no one was using and others began to talk about how to improve the month-end closing cycle.

This next question came directly from a GovLoop member. I lifted her question from a discussion she started and carried it to the conference with me:

Q. (To the Panel From a GovLooper) - Patty Gamin writes - Like many other organizations, the State of Michigan as an employer has identified knowledge transfer as a critical initiative. In this time of budget constraints and potential loss of employees, we are interested in any successful low cost, but high impact knowledge transfer tools, suggestions and ideas. There is so much information about knowledge transfer available, we would like to hear about some tried and true strategies (you) have found useful.

In David Ferguson’s experience running the professional services division at AT&T, he suggested that creating a culture of re-use has worked very well for him. While he was in charge, he asked during every review about what was being re-used. He says that re-use offers a few advantages:

  1. It’s faster
  2. Creating content from scratch leads to more errors. Each new creation increases complexity and the risk for missing something.
  3. Copying what’s already been done by someone in the past gives people more time to think about how to improve what’s already there to make it fit better for a particular example.
  4. Copying gives the organization the ability to leverage the work it’s already done.

“The more you copied, the happier I was.”

“Of course, in order to do that, we had to set up systems and repositories. We had to make time for people to take time at the end of a project to put their stuff in so the next person could have access to it... you know, all of those things. And we weren’t GREAT at it, and no... not everybody always put their stuff in, but we would not have made it if we tried to do everything from scratch.”

Melissa Marroso followed up right behind David with some amplifying advice of her own. She talked about how hard it was, back in the day, to harvest knowledge. People used to hand over their laptops or throw a bookshelf at the knowledge harvesting projects.

She reminds us that the information that we were capturing in those days was the information (or in the right format) that most people needed to consume. This is even more pronounced today because your next-gen probably won’t be interested in the knowledge left behind from your workforce that is leaving. But she says there is some good news here and offered a few tips:

  1. Don’t try to boil the ocean when it comes to knowledge harvesting. Not all knowledge or information needs to be captured.
  2. Most people don’t spent the time up front to understand where the organization is going. So before you start off with any knowledge harvesting initiative, it’s important to not only understand what your strategic priorities are, but where your business is going. THAT’s the knowledge you will want to have available. Focusing on the 5 or 10 strategic areas of your business that are going to be important going forward makes knowledge harvesting a much more winable activity.

So here are three things that are both magnificent and cheap tools to use:

  1. Tagging. This is a super easy way to help capture knowledge inputs from your organization. Tagging with metadata is extremely valuable. The workforce will eventually work this way.
  2. Start a wiki. This can start off small - focusing on things like “what makes it special to work here” and grow over time. The workforce will keep this up to date on their own.
  3. Tee up new hies and interns with more experienced people. Ask the new hire to Blog about their experiences and insights with the organization.
Bryan Sivak gave the audience a good overview of the problem that the State of Michigan is facing. He told the group that the State of Michigan has offered early retirement benefits to many of the government employees and they face some significant revenue challenges - and many of those people have accepted. So they have a really large number of people leaving very soon. So the challenge for them is that it’s a short time frame that they have to secure all of this information and experience from the existing workforce.

The critical thing for the State of Michigan, says Bryan, is getting the most critical bits of information out of people’s heads who are leaving that are relevant to the systems, processes and services that they support before they actually leave.

He reinforced Melissa’s point that they have to first define the things that are really important and not try to capture everything.

Brian concluded with a new suggestion: Over the longer term - if you have more time - there are some things that are being developed right now where we are attempting to capture knowledge while it’s being created or edited. The idea is that as I’m performing an activity, I’m actually creating knowledge that exists in my head that I should not have to recreate it later. So if we could find a way to capture that knowledge during the creation process, index it, allow people to retrieve it easily, and shape that into the official piece of knowledge, then we’ve gone a long way towards automatic capture of what exists in someone’s head.

Q. (Audience Choice question to the Panel) What role does internal motivation play in Transformation and what is your advice for creating it?

Generally, the panel believed that people are not motivated by financial rewards. So here are the tips they offered for creating internal motivation:

  1. Give people the freedom and the trust to do the job that they want to do in the way that they want to do it. That comes with responsibility.
  2. Provide ways for people to learn more, to be more engaged, and to grow.
  3. People are motivated by serving a higher purpose. Define the higher purpose within the organization.
  4. Never waste a good crisis! These are incredibly powerful focusing mechanisms. That is the way things change inside of big bureaucracies.



We closed with a quote from another GovLooper, - Guy St. Clair from New York, New York. He blogs about his read of a book titled “Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies” He writes:

“For some, the groundswell idea might seem like just one more practical management technique in a new dress, but I don't think so. The different social media we're all dealing with - combined with the whole framework of network value analysis - gives us incredibly fine opportunities for moving beyond what we've been doing in the management arena in the past. It's a totally new management environment, and I'm excited about it. I'm not sure I want to just sit back and watch.”

Good for you, Guy! What a great quote to end this session with! Clearly, Guy is not just sitting back and watching. He's out here with the rest of us trying to make a difference - and I'm reusing his material. :)

Panelists bios:
David Ferguson: David is the Director of the Global Development Commons for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). USAID promotes peace and stability in the world by fostering economic growth, protecting human health, providing humanitarian assistance, and enhancing democracy in developing countries.

Mr. Ferguson joined USAID in September 2009 as the Director of USAID’s connect, collaborate and innovate initiative, the Global Development Commons. Over the past five years, he has worked on international development challenges as an independent consultant - bringing together technology, development and the private sector. This is his second career. His first career was 27 years at AT&T where he created and ran AT&T’s Professional Services Division, developing it into a $200M profitable entity. He was based in Hong Kong for seven years and focused on the developing markets of China, India and Indonesia. He built seven joint ventures during this period. His technical expertise includes Information and Communications Technology (ICT) for development, economic growth through private sector engagement, government technology, and telecommunications policy and regulation.

Melissa Marroso is an Associate Partner in IBM's Human Capital Management Practice and she leads the Knowledge & Collaboration service area for the Public Sector. She advises customers on strategic alignment and the link to innovation between knowledge sharing programs, learning initiatives and collaborative ways of working. She has worked across the federal government and commercial organizations advising them on the integration and adoption of social computing, communities, innovation programs, virtual reality based learning, and collaboration environments. She has guided numerous clients in the education, healthcare, defense, oil and gas and intelligence communities on the use, the integration, and the adoption of new web2.0 technologies. Melissa is a web2.0 ‘evangelist’, she is also a frequent user and speaker on the use and application of IBM’s social computing tools and approaches.

Bryan Sivak was appointed by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty on October 13, 2009 to the Cabinet post of Chief Technology Officer (CTO) for the District of Columbia. As CTO, Bryan leads the Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO), an organization of more than 500 staff that provides technology services and leadership for 86 agencies, 38,000 employees, residents, businesses and millions of visitors. Bryan has over 15 years of experience in building software, internet technologies, and organizations. In 2002, he founded and developed InQuira, Inc., a multi-national technology solutions company whose products are used at top private and public sector organizations including Bank of America, UK Ministry of Defense, Nokia, and T-Mobile. Prior to his work with InQiura, Bryan founded Electric Knowledge, a Limited Liability company which provided the world's first Natural Language Search engine available on the web.

David Dejewski (Moderator): Oh, just go to my profile page & you'll find everything you need to know. Former Director for Enterprise Transformation Planning, former Chief for Defense Business Transformation, former CIO, former PM, former ISO auditor, small business owner, blah blah - current blogger, and willing catalyst for empowerment and change. :)

All of the panelists are members of GovLoop, so you can find them here as well.


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Comment by David D. Ferguson on May 11, 2010 at 3:05pm
Thanks David, you did a lot of homework to make the session go well and the above is almost like being there!
Comment by GovLoop on May 7, 2010 at 4:15pm
So cool how you integrated the GovLoopers and gave them a chance to shine as well.

You are a rockstar...wish we would have more time to hang out.
Comment by David Dejewski on May 7, 2010 at 1:43pm
Awesome! Well said, Andy.
Comment by Andrew Krzmarzick on May 7, 2010 at 1:23pm
Thanks for stepping up the plate and hitting a grand slam, Dave! Lots of great nuggets there that reinforce some of the other sessions I attended.

Quick note on "Find an evangelist." This word was used twice above. And I agree with it completely...I usually call this person a "champion" - someone who can can wield enough force to move matter(s) slowed by lethargy and inertia. Think Commandant Allen of the Coast Guard.

And I'd also like to push for another quasi-religious term: Pastor. Around 400 AD, Augustine of Hippo, a prominent North African bishop, described a pastor's job in this way:

Disturbers are to be rebuked, the low-spirited to be encouraged, the infirm to be supported, objectors confuted, the treacherous guarded against, the unskilled taught, the lazy aroused, the contentious restrained, the haughty repressed, litigants pacified, the poor relieved, the oppressed liberated, the good approved, the evil borne with, and all are to be loved.

Bring on the Gov 2.0 pastors!!

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