Tuesday 11 October 2011

Disruptive networking

I think there always were disruptive networks. In the same way that tech has enhanced so many things, proliferated and amplified them, networks are the same. The difference is perhaps the organisations the networks are in - because I am of course speaking for the public sector here.

4,000 people struggle to keep in touch. Silos appear, because they have to - you simply cannot keep everyone in the loop of day to day decisions and so silos develop and inevitably sub cultures. Different identities, different paperwork, different evolutionary systems of recognition, praise and promotion.

Tech is pulling those silos back together again. And in the process of doing so, new discoveries are made of the different eco-systems. It would be easy to focus on the negative comparators - instead I believe to do so would be a missed opportunity.

Yammer is not it. Yammer should not be the sticking plaster that we slap on to these disparate ideals and goals within our organisations. Yammer simply proliferates the myth of one organisation using one system. We are a multi department, multi section organisation, not one. One would hope we are united in our goals, yes, but that of course still requires the acknowledgement that goals are vague hand wavy things to some people, people who are far more focused on hard and fast outcomes - x number of people fostered, y number of peoples BMI's dropped. But Yammer does not acknowledge these disparities, I feel, it merely compounds the differences instead of encouraging the people who rarely speak to have a voice. Our front line staff are not in front of a PC. Our front line staff should not be expected to log on from home - home for them is often a refuge from horrific tales and difficult case studies and reviews. No.

Instead we need to understand the duality of engagement with our own staff and understand that no one answer fits all in organisations where one's working life involves needle disposal and the other confidential document disposal. We need to not leave our staff behind internally, upskill them first, perhaps before we rush to upskill our residents - or at the very least run these programmes in parallel. And even then this training must not just focus on the value of technological networking. I believe that connections are valuable, that support is something money cannot buy and that the fine art of sitting and simply listening and letting someone vent are just as important. I cannot vent by tapping words into a computer. It just doesn't work like that. We are human beings and we want to splurge, release, vent. And then, most of us want to move onto the bit where we fix the cause of our dismay.

Connection and networks allow us to do that without repeatedly burdening the same people. Without always getting the same persons point of view, or more to the point obtaining a variety of views from the selection of different agendas, understandings, informed backgrounds and insightful wise words. They allow us to subvert - to run under the radar, discussing the difficult things, the hard things, the severely challenging and fear inducing things with people who feel no impetus to 'do something about it', but simply to listen and understand.  They allow conversations to happen and decisions to be made which should be made, with the added value of input form the people who need to be involved because of their expertise, not just because of their job title. They escape hierarchies. The go around the back of barriers. They break down silos.

But most of all, they are unofficial, undocumented, unnoticed by most and uncontrollable. They are a risk and they are breaking the rules. But they are also a source of solace, of hope, of support and listening ears.

Yammer is one side of the coin. For some it's a yet another neat little visible box to park staff in so that no one wanders off and does something silly or unpredictable or uncontrollable. For others it is an opportunity - and used well it should always be so. But never underestimate the value of face to face meetings, of passing it on, of coffee shop meetings and clandestine under the radar discussions off the record. They are the places where the little people scheme, where the indicators are never mentioned, where outcomes are focused and refocussed on and where ceilings don't exist to bounce off. And don't for a second think your job title excludes you from this. It most certainly does not. But to join this little club, all you have to want to do is change things. Make things better. And most important of all, know that no matter what your job title you have something to contribute, are allowed to think and put the world to rights and that one day, some day, your time will come.

Still a grain of sand. But a slightly more positive one.

I also met the author of Powerlines today. She's awesome. Utterly. But you know what - I can be too.

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