CAT | Collaboration



Where is your ESI?

WhereIsYourDataIf you are like many readers (and this author!) your may first need to find out “What the heck is ESI?” Electronically Stored Information is what the lawyers call all that stuff we knowledge workers produce that lives on our local machines, in the corporate network, in the cloud, and these days, on wearable devices.

Jonathan Swerdloff makes a compelling argument that a wise organization will take the time to compile a data map – “a document or series of documents that identify the who, what, and where of the ESI held by an organization.” Swerdloff, an attorney, sees this as necessary preparation for the day that an organization faces litigation. He points out that putting this document together requires a level of due diligence which probably extends to surveying employees, who may be storing organizational information in places unknown to the IT department.

But really, putting this document together has a strategic purpose, as well. So many of us are on multi-organizational teams these days, and those teams choose a wide range of places to share information.  It’s probably important to find out who, if anybody, is storing project information in a partner org’s system or in Basecamp, shared documents in Dropbox or Google Docs, or meeting notes in the chat logs at GChat or Skype.

Even people whose work is entirely within the organization may be storing information elsewhere. When the priority is to get the work done, many choose to request forgiveness later, rather than ask permission up front to use a cloud-based tool. And of course, a simple misconfiguration can result in critical emails going out under an employee’s personal, rather than corporate account.

Creating the data map may well expose some deficits in the organizational toolbox. If you find that your most effective employees are using tools you are not managing, it may be time to bring some of that capacity into your organization.

We’ve been providing role-based training, team discussion and file space to organizations for over a decade now. We’d love to help you simplify your data map. Contact us at

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predictiveanalyticsThe folks at Bersin by Deloitte have a brief out about how talent analytics can be harnessed to improve decision making in the human resources arena. They’ve taken a look at some of the new predictive analytics products designed to model retention, performance, leadership and succession planning, and career planning.

Wisely, Bersin cautions HR Leaders to

  • Validate the accuracy of the predictive models over time and within different segments of the employee population.
  • Look for solutions that reveal the factors related to predictions and establish talent initiatives based on the relevant factors (e.g., initiatives designed to reduce turnover).
  • Make sure to check the quality of the data being fed into the model and work to improve data quality over time.
  • Put in place programs to help managers and HR staff to correctly interpret and act upon the data and predictions

It’s in this last area that I think the learning organization needs to be pro-active. Data is terrific, but managing to new numbers requires a lot more than just an introduction to the new dashboard. Conscientious managers will want to understand just what is captured and not captured in the new models. The organization will need the feedback from the field on where the model fails to capture unique aspects of the operation. Modelling, done well, is an iterative process. Therefore, so must be our training in how to use it.

An organization we know is planning to encourage (and capture!) informal learning around this culture change by presenting the new dashboards in the context of a software platform which also features space for forum discussions about the numbers and what they mean. They plan to sponsor periodic conversations about how the modeling assumptions are arrived at, and what it means, operationally, when a manager’s results show her performing above or below the mean, and to encourage managers to share their success stories in “moving the needle”.

How do you plan to attend to the human side of incorporating the new analytics? We can help! Contact us at

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virtual conferencingI recently picked up a copy of Harvard Business Review’s Ten Must-Reads On Teams.

Lynda Gratton and Tamara J. Erickson note in Eight Ways to Build Collaborative Teams that teams are getting larger, more complex, and more virtual, and that each of these factors mitigates AGAINST successful collaboration. Virtual teams do not witness the highly collaborative behavior of senior executives, nor do they have the opportunity to forge relationships by catching lunch together in the beautiful company cafeteria.  Gratton and Erickson observe:

We found some surprises: for example, that the type of reward system—whether based on team or individual achievement, or tied explicitly to collaborative behavior or not—had no discernible effect on complex teams’ productivity and innovation. Although most formal HR programs appeared to have limited impact, we found that two practices did improve team performance: training in skills related to collaborative behavior, and support for informal community building. Where collaboration was strong, the HR team had typically made a significant investment in one or both of thosepractices—often in ways that uniquely represented the company’s culture and business strategy.

As learning organizations, we can support our teams by making available training opportunities in building soft skills, which these days need to also cover how to communicate effectively using the more attenuated sensory channels –telephone, email, video conferencing, discussion sites — available to our virtual teams.

We can also make available online space for more casual interaction. Being able to show off baby pictures at the lunch table makes a difference – and it can also be done in the team microblog, if we are making one available.

Does your training platform enable learners to practice electronic communication skills? Ours does. We’d love to talk to you about it — drop us a line at

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Where Do Your Document Creators Live?

eWeek has an interesting article this week on how Yammer is integrating with Microsoft Office.

I have been thinking about this:

Yammer also showed off its planned Office Web app integration, which [Yammer co-founder and general manager of the Microsoft Office division Adam] Pisoni describes as his favorite. “We have this amazing ability to let people connect and communicate and collaborate, but they still have to go somewhere else to work on documents,” he said.

Users will soon have the ability to edit Word documents or PowerPoint presentations directly within the browser. Devised as a way to get employees to work collaboratively on a single copy of an Office document and reduce the number of attachments clogging up inboxes, the capability will soon allow Yammer users to edit and save changes in Office documents without leaving Yammer.

A very large number of us spend our days working with other people on the creation of documents, using a range of strategies:

  • There is the classic asynchronous approach – As the document owner, I write my version, send it via email to others for comments, they turn on track changes and send it back, I have to manage several different versions, and we do this through several revision cycles.
  • There’s the synchronous approach – we have a meeting, I display my doc, and I edit it as people in the meeting make modifications.
  • There’s the chat-enhanced approach – I write my doc, pausing every so often to skype/instant message/tweet/yammer/chatter my questions to people who know and incorporate their input that way.
  • There’s the forum-enhanced approach – I post my draft in the forum, and request comments. Others download the draft, and turn on track changes, and repost their edits, or if they are just commenting, they might just post some comments in the forum.

No matter which approach I use – and to be honest, I switch among all of these, because I’m rarely working solo — for the time I’m actually drafting,  I would describe the process as “living” in my document, and reaching out from there to other resources.  The resources I consult tend to be other documents, which may live on my local drive or in shared organizational repositories, web sites, which I go to from my browser, or other people.  How I reach out to those people depends on a whole range of factors, which include

  1. Whether the folks are internal to my org – If they aren’t,  I’ll use email or the phone, because that’s what most of my external colleagues respond to.
  2. Whether the question I have requires a quick off the top of the head answer or a bit of a conversation – skype text chat is great for the top of the head, but if I need to talk for a bit, then I’ll want to consider
    1. Do I want to be able to refer back to this discussion? – if so a post to the organizational forum is probably my best bet
    2. Do I need to provide lengthy background info for my question? – again, the forum wins for this.
    3. Am I hoping for an answer which is a link to another resource? – I’m going to want the forum, so I don’t lose the thing in a chat stream somewhere.
    4. Do I need to defuzz my thinking in order to even get to the right question? – in that case, a voice conversation using skype or phone is probably the place to start

So I guess I’m not sure it matters whether I have to “go somewhere else” to access a document.  For the time I’m composing it, the document is the center of my world, and my main goal in collaborating with others is to reach them wherever THEY happen to live.  To the extent I’m assisting with somebody else’s document, I pretty much expect to have to “go somewhere else” to get to it, but I expect the requester to find me where I am and to make accessing that doc simple.

An effective collaboration platform is one which makes it easy to reach out to others, from wherever one happens to “live”, and easy for them to respond.  For us at Q2, our Q2 eLearning System forums are our primary communication and file sharing platform, because we depend heavily on the institutional memory we’ve built there.  But we are enthusiastic  skypers and emailers and telephoners, because  we need to meet everyone we work with where they “live.”

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