Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

So what makes an awesome team?

10 September, 2010

For the past 2 years I have been lucky enough to work in a most excellent team. Unfortunately all good things must come to an end, and as it happens Helen, Zaana and Alex have all recently had opportunities to move on to bigger and better things.

While super cool and exciting for them, it has lead me spend quite a bit of time wondering what exactly made our team such a great group to work in, and what can I do to make sure it continues? After having this stuff floating around in my head for a week or so there are the key qualities I have identified that have helped our team to work so well.

Shared big picture objectives

One of the most common barriers to effective team work that I have observed is diverging objectives within the team. When one team member believes option A is the best direction and another  believes option B is best conflict can quickly bubble to the surface. Even when an agreement on the direction is reached lingering animosty or personal agendas can remain. If they do these will gradually undermine the achievement of the objectives the team is working towards.

Fortunately in our team each of us had a very similar long term vision, which meant each time we sat down to solve a problem, we were all working in the same direction. Of course we often disagreed on the best way to approach the problem, but agreeing on the long term objective enabled us to look at each solution on its merits rather than getting bogged down debating how the problem fits in with conflicting objectives.

Complimentary skill sets and interests.

Part good fortune, part good design. We each came from different backgrounds and  had a different set of skills.  While all four of us had similar interests we  tended to favour a slightly different aspect of our work. This was great for brainstorming and problem solving as we each came at a situation from a different perspective.

This really was the ideal situation, not only did we all agree on where we were headed, but we thought about each situation differently, which meant in any given scenario, we would be able to come up with several approaches, to the situation, discuss the pros and cons and agree on the best solution or take a combination of each of our ideas.


If there is one thing I struggle to deal with it is secret squirrel types. You know the ones, they know what is going on but like to keep it under their hat, or the manager who works away with their boss on the 3 year strategy meanwhile treating their staff like the proverbial mushrooms (kept in the dark and fed nothing but bullsh… you get it). Fortunately this was not a problem in our team, twice we had a manager’s role open in the team. During the recruitment process we talked amongst ourselves about it, were open about if we wanted to apply, and kept everyone in the loop. It was great as it meant these situations did not descend into some sort of competitive mess and it ensured that if one of us did decide to apply for the role, that everyone was supportive and on side.

Mutual Respect

This has to underpin all of the above, each of the other three ingredients lead to sharing of ideas, debate and discussion but none will matter if the team members do not respect each other.

So there we go four ingredients for an excellent team. Now to the question of how do I keep these ingredients alive in whatever version of our team continues, I’m, not sure how it will pan out, but it is sure to be interesting!


Why would I want to look at that?

22 June, 2009

Part three in my ‘Getting an online community off the ground’ series. Today I’ll chat about bringing people in the door. (Officially this is still linked to the last topic, People but in the interests of keeping things short I split them)

We have figured out why we want to build a community, we have figured out who the awesome people in the community will be, next on the agenda is to figure out  how we get them to join and then stay in the community.

My best bet is pick up the phone and call the people I really want to have involved. Richard Millgton recently blogged on this topic with some suggestions along the same lines, his key message was if  you are send out mass invites you are sending out spam.

I’d have to agree with him there, I tried using a  mail out last year to kick off a community and it is fair to say it didn’t go brilliantly.

My experiment was reasonably targeted, I sent an email to all delegates registered for selected sessions at one of our conferences. Each email went out to between 100 and 300 people, the email talked up the opportunities to discuss the topics covered by the session and ask questions of the presenter before or after the event.

Even though quite a few people responded to the email and logged in, they were greeted by an empty room, as a result it never got off the ground. Looking back I see that I would have been better to use this strategy once the community had been up and running for a while.

When the community is in it’s start up phase,  we need to find the people who we really want to have involved, these are people who fall into the second group described on Tuesday, they must be motivated and importantly they must have time to put into the community.  Find these people, give them a call and have a chat; explain the goals of the community and let them know that we value their insight. Repeat this process with the top 20 – 30 people and we’ll be on our way to getting our community off the ground.

Growing an Enterprise 2.0

23 February, 2009

Alex Manchester from Step2 designs asked an interesting question on twitter the other day:

“If you have time, I’d love your input: what was the first thing you did to get social media/enterprise 2.0 going in your organisation?”

My response related to our use of wikis and Yammer over the last 12 months, here is the more detailed version.


We started out experimenting with ‘2.0’ tools last year. Our primary motivation was (and still is) to help our customers get better connected to each other. We have a customer base of around 120,000 people who are located all over the world. Our team was created to get our customers connected to each other, to help them to share their knowledge and experience. (I am coming to how we came to do stuff behind the firewall).

One of the first projects we launched last year was a Good Practice Guide. This is a wiki based knowledge base of tools, templates and other examples of good practice. This as a project in its own right has been growing steadily and now has around 2800 users. In order to get the Good Practice Guide up and running we needed to procure a wiki system. The wiki went live with the GPG in Aug of last year.

It quickly became clear that we were not using the wiki at anywhere near its capacity, to maximise our ROI, we decided to experiment with a wiki for the Knowledge Exchange team (4 staff). We used it for documenting team meeting agendas, noting project details and recording processes as we created them.

Word of this tool spread throughout the second half of last year and we received a several requests from other business units to have their own wikis. We worked through the concepts with a couple of the teams to identify what their objectives were and how they were going to use it. Currently we have 6 wiki spaces for different business units, these are growing slowly as managers and staff figure out how the wiki fits in with the way they work. As the platform owners Knowledge Exchange has also developed a range of tools to help staff get their wikis up and running successfully. While it is still early days, I’m quite confident that by the end of the year wikis will be an embedded tool in the work practice of a range of different areas of the business.


We adopted Yammer in late October, we started off with 5 users and in the first couple of months struggled to find a place for it in our range of communication tools. The biggest problem was that we would just forget to open it, so someone would post something then no one would see it.

In mid Dec of last year we invited a handful of staff from all around the business to try Yammer. Since then the Yammer community has grown to include 55 Members based in 3 different states, 10 of which have more than 20 posts and 6 business unit specific groups. Over the last 4 weeks the daily average is around 10 posts a day. We are now regularly seeing examples of staff members asking and answering questions ranging from “who do I speak to in department X” to “I’m trying to figure out how to define the value provided by an online community, what do you think it is?”.

Again Yammer use is still in the growth phase but the most pleasing thing is it is spreading virally, staff members from different areas of the business are telling other staff members and every day new people are being added and new groups are being created.

As a team we are only in the first stages of our Enterprise 2.0 journey but we seeing some very positive signs, it will certainly be interesting to see where we are 12 months from now.

Victorian Bushfire Crisis

10 February, 2009

There is enough discussion about this topic going on around the interwebs about this topics at the moment. But in case you had not heard horrific brushfires ripped through Melbourne’s rural fringe on the weekend, over 150 people were killed and over 1000 due to the unprecedented speed of the fire. You can read reports at local news papers The Age and The Australian.

Lots of people need help now, if you can please give some money to the Red Cross bushfire appeal or book a time to visit your local blood bank and donate blod. Donating blood is great but it is best to wait a few days as they have been flooded with donors in the last 48 hours and will need supplies topped up regularly in the next few weeks and months.

More of my two cents…

12 December, 2008

The first item on the Digital Economy blog asked about broadband usage and adoption among other things, here are my thoughts.

I’m late to the game on this one, work got in the way!

There are many benefits the Australian people, Australian Industry and the Australian education sector can gain from having a strong digital infrastructure.

My biggest concern relates to the availability of access to broadband internet. A connection that will allow a user to engage with rich multimedia content, for example watching speeches, listening to interviews and reading commentary during the recent US elections requires significant by bandwidth and usage allowance.

Broadband internet prices are still prohibitive for a large proportion of the population. If someone signs up for a $10 a month ADSL plan that comes with 200MB downloads, according to the statisticians they have broadband access, yet with such a small data allowance they are not able to truely engage with the rich content available online.

I believe the NBN must address the issue and provide affordable fast broadband access with a usable data allowance to all Australians.

Teaching social media

28 October, 2008

In the last two weeks I attended two Social Media conference sessions at CPA Congress in Melbourne. The first was run by Micheal Axelsen and was called “Facebook, Myspace, YouTube & Flickr – managing and leaveraging the business impact of social networking sites”, the second was run by Keith De La Rue and was called “Effective organisational communication – blending traditional and Web2.0 techniques.”

Micheal’s session focused on managing the risks social media can pose to business and individual users when they are not paying attention. He provided a range of practical tips for keeping you and your brand safe online.  You can view the slide pack here.

Keith’s session was much broader, he looked at some ‘old skool’ communication techniques and strategies and contrasted them with their 2.0 equivalents. Interestingly I found myself writing loads of notes during the traditional tools section; it can often be very helpful to look back in order to look froward.

Both sessions in their own right were great but I looked around the room in both and saw a few blank faces, I don’t think this was the fault of either Micheal or Keith. I do reckon the conference producers could help by tweaking the program.  Micheal’s session was in the first week, Keith’s was that the end of the second, I don’t think there were any other delegates who attended both sessions. This meant that both Micheal and Keith had to spend time defining what many of the social media tools actually are. If your going to be organising training or a conference that will feature workshops on social media for newbies here is my proposed flow.

Workshop 1: What is Social Media and why should you care about it?

Spend this session focusing on why businesses should be interested in what Social Media can offer and provide an overview of the tools that they can utilise. (Keith covered a fair bit of this)

Workshop 2: Why are you going to get into Social Media?

Workshop to help participants identify the needs they are going to try to meet through social media

Workshop 3: How do you make it work?

This what Keith covered in his session this session would techniques for successful implementations, learning from ‘old skool’ projects and other social implementations.

Workshop 4: Being social and Safe

This is what Micheal covered, this is all about making sure that when you do engage with the interweb using social media, you don’t fall into some of hte traps many others have.

My point – tweak the program so that related sessions can flow from one to another and in the marketing, highlight the links between sessions.

…that said how many accountants are likely to go to four three hour sessions on social media?

I love a big idea…

8 September, 2008

I’m always a big fan of starting out thinking big! I reckon it’s much better to aim for the stars then scale your plans back if it becomes clear you’re only going to make it to the moon. Charlene Li posted on Oracle’s new Oracle Listens program. Effectively this is a feedback portal which the organisation’s executive and senior management are committed to responding to in the lead up to Oracle Open World  on the 21st of September.

The really big part is that for the first two weeks of the program all traffic to will re-direct to Oracle Listens. As Charlene says there are a lot of risks with this approach, but I love audacity. It is a great example of an organisation backing themselves to service their customers in a very high profile public forum.

Its a tough ask but if they can pull it off it could change the face of  customer service in organisations all over the globe. I’m imagining live customer interractions occuring on the organisation’s homepage, risky sure but if you have the staff and the processes in place to provide great customer service, you have fantasicly rich customer feedback appearing in real time – right in front of your next potential customer….

I read an article about… doh!I tuned out…

13 June, 2008

A great article by Nicholas Carr has appeared in my reader three times in the last day or so. Nicholas laments the loss of our ability to read deeply. Google, Blogs, RSS, Podcasts and Wikipedia provide us with the ability to find out anything or say what we think about anything whenever we like. Is this bad?

Tony Karrer reckons it’s pretty good and we should blog about it, Tom Davernport says it’s inevitable and we’ll just evolve and Mind Hacks rejects the premise that anything other than out behaviour is changing.

I sit somewhere in the middle. I scan through 70 odd blogs in my reader every couple of days, only stopping to absorb or comment on those that particularly tickle my fancy. I scan the news headlines and read the first paragraph to get the gist of what is happening in the world. That said, I often crave analysis. I regularly find myself seeking out in-depth articles, podcasts and documentaries that discuss an issue at more than a superficial level. I sometimes get the feeling that while I have read 100+ articles in the last couple of days I have not really learned anything. At this point I agree with Tony, I really build my understanding of an issue when I blog about it, or if it doesn’t relate to my blogging ‘world’ sit down and discuss it.

Short, sharp updates are vital to keep up to date with what is going on in a rapidly changing world and while we may be spending less time on one article, we are now reading 5 articles on the same topic presenting a range of different perspectives. The nature of the reading and information consumption may be changing but will that result in a more sophisticated analysis of an issue?

But no one said anything!

18 April, 2008

How do you determine if a corporate blog is successful? We launched a CEO’s blog last year, the aim appears to have been to discuss ‘thought leadership’ issues with our staff and customers. 5 months or so later I keep being told that we don’t get many comments so it’s really a bit of a bomb.

I’ve got a couple of other blogs to get up and running, so I have been brainstorming objectives, coercing staff and suppliers to write regular posts, planning what topics will be addressed in the first few weeks and looking at platforms. The point I am at now is determining success factors. If the new blogs I launch don’t receive twenty comments for each post does that mean they are not successful? I’m thinking not.

Here are a couple of examples where comments are not the primary measure of success.

This blog
I hardly ever get comments on this blog…then again, I hardly ever get any hits! Neither of those things bother me because it is much more about the experience of setting up the blog and getting my ideas into a coherent format than establishing an audience. If I do establish an audience cool! It isn’t my primary objective though.

Contributing to a discussion
I read many blogs that don’t have many comments on them but the are linked to from loads of different people and places. If your peers suggest that you make a good point or take issue with your point you are a part of the discussion.

Bottom line, if you haven’t got a list of comments a mile long don’t despair, just think about why you’re writing the blog and have a look for some other measures.

I hope somone comments on this post!!! 🙂

Windows Mobile 6 Rocks My Socks!

17 April, 2008

I bought a funky little Bluetooth adapter for my phone that allows me to throw away the clunky proprietary headphones. It took a bit of fighting but I got it up and running and am now blogging from the tram in cordless comfort! Woohoo!

In order to get my newest gadget working I had to upgrade my JasJam from Windows Mobile 5 to 6. I also installed a nifty app called HTC Home. The iPhone is not available here in Oz yet, but when it does come out I am going to be hard pushed to come up with a compelling reason to upgrade. WM6 not only takes up less storage space and operates faster than WM5, it also has more features! When you add Home to the picture you also have easy navigation and integrated weather and music on your today screen.

Once I get to play with an iPhone its going to have to be pretty damn good to convince me to upgrade.

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