Community Architect

My new job title.

In my earlier post, The Practice of Community, I defined community to be the integration of the many into the one. Not a bad central concept, but I did not develop any mechanics as to how one actually goes about doing it. Upon further thought I am starting to see how it may work.

Scenario: A client or potential customer approaches you and says, “We need a blog for Brand X”. Now you have a choice as to how to respond.

Option A:

That’s great. I agree. Let me tell you about your blogging options…

Option B:


The “Option A” response is the technologist. It probably leads to immediate revenue, and a blog that does not deliver any significant ROI. The “Option B” response is the architect. It leads to a long discussion with the client and maybe no revenue, but with the client ultimately making the best decision possible.

I am clearly an architect by nature. I am always trying to find the new design that works better. I am always looking at how myriad things are interconnected. Now I have come to understand that the single concept that encompasses all of the new activity we are seeing happen on-line is the concept of community. So I figure that makes me a Community Architect.

Think about building a house. The object of activity is the house. The house is designed and built to meet the needs and desires of the home owners. The key roles in building the house are architect, general contractor, and sub-contractor.

Now let’s look at Community. The object of activity is the Social Object, the thing about which conversation revolves. The community emerges to meet the needs and desires of the community members. The roles that seem to be in place now to build (planned) communities are the agencies (general contractors) and the tool vendors (sub-contractors). Hey wait! Who is responsible for seeing the big picture? Who works with the community to understand their needs and desires? We need a Community Architect!

The community architect is the one that has the vision of how to integrate the many into the one. Everyone needs a community architect. Send me a tweet, anytime. 🙂


Blog Carolinas Agenda Draft

Blog Carolinas Agenda

Draft Agenda Tracks and Topics

Martketing / Comm Enterprise Community Learning Lab Geek Conversations
On-Line Reputation Talent Blogs Privacy and Identity
Distributed Brand Enterprise 2.0 Podcasting Legal Issues
Engaging the Customer Culture Shift Video Metrics
PR & Social Media Project Management Social Networks Data Portability
Monitoring & Measurement Re-Imagine the Organization Search

We have ideas for conversation leaders for several of these topics but nothing confirmed yet. If you are interested in leading a conversation or have an idea for another topic, contact Lee White. This list will remain fluid until the event.

This is also published as a google doc .

Blog Carolinas

Following BarCampRDU last year, Nathan Gilliatt began thinking about putting together some type of similar event, but with less of a tech focus and more of a business/marketing focus. To make a long story short, he started developing Blog Carolinas, modeled after Josh Hallett’s Blog Orlando. Thanks Nathan, for getting this off the ground.

Last week, Nathan and I agreed that I would take the lead responsibility for moving this event forward.

The theme of this event will be, how the new tools of community are changing the landscape for organizations. To that end, the term “Blog” in the event title refers to blog as a metaphor for all community based tools. This event will also embody the ideals it proposes to present. The planning and logistics will be handled by the community, affectionately known as FoBC (Friends of Blog Carolinas). The event itself will be more focused on conversation than presentation. I do plan to have “experts” in attendance and leading sessions, but their role will not be to teach per se, but to facilitate a conversation.

The intended audience for this event is not “the choir” (though we do need the choir there to lead the singing). The intended audience are those that are working in organizations, large and small, and have read the articles in WSJ, BusinessWeek, NYT, etc., and are curious about what this stuff is all about. So once we get the details set, please talk to your friends that keep asking you about social media, blogs, FB, MySpace, etc. (I am presuming that if you are reading this, you might already a member of the choir.)

New activity to date:

Next Steps:

  • First of all we need to confirm a venue and date for the event. My preference is a location in the RDU area, but if the perfect venue pops up anywhere in NC/SC we will take a good hard look at it. I would like to find some place that can handle about 200 people, including one large room for plenary sessions, at least 4 other rooms for breakout track sessions, and a common social space suitable for dispensing lunch and snacks. Access to open WiFi will be a VERY, VERY nice thing to have. Oh yeah, the space needs to be free (or sponsored). If anyone has ANY ideas, let me know.
  • Sponsorships will be gladly accepted. We are not trying to make money here, just cover the expenses. So if you, or someone you know would like to cover the cost of lunch, coffee, snacks, supplies, etc., please let me know.
  • A draft agenda is in the works. Once it is in a reasonable format, I will post here and in the FB group, looking for comments.
  • On line presence is already underway, but we can make it a little better. Nathan reserved a domain name “blogcarolinas.Net?, .Org?, .Com?”, and it would be nice to have a single destination. My skill set is not up to snuff here, so volunteers are happily accepted. A logo would be nice too, if there are any designers out here.

So it looks like we are off and running. Come and join the fun.

The Practice of Community

In 1954 Peter Drucker published the Practice of Management. It is considered by many, myself included, to be the seminal work about the nature of organizations in the 20th century. I once read that he spent much effort in naming his book before settling on “Practice” as the key word in the title. My recollection is that he considered ” The Art of Management”, “The Science of Management”, and “The Theory of Management” among others. He decided that “Practice” best described the concept he was after. It is something that we are continually learning and trying to improve by trying it out, or practicing it. So with great homage to Mr. Drucker, I am introducing The Practice of Community.

My definition of community is “the integration of the many into the one”. I will expand on this theme and its broad implications, over time. For now I just want to frame up what this means for me and E Quint Consulting.

NOW I have the elevator speech I have been looking for:

Other person in the elevator: “So, what do you do?”

Me: “I facilitate the development of community as an organizational structure within organizations.”

Other person in the elevator: “Cool! Tell me more about that.”

…or something like that. 🙂

Basically what this means is that I can talk about what is happening all around us with regard to social media, enterprise 2.0, WOM, etc. within the single context of community, where all of these instances are simply examples of “the integration of the many into the one”.

From this basis I see many themes that I want to develop:

  • The cognitive dissonance that occurs when organizations attempt “community” marketing while operating internally as an authoritarian hierarchy.
  • The practice of community is about continually working to include the next the next layer “outside” into the whole.
  • The “tools” of community, both new and old.
  • Why is community a viable organizational model “now”?
  • Can community and hierarchy co-exist?
  • Examples of community that can serve as models for the enterprise.

If you see anything you like here, please take it and run with it and give me a link. Remember this is just one big community. 😉

My new job title: Community Practitioner.

Branding E Quint

Ever since I started thinking about starting my own consulting practice, I have been talking to people to get advice. The one bit of advice I have been getting consistently is to be able to clearly, and quickly, state what irt is that I do (or will do). I am finding that to not be an easy task.

What I know is that there is an opportunity to help organizations rethink their structure and processes. Now I am not the first person to see this, …duh. So the question is what am I bringing to the table? My first response was Social Media expertise. But I think that terminology is going to give me problems on two counts. First, I think it is a difficult conceptual jump for most people to go from Organizational design to Social Media. Secondly, I think the term Social Media is always going to conjure up visions of technology.

So I think I am going to steal a page from the Citizen Agency playbook and start thinking in terms of Community.

Re-Imagine the Organization as Community

My elevator pitch? Let’s take a shot …

I am a consultant that works with organizations to help them look at their structure, processes and culture from a community perspective. I want organizations to consider all of their stakeholders as a single community as opposed to discreet constituents or demographic groups. I want organizations to move away from the traditional “Us vs. Them” mentality: management vs. employees, marketing vs. engineering, customers vs. customer service. I want to see an engaged conversation between stakeholders. And lastly, I want to help facilitate that change.

What do you think?

Project Language Translation

Now we have a conversation going…

Dennis’s response to my last post:

Lee, there is no way that you are going to convince me to manage a multimillion dollar project with hundreds of employees and multiple vendors without a formal, structured budget, a schedule, a defined set of tasks, or a defined set of responsibilities that can be communicated. I will also insist on an appropriate set of formal tools to efficiently keep track of all the “moving parts” — including the budget.

First, let me disclose, the majority of my PM experience has been with smaller projects than the ones Dennis is referring to. Therein may lie part of the difference of opinion.


As I pondered this post over lunch, I realized that Dennis and I maybe talking apples and oranges. My issue is not with the use of traditional PM tools for their intended use. No, what bothers me is when we try to use those tools “as is” to communicate to stakeholders. Think about it, if you are a Project Manager, what happened the last time you showed a 1000 line plan to your business sponsor?

The trick is for the project manager to find some mechanism to present the project content in a more consumable format, and to allow the stakeholders to effectively respond without having to learn the “syntax”. Enter Social Media.

As I look at Dennis’s “wish list”, most of the items deal with this translation from the inner jargon to an understandable conversation, and do it with a social media mentality.

Tools of Communication in Project Management

To tell you the truth, I think Dennis and I are pretty much in agreement that Social Media is a great tool for supporting project management. But how boring is that if everyone agrees all the time. Soooo, let me see if I can stir the pot a little….

In his post Leadership and Collaboration are Needed, Too, Dennis stated:

Formal project management tools can serve as starting point for communications about who is supposed to do what, and when. The larger and more complex the project, the more important role communications plays — and the more inmportant formal tools are in order to keep track of the many different “moving parts” in a large project.

I think that for the most part formal tools are vestiges of a time when information was required to flow through formal structures. The formal toolset is just professional jargon that has developed and been codified over time. The purpose was to create a shorthand way to communicate between “knowledgeable” people, i.e. those that knew the language. It kept project managers from having to “re-invent the wheel” for every project (not to mention providing job security).

As the fundamental process by which we communicate changes, a broader variety of people are becoming involved in the project process, therefore we need to move away from jargon and inaccessible tools. Social Media based tool, because of their flexibility and ease of use, can be used to meet the communications needs of projects, without carrying the baggage of the more formal tools.

The gauntlet has been thrown.

Re-Imagine Project Management

The other day I was having a v-con (voice conversation) with Dennis McDonald, a well-known advocate of using social media tools to support project management activities. We were having a great conversation when we had the idea that we should take it online. So here is the initial post of what we hope will be an ongoing and dynamic o-con (online conversation) about Social Project Management.

My key points for today:

  • Most of the value of a project plan comes from creating the plan, not having the plan.
  • Project Management is fundamentally about communication.

I think General Patton said something like, make the plan and then throw it away. (I am sure that is nowhere near the actual quote, but it serves my purposes). The point is that the process of design or creation is the point where knowledge is formed. The artifact of the creation process, the plan, has little relative value, as compared to the knowledge that was created. The lesson here is to be inclusive of everyone that will be a stakeholder of the project when you are developing the plan. Those that just see the plan document after the fact will be way behind the curve.

Use social media to engage stakeholders while a project is in the formative stages.

Once a project is underway, the most important role of project management is to keep everyone coordinated, i.e. to facilitate communication. If you think about all of the gantt charts, and cost estimates, and dashboards used on a project, they all serve one purpose; to effectively communicate what is going on. If these tools do not accomplish this function they are useless. Social media again can play a key role, because at its heart social media is about communication.

In many instances, the effective use of social media as a PM tool can reduce or eliminate the need for many traditional tools.

So Dennis, what say you?

Reimagine Now

I just saw this post over on the Now is Gone blog by Lauren Vargas. This is exactly the type of approach I am trying to express with Reimagine the Organization. I fully agree with Lauren that there is a huge opportunity for synergy between existing HR systems and social media.

Re-Imagine HR

I did a blog search on “issues in HR” the other day and the results were much as I suspected. The big issue that came up time and again was finding key talent. My own experience indicates that recruiters are, in fact, leading the way for adoption of social media in the HR world.

But let’s look at this a little deeper…

Let’s say an organization does a great job of finding the best talent by virtue of their excellent use of social networking. Now they have all of these hot new hires, what next? Once inside the organization, your “leaders of the future” are typically faced with a very traditional, hierarchical organization. If this “hot new talent” is buried under bureaucracy and fighting turf wars, is the organization really making the best use of their abilities.

Come to think of it, maybe we had the right talent on board all along, it was just inaccessible due to the prevailing culture. So let’s take a look at that culture (that is so prevalent in most organizations today).

In almost every organization I am familiar with the things that are rewarded include:

  • Performance (beating your peers)
  • Expertise (hording information)
  • Managing (telling others what to do)

Very seldom do I see sharing, collaboration, or stewardship at the top of the list of how organizations actually behave. I wonder why…? …can you say “compensation and reward systems”?!?

My point here is that organizations are not going to get better and smarter simply by hiring new islands of knowledge. Organizations need to learn how to build better boats for traveling between islands, and this starts with getting people to want to build boats. By re-imagining how we recognize excellence, we can begin to see sharing, collaboration and stewardship as the driving traits of an organization.

If, and when, this happens, employees will be begging for the tools that facilitate those processes. The technology to do so will simply be an implementation tactic.

Organizations may come to find that they had the key talent in place all along…duh!