Mind The Gap

Most organizations I encounter possess a huge gap. That is the gap between concept and execution. Everyone loves to create the big idea, the grand plan and they want to get moving on it ASAP. Failure to “mind the gap” inevitably leads to failure of the initiative.Screen Shot 2014-01-30 at 10.27.13 AM

So what is in this Gap? We all know what needs to be done:

  • Document the current environment
  • Identify root problems
  • State your objectives
  • Create your plan for execution

The problem is that we rush through this part and/or don’t involve enough stakeholders. Frequently a preconceived solution is already in mind, which precludes any opportunity to be sure you are solving the correct problem. Filling this gap effectively is essential to the success of any initiative.

After years of working in the area of major organizational initiatives, I can say that the place I provide the most value is in Minding the Gap.

There are two parts to doing this well. First is creating a solid charter. The second is creating a thorough stakeholder map. Each task is seemingly simple on the surface. In fact each activity requires unique skills to do them well. The underlying theme in both activities is creating a transparent and dynamic conversation. Only through this process of proposal and feedback can all the issues be surfaced and dealt with before the tactical work begins.

This is what I do, and it just so happens this is the position I am currently looking for. As of today ( January 30, 2014) I am available for full-time or contract work to help organizations “Mind the Gap”.


3 Tenets of the Connected Organization

diversityIn the past 15 years the Internet has given rise to the Connected Generation. Realtime opinion and information is globally available. The dynamics of personal interactions are changing.

Organizations are just beginning to understand and make this same shift in a way that will lead to increased effectiveness, beyond mere efficiency. For organizations to leverage the connectedness inherent in the world today, they will have to internalize three essential tenets of operation.

  • Diversity combined with empathy is the gateway to innovation.
  • Content curation must become a core competency for everyone.
  • There must be a separation of responsibility between stewardship of resources and strategic budget allocation. Or another way of saying it, those responsible for making markets and meeting customer needs, should not also have responsibility for the welfare and development of the organization’s resources, but instead must solicit for those resources on an as needed basis.

Each of these ideas will be addressed further in independent posts.

The Conversation Triangle

“Conversation” is a powerful, and commonly used, metaphor for many types of information exchange. It is de rigueur in any description of Social Media. So if conversations are so important, what do we need to know to make them better and more effective?

The Conversation Triangle identifies the three key ingredients of any successful conversation.

These are the three pillars that support conversation.

  • The Social Object
  • The Connection
  • Trust

Without each of these three elements any conversation is going to fail, AND the conversation will only be as effective as the strength of the weakest of the three elements.

Let’s look at each element individually.

The Social Object is the subject of the conversation. It is the thing that makes people want to keep conversing. Hugh MacLeod provides a better description.

The Connection is the mechanism of how people converse; face-to-face, on the phone, email, etc.

Trust determines how much people are willing to share. Without the sharing of information, conversations are short and boring.

So the next time you hear a marketing “guru” talk about creating a conversation with the customer, look for the triangle and see if you can determine the odds of that conversation being successful.

What are the benefits?

One of Kathy Sierra’s main themes is about getting to the root of what it is that "users" want. This is more commonly referred to as benefits to the user. Most people/organizations that have a product or service to sell, have a tendency to define the benefit with respect to the product or service it self.

…2GHZ processor and 100 G of storage…

…0 grams of transfat…

Kathy’s point is that users don’t really care about the product or service itself, they care about what the product or service can enable them to do.

…easily upload my pictures to flickr…

…eat as much as I want without feeling guilty…

Right now I am facing a situation where I need to define the benefits of something. I need to keep Kathy’s perspective in mind.  Here is the situation…

I am a huge advocate of using social media within an organizational setting. I have spent much of the last year talking about it whenever the opportunity arises. I finally became inspired to try and create a position that is 100% focused on social media. Subjectively I know this type of position would provide a great benefit to the organization. My problem is that I am having trouble objectively defining the benefits. Almost everyone I talk to asks the same question, "What are the benefits to the company?" I reply with the usual talking points,

Internally social media supports innovation, breaking down of silos, …

Externally, social media can get us closer to the customer, allow us to become part of the community…

The typical response is "but show me the benefit." As I read Kathy’s post this morning, I began to wonder if I have fallen into the trap of defining the benefit in terms of the subject (social media) instead of the object (the user).

So it is off to find a new windmill, how to show the benefit of social media in terms that clearly point to the benefit of the user, as opposed to meeting my own need of finding a problem for my solution.