This website covers knowledge management, personal effectiveness, theory of constraints, amongst other topics. Opinions expressed here are strictly those of the owner, Jack Vinson, and those of the commenters.

State the problem, not the solution

CollaborationLuis Suarez pointed to an entertaining YouTube video produced by one of his IBM colleagues, Jean-François Chénier: The man who should have used Lotus Connections (embedded below)

Because Web 2.0 isn't just about being social.  It's about being smart and productive.

The video does a nice job of setting up some of the bad effects seen in business when collaboration doesn't work well.  In setting up people for a change, it is always good to get a common understanding of what the problem is, then on the general idea of the solution, then on the specific of how that solution could be executed.  In the world of Theory of Constraints, we talk about this as

  1. What to change (what is the problem)? 
  2. What to change to (where do you attack the problem)?
  3. How to make the change happen (what specific things are needed to change from the current situation)? 
    [See Frank Patrick's pages on these topics for more detail.]

In the case of this video, the evidence of the problem is that collaboration is a frustrating exercise (stress, lots of emails and phone calls, lots of checking back on previous emails, $60 lost).  I will argue until I am blue in my face that simply stating "install a collaboration platform" (Web 2.0 or not) is not going to get the change you desire.  How many such things exist in companies that don't know how to use them?  I don't really think the video is saying this, but many people operate under the assumption that "buy this thing" will remove all the bad effects you have been seeing.

Which takes me back to the statement of the problem.  There are other aspects to the problem other than what the evidence show (stress, piles of email, etc).  It is certainly not caused by the technology.  I don't know the answer, but I think it has to do with our expectations behind the technologies.  If I send you email, do I expect an answer?  Is there something in the social contract at our company (or the larger collaborative enterprise in which we operate) that requires a response?  What if you are in the midst of another large project?  Should I expect you to drop that other for an hour to give me a thorough response?  We all work in multiple projects, and those all have varying levels of priority and demand on our time.  Until we come to an understanding together of how to work, the fact that there are interesting tools isn't going to help a whole lot.

The tagline on the video has a hint too.  "It's about being smart and productive." 


Photo credit: ChrisL_AK.

PF2009: Break the vicious cycle

At the Project Flow 2009 conference in San Francisco