Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Social Networking and Inclusion

Most organizations when creating diversity and inclusion focus their efforts on top leadership or middle management.  Another group that also needs to be addressed is the broad based workforce.   This group will experience behaviors related to diversity and inclusion in a more direct way than any other element in the organization.   They are also the medium through which diversity and inclusion can spread in viral, immediate way.  We recently developed a new program entitled Small Acts of Inclusion, a behvaior based program through which behaviors that promote inclusion can be spread in an immediate manner (One person I was speaking with characterized it as an injection of inlcusion into the corporate bloodstream).   Through the Small Acts of Inclusion program, an individual can practice behavior that promote diversity and inclusion on their own, and spread them through their own social networks.  This can be done in person, and using technology, creating a viral spread that it is impossible to replicate through a traditional effort.

After looking at our free e-book on Small Acts of Inclusion, I invite you for one week to incorporate five of the behavior into your daily routine both at home and at work and see what the effect is on your co-workers and those around you (both in person, and virtually if you use Social Networking applications like Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter).


Monday, April 27, 2009

Virtual Teams and Virtual Organizations

Our organization moved to a virtual office last year and the result for us has been better than we anticipated.   However, along the way there are a number of different things that we learned:

1)   Overcommunication is necessary--When we are in a traditional office environment, we tend to pick up many things just by osmosis...spontaneous conversations that come up, impromptu meetings that are called, etc.   Even though it may seem like overkill, it is absolutely vital to be very clear on your meaning, and ask questions if there is any doubt.

2)  The technological tools--Before going virutal, we took a great of time exploring different options for tools that we could use to replicate our communication patterns, and also to save money.   Most of the tools we identified were either free or low cost, and all are internet accessible.   For free applications, we selected Skype for our in house calling/chat tool, Gmail for our email addresses, and Google Calendar for our organizational calendar.  For low cost tools, we chose Egnyte as the virtual server, Ring Central for our virtual PBX, Highrise for our customer database, and Basecamp for project management.   We also have begun holding virtual conferences, and now use Webex as the tool for those events.  Switching to this internet based system has probably saved us 15% in operating costs.

3)  Connecting with other resources--We have also opened up to using Elance as a resource to help us staff up on projects that require skills outside of our core competencies.  Many clients have needs that now cannot be filled by their in-house teams and are looking to us to fill the gap in related areas.  As a result, we now have a trusted team of people that we have identified through Elance who are able to ramp up quickly on our projects.  We have been happy overall, although I would add that our best experiences have been when a project was clearly definable in terms of a result, rather than a result that was more subjective.

4)  Flexibilty--Our team loves the flexibility and the ability to balance work and home life.   Some employees do their creative work at 5am and begin sending in the results of their work, while others make work late into the night.  I am able to work in between taking my children to school, and then soccer practice in the afternoon, fitting things in both before and after. Life unfortunately does not fit neatly into boxes, so this flexibility has made us view our work and our lives in a different way.

5)  Relationships are still the key--Being virtual actually has made the need for quality relationships even more important.  Being isolated with time to reflect on something can result in thoughts running wild, so picking up on cues in someone's voice or tone can serve as a guide in figuring our someone's emotional state.   Don't ignore your instincts....if you think you "hear" something, ask them, because there is probably something to it.
It has been a great experience, and I will share more thoughts on this soon.



Thursday, April 2, 2009

Recreating your organization in times of chaos

he current economic environment has resulted in many rethinking our organizations and how we do business.   However, returning to how things were in the past is not possible as the landscape has changed and will continue to change dramatically. To ensure long term viability, leadership must be able to project into the future and lead from the future, rather than being resigned to thinking in past paradigms.   This requires what at Innovations we call FuturePerfect Leadership .   Some of the steps that leadership and management can play in creating this environment include:

•    Create and promote the FuturePerfect vision
•    Create an environment of integrity and trust
•    Establish an inclusive environment where all associates experience “equity of opportunity”
•    Ensure opportunities for personal and professional development
•    Establish quality interpersonal relationships, communications, and problem resolution
•    Create an environment for work-life balance

The role of individual contributors might include the following elements:
•    Require, ensure, and design engaging work that is personally satisfying
•    Ensure that your work is aligned with the organization’s vision, mission, and objectives
•    Assume a natural leadership role among peers as greater delegation occurs
•    Design a career development plan inclusive of experiences and learning  you will require
•    Establish strong collaborative relationships
•    Personally commit to continuous learning and adding value
•    Design a plan for work-life balance

Assuming that the economy will turn around and that business as usual will be sufficient is not enough, as experience has already shown us over the last eight months.