At The End Of The Day:

All that matters is: Can you deliver? I have run into several challenges over my career from jealous territorial co-workers, political positioning and the only advice I can provide is to persevere because at the end of the day all the matters is who can deliver.

Every time I have been asked to build out a team it is usually because there are no funds, no strategy, and resources that may not be motivated or appropriately aligned. One time I came into a position and found myself sitting across a table with two senior professionals and an overworked IT manager discussing in excruciating detail the most minor of issues for 90 minutes. I could tell from the look on their faces that they had been beaten down, had no direction and exhausted from not being able to get anywhere. At the end of that meeting I just looked at them and said. “At the end of the day. ”It doesn’t matter how big our team is, how much money we have or how important our jobs are to this company.” “The only thing anyone cares about is if you can get shit done.” If you can’t deliver then nothing else matters. Plus starting in a new role, I wanted to have fun. “And the way that I have fun is feeling a sense of accomplishment by getting shit done.”

I didn’t realize what impact that statement had on these people at the time but months later I found they had adopted the phrase “Get Shit Done” and would often repeat it back to me as if it were a proud war cry. It even go abbreviated to the point where we would just say “GSD” and get to work.

What we did next was put together some plans of items we thought were needed and then started executing against those plans to deliver. Rather than having endless debates about a column widget wasn’t formatting with a particular font we stepped back and focused our energies on upgrading the entire platform that resolved over 2000 bugs and provided additional features that were more valuable than that one widget.

Six months with $132,000 later we upgraded the community platform, fixed over 2000 bugs, implemented a totally new design with new navigation and dozens of new features. Our little team of three had done more in six months than had been done in the previous four years combined. And it was all because they believed they could. It was disruptive, it wasn’t without battles but it got attention that I hadn’t originally expected. I now had teams with budgets in the millions and dozens of resourced coming to me and asking how we got so much done with so little. I still don’t know the answer but I think it was because we were having fun. And because we were being successful at completing things it just gave us more motivation to keep going and do more.

The next year we had to continue to fight even though our little teams success had gotten the attention of the entire executive team. But we still didn’t have a budget and or any additional investment to keep up with our plans. With the help of my VP, we just keep pushing and pulled together an roadmap and investment plan that we thought would get us started. It took about 10 months of persistence but we finally got what we asked for and more.

The next year our little team of 3 with a $150K budget exploded to an international team of 10 with a $5.6M investment. I like to think we were the little engine that could. And it was all because we “Got Shit Done” and continue to do so today.

Social Intranet: Plan For Success

It was funny after all the team did to prepare and plan for any type of risk or failure during our social intranet rollout we forgot to plan for success. I guess we all assumed that something was bound to go wrong and many things did but we actually didn’t think, worry or plan for what would happen if the social intranet was wildly successful. And it was. Even before we had completed bring the site online we were already getting questions from employees. Where can I find employee resources?. How do I post? Can I upload a new profile photo? Can I create a group for my team? Yes, Yes and Yes! This is exactly the type of interaction and excitement you want to create around any engagement marketing program. The problem was we actually, didn’t factor in how much that demand would be and how much time it would take us to help field all the requests.

Thankfully, our power users who we kept engaged throughout the project really jumped in and to our surprise employees started answering each others questions. We had hoped that this would be the case but it exceeded our wildest expectations. All the benefits we had communicated to the executive sponsors around cross team collaboration, breaking down communication silo’s, nurturing teamwork and fostering innovation was happening much faster that we anticipated. We had expected this would be the case but there is always the wild card factor and that is the employee. If the communication isn’t clear and excitement isn’t there may not be the motivation for employees to adopt a new and modern way to work. But there was, is and continues to be.

In the last three months the social intranet has been adopted by all 65,000 employees worldwide and have made it their own. The phase from the movie Field of Dreams, “Build it and they will come” doesn’t work often when converting traditional marketing programs to a modern social platform but in this case it was true and worth all the effort and frustrations to see through the teams success.

I’ll be speaking more about this and customer experience at the Execunet Event this Friday October 17th at the Waltham, MA Conference Center. Look forward to seeing you there.

The Inside Story to Launching a Social Intranet: Part 1 – Commitment

These are posts I wrote in early June when we launched our new social communication and collaboration platform…

June 9, 2014 Over the last week, I had the opportunity to share some of the challenges the Social Intranet team ran into throughout the project but especially in the last 10 days prior to launch. I didn’t realize it at the time, but many of the issues we faced as a team are similar to what we have all faced when launching a product, event or campaign. I think there are three areas we can all relate to similar experiences we have had when launching anything.

  1. Commitment
  2. Resilience
  3. Reward

So, here is the inside story behind our launch.

This wouldn’t be a truthful if I didn’t admit that I wanted to quit at times. The challenges, obstacles and politics were taking a toll on everyone. I was on stomach acid medication for the last 8 months, members of the team were throwing up in the middle night due to anxiety of coming into work the next day and many tears were shed. We all knew that launching a new collaboration platform was going to be a challenge, but didn’t expect some of the obstacles we would face.

 

COMMITMENT

 

But, WE were committed… committed to the goals, objectives and most importantly, to each other. No one wanted to let anyone on the team down, so we did what ever it took to keep moving forward even though it felt as if the ground kept pulling us backward.

 

10 DAYS AGO…

 

It was the Tuesday after Memorial Day when we were ready to communicate that the internal social collaboration system would be coming down on Thursday May 29th in order to begin the cut over to the new platform and data base migration. Interestingly, a few that hadn’t been engaged on the project but held authority over company-wide communications decided that the email communication would not go out until the day of, not realizing the multitude of users who leveraged the platform 24/7 and needed more than 12 hours of notice. This was just one of the many examples of the challenges the team faced. There always seemed to be someone that would make a decision that wasn’t on the project team but directly impacted our ability to move forward. Whether it was global security requirements, legal review, or policy procedures of the executive team adjusting launch dates or changing scope, these were a few of the items that were the most frustrating. There always seemed to be more reasons why we shouldn’t do what we were doing rather than collaborating together to define what was possible.

Thankfully, The commitment from the project team, stakeholders and executive sponsors allowed us to over come many of the challenges and at times tough conversations. One of these was updating the executive sponsors some features weren’t going to make the release, like mobile, that Thursday we were to start the cutover. I have to give credit to the executive team, as they were tremendously supportive throughout the project and helped drive the communication through the leadership level. And because of their commitment they agreed with our approach for the release plan and allowed the team to get started. Enthusiasm and moral was high.

 

 

What experiences have you had when their either was or wasn’t commitment on a team and how did it impact the project?

A Responsive Debate: Mobile, App or Web

“To be or not to be?” That was the question we ran into during our last executive update regarding the mobile experience for our social intranet. Actually, it wasn’t a question as much as it was a statement. “What would it take to create a responsive mobile design for our launch?” I don’t know the answer yet as IT is still scoping capabilities but I can assure you it isn’t as simple as it looks. And this led to another debate about when do you need a responsive mobile experience, a mobile app or the option for full web functionality. It all depends really on what you are trying to accomplish and is also dependent on the platform you are trying to make responsive. Websites aren’t as difficult as it is all flat HTML for the most part but what if you are trying to create a responsive design for a community which is dynamic and is constantly in motion.

I guess I would classify web mobile solutions as the following.

1.) Responsive – which is intelligent enough to respond to the device you are using to view the website and it will adjust the design (or respond) to the size of the screen resolution more or less. So, if you turn your phone or iPad it will respond and expand the design to show more.

2.) Mobile Optimized – Not as intelligent to know when you are changing resolution but created specific for mobile devices so it provides an optimized version vs. the full website version which is difficult to see or use at times on phones. What this includes similar to a responsive design is building templates that react and are surfaced depending on the device and screen resolution.

3.) Mobile App – I am not in favor of developing apps for websites. The above example are more simple to manage and maintain as your website or community for that matter continues to scale and evolve.

We have been building our social intranet on the Jive platform and mobile hasn’t exactly been a strong solution for Jive which they will readily admit. I was at a Jive user group in Boston last week and was the one thing I recommended to the team for an area that needs to be improved. However, Jive has done some nice things with a company called Mobify. They have been able to create a nice compromise  which is not a responsive design as much as what I would refer to as mobile optimized but is functional. They recently rolled this out for Starbucks and looks pretty good on your cell phone. However, this is a pretty simple site and not that difficult to create a mobile optimized solution. If you think about creating a social intranet where there is an extensive navigation of employee resources you can imagine the number of templates you may need to make this truly responsive.

It’s a tough decision and when everyone is focused on delivering an amazing user experience at what point are you willing to put things on hold until that optimal mobile experience is ready. I don’t know the answer to that but hoping to better understand our options, determine what we can release in sprints and get some clarity on a launch date soon.

Believe, Lead and Follow!

I have never found it too difficult to get people to believe in themselves or a cause. It usually just takes a little encouragement and telling them “why not you?”, “You can do this” and if that doesn’t work sometimes a kick in the pants is required. I recently realized a key to motivation for a team is believing. Believing in a cause, believing in themselves and believing in the team will always lead to success. If you don’t believe then you have doubt and if you have doubt then you trust those around you to support you when needed. And that is a recipe for failure. Belief and Trust is so powerful when it comes to teamwork and more importantly working together. You don’t always, actually you almost never, have the opportunity to remove a weak member of the team that doesn’t believe or continues to hold on to doubt. So, you have to work harder to make sure that member understands their importance and begins to believe in themselves. I am convinced that most obstacles thrown at a project are due to those who don’t believe in themselves and because of that they have fear. And that fear is what causes doubt and a desire to stop everything because there is a lack of understanding about the unknown. And that unknown is uncomfortable for most.

If you talk to any for the folks from Peak Teams  they may not agree as when hiking to the north pole sometimes you have to make a tough decisions and can’t help everyone. However, you can’t leave anyone behind either unless you have made appropriate arrangements.

It is frustrating at times dealing with opposing opinions and outside perspective from those who haven’t been involved. But you will learn quickly that  you can’t ignore them and hope they go away. You have to get them to believe as well and then you can get their help to lead and get others to follow. Managing a community has to be managed by a community. So, it takes everyone and lots of different opinions and if you can get everyone to come to consensus then the end result will ultimately be better. All of this is just common sense. If you are compassionate and can listen then you can get others to believe. And because of that you can get them to follow and then you can lead. But you can’t lead and no one will follow if you don’t first  believe.