Archive for the 'Communication' Category

Subversion is in the eye of the beholder

Keith July 18th, 2008

“… officials held a press conference to alert law enforcement officials of a dangerous new hallucinogen…”

Kakadu – Life at a different pace

Keith July 13th, 2008

While you sleeping
you dream something.
Tree and grass same thing.
They grow with your body,
with your feeling.

Bienvenue en Nouvelle Calédonie

Keith July 6th, 2008

Actually just back in Australia now from a few days’ holiday.  Had fun in Nouméa, Ile des Pins, and Phare Amédée, but couldn’t actually log into WordPress from the hotel, as the connection there was via some sort of rather badly behaved VPN.

Enjoyed the time, but some aspects were disappointing.  Mining is treated as more important than tourism in New Caledonia.

It was fun to practice my French again, but ran into an interesting language barrier.  On our second day there, Marilyn was experiencing some pains.  Fortunately turned out to not require any critical attention, but we did spend a few hours at the main hospital in Noumea – Gaston Bourret.

It was easy enough to communicate that there was some pain, using a mixture of my French and their Anglais.  But the problem arose in communicating the type of pain. How do you distinguish between a dull ache and a sharp pain across the language barrier?  A “niggly” pain doesn’t really translate. 

Looking up “pain” in my English-French dictionary was potentially dangerous.  One of the French alternatives offered was a word that I suspect actually means “labour pains”.  An attempt to use this could well have got us onto the wrong track entirely!

Language barriers become fairly obvious in this context, but how often do we have equally misleading communication when we are all speaking the same language?


Keith June 26th, 2008

As a counterpoint to the earlier post on my opinion of how to do Change Management, this is an unedited extract of an article about Telstra that appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on 30 May last year. 

Mr Winn earlier updated business leaders on Telstra’s five-year transformation program…  As well, Mr Winn, who began his career as a linesman in the US, delivered a testosterone-charged description of the new management style at the telco.

“We’re not running a democracy. We don’t manage by consensus,” he said.  We’re criticised for it. The fact of the matter is we run an absolute dictatorship,” he said.

A cultural shift was needed at the former government-owned enterprise, along with changes in business processes, he said.  “If you can’t get the people to go there and you try once and you try twice … then you just shoot them and get them out of the way.”

I offer this without further comment.  Please compare this with the earlier post and tell me which view you think offers the best business result…

The idea monopoly?

Keith June 24th, 2008

When leaders learn to creatively engage their subordinates in everyday decision making, they can make change happen.

I have written here before about Change Management.  I am still of the opinion that this is an entirely misunderstood function in most of today’s organisations.  It was thus rather refreshing to read in the current issue of IABC’s Communications World magazine that someone has actually done some research that supports my view!

The quote above is from John Smythe, the author of the article Engaging Employees to Drive Performance.  (This is available to IABC members online at the magazine site above.)

The usual concept of change is that it is “done” by executives (usually aided and abetted by consultants).  We have more recently introduced the discipline of Change Management as a way of helping people to adapt to the agreed change.  Today, we focus more on Employee Engagement as a way of more actively getting staff involved in understanding the change, rather than just being told about it after the fact.

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Are your colleagues interested in what you say?

Keith June 20th, 2008

Telstra operates a public web site (Nowwearetalking) promoting public comment and debate on the telecommunications industry. I authored a blog on this site for eight months when I worked at Telstra.

So I am interested to now read that Telstra is promoting blogging internally!

A recent internal message is asking staff to advise the corporate comms team if they are already blogging (publicly), and they will promote selected blogs via an internal portal. 

This is not quite internal blogging (so far as I know, the Telstra internal infrastructure still does not support the relevant apps), but it is a step in the right direction!

Just before I left, there was an initiative started in which staff were asked to submit “good-news” stories for internal publication.  I found that the submission form for the “stories” seemed rather too prescriptive – and restrictive – to really capture meaningful narrative, but again, another interesting step in a worthwhile direction.

Podcasting – and learning

Keith June 20th, 2008

Just back from working with Dan and the team on the Kokoda Pathways blog.  Finally got PodPress under control last night – it’s all taking shape!  Just waiting for iTunes to set up our feed, and James and Jess will be full-time on interviewing, editing and uploading next week.  Good fun!


Last week I had the opportunity to meet Jay Cross – thanks to an invitation from Shawn.  Jay and I share some views on the role of learning in today’s organisation.  My main view is that making distinctions between learning, communications and content/knowledge/information management is an entirely archaic device intended to protect some people’s individual empires.  (Read more on my view here.)

Jay wrote back, directing me to one of his blog posts.  The salient point here is:

KM & training both suffer from corporate Alzheimer’s: the inability to read the handwriting on the wall. The future is bottom-up, open, networked, and more complex than we’ll ever understand. Deal with it… Isn’t it time for a requiem to these “solutions” to yesterday’s problems? Old-style KM and training don’t work in today’s egalitarian, networked world. 

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The first day…

Keith May 1st, 2008

So – today is my first day post-Telstra!

I have spent the day in Sydney delivering a half-day workshop at the Data Quality conference, and spent some time catching up with Matt Moore in the evening over a refreshing drink or two – and a $10 steak.  We had a very small group for the workshop, but everyone seemed to get something useful from it.  It was actually quite fun having the small group – we only needed one table, so I came and sat at the table as well, and delivered the session from there.  More fun in the city tomorrow.

By odd coincidence, last night was also my first night at a Creative Writing course at CAE, which I am attending with my daughter Renée.  One of the exercises at the course was to write continuously – about anythng – for ten minutes.  You can imagine what was the first thing that came to mind.  So, just for fun, here it is – completely unedited:

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Lost in translation

Keith April 16th, 2008

Awake! for Morning in the Bowl of Night
Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight:
And Lo! the Hunter of the East has caught
The Sultan’s Turret in a Noose of Light.

There has been some discussion on actKM about language translation.  It has been suggested that it is possible to decide that a particular translation can be said to be “correct”, or that one translation can be actually measured and rated as “better” than another. 

The argument has variously referred to single words or whole texts; poetry has also been referred to. 

Is it possible to say that even a precise, simple, factual statement is accurately translated?  Maybe, but I am not convinced.  However, when it comes to translating “knowledge” – any piece of text that is in any way context-dependent, then I must side with David Snowden’s view that “knowledge is closer to poetry than a factual statement.” 

Poetry tends to be strongly context-dependent.  There is no way that a translation of a poem can be judged to be “correct” in any completely objective or absolute way (or thus, by the above argument, knowledge).

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Practice, Communities and Technology

Keith March 29th, 2008

Why do Communities of Practice sometimes fail?

In my experience, one common failure is just throwing technology at a problem.  I have no problem with wikis and other technology – communities probably work best when they have appropriate support technology – but communities are fundamentally about people.

So, before you think about technology, you must first think about the community.  Seems fairly obvious!  There are lots of things you can do to bring a community together that require very little in the way of technology.

However, this is not the whole story.  I was present when Dr Ron Harper, late of RMIT, spoke to a group recently (a community of practice, in fact) on this topic.  Ron made the point that the important thing for a successful CoP is, in fact, the Practice.

When I look back at successful communities I have known, this rings very true.  A successful community must have a reason to exist. 

It should be pointed out here that a CoP is not a work group or a project team.  Work groups and teams certainly have a reason to exist, but they are also motivated in a totally different way.  They exist as an entity within an organisation, with a common management structure, and defined deliverables within that structure.

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