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    Too many choices?

    Tonight on the HR Happy Hour show we will be talking about Work/Life 'Fit', and how organizations, specifically the HR professionals in organizations can better understand how to design, implement, and measure the success of workplace flexibility programs. Our guest will be Cali Yost, of the FlexStrategy Group and WorkLife Fit, Inc., writer at Fast Company, and an expert on workplace flexibility

    In preparation for the show, I thought to write a 'Technology for Flexibility' kind of post, digging in to some of the many available technologies that organizations have and can bring to bear to better support more flexible, and in many cases more virtual work. Technologies like Google Apps for e-mail and office-type productivity, DimDim for fast and cheap screen sharing and web conferencing, and Socialtext for content creation and collaboration, internal microblogging, etc.  There are scores of solutions ranging from crazy expensive, to 100% free, and everything in between.

    But then I thought, the problem for (most) organizations and HR professionals that may be wrestling with the decision of how, or even why to implement more flexible working arrangements (that often have an element of remote working to them), has almost nothing to do with the technology.  Even I, as a technology person, have to admit this. Most large organizations have already embraced the kinds of technology solutions necessary (VPN, company-issued smartphones, web conferencing, collaborative online workspaces) to encourage more workplace flexibility.  In fact, some would argue that these solutions have indeed created the kind of flexibility that the organization desires, employees are 'working' when they are at work in the office, and they can continue to be tethered to 'work' when they are not in the office.

    That is the ultimate in flexibility is it not?  No matter where you are, work is right there too.  Sort of like that nagging bug you pick up after you get stuck next to 'Mr. Coughing the Entire Flight Guy' on your last business trip.

    To better underscore the point that technology is only a (small) part of better and more evolved workplace flexibility strategy and execution, consider this quote from author and speaker Gil Gordon in a speech given at a Telework conference:


    The technology for telework is very good and continues to get better. This does not mean it is perfect, or that it is always the right price. But the best news is that we have plenty of technology - hardware, software, and telecommunications - to allow telework to be effective.

    I have seen many of my US clients having a difficult time trying to select from among this big list of technology. There are too many laptops, too many kinds of remote-access solutions, and too many kinds of applications software. What is needed is a way to create packages of tested solutions for various kinds of telework situations.

    Gordon goes on to note later in the speech that 'culture', not technology is the true barrier to increased adoption of telework in organizations:

    In many cases we have failed to recognize this kind of integrated, connected aspect of telework, and we have also failed to recognize that the very culture of an organization changes when we start to change some of its parts. The very best telework programs I have seen are the ones that involve a lot of planning to consider these cultural changes, and also anticipate what else in the organization must change for telework to succeed in the long term.

    By the way, these quotes was from a speech made by Gordon in 1999! We will figure it out eventually I am sure.

    So if we believe the basic points of Gordon's talk, that increased adoption of flexibility (at least in the form of telework arrangements) as far back as 1999 presented not a technical barrier, but a behavioral one, then drawing up a list of all the myriad technologies that are available that could support increased flexibility adoption seems a bit like a waste of effort.  

    We know these technologies, we have them already, in fact we have too many of them.  Many of you are walking around with 90% of the 'technology' you need for increased workplace flexibility in your back pocket, (or in a belt holster if you are this guy).

    So for once, on a technology blog, I will agree that at least this time, it is not about technology at all.

    I hope you can join in the fun, tonight at 8PM EDT on the HR Happy Hour show.





    Carnivals, Star Wars, and Happy Hours

    Just some quick updates and links for a Wednesday:

    First - Over at UpstartHR, Ben Eubanks has put together the HRevolution 2010 themed Carnival of HR. Need to catch up on all the post-event recaps, reviews, and action plans?  That is the place to start.

    Second - I have a post up over at Fistful of Talent today, 'Clinging to What We Know, the Jar Jar Binks Theory' .  It is not just about Star Wars. Not totally anyway.

    Third - The HR Happy Hour show will be live tomorrow night, May 20, at 8PM EDT.  Our guest for the 'Making Work/Life Work' show will be Cali Yost of the FlexStrategy Group and WorkLife Fit, Inc., and writer at Fast Company.

    That's it!



    The image on the right is an example of an Alexander Korzer-Robinson piece called a book sculpture; a kind of paper art that focuses on what he calls the “inner landscape". Big Servant Boy

    It is a kind of excavation, where he removes pages and pieces of the book until the only parts remaining are what he chooses. Indeed, what is left is something new—a book whose inner images are selectively revealed.

    Visually quite stunning, a physical manifestation of what we all 'know' but often have a hard time understanding and appreciating.  No matter what is being packaged and delivered in a complete form -  a book, a story, a system, or even an organization's collection of messages and stories.

    We know intuitively that no matter how much time we spend creating the perfect collection of information, technology, or narrative and painstakingly crafting the most complete and coherent story possible, that it is likely that it will be dissected, disassembled, and more often than not, reassembled and re-purposed in ways and for reasons that could not have been envisioned by the original creators.  

    The image on the right was created from a large encyclopedia volume.  Think of a typical, complex technology solution or a massive collection of organizational information like the encyclopedia volume.  Thousands upon thousands of pages, each one containing some relevant and to someone, important information, but in the whole too broad, too unwieldy, and too complex for any one individual's (or small group) needs. 

    Of course the encyclopedia has an index, it is an easy matter to simply look up the term or subject of interest, and find the precise information that is needed. Probably the same capability exists (or soon will), in the complex enterprise system or the organization's knowledge repository.  The process is straightforward, realize a need for some bit of data or information, seek it out, incorporate it into the current process, project, transaction, deliverable, etc. and move on. An easy process but often an inefficient one.  So we resort to the classic tricks to help us more easily locate the same information the next time - dog ear the pages, sticky notes, paper bookmarks.  And there are certainly digital equivalents as well, online bookmarks, shared favorites, user level personalizations to corporate systems.  These shortcuts are helpful, they help us get more efficient, but they are not transformative.

    A transformational capability would allow us to not only 'mark' the important parts of the system, or critical bits of information in the knowledge repository, it would allow us to reshape, re-constitute, re-assemble, and even re-imagine the information in a way that does more than simply organize but in a way that allows the opportunity to re-invent it into something more meaningful, relevant, and perhaps even artistic.  

    I think the next set of breakthroughs in enterprise technology won't be delivered by solutions that simply continue to tack on feature after feature, i.e. by adding more and more pages to the encyclopedia.  The real winners will be the ones that allow users to much more easily cut away the parts they don't need, discover the parts they do, and reveal for themselves and others something even more interesting and powerful inside.






    Weekly Wrap Up - May 10-16, 2010

    Still in keeping with the recurring theme of trying to break out of the echo chamber and making online content (like this blog) more easily accessible and consumable for those people that will never find their way here to read the blog (see the following crude pie chart below analyzing these populations).


    So as you can see from the chart, there is still plenty of 'blue ocean' out there. 

    I thought I would start posting each Sunday the summary of the week's posts in Tabbloid format. As you might recall from an earlier post, Tabbloid is a free service that lets you create a custom PDF format 'newspaper' from your selected blogs and other sites RSS feeds, and have that newspaper delivered via email on whatever schedule you choose.

    Here is this week's collection of posts, in handy PDF format - Steve's Blog : May 10-16, 2010.

    I hope making content accessible in this way is a help to someone out there, I will continue to post these collections on Sundays for the time being.  I hope that if you find them useful, or actually download the PDF and give/send it to someone that otherwise would have never seen these posts, you would take a second and let me know in the comments. 

    This is one way to try to break out of the echo chamber, but it is certainly not the only way, and if you have other and better thoughts on how to do this, I would love to hear them.

    Happy Sunday!



    Ok, I know what you are saying, enough about HRevolution already.  

    It seems like this event has been reviewed, analyzed, critiqued, and deconstructed about as much as the Zapruder film.

    For those of us on the organizing committee we are placed in the position of what, where, how, and when (and certainly if) this event, or similar events should continue.  As Jason Seiden observes, correctly I think, that there is an excitement and interest level in this event, that at times that seems disproportional to the the real size and influence of the event itself.  

    Maybe it is just the sound of my ears ringing from all the blog posts, tweets, and internet radio shows rattling around in the echo chamber.

    I wonder if we should take the event on the road, like in an old-fashioned barnstorming tour, hitting up five cities in a week to see if the message, format, vibe, energy, etc. that was HRevolution 2010 actually has meaning and relevance outside our bubble. Can I be Richard Pryor?

    I am actually (sort of) serious.  Load up a camper or a van, start in St. Cloud or Fargo or Omaha, pick an end point like St. Louis or Cincinnati, stop in a different city each day and conduct half day or full day, HRevolution 'participatory' mini-conference.  So instead of the typical local event for HR pros that can often focus on legal, compliance, and more 'practical' topics, we drop in with some of the HRev topics like influence, employer brand, technology, networking, or what ever is important to that community.

    Note: I am thinking we need to move from the 'Unconference' term if we ever do want to break out of the echo chamber.  If you don't believe me, check this poll of SmartBrief on Workforce readers.

    Taking the HRevolution out on the road might be the best way to try and directly reach some of the 95% of the working HR professionals that have no clue what all this fuss is about, get better connected to the real issues facing these practitioners, and perhaps ground those of us inside the echo chamber.

    Or it could be just an excuse to rent a camper or an RV and go on a little bit of a midwestern or southeastern roadie for a week this summer.  I have made many of the same arguments before with my family, just substituting 'attending minor league baseball games' with 'conducting HRevolution-style sessions with local HR professionals'. 

    So what do you think?  Anyone want to get on the bus this summer?  Anyone out there want to host and help us rally the local HR community where you live?

    Or is this more or less crazy?