Druids, pagans, chocolate and the Great Gathering (@IntraTeam) #IEC14

Augustus Gloop

Gorging on IntraTeam riches

The A303 is a road which runs from the affluent, urban, south of England to the beautiful, rural, south west of England – the latter, a region which conjures up for many English people long, hot, summer holidays by the sea. I’m sure many countries have an equivalent road. But surely, only in England, would someone actually write a book about such a road … and only English people would surely buy it in their thousands! I surprised myself by being one of them … reading it and really enjoying it.

Anyway, about halfway along the A303 – highway to the sun (<- the author’s description, not mine!) – lies a pile of prehistoric stones called Stonehenge, described as one of the ‘wonders of the world’. Frankly, it’s a pretty disappointing wonder of the world compared to some of the others littering the globe but, nonetheless, it has for hundreds of years been the meeting place at the Summer Solstice for various groups who purport to worship the sun or feel the urge to commune with their ancestors. The most famous of these groups is The Stonehenge Druids.

Every year on 21 June at sunrise, the Druids, accompanied by various pagans and occultists are drawn to Stonehenge to do their thing – they just can’t help themselves. Similarly, in the midst of winter in the dark and distant land of Denmark (<- unless you live there or near it … in which case it’s near and dark), an equally strange group of misfits gathers each year to commune with one another at the ancient ceremony (<- by conference standards at least) of IntraTeam. They just can’t help themselves!

As well as being part of the odd group of people who read books about roads, this year, I’m also one of the strange misfits gravitating to IntraTeam in Copenhagen in February. I haven’t spoken at any conferences for some time because, to be frank, in most cases there isn’t much in it for me. IntraTeam is different though. Without wishing to compromise my normally cool and calm image … I’m like Augustus Gloop in the Chocolate Factory! The riches on display are breath-taking.

I fully intend to gorge myself until I’m fit to burst … and really hope you can make it too!

In case you’re interested, I’m presenting on how to be an effective internal communicator and remain relevant in a social organisation. Between now and the conference, I hope to publish some posts giving a flavour of what I’ll present … well hope springs eternal!

The moral of my medieval fable ( #intranet #digitalworkplace )

Following my last post, several people asked me to explain further what I meant by my Medieval Fable … some even seemed a little upset (<- sorry about that) … so, here goes!

Evolution of the intranet

Simple diagram on the left

In May 2011, I published the simple diagram on the left asking the question about the relationship between the intranet as we then knew it and this new-fangled Digital Workplace thingy which people were beginning to talk about (if you have time to read through the comments on the original post, they make quite interesting reading).

You see the ‘graph’ on the right of the simple diagram on the left … er … well, that’s the moral of my fable.

WHAT, you need MORE explanation??? Seriously, what’s not to get???

OK … I’m going to go out-on-a-limb here and make some assumptions (<– I realise that this is tantamount to sticking a ‘Kick Me’ sign on my own back, but here goes …!)

Assumption 1: Any company worth its salt has an intranet of some description.

Assumption 2: An intranet is an environment/platform/whatever where content is published (<- I know the word published is a bit 1990s, but it still pretty-much covers what has to happen to stuff for it to become visible to other people on an intranet).

Assumption 3: Most – maybe all (?) – intranets have an Intranet Manager of some description.

Assumption 4: Intranet Managers are appointed because they know something about intranets (even those who don’t could pick up the basics from half-a-day’s reading of a handful of great intranet blogs). Intranet Managers know stuff like: good governance is essential; intranet strategy needs to support the business objectives; put users at the centre; business- not technology-led; blah blah; etc. etc.

Assumption 5: Given all the above, being an Intranet Manager is not rocket science (<- that doesn’t make it easy by the way!).

Assumption 7: Intranet Managers can’t count (<- just checking you’re still paying attention).

Assumption 6: As a company’s intranet matures, the list of stuff in Assumption 4 becomes business-as-usual and things start to run themselves to some extent.

Assumption 7: lots/many companies have probably got to Assumption 6 in their maturity cycle (<- OUCH … who kicked me!?).

Assumption 8: So, the more effective we are as Intranet Managers, the more invisible we are to users and, ironically, to senior management who only really take an interest when something goes wrong and they are looking for someone to blame (<- that probably came across a little more cynically than I intended but you know what I mean!).

… and then, along comes the Digital Workplace Monster. As my simple diagram on the left shows, the Digital Workplace Monster gobbles up the intranet. By gobbles up, I mean the intranet as we now know it, suddenly becomes a (small?) component of a bigger ecosystem known as the Digital Workplace.

To put it another way, the intranet becomes the utility cupboard under the sink in the Digital Workplace kitchen … the place where stuff (content) gets put so you can grab it when you need it. The stuff in the cupboard under the sink is important if you need to unblock the plug-hole, descale the kettle or clean the sink etc. … but, frankly, it’s not very exciting. It’s reliable … always there … and useful when you need it.

So, here’s the thing … six months ago you were the Intranet Manager – the go-to-guy (or guyette) guiding your organisation digitally into the twenty-second century. Today … you manage the cupboard under the kitchen sink.

It’s worth thinking about … that’s all I’m saying!

The fall of the house of intranet – a cautionary fairy tale for intranet managers

[Allergy advice: written in an office containing nuts; may contain sentiment offensive to intranet managers]

MonsterOnce upon a time, workers lived among reams of paper – newsletters; memos; phone books; and much more besides … as soon as these bits of paper were spewed out of printers, they were out of date … the cunning and ruthless Sir Lever Arch infiltrated himself into every aspect of corporate life.

Like rising damp, armies of managers emerged from under rocks and from within cracks to manage each other and all sorts of other stuff which oiled the wheels of the corporation, but which were ultimately pointless.

This was a pretty poor state of affairs so, one day, a very clever wizard – no one knows exactly who he was but his magic wand and pointy hat were very magic and pointy – decided that all this paper could be replaced by the interweb.

Not the big-wild-west-interweb-dominated-by-porn-and-gambling-since-discredited-by-Tory-MPs-who-wouldn’t-know-the-interweb-even-if-it-donated-squillions-of-pounds-to-their-evil-cause … but secret interwebs owned and managed inside companies only accessible to those in the pay of the big bosses who were the direct reports of King Arthur himself – for it is he …

And so the intranet was born.

Soon after, it became clear that these secret interwebs needed a firm hand and a stout heart to keep them in order and make sure they delivered shareholder value, met the needs of users and supported business objectives … and lo-and-behold White Knights, or intranet managers, strode confidently from the magic forest to pick up the gauntlet.

These White Knights rode on stallions named Governance, vanquishing unofficial servers … ruthlessly slaughtering poor user experience. For a while, the White Knights ruled supreme – proclaiming the word of the intranet … ‘governance; cost savings; user testing; cost savings; usability; cost savings; business requirements; cost savings; and many more black-magic-type-cost-savings which were lapped up by the men-in-suits who pandered to King Arthur himself’.

All-the-while, in a dark cave high in the mountains of IT-shire, a strange and unknown creature was emerging called the Digital Workplace. At first, the intranet managers hailed the Digital Workplace as their saviour … they saw it as a way to ingratiate and elevate themselves to the Great Round Table at which King Arthur himself sat. Fortified by PowerPoint and buoyed up by free trips to exotic lands in which they supped at the famous and unlimited Fountains of Conference, they enjoyed the good times and grew complacent – talking up the great Digital Workplace and their perceived control over it.

However, the unwitting intranet managers, in feeding the Digital Workplace, were unleashing a power beyond their wildest dreams … a power so strong it would one day turn on them and swallow them up … coughing up their semi-digested remains in a tangled furball of BYOD, tablets, real-estate, smart phones, work-styles, collaboration, network access and slimy social media …

However hard the White Knights fought to untangle themselves from within this furball of complexity, they could never free themselves … and their power and influence was lost forever.

[The End]

Dear Senior Manager – please play nicely in our social channels #internalcomms #intranet #socialmedia

If I had to give a senior manager a bit of advice about how to be successful in using social channels on our intranet, it would be something like this:


The critical success factor for engaging in a social channel as a senior manager is getting the tone of your engagement right. You need to ensure that you maintain the right balance between being authoritative as a senior manager and being an individual engaging in a conversation with another individual. Influence in social channels is something you earn over time by engaging in the right way and not something automatically conferred upon you because of your role in the organisation.

 Influence comes from being part of the conversation, not part of the establishment.

 It is also important to accept that your people need to collaborate in social channels to be effective in their jobs – they need to trust that you endorse this activity and that they are not being judged negatively for being active participants. Your early interactions, as a senior manager, will be critical to the health of social collaboration by your people going forward. 

The following points should help you find the right tone in your responses. When responding to an individual in a social channel, you should never

  • preach at them or talk down to them
  • hide behind quotes from company literature or use management speak as a surrogate for authentic engagement
  • use jargon, abbreviations and marketing/business language
  • throw your weight around and act in a heavy handed manner because of your position in the company.

You should always:

  •  listen first
  • be honest, open and authentic in all your responses – which includes owning up to mistakes as quickly as possible
  • deal with negative sentiment head on – ignoring negative sentiment inevitably results in it spiralling out of control – remember … negative sentiment almost always comes from an un-met need which you can probably meet
  • stick around and follow-up on comments you might make in a given conversation – making a comment and then leaving is not engaging in a conversation.

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Back from blog black hole …

It’s been a bit quiet around here recently … sorry about that. Inspiration has eluded me … smothered by the thick woolly blanket of work! We’re *still* in the midst of an intranet migration to SharePoint 2010 … which actually means we haven’t really started yet but have done the ground work – the only small nut to crack now is how to get tens of thousands of pages out of existing content management systems into SharePoint 2010 while causing everyone – users and publishers alike – the least amount of pain possible … answers on a postcard, please! 🙂 I’ll probably share more about this over the coming weeks … The impact of social media on internal communications seems finally to be creating some buzz about the place … which is great news. On that note, I recently made a small contribution to a free eBook about how internal comms is changing in the modern workplace – it’s a light read and I think worth a browse. I’m also speaking at the annual conference of the Institute of Internal Communications (May 23-25) which I’m really looking forward to … although I seem to be the last speaker of the whole event just before lunch on Friday … not sure what to make of that! If you’re going, please say hello … Anyway – just thought I’d pop-up for air to reassure myself that I still exist … more soon … promise … maybe … add to del.icio.usDigg itStumble It!Add to Blinkslistadd to furladd to ma.gnoliaadd to simpyseed the vineTailRank

In conversation: social media and corporate culture

The fourth in the series of in conversation with Red Sky Vision talking about social media and corporate culture. It’s quite long (6 mins: 53 sec) but I think it’s quite interesting (I would wouldn’t I 🙂 ).

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