TechEd 2014: 'Working out loud' and other elements of a responsive organisation

TechEd 2014: 'Working out loud' and other elements of a responsive organisation

Mark Woodrow, customer success manager, Microsoft, shares tips on how companies can adapt, learn and respond to a constantly evolving world.

“Things are changing fast and the behaviours of people, teams and businesses are changing as well. They are used to using social devices, mobile apps, and cloud applications. A really responsive organisation is one that can respond in that environment,” says Mark Woodrow, customer success manager at Microsoft.

This contrasts, he says, to a “hierarchical, controlled ... more process driven organisations,” which was the model for the manufacturing and industrial sectors for many years.

He says some organisations still operate this way to a degree.

And yet, he adds, analyst firm Gartner predicts knowledge workers will be spending more time on things that are outside normal processes. Gartner estimates by next year, 40 per cent or more of work in an organisation will fall under “non-routine” category, up from 25 per cent in 2010.

“It is the stuff that they have to think [about which is] 'outside the square' as knowledge managers and decision makers,” says Woodrow, who spoke on the topic at the TechEd 2014 in New Zealand.

This could be people looking after customers and being prepared to respond to issues and problems and find solutions “not through a linear process fashion".

Mark Woodrow, customer success manager, Microsoft, shares tips on how companies adapt, learn and respond to a constantly evolving world.

As to how CIOs should respond in this environment, he states: “I would encourage CIOs to not look at massive deployments that need to be the same for everyone.”

“Look at what business areas actually need, what they can deploy relatively quick applications which can be multi-device [and] come from the cloud, [are] easy to use and don’t need training.”

For example, a staff member attending a conference will find something innovative in an exhibit that can be applied to the organisation. “You take a picture, upload it, share it with people across the globe or in Christchurch and ask, 'Can we do something about that?'"

“A responsible organisation will enable them to comment, pass it on and work on it,” he states.

“It is enabling them to do that and not wait to go back to their desk and email someone. By that stage, someone else would have picked up the idea at the conference.”

He says the organisations closest to fitting this mould are generally small and medium-sized businesses that are “digitally focused”, and some startups.

“Some of the startups I know completely do away with email; they are very responsive in an organisational sense.”

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Among New Zealand companies, he cites engineering firm Beca as fitting the bill. “They are enabling staff to do other things on their desktop, and support that collaboration.”

He says responsive companies get their products and services to the market quicker than “process driven” organisations that are taking time to doing their plans, and taking years to do it.

“The danger is we just assume that everything is moving very fast, and that organisations are keeping up with that... I am not sure that is always the case.”

“You gravitate to things that people can use easily,” he says. “If you introduce something like social enterprise network, they find a way with introducing something new that makes it easier for them to do the job.”

There is danger in introducing something just because it is a new gadget, he cautions. “You will get a pushback.”

Broadly speaking, he says, responsive organisations are characterised by “the four Cs”: Connect, communicate, collaborate, cooperate.

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The danger is we just assume that everything is moving very fast, and that organisations are keeping up with that... I am not sure that is always the case.

Mark Woodrow, Microsoft

Initially, he says, you need to connect people, then allow them to communicate. They then create a network — “not a hierarchy” — with people.

After that, people can collaborate around a project or document “in real-time”.

The fourth step is cooperate where people work together on an ongoing basis.

He stresses these should be with people from different areas of the business or across geographic areas, not just from one department or someone doing the same job function. “You will always get creative ideas and innovation” this way.

He cites the case of a government agency that had a big problem with graffiti. They voiced their concern out on the organisational network and got some ideas from people in finance on how they can tackle the issue, which they are spending $300 million on every year.

He says a responsive organisation is also transparent.

“We know why we are working, how decisions are made,” he states. “To a degree everyone needs to be recognised; you create an even playing field.

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“So long as there is a belief anyone can come up with a good idea to help organisations do a better job, that frees people up to say, they can have a voice to the board and to the CEOs. They feel they are recognised.”

Work out loud

“Working out loud” is a concept that applies to this model.

This means people can say, "This is what I am working on. I have a very good idea. Does anyone have a suggestion?”

This message will be visible to everyone.

“You are your own champion about the thing you are working on, and letting the rest of the organisation know.

“You can get suggestions, and you will save duplication [from work]. You will find someone has started a similar project ix months ago and share their learnings.”

He says working out loud also means being prepared to help colleagues requesting for ideas and recommendations.

“By doing that, you truly collaborate.”

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