Business Success: Steps to Collaborative Technology Adoption

The telephone might be considered the first collaborative technology, followed by fax and e-mail. However, in the last few years, the advances in newer forms of collaborative technology are transforming business efficiency and accessibility worldwide. The use of collaborative software enhances the ability of an organization to adapt quickly in a volatile economy.

Step 1: Assess the environment. This step involves analyzing the infrastructure and collaborative technologies as well as the existing collaborative behaviors. Additional analysis on the potential affect of the application of technologies is recommended. Managers and key stakeholders need to understand the value proposition that improved collaboration will bring as well as how to phase in the technology. A global assessment in conjunction with IT is important to understand the complete ramifications and develop “a corporate-wide strategy for the successful deployment of collaboration technologies going forward.” technology-mobile phone

Step 2: Identify collaborative business processes. Some business processes are more conducive to collaboration. The next step is to identify business processes that will benefit from “collaborative leverage.” These processes typically include sales and marketing, customer service and support, research and development, training, decision support, and crisis management.

Step 3: Build a collaborative vision. Creating a shared vision and extolling the benefits of collaboration is the next step. It can be done through workshops and trainings. Using case studies and examples built around critical business processes is most effective.

Step 4: Build a business case for collaboration. This step involves estimating the costs, benefits, and risks involved in implementing the vision. It must specify the business problems being addressed, the value of the collaboration platform, and who will fund the initiative. Total cost of ownership should be used to determine the net benefit of the project, including direct and indirect costs. The benefits that factor in include but are not limited to shorter cycle times, increased productivity, revenues, profitability and market share, fewer errors, better-quality products and services.

Step 5: Identify a sponsor. Identification of an executive sponsor who believes in the project and will allocate funds to see it through to its final stages is an essential step in the success of any project. The sponsor should be someone who is likely to benefit from collaboration and will be a champion for the project within the organization.

Step 6: Develop a collaboration strategy. A strategy for implementation should be developed that supports the overall goals of the project. This strategy involves determining which technologies already exist and if they should be replaced or integrated into the larger network. Process maps are useful in determining which business processes can be improved. A gap analysis is recommended to find areas where:
• The infrastructure may need to be upgraded.
• Security policies may need to be revised.
• Training and education will improve adoption rates.
• Processes may need to be streamlined.
The strategy should include initial projects where collaboration delivers quick wins. Strong project management and communication around progress are essential to successful implementation.

Step 7: Select collaboration technology. The next step is a careful vendor analysis that addresses the appropriateness of the offerings as well as the vendor’s financial viability, track record, training, and support. A return on investment analysis that details the actual costs and benefits is strongly recommended.

Step 8: Pilot project. A pilot project is a good next step to get the project off and running. The application that is selected should be one that will have a substantial impact and positive results. This success can be used to sell the concept throughout the organization.

Step 9: Enterprise rollout. This step leverages the success and learning from the pilot project. The steps for enterprise rollout are to:
• Prioritize the business units.
• Identify necessary resources.
• Define the education and training process.
• Define the support process.
• Define the metrics.
It is easy to underestimate the complexity of this process. It is important to facilitate communication so that issues and delays will surface quickly.

Step 10: Measure and report. To achieve the greatest value from the entire process, it is critical to continually monitor, measure, and report of the adoption and usage of collaborative technologies for each business case. Publicity about successes as well as compensation for adoption and usage should be considered as ways to ensure success.

As collaboration technology improves, the pressure to adopt will only increase. Organizations that embrace collaboration are going to raise the competitive bar. The use of technology is essential to survival in a dynamic organization.

I would love to hear your comments on collaboration technology.  Please share this with your friends and co-workers.

Business Success: Value of Trust

There is one thing that is common to every individual, relationship, team, family, organization, nation, economy, and civilization throughout the world—one thing which, if removed, will destroy the most powerful government, the most successful business, the most thriving economy, the most influential leadership, the greatest friendship, the strongest character, the deepest love.

On the other hand, if developed and leveraged, that one thing has the potential to create unparalleled success and prosperity in every dimension of life. Yet, it is the least understood, most neglected, and most underestimated possibility of our time. 
That one thing is trust.
—Steven M. R. Covey, Author of The Speed of Trust

 

Trust is a fundamental building block for organizations that seek to build a collaborative culture. Since power is dispersed and each area is interdependent, a breech of trust can undermine the integrity of the entire system.

trustAccording to Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, “Our market system depends on trust. Trust in the work of our colleagues and trust in the word of those with whom we do business.” Greenspan goes on to say that the honesty and integrity of a company are a function of the character of the chief executive officer (CEO). “If a CEO countenances managing reported earnings, that attitude will drive the entire accounting regime of the firm. If he or she instead insists on an objective representation of a company’s business dealings, that standard will govern recordkeeping and due diligence.”

In our complex business environment, trust is built through relationships. Specifically, our behaviors build or undermine trust. And our ability to communicate forms the foundation of those relationships. Margaret Wheatley and Byron Kellner-Rogers describe the importance of trust in organizations:

Relationships are another essential condition that engenders the organizations that we see. The forms of the organization bear witness to how people experience one another. In fear-filled organizations, impervious structures keep materializing. People are considered dangerous. They need to be held apart from one another.

But in systems of trust, people are free to create the relationships they need. Trust enables the system to open. The system expands to include those it had excluded. More conversations—more diverse and diverging views—become important. People decide to work with those from whom they had been separate.

In The Speed of Trust, Steven Covey discusses how trust is a new competitive advantage. In a business landscape where speed is essential, the presence of trust empowers leaders to eliminate many steps related to governance, due diligence, and so on. The organizations that depend on large volumes of data and employ Business Intelligence depend on the veracity or the data as well as the data analysts and architects.

Covey offers 13 behaviors that are based on enduring principles that govern success. They are based on personal credibility and integrity. And they apply to all areas of an organization as well as life in general.  Next week I will share some those 13 behaviors and my thoughts about them with you.

Feel free to share this blog with co-workers or friends and we always love your feedback in the comments section. 

Business Success: Collaborating for the Future

Cisco, the world’s largest provider of Internet networking and communication equipment, is powered by collaboration. With 22 current worldwide initiatives, chief executive John Chambers claims that it would be impossible to manage his company using his old style of command and control. Collaboration enables Cisco to foresee changing trends and act quickly.

Management of changeAccording to Chambers, one of Cisco’s strengths is its ability to foresee impending market transitions. “Cisco is able to predict trends six to eight years ahead even in the highly volatile technology market by recognizing early-warning signals its customers unwittingly put off. To capitalize on these ‘market shifts,’ Chambers gave up his command-and-control style and made decision making highly collaborative.”
Cisco organizes for collaboration in several ways.

No Hierarchy
Chambers claims that he found it difficult to let go of his usual command-and-control style, but he disciplined himself to change his behavior. Specifically, in meetings, he gave his team time to think. He began to see that his team often made decisions that were just as good, if not better, than his. And because they were involved in the process, the members of the team were much more invested in the execution. However, not all managers were able to make the adjustment. When this collaborative leadership style was implemented throughout Cisco, 20 percent of the top management team went elsewhere.

State-of-the-Art Technologies
Among Cisco’s offerings are several technologies that enable collaboration. PC software for online meetings is powerful and efficient. But the real collaborative power comes from the company’s next-generation videoconferencing that connects customers and team members world wide.

Collaborative Teams
Cisco has a highly matrixed structure of cross-functional teams called councils and boards that collaborate on projects. Because of the highly sophisticated conferencing software, Cisco employees collaborate in real time much like social networking groups. “The power of collaboration is not in adding more people to the process but in getting immediate input from smart people and thinking through the problem as a group.” This is critical to the success of the company. Individuals and teams from anywhere in the world can gather quickly for an intimate virtual meeting using their state-of-the-art videoconferencing technology.

Verbal and Financial Motivation
To begin a project, Cisco puts people together who speak a common language and engages them in reaching their goal. The leader then drives the team through execution. People are motivated to engage with strong leadership and compensation tied to team performance.

Clear and Consistent Communication
Chambers states: “Clear and consistent communication was and is very, very important to making this whole thing work.” Top management has developed a clear and consistent vocabulary to ensure that information is dispersed and shared consistently worldwide.

Quick Alignment of Resources
When resources are low, flat management and collaboration may save the day. Team members are encouraged to help each other and reallocate resources. Risk taking is also necessary to make a quick change of direction. Team members must be tolerant of failure.
Chambers claims that the new challenges keep him motivated and competitive. His passion for collaboration and willingness to share decision making infuses the whole system with new energy to fuel the vision and stimulate innovation.

Business Success: Principles of Dialogue Part 2

The past few weeks we have focused on communications and dialogue.  If you missed the articles, you can read them here.  Today we will finish up the practice and principles of dialogue. 

Business Leadership

The Practice of Suspending: “The Principle of Awareness”

• Suspend opinion and judgment, and the certainty that lie behind them.
• Acknowledge and observe thoughts and feelings as they arise without being compelled to act on them; avoid “shoulds.”
• Access your ignorance; recognize and embrace things you do not already know.
• Be courageous in the face of fear.
• Understand what is happening as it is happening; you do not hear and know by turning up the volume.
• Put on hold the temptation to fix, correct, or problem solve. Suspension allows us to inquire into what we observe.
• Question; one good question is better than many answers. Tolerate the tension to not knowing. Ask “What are we missing? What haven’t we said?”
• Resist holding onto positions that polarize. Be willing to expand the conversation to hold beliefs other than your own.

The Practice of Voicing: “The Principle of Unfoldment”

• Notice your reactions, suspend judgment, honor your intuition and cherish your choices. Listen to yourself.

• Be willing to be still.

• Be confident that what you are thinking is valid and relevant.

• Choose consciously before you speak. Ensure that what you say is related to you and not a directive to diminish, change, or dismiss the other.

• Be patient with your self and during silences. Trust the emptiness, the sense of not knowing what to say or do. Sometimes just beginning to speak without determining the words brings forth opportunity.

• In speaking you can create. Give yourself permission to voice what is in the moment.

Maintain the Relationship: Look for the Similarities in the Differences

• Clarify intentions.

• Acknowledge each participant’s uniqueness, perceptions, beliefs.

• Create a container, an intentional space for safe communication.

• Hear and understand me. Identify what you want.
• Even if you disagree, please don’t make me wrong. Support dreaming. No one gets to     be wrong.
• Acknowledge the greatness within me.
• Remember to look for my loving intentions. Deepen the listening.
• Tell me the truth with compassion.

• Attend. Pay attention, observe, be aware.

 Ask. Gather information, withhold criticism, be respectful, honor the self.

• Act. Authentically do something that is consciously determined to be the best of all. Offer support; provide feedback. Maintain connection even if you disagree.

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Leadership Techniques: How is Your Nonverbal Communication?

In business, both verbal and nonverbal communication are important.  Many people are visual learners and in fact focus on what they see when spoken to.  If part of your leadership techniques include focus on your nonverbal communications you are on the right track.

nonverbla_communication

Given the role that nonverbals play in communicating, there is a real need for self-awareness. To facilitate understanding and management of each parts of communication, it is useful to look at the three categories: Paralanguage, Kinesics, and Proxemics.

Paralanguage
Paralanguage is the vocal or tonal quality and pitch as well as the speed and emphasis of our words. It plays a role in face-to-face communication and in telecommunication. Paralanguage is the “how” of our speaking and can be broken down into several areas:

  • Increasing loudness or softness and high or low pitch can designate a question or convey emotion.
  • Timing variation and changes in pitch can provide emphasize or convey meaning.
  • Vocal constriction versus openness can imply tension or emotion.
  • Drawling or clipping is evident in various accents, where someone either drags out certain syllables or skips letters entirely.
  • Emotion reflects how the speaker’s feelings affects the delivery. Crying versus laughing while speaking will almost always convey a different meaning.[i]

Kinesics

Kinesics is the study of body language. Whether speakers are aware of it or not, their bodies communicate messages. The ability both to manage these messages as a speaker as well as to understand them as a listener is invaluable in business. Effective speaking engages the emotions of the audience, and the use of body language is a powerful aspect of that communication.

A story told about President Franklin D. Roosevelt demonstrates his belief in nonverbal communication. One evening he decided to have some fun while greeting people. Many of them said, “Good evening, Mr. President, and how are you?” to which he responded with a warm smile, “I’m fine, thank you, I murdered my mother-in-law.” Not one person reacted to his comment. It is possible that no one even heard it because his body language was so contradictory to his statement. Because body language is typically unconscious, it is believed to be the most genuine form of communication.

Because body language is based on feelings, it is valuable to read the recipient’s body language when communicating. More important, it is possible to leverage the use of body language as well as other nonverbals to enhance the delivery of a message. A list of the most common body actions that can lead to intended or unintended impressions follows.

  • Erect posture. Power, confidence, control
  • Two people sitting in similar positions. Harmony, agreement
  • Leaning forward. Interest in other, confidence
  • Open hands. Sincerity, openness
  • Crossed arms.  Defense, closed
  • Head tilting toward the speaker. Agreement or interest
  • Smile. Pleasure, compassion, trust, desire for connection[ii]

There are certainly exceptions to this list, particularly when considering other cultures. It is best to consider body language in combination with cultural behaviors before drawing conclusions.

The use of the hands to guide the eyes is one of the most powerful body language techniques to convey or guide attention.

Proxemics

Proxemics  relates to the space in which we operate and its effect on our level of comfort. [iii] There are two general aspects to proxemics:

1.       Physical territory, such as the orientation or characteristics of furniture or surroundings, can have an effect on our comfort. For example, a desk facing a window versus a dingy wall can affect a worker’s mood. Or a presentation in a poorly lit room might change the experience of the audience.

2.       Personal territory reflects our comfort level in proximity to others. Depending on the level of intimacy, there are basic ranges for each level.

a. Public space. The distance maintained between an audience and a speaker is generally 12 to 25 feet..
b. Social space. The distance between business associates in communication or strangers in public settings is 4 to 10 feet.
c. Personal space. The distance between close friends or family members, or between strangers waiting in line, is 2 to 4 feet.
Cultural differences can lead to variations in these distances. Becoming familiar and respecting these cultural differences will improve cross-cultural relations and build connection. Distances can also vary by gender, age, and personal preferences. Reading body language and observing reactions are the best way to determine the best distances.


[i]             “What Is Paralanguage?” www.work911.com/communication/nonverbparalanguage.htm.
[ii]             Patricia Ball, “Watch What You Don’t Say,” www.speaking.com/articles_html/PatriciaBall,CSP,CPAE_592.html.
[iii]             Mike Sheppard, “Proxemics,” www.cs.unm.edu/~sheppard/proxemics.htm.

Business Success: Economic Impact on Communication

The highly technical and global nature of business today presents specific communication challenges. Many companies are hiring top technical and business talent from around the globe and equipping them to work virtually to save on travel. This section discusses some of the challenges confronted by the style of communication and the changing nature of the workforce.

business_success_Computer-Enabled Communication

In today’s global economy, many companies are using technology to hold virtual meetings and trainings. Computer-mediated communication (CMC) is the term for using computers to interact through the Internet. CMC comes in many forms, including electronic mail (e-mail), chat rooms, instant messaging, electronic bulletin boards, list-servs, as well as audio and videoconferencing.

A net conference is a conference that is “electronically mediated by networked computers.” Teleconferences are very common applications in companies using Business Intelligence. Video capabilities to share documents are common.

There are some challenges to virtual meetings for obvious reasons. It is not possible for participants to read others’ facial expressions and body language. This fact may limit communication or make some participants less comfortable.  Ease with virtual meetings develops over time. A well-trained moderator can greatly enhance the experience.

Communication Challenges for the Technical Professional

In an organization that is Business Intelligence intensive, the largest or fastest-growing sector of the workforce tends to be technical professionals. For a majority of technical professionals, communication in general and with nontechnical people in particular can be difficult, given their specialized education and linear style of thinking. In addition, the influx of persons from other cultures has added to the challenges of effective communication.
The technical skills of a professional are very important to the organization. But the skills to communicate results, explain concepts and concerns, and engage in dialogue with nontechnical workers are equally important. Therefore, it is useful to have a balance of both the technical skills and interpersonal skills.

Technical professionals tend to be task oriented than people oriented. If their focus is on precision and solution, with little concern for dealing with various perceptions or emotional reactions, the true value of their research or analysis may never generate value. At some point, the information must be sold to the business decision makers.

Another challenge is the potential complexity of findings, which may be hard to translate into everyday business language. The ramifications of this complexity of findings on the functioning of a team, department, or organization may be significant, resulting in the loss of the value of the work and the worker.

There may be a desire to overanalyze, seeking higher complexity or perfection. The best analysis may be the one that is simpler and easier to communicate and therefore implement.
Liz Haggerty, program manager for business and manufacturing-process improvements for the Carrier Corporation in Hartford, Connecticut, commented on the importance of communication for scientific and technical professionals:

Scientific and technical professionals need to understand business. We all need to be cognizant of the fact that there are many aspects of business, finance, and marketing that have an impact on what we are doing in our chosen field. We must understand that many people think differently than we do, and we must expose ourselves to different types of training that will help us to communicate more effectively, do a better job of accepting and receiving criticism, and giving feedback to others. We must help scientific and technical professionals see how they fit into the big picture. Training on understanding other and increasing communication effectiveness can be very helpful in broadening the skills of those of us in these professional areas. This is especially critical for those who have ambitions to move up in the organization.

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Business Success: Benefits of Communication

Innovation occurs for many reasons, including greed, ambition, conviction, happenstance, acts of nature, mistakes, and desperation. But one force above all seems to facilitate the process. The easier it is to communicate, the faster change happens.

—James Burke, Connectionsbusiness_communications_

Many leaders have the notion that communication is a “soft” issue, having very little effect on profit. The enormity of communicating in today’s interconnected economy can be overwhelming, given the number of different languages, technologies, industries, and markets across the globe

Consider the experience of a measurement instrument company that hired a consulting company to improve its process of getting new products to market. The research began with a meeting of about 40 senior engineers.

The meeting was designed to gather information from the engineers on what they considered to be the main barriers to getting their products to market. They divided themselves into small groups and began to create lists. Then, as a group, they labeled the barriers as either technical or social.

After tallying the chart scores, they determined that 81 percent of their barriers were social. One manager said,“We’re always trying to take waster out of our technical processes, but in 22 years I’ve been here, we have never even looked at taking waster out of our interactions with people.”

The engineers worked on their communication skills and cut their development cycle in half. The project’s sponsor commented that if they had made these changes five years earlier, they would have saved $50 million.

There are numerous examples of costly failures as a result of poor communication. The Challenger disaster is a tragic example. The banking failures beginning in 2008 can be highly attributed to a lack of information being shared with deserving parties.

Statistics on the success of mergers, acquisitions, and alliances also show that today’s leaders are no better at communicating than they were many years ago. Studies by some of the top accounting firms show that most mergers and acquisitions fail. The average statistics are:
• 60 percent of merged companies lose value after five years.
• 30 percent have no increase in value.
• 10 percent are successful at increasing value.

This is after billions have been spent on Business Intelligence software and hardware systems to connect, integrate, disseminate, and more.

While the risk of this problem is higher in companies involved in mergers and acquisitions, there are similar challenges within more stable organizations. Consider interdepartmental conversations such as the exchange of information, needs, and ideas between information technology (IT) and marketing. Some people experience the other department as speaking a different language.

These chasms of understanding exist between many departments with specialized workers whose thinking patterns may be different. Similarly, important conversations take place with entities outside the organization, such as vendors, suppliers, investors, auditors, and authorities. The style of communication may vary among all these interested parties.

Mickey Connolly and Richard Rianoshek, in The Communication Catalyst, offer a three-part conversational model that is useful for enhancing important activities such as “teamwork, planning, accountability, and learning”:

1. Align. Conversation facilitates the sense of shared purpose, enhances creativity, and promotes smart planning.

2. Act. Conversation clarifies accountabilities and initiates action.

3. Adjust. Conversations evaluate performance and acknowledge successes or launch corrective action.

When these three related elements are effective, work is meaningful, satisfying, and fast. We infuse work with meaning, galvanize teams, and inflame loyalty among customers, employees, and investors. When these elements are ineffective, we decelerate our high-speed ambitions. We render work meaningless, destroy teamwork, and inflame discontent among customers, employees and investors.

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Business Success Skills: High Quality Relationships

High-quality relationships are the lifeblood of an organization that seeks to leverage complexity and emergent knowledge. Once a set of solid communication practices are in place, relationships begin to form. To use these relationships effectively, however, the dissemination of crucial information, such as the goals of the business and the knowledge needed to attain those goals, is essential. As relationships form through effective communication practices, a culture of mutual respect will emerge.business_relationship

Shared Goals

Traditionally, goals are shared within functional teams. The overall goals of the organization, however, are less well known. In an organization with a highly interdependent framework, each member of the organization must focus on the overall goal. Since the framework is designed to allow structure and process to emerge, the shared goal of the organization is the unifying force that empowers that emergence.

Shared Knowledge

Sharing knowledge goes hand in hand with shared goals for any organization using a highly interdependent framework. Knowledge shared between teams from different functional backgrounds creates connections that foster cross-functional support while reducing competition and conflict.

Mutual Respect

Highly interdependent organizations thrive on mutual respect. Effective communication practices as well as shared knowledge and goals go a long way to create a culture of mutual respect. Within a respectful dialogue, differences in opinions unleash energy and creativity. Problems are minimized when the involved parties feel respected. This behavior is best learned by watching those in positions of power.

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Business Skills: The Art of Listening

Listening may or may not be an “act of love” or way to “tap into people’s 

listeningdreams,” but it sure as hell is (1) an uncommon act of courtesy and recognition of worth from which (2) you will invariably learn amazing stuff…and (3) it will build-maintain relationships beyond your wildest dreams.

—Tom Peters, best-selling author

To be a strong leader, you must be able to influence others. In highly complex organizations, everyone plays the role of leader from time to time. And communication is an essential mechanism for the exchange of knowledge and intentions. Mastering the art of listening is essential to the success of all participants in an interdependent organization.[i]

Those who are good listeners greatly increase their influence on others. Although listening is passive in nature, when someone feels heard, he or she feels inspired and validated. Sadly, many leaders fail to listen because they are biased, impatient, bored, or rigid in their views. This prevents the critical exchange of knowledge, insights, and intentions.

Listening skills are rarely taught. Communication training in business schools typically focuses on argument and persuasion. These skills fit the old management model with its top-down, authoritative approach.  Managers had little reason to listen. They communicated down the chain of command, and the workers followed orders.

As stated earlier, as organizations embrace new business models, listening is becoming an integral part of the communication process. Two-way interaction helps to clarify and prevent confusion, aid comprehension, and improve connection.

Listening goes beyond just hearing. Hearing usually triggers a reflexive response without any thought or reflection. Listening is deliberate and requires interpretation. A good exercise in listening is to ask recipients to reflect back what they heard.

Bad listeners:

  • Interrupt. They are impatient and may like to dominate the conversation.
  • Are inattentive. They are easily distracted, perhaps even multitasking.
  • Exhibit mind-drift. They are easily bored, perhaps even self-centered.
  • Are biased. They have strong marginal views (out of the mainstream), and cannot expand their thinking.
  • Have closed minds. They have already drawn a conclusion or stay with their own beliefs.

Good listeners:

  • Are quiet. They talk less than the speaker.
  • Are patient. They never interrupt the speaker.
  • Are unbiased. They avoid prejudgment.
  • Are curious. They ask clarifying and open-ended questions.
  • Pay attention. They sit attentively, take notes, concentrate.
  • Employ nonverbals. They smile, maintain an open posture and eye contact.
  • Reflect back. They verify and reinforce what was heard through summary comments.

Skillful listeners are natural leaders in the new business landscape with their ability to influence, engage, and inspire.

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Visit www.OLIVIAGroup.com to learn more about Business Intelligence and hiring Olivia Parr Rud for your next conference!

 


[i]             William F. Kumuyi, “Sir, Listen Up!” 2008, http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa5391/is_200806/ai_n27900527/print?tag=artBody;col1.