Archive for the 'general reflections' Category

transactional analysis & social networking in business organisations

Listened in to a session on types of organisation and feasible social networking forms in these contexts, at the barcamp on Saturday. The message was rather a bleak one, if your own hope was that organisations will sooner rather than later take to SNS-related behaviour.

For example, I asked about the potential for developing support for social networking on the basis that, one week, you might look kindly on a request for advice/assistance with a problem someone else was facing, if you knew that you in turn could ask the network for help next week. But the view was that no project manager would entertain such a request in the first place unless it resulted in bottom line gain for his current project, because that’s what he’d be judged on.

I found this a bit depressing, partly because it’s not the basis I work upon (maybe I just need to be grateful I don’t work in that sort of organisation). But also because it seems not to give any credence or value to the sort of trade in small favours that it’s very hard to imagine not existing in any organisation. Can any organisation survive without allowing for this trade, I wonder. Without it, how does any one build up a network??

Perhaps one just has to be pretty granular about the size of transactions across enterprise (organisational) networks. Of course, you can’t run a project if loads of time is being spent doing favours for others (though constructs for managing this sort of trade are not entirely unavailable), but it’s hard to think of cutting it out entirely.

‘Transactional Analysis’? (well perhaps not quite – but it somehow fitted into the title of the post…;-)

how do barcamps work then?

Notwithstanding having read some of the received wisdom (here, here and here for example), I am a barcamp newbie (have only been to one other, beside barcamp scotland 2009 on Saturday). So I thought I’d reflect on things observed thus far – may as well try & learn as I go along. After all, the opportunity/risk of running one might arise…

A fair amount of what follows may involve comparing aspects of one event with the other. This shouldn’t be taken as any form of summative assessment at all. Rather it’s just a way of teasing out learning points.

What did I do on Saturday then? First did a v minor bit of lending a hand, then chatted a bit, while others finished getting things set up. Then listened to the general briefing on how it works, and signed up to kick off an early session. Gave my session, then grazed a bit at one on social networking in business environments. Then went to part of a session on something I knew nothing about (had heard sometime ago that one should absolutely do this at any conference you attend). Then spent most of the afternoon chatting in congenial company (You Know Who You Are – invidious to name names etc etc) – missed what counted for the day’s Keynote Presentation as a result. Later, participated in the first half of a discussion on how to recognise an online community if you meet one. Nearly finally, went to a session on managing multiple online personae. Then the last, plenary round-up. Missed the post-camp drinks, as other RL social networking commitments then took over…

Reflections (in no order of priority/logic):

  • size of venue in relation to number of participants. The London event was relatively tightly packed in to its space, and perhaps as a result you couldn’t really move without inter-acting with someone. It felt buzzy (first timer experience?). Meanwhile we had plenty of room in Edinburgh. At times things felt a bit diffuse.
  • Venue layout. In London the workshop rooms were all visible from the main space, and no sessions actually took place in the main space – this would have been impossible. The workshop rooms were all laid out in round table format – no raked rows of fixed seats as we had in the Edinburgh lecture theatres. Layout here obviously impacts on amount of inter-action and its characteristics (discussion vs Q&A)
  • extent to which event was topic-focused. The London event had a relatively clear and specific focus (the Gov’t webby agenda) while the Edinburgh event catered for multiple & diverse topics. Associated with its limited focus the London event had (by chance) a clear delineated context (the Power of Information Task Force Report, along with gov’t & digital engagement).
  • Use of social media before (and after) the event. The degree of focus in London was also accentuated a bit, via the use of the ning group to explore (but not set in stone) topics for discussion on the day. You could also begin to identify the possible sessions you’d want to look out for, ask a question about them online etc. The standard barcamp wiki that we used in Edinburgh doesn’t perhaps lend itself to this, much. So you’re starting from cold, on the day. On the other hand, there were criticisms of the London event that it was moving away from the classic democratic barcamp model towards a more traditional multi-stream conference, where most us were consumers rather than producer-consumers (prosumers?). After the event, the twitter stream continued across the railway network on the way home, and the ning group has been used to canvas the potential for more than one sub-group or spin-off initiative. It’s too early to reflect on this point, for the Edinburgh event.
  • Assembling the agenda on the day. In London we were all given post-its to write our session offers on, while in Edinburgh we wrote directly onto the flip chart. The advantage of the post-its was that they allowed for easier re-grouping, where it emerged that more than one possible offering was available on any one topic or related-set of topics. This applied to timing within the day, too.
  • Presenting a session. We stood round in a gaggle, for the one I started, while later on people tended to sit down more (fatigue setting in?). For the facilitator, it’s quite different from a session where you are the only one standing(!) The boundaries of the group are more fluid, so it’s easier for participants to arrive unobtrusively, graze a bit, then move on if they wish. This was easier for both parties in Edinburgh than in London, where, despite clear advice at the beginning that moving on was OK and not personal, it felt harder as all were seated and leaving meant leaving the room as well as the circle. Within any given session, there’s also, naturally, a balance to be struck between sticking to your topic and dragging discussion back to it, and allowing (more or less distantly) related points to be raised and considered.
  • when to present during the day. There’s a skill here, if you have a message that you do want to get across – like fixing the order of a meeting agenda so that the important items do get a proper seeing to. I think I went early (partly because no one else was at the time) in order to dive in. But by the end, people had mentally moved on and their attention had been taken up by other issues. Some sort of poster wall might help, in terms of providing a reference and reminder point during the day. A digital equivalent of this would need considered too.

Well, quite enough for now, but maybe more learning points will emerge from further reflection. What were your main takeaways from barcamps you’ve been to?

Managing multiple profiles

Kate Ho presented one of the sessions at Barcamp Scotland on Saturday about this. I think that she’d perhaps intended it to be a ‘how’ session, about the tools and the mechanics we are going to need if we are goingto survive the overhead of maintaining and feeding (Kate raised an interesting point about differing communication patterns associated with different SNS – so simply funneling your twitterfeed into your FB status updates may not create an FB-appropriate voice for you) all our various SNS profiles.

However, she didn’t quite get the opportunity, as the discussion seem to spiral away somewhat into ‘why bother?’-land, where some of the participants seemed pretty much happy to ‘just be who they are’ everywhere online – though to be sure other participants were kind of anxious about it all.

Personally, I wonder whether being quite that blithe about how you come across to the different groups in your social and work life is a wee bit naive. What about social situations where things like tact and discretion are needed, for example? I found myself wondering whether it’s something about the stage in life where you enter into the sort of commitments that you are most unwilling to walk away from, that make the difference – in the sense that these ‘fixed’ commitments then just have to be lived with, and manouevred in relation to one another?

As a bit of a greybeard vis-a-vis most of the barcamp participants, I found myself wondering whether it was an age-related thing, so I was amused to come across Identity Woman (I hope she won’t mind me giving her real name (I think!) ;-)) as Kaliya Hamlin – I do so as a sign of respect for what she writes) musing about the same sort of thing, after a session on Privacy at SXSW, and during one on Openness and FB, which had involved lots of (young male) FB developers.

I read ‘somewhere’ (google search skills where are you now?) that SNS were ‘autistic’ about this aspect of human relationships. When naivety about these seems to exist in the FB developer community, then the rest of us should be alert to risk, perhaps?

Barcamp Scotland 2009

Hope to write a couple of posts reflecting on Saturday’s event – things that struck me about the content, and also the way the event worked. Barcamps are new for me – had only been to one before, so am still trying to make sense of the dynamics – important if ever the projects I work with ever need one to be run.

But first, I was glad to have had an opportunity to talk a little about one of my current projects, with other people prepared to discuss it. Here’s the elevator pitch, sort of. And also to mention both Social Innovation Camp – watch their space(!), and (in a similarly relevant way maybe) Patient Opinion’s  welcome extension of their coverage to north of the border.

email inbox size limits: making an opportunity out of a problem

We are all (gradually) moving across to the NHS’ very own home-grown email system here. The transition involves a limit (commonly 200mb – and you’d probably not be very surprised at how not-very-far that goes) in the size of individual inbox storage.

Of course this is a source for common grumbling. And staying below the limit can incur some risks (FoI, anyone? – if you are involved in the sort of work which might include public engagement of any sort) if you do anything like delete anything over a given size without checking for significance first. And if you do check, then, costs (staff time spent in sifting old emails vs. storage capacity…but then we are asked to reduce the size of our server farms for the sake of polar bears) are incurred.

However, as a colleague remarked the other day, this all does promote thinking about other ways of communicating and working (cue, social media). He mentioned that IT colleagues are now using a host of wikis to store & share common/developing knowledge, as an example. I wish they’d tell the rest of us…and let us in on this too. Though of course, Wetpaint, PbWiki, etc. etc. (yes I know there are loads of others – this isn’t product placement, honest) are as good places to start with as any.

But for once, perhaps, a (surely?) unintended consequence is beneficial.

Which is Nice“.

Book Publishing – rather like playing Real Tennis at Wimbledon?

Just the other day, a bulky envellope arrived on the desk. It was my complimentary copy of the book to which I’ve contributed a chapter, on the topic of talking with children and young people about the processing of their personal information.

Handling Personal Information in Social and Health Services

Well! So here it was at last!

Warm feelings and thanks to Chris Clark and Janice McGhee (the editors) for all their shepherding of the collective enterprise in general, and their support for me individually, especially as I tended to write ‘bulletins from the Front’ (their words) rather than in the calm more academic style that is generally deployed in this context. Ever so many thanks too to Marina, for passing me the original opportunity, and Tamsyn, for giving me such a good flying start with the actual writing and for a friendly eye on the draft later – a review from a peerless peer at a critical moment.

I’d already launched an earlier draft version of my text down the slipway, to fend for itself once I’d cut the restraining chains, having been aware of the general debate about what constitutes a sensible process for academic publishing in the web 2.0 era.

But what gave a certain piquancy to the pleasure of seeing the finished physical artefact was the background feeling that it’s been a bit like a sort of courtly mediaeval dance, really. Something to be wierded about rather than critical of, of course, but…

 What brought this home was the publication of the Byron Review ‘Safer Children in a Digital World’ that was commissioned, researched, written and published within the span of time it took our various chapters to coalesce from draft into ‘galley proofs’ for final checking. With any writing that ends up ‘fixed’ (aye, there’s the rub) of course other sources are bound to arrive afterwards, that you wished you could have catered for.

But it was the contrast between the overall speed of the two production processes that drove the point home.

eHealth and the culture of the NHS IT community

A quiet (spear-carrier’s, merely, possibly) welcome for the appointment of Alasdair Bishop’s appointment as Head of Change & Benefits in the SGHD eHealth team. I hadn’t seen him for quite a while until just recently, when we met at a workshop considering the potential scope of the eHealth Improvement Programme – on the basis of what he was forcefully and effectively arguing for there, I think I may have an idea of his views on things like focus, and the setting of priorities…!

However, perhaps some interesting cultural challenges are available? I thought I’d replay an email I drafted following the event.

I began by thinking of the eHIP in terms of a ‘business opportunity’ but came to realise that this needs more nuance.  

There’s a risk as well as an opportunity (as in SWOT, somewhere): if the eHIP is really well integrated with the other health improvement and change initiatives around, e.g. the Improvement Service Team – as it should be – ICT has had a history of being rather cloth-eared about things like culture, the dynamics & demands of change tools like PDSA etc etc….then over the piece, it may drive a wedge through the existing eH community.

I perceive this being broadly comprised of three (stereotype-warning!) groups:

  •  Those who work in NHS IT as a branch of the IM&T industry (procurement, machine-running & contract management with ATOS or whoever, keeping the infrastructure going etc etc.) – quite a bloc of staff, and plenty in senior Health Board IM&T mgt;
  • Those whose home discipline. is Project/Programme Mgt – could next month be at home helping put in a retail system, say – smaller numbers;
  • Those who enjoy working in public service, who aren’t clinicians, and who are too restless or otherwise don’t fancy ‘status quo managementt’, and have found a space in IT project management & learnt about it as they go along – a reasonable number of these, mostly locally

For the Change & Benefits team, maybe some utility in a little quiet sociological analysis (a.k.a. skills audit, or something?) to underpin resource/org’l planning?

When the going gets tough, or arduous over time, then I wonder whether inhabitants of any of these three groups are likely to gravitate to their own home territory (comfort zone)…? At the scoping workshop, quite a few of us tended to default to talking about IT rather then service change, for example.

If we are going to be ruthless and focus down on just a few real priorities (e.g. single sign on) then the going will get tough – apart from anything else, there are fewer places to hide if it’s not going well. Most of us are subject to, but also indulge in, what might be called ‘chronic agenda shuffling’ (I call mine ‘occupational hobbies’ – things I can turn to when the main priorities are delayed, not going well, or when I just fancy a bit of displacement activity). Keeping all these plates spinning is a full-time and absorbing activity, and who can blame us for not making progress with all those Good Ideas listed at the beginning of the Electronic Clinical Communications Initiative, it’s all we can do to keep the plates in the air. There’s also an element of it being more congenial to grumble about something than actually fix it – you know how it is.

All this stuff is normal organisational survival tactics/behaviour. Signing up at a workshop to being radical/focused won’t make normal life go away back at base the day after.

But back to Alistair. He is the only person I know in this domain who has actually done this focusing, with it’s attendant No Place to Hide risks, with CHI. Maybe there are more lessons to learn from his personal experience. He’ll be in a good position to pass them on.

Good luck Alasdair!


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