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Posts Tagged ‘Ken Thompson’

I’m summarizing and excerpting from Ken Thompson’s The Networked Enterprise. Ken is a leading expert on teaching small to medium sized businesses come together to form Virtual Enterprise Networks (VENs) to enable them to achieve scale through collective projects.

Ken’s Guidelines for Effective Group Operational Meetings:

1. Sterile Cockpit: In meetings this means focus exclusively on the agenda. Ken borrows from the aviation term for restricting all discussion in the cockpit during take-off and landing to those tasks and nothing else. Even if an interesting topic comes up, don’t allow the meeting to be distracted.

2. No Telling Stories: “Give the absolute minimum facts to allow the meeting to determine the correct action”.  Any stories inevitably lead to defending or justifying.

3. Reveal Don’t Conceal: Put everything on the table without being asked. Don’t force others to deduce or uncover information.

4. The Four Task States: Task may only be: Done, On Plan, At Risk, or Missed.

  • For Done or On Plan tasks: congratulate and end discussion, unless there is a challenge.
  • For At Risk or Missed: Team must find a new commitment that they really rely on.

5.  The 5 meeting roles: to be allocated to participants before the meeting.

  • Customer: The participant with predominant need for a successful outcome.  This role decides the success of the meeting.
  • Facilitator: Leads the meeting to make sure the customer gets what they need.
  • Timekeeper: Self explanatory!
  • Scribe: The designated notes recorder and after meeting report with action tiems and minutes.
  • Sensor: Senses how the meeting is going and spots unhelpful moods or agendas.

Last year I helped manage an online community (Greenlight Community on ning) of about 8000 members.  Ialso organized Greenlight Community city groups in 12 cities.  From my experience leading conference calls every week for 13 months, I have not seen more effective and concise guidelines for operational meetings. We learned this mostly by trial and error.

Please submit your own guidelines that have worked for virtual or distributed groups.  Thanks.

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Hootsuite, Ping.fm, bit.ly, tweetdeck, twitter, ning, linkedin, Facebook…..are you keeping up ?

I remember when taking all my vitamins was the most important thing to do every morning. It’s been only weeks since I made a commitment to blog everyday and start using all the social media platforms. Now I wake up to a torrent of tweets: 61 tweets, then 39 tweets, then 43 tweets…..in 1hour! The on to the blogs, blogs, blogs ad infinitum, to read, to make comments on, and then replies to 200+ emails!

It’s exhilarating to read about and meet hundreds of amazingly talented people. Although I can’t deny that some are just utterly crazy.

I can truly sympathize with anyone reading this and wondering if it’s all worth the time and effort? Many of us prefer to what is more commonly known as “lurking” in the background.  Sounds awful, doesn’t it?  But in the world of social media, we’re valued and evaluated by how much we’re contributing and participating in conversations. The most interesting aspect is that you don’t even need to make remarkably original contributions.  Many simply recycle everyone else’s content.

Some of the most industrious “recyclers” are busy “retweeting” up a storm on twitter.  They’re more like a AP mini-wire service of streaming content.  Up to 20 tweets in an hour of links to articles, blogs, videos….and highly subjective personal opinions.

These career “retweeters” are an enormous help in orienting myself during the morning on what’s going on, who’s saying what, where and when the next event or webinar is taking place. All of which was at one time the realm of traditional media. That reminds me of Ken Thompson’s Bioteams’ ants exchanging tiny bits of information at rapid speed for the good of the colony.  Oh, and as I wrote that, a tiny ant appeared on my monitor screen.  I wonder what it is thinking as it scurries along this screen about a million times bigger than itself.  Maybe it thinks the cursor is a predator.  Maybe it thinks it’s in an ant version of Cowboy stadium.

I feel as tiny as that ant every time I’m in the world of social media.  But like that tiny ant, I also have a billion fellow ants in the colony, all cooperating and collaborating freely – and some lurking!

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It seems almost unfair to ask this question. After all who would consciously choose technology over trust. By choice I’m referring to where do you put the focus?  I admit I flirted amorously with the ocean of technology as the goal itself.  The child who wants to play with his toys comes out in me.  Sometimes, I become so carried away with the possibilities of all this technology, I lose sight of why I was originally so excited.

Oooh! Look it can do this and that!! I got a Google voice number last year. I was so excited that I was telling everyone how I could read their voice mail because Google’s technology transcribes it for me and sends to my phone via text. So what?

The real miracle was it allowed me to connect with more people and vice-versa (build trust), in ways I could manage more efficiently – and it was FREE!  Thanks Google.  But none of this technology made me nor my business more income, it merely facilitated it. Technology is a cost center. Plain and simple! It has no magic, no warmth or personality other than what we animate it with.  So why do we get so carried away with it?

Is it easier than actually relating to others? Is it easier than dealing with the highly subjective aspects of our own unpredictable human behavior? After all, technology is an object without choice. It must obey or it’s destroyed. But us, each other, well, that requires, care, attention, emotions, moods, feelings, constant misunderstandings, being open and vulnerable…on and on it goes. Yet, when there is trust, our behavior becomes highly predictable, and then more trust is generated in a self-reinforcing loop.

If I’m authentic, vulnerable and open, I become highly predictable. You may like me or not, but you will trust me, because you will know enough about me to predict how I will behave.

I will explore the theme of trust more in depth this week, including Ken Thompson’s team “Karma” concept from his book, The Networked Enterprise.  I’ll get back to work now and leave you with this excerpt from the book Virtual Teams: People working across boundaries with technology, by Jessica Lipnak and Jeffrey Stamps (2nd Edition, 2000).  The authors founded virtualteams.com and are considered the world’s leading experts on virtual teams and networked organizations.

“People work together because they trust one another. They make deals. Undertake projects, set goals, and lend one another resources.

Virtual teams are quicker, smarter, more flexible work groups in a sea of change. Highly adaptive as organizations these teams can cope with tumultuous complexity. For them trust is a need to have quality.

Trust builds with the recognition of the contribution that everyone makes. If you make a real contribution, people will trust you.”

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Check out this video interview between Bas De Baar and Bioteams author Ken Thompson.

I took some broad notes from the video so you have some idea about its relevance to our conversations about VLOs and the future of law firms.

The main question and issue Ken found in leading teams was the command and control model (military) versus nature’s collective leadership model.  In nature everybody is a leader.

Ken adds that there is a conceptual line in these teams:

On the left side the team is playing for collective success. On the right side it is playing to avoid individual blame.  Ken states that bioteams (ants and bees) don’t cross that line. Everyone looks out for everyone else.  Another characteristic is that anyone that has useful information shares it with the whole team.  Ken learned from ants and bees, and his experience with teams, that short messages are better than a long message.  Lots of short messages are better than one big long message that can be misunderstood.  Emails was used as an example.  In bioteams, the most important messages to share is if there is a threat and is there an opportunity?

Bas de Baar: How do people work toward same goal in bioteams?

Ken:  Very important to have a shared belief systems in which all point in the same direction and passionate about something.  Also appropriate behaviours are sharing useful information with other team members immediately.

As for leaders, each person is a leader in a different domain.

Bas De Baar: But then how does leadership get distributed to the right people?

Ken: through facilitated self-organization. What Ken calls the concept of “team karma” or you get out of life what you put into it. In networks, Ken says, people want to get stuff out, but not put anything in.

In a bioteam or distributed leadership team everyone has to assume responsibility for a role, whether to lead a project or follow.

This conversation sounds very much like what we observe in Trump’s show: The Apprentice.

I am convinced that SSFs can best succeed and compete if they can learn to wok in these types of project teams.  That’s why I started OBA.

What do you think?

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