Thursday, July 21, 2011

IBM "drinks its own champagne"

Really?  I wonder.

According to Jeff Schick, IBM-ers really use all the bells and whistles in their suite of "social media" products.  Daily.  And it really works.

Well, maybe.  I could see this working for project managers and top/middle managers, who get synergy boosts from knowing what other folks are up to, but not so much for "boots on the ground" coders or admin staff.  The grunt work is still grunt work and the folks who have little control over their own direction have little reason to blog or write status reports about it.

How would you get there, though, if you wanted the whole community "drinking the champagne?"

I suppose you could give your workers more autonomy, more empowerment, more control over their destiny, both at work and at play.  Start with unlimited vacation, perhaps?  You know darn well that IT workers are already working nights and weekends, so they might as well have an impressive sounding vacation package.  It's not like they'll abuse it -- geeks always wanna get back to the next cool thing!  Autonomy?  When's the last time your team had a retreat to meditate on your mission and re-evaluate team priorities?  It hurts nothing to remind folks (preferably in a posh, offsite setting that makes them feel valued) about the direction we're all going and why.  Empowerment?  Flatten the hierarchy where you can.  Social media really helps here -- moving your info from your personal email into a topic-based tagged repository allows other people to educate themselves without draining the source.

Carrots or Sticks?

How about both?  I honestly don't think IBM got where (it says) it did by carrots alone.  Social media and a collaborative mindset is appealing to the youngest cohort entering the workforce, but the older cohorts are still in an information-hoarding culture and mindset.  Giving them the opportunity -- even giving them a system that rewards their participation -- will not convince them.  But if your managers encourage you to unload some of your own info AND start giving you information you previously weren't privy to, you might sense that they're serious.  And, as a good friend recently said, making it part of a performance review will too!  I see carrots and sticks being important here.

So maybe IBM is being truthful.  After all, they send more middle managers along with every technical person they let out of Big Blue than any other company I've ever seen. 


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