Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Event: Collaborative Culture Camp

**English follows**

C'est enfin le moment!
Le Camp sur la culture de collaboration (C3) aura lieu à Bibliothèque et Archives Canada le 15 octobre 2010, de 8:30 à 16:30.

  • Organisée de manière bénévole par des fonctionnaires passionés par le renouvellement de la fonction publique, le C3 sera une activité hautement interactive qui vous permettra d'apprendre et de partager votre savoir au sujet de pratiques exemplaires pour travailler de manière collaborative au sein du gouvernement.
  • L'activité fera appel à des conférenciers d’expérience et des études de cas d’exemples exceptionnels de collaboration, ainsi que des séances de forum ouvert dirigées par les participants qui seront axées sur les pratiques exemplaires et des leçons concrètes que vous pourrez ensuite appliquer à divers contextes de travail.
  • Wayne G. Wouters, Greffier du Conseil privé et Secrétaire du Cabinet, sera notre conférencier d'honneur.
  • L'inscription est maintenant ouverte à tous les employés fédéraux, sans frais! Le seul coût demandé est votre engagement à participer à la journée entière.
Pour plus d'information et pour vous inscrire, visitez le lien suivant :


It's finally here! The Collaborative Culture Camp (C3) will be taking place at Library and Archives Canada on October 15, 2010, from 8:30am to 4:30pm.

  • Organized on a volunteer basis by a group of public servants with a passion for public service renewal, C3 will be a highly-interactive event during which you will share and learn about best practices for working collaboratively within government.
  • The event will feature knowledgeable speakers and case studies showcasing exceptional instances of collaboration, as well as a number of interactive, participant-led sessions with a focus on take-away lessons and best practices that can be applied in a variety of contexts.
  • Wayne G. Wouters, Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet, will be the Keynote Speaker.
  • Registration is now open to all federal employees, at no cost! The only cost we ask is your commitment to participate in the full day of activities.

For more information or to register, follow this link:

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Update: The Death of the Web

Wired magazine recently declared that "The Web is Dead". It spurred a whole slew of responses and generally got people talking about the article (which probably makes it a success despite your views about it's accuracy).

TVO's The Agenda hosted a great discussion about the article featuring Jesse Brown, Jesse Hisrch, Mathew Ingram, and Tim Wu.

I just figured you may want to watch the discussion, it is 36 minutes well spent.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Still Scheming (Virtuously) Two Years Later

Two years ago I took a risk and wrote a whitepaper called Scheming Virtuously: A Handbook for Public Servants. The whitepaper is a tactical guide for anyone looking to make a real impact in the public sector. I've updated the whitepaper, you can view it below, or download the PDF here.

If you want to get a sense of why you would be interested in reading it, I've also taken the time to put together this quick introductory video.


Friday, September 17, 2010

Participation Inequality and Licensed Based Collaboration

Whenever I give advice to people about what to look for in a collaborative tool, I tell them to steer clear of anything that is based on a licensing model where the organization has to buy a license for every person in the organization, preferring instead to look at open source alternatives.

If you combine the 90-9-1 rule with a proprietary licensing arrangement (as I have in the info graphic above) you can see why: the return is only about ten cents on a dollar.

For Example

Let's consider the following:
  • 500 person organization
  • Enterprise wide solution at $130/license

Making the total cost to the organization $65,000

The participation breakdown within in a organization of 500 people is approximately:
  • 5 heavy contributors
  • 45 intermittent contributors
  • 450 non contributors (lurkers)

Therefore the approximate cost breakdown under this model is:
  • $650 spent to enable heavy contributors
  • $5,850 spent to enable intermittent contributors
  • $58,500 spent to enable lurkers

The production breakdown within this model is:
  • 1% producing 90% of the outputs
  • 9% producing 9% of the outputs
  • 90% producing 1 % of the outputs

Overall licensing is cost neutral but with significant differences:
  • Licensing heavy contributors is highly cost effective because they produce at a 1:9 ratio.
  • Licensing intermittent contributors is cost neutral because they produce at a 1:1 ratio.
  • Licensing lurkers is cost burden because they produce at a ratio of 9:1.

Looking over this example, it is no surprise why I recommend against engaging with vendors that use per user licenses as a distribution control. The model absolutely breaks down when you look at participation models. I personally think there are two caveats worth discussing from here: (1) what does this mean for vendors and in house resellers and (2) what is the value of lurking.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Update: An Honest Appeal

I'll be making an honest (albeit unofficial) appeal for the public sector as employer at GenYOTT on Sept 23rd here in Ottawa. Its a rapid fire talk, and it's all new material.

The event is free and a great opportunity to network with people from all three sectors here in Ottawa.

Hope to see you there.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Motivation and Incentives in The Public Sector

Daniel Pink's TED talk on motivation is a must-watch. Watch it yourself, then send the link to your boss.

My Key Takeaways

  1. Contingent motivators often do not work in complex situations because they narrow our focus
  2. Solutions to complex problems are often on the periphery
  3. If we want to discover those solutions we need a new approach
  4. New approaches must be built on fostering intrinsic motivation which is based on three interrelated components: (a) autonomy: the urge to direct our own lives; (b) mastery: the desire to get better and better at something; and (c) purpose: the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.

The Rise of Online Communities

My experience in the public sector has been that these three things are more easily achieved by participation in communities than by adherence to strict hierarchies. Community is not a new social construct; in fact it is probably one of the oldest. The difference, at least the one I see, is that the web has exponentially increased the speed at which they can form, communicate, and act (not to mention expand their reach, increase their longevity, and create digital legacy). In short, the more connected we are, the easier it is to find and share our niches and/or interests. I have a feeling that this may partially explain the popularity of professionally-focused social networks like Govloop.

The Connection Between Online Communities and Motivation

What sites like Govloop offer that the public sector organizations can't is a large pool of people who have all opted-in to the community (autonomy). Strict hierarchies, and the work we are paid to undertake within them, often fail to align well with where autonomy would take us.

For me personally, despite a significant interest and work overlap, there are many tasks that I perform in my substantive role that don't actually interest me. At a fundamental human level, I think that we are all working to bring our interests and our duties into complete congruence. While there may be other motivating factors, I would argue that joining a professional social network is a way to signal one's interest in improving one's skill set. My own experience with Govloop is that the network has expanded the pool of people from whom I can learn and has exposed me to a number of new social (free) learning opportunities. The community also reinforces my sense of purpose through encouraging comments on blog posts and interactions in discussion forums.

Online Communities: A Motivating Factor

This is incredibly important because the relationship between traditional motivators like salary, advancement opportunities and service to Canadians and autonomy, mastery and purpose is not always clear.

Somewhere at the nexus of employees and managers lies the responsibility to motivate. If participation in online communities does in fact motivate people the way I think they do, an argument could be made that they are the newest tool at the disposal of organizations looking to improve the motivation of their people.

However, this is deeply at odds with standard operating procedure in many public sector agencies. If we agree that participation in online communities can plug motivational gaps within the organization than we should be acting in a way that reduces the barriers to participation for those people in the organization who want to participate.

Why is it then that our organizations block access to these types of networks in the workplace? From where I sit, I see them filling a gap, and doing it at no additional cost to the organization, save some of the employees' time. What people need to understand is that a little time away from the desk now may actually mean a more effective use of the remaining time spent at it.

Plugging the Holes

Perhaps we need to start to rethink the public sector's relationship with social networking sites, maybe they aren't the productivity sink holes many people deem them to be, maybe they could actually be used to fill not only motivational gaps, but learning gaps, expertise gaps, and thereby perhaps even budgetary shortfalls (depending of course on how they are used).

Shouldn't managers then be looking to connect their staff to their communities of interest in a way that creates value for the organization?

If I had to wager a guess, I'd say that the ability to do this effectively is about to become one of the most important competencies for leadership.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Update: Thanks, Let's Connect, Upcoming Travel

1) Thank You!

I just wanted to take the time to thank everyone who has made this blog possible. I won't go into details, but if you are taking the time to read this, I owe you a bit of gratitude. The depth and breadth of content on the web means that every second you spend on this site is time you don't spend elsewhere. That is a huge vote of confidence that cannot be understated.

Thank you.

2) Let's Connect!

If we haven't connected formally off of this site, I'd like to invite you to take the time to do so:
If you are interested I also maintain a more complete list of where I am on the social web and why. As usual you can subscribe to the content on the site via RSS; and I recently added the ability to subscribe by email:

cpsrenewal via email

3) Upcoming Travel

If you are in the following areas and want to connect in person, please let me know. I'm always interested in meeting new people and put real faces to online interactions:
  • Moncton, New Brunswick
  • St. Andrews, New Brunswick
  • Toronto, Ontario,
  • Edmonton, Alberta
  • Vancouver, British Columbia
  • Cambridge, Maryland
Don't hesitate to drop me an email, and I will get back to you ASAP.


Friday, September 3, 2010

The Changing Relationship Between Accountability and Responsibility

Collaborative technologies apply flattening pressure to hierarchical organizational structures by diffusing the ability to publish, share and disseminate information. For example consider the action of publishing something to the corporate intranet compared to an enterprise wiki.

Intranet Publishing is a Linear Process

This linear process is designed to ensure compliance with a broad set of interrelated policy frameworks, such as official languages, access to information and privacy, information management directives, values and ethics, etc. It does so by making people along the chain responsible for formally approving the content. These people are gatekeepers, key decision making nodes along the pipeline. While this type of system may ultimately produce compliance, it does so at the cost of expediency and thus perhaps even relevancy. In short, when it comes to internal communication models, many hands don’t always make light work, sometimes they make long work.

Wikis are Different (or at least they can be)

In an open enterprise wiki environment, publishing is unfettered. It can be instantly achieved by anyone in the organization. This means that formalized structures (e.g. linear approval processes) are incredibly difficult to maintain. Since there is no formal chain of command that ensures policy compliance, there are no nodes of decision-making that act as gatekeepers. In this model publishers are not only responsible for production but for policy-compliant production. In short, wikis make for quick publication but at the cost of ensured policy compliance.

How Does This Affect the Relationship Between Accountability And Responsibility?

In an enterprise wiki, publishers may have new found responsibility but the traditional accountability chain (i.e. the hierarchy) remains intact. I can't say for certain what the exact impact of this is on the organization other than it is largely seen as an erosion of power of gatekeepers. Gatekeepers rely on the bureaucratic tradition of:

Power = Knowledge


Knowledge = Position within the hierarchy x # of direct reports x Information / relative importance vis-a-vis other areas

The reason this equation works is simple: the information/action/work must be routed through the established process. The minute that process changes, say by implementing an enterprise wiki in parallel to a corporate intranet, the power structure implodes. Ask anyone working in these spaces right now and they will tell you that corporate intranets are losing ground quickly to enterprise wikis.

These will be difficult times

This shift – enabled by changes to the relationship between responsibility and accountability – is playing out in the culture right now. It is creating confusion inside organizations, people are unsure where to put information, where to find it, and in some cases which source of competing information is the most accurate.

The underlying question isn't really whether or not we should replace our intranets with wikis but rather what type of culture do we want our institutions to support? The reason there is so much tension around these issues is that the institution isn't designed to work in the ways that new collaborative technologies now enable us to.

We are slowly moving into a way of working, a way of thinking – perhaps even a way of being – that is not conducive with our way of managing, how we create incentives and/or how we create disincentives.

Maybe it is time for a redesign.

[Image credit: chelseagirl]