July 2009

Why do some of us shy away from trying out new technology such as social media? I can think of several reasons: too complicated to figure out; too expensive to implement; my supervisor/colleagues would never approve; more suitable for geeks and teenagers; it’ll take too much time … Or my personal favorite: I like things the way they are now.

Matt Hamm's social media bandwagonYes, change can be a pain, because it can shake up your organized, structured existence. However, we can’t close our eyes and hope the Internet will go away. While I feel we should not jump onto the social media bandwagon just because everyone else is doing so, social media’s potential cannot be denied. Whatever the reason people give for avoiding social media, don’t let ignorance and fear hold you back from what will probably be the next revolution in the way people communicate.

Social media is breaking down communication barriers: allowing people to reach out to others around the world – letting them connect, engage and share among themselves. Now more than ever, agricultural research and development organizations such as ours can leverage the popularity of social media to get more mileage out of their research outputs.

Social media tools can help you in your role as researcher, manager or communicator.

If all you’re interested in doing is organizing your online world, there are several social media tools that can simplify your life. These include social bookmarking sites that can help you organize your website resources and scientific literature. And if you’re struggling to keep abreast of updates from your favorite websites and blogs, newsfeeds may be your ticket out of mayhem. However, if you are yearning for more, hoping to connect with like-minded individuals or wanting to share your organization’s research with a larger audience so that it can be used, applied and improved upon, then read on!

The true value of social media lies in its ability to form communities organically. Often these communities, or social networks as they are called, come together because of common interests or a shared purpose. It is a nurturing environment filled with trust and camaraderie – the perfect milieu for effective collaboration and the sharing of ideas, information and knowledge. Add to that an outreach across vast geographical distances and the cross-linking between the different social media tools, and voila! You have a global, inter-linked audience at your fingertips.

Social media can give your communication strategy a boost in the following ways:

  • It can help you tap into a large, global audience base and go where the people are these days – the Internet!
  • The way people source for information has evolved. They are more discerning, preferring to seek out recommendations and suggestions from their colleagues, peers and experts. Information overload is a major concern, so people will not waste their time visiting a website, blog, database or any other resource unless someone they trust points them in that direction.
  • The usual way we do business is slowly coming to an end. Pushing information out to your target audience does not guarantee that it will be read and used. Information is useful only when it is received by the right person, who is looking, at the right time. Use social media tools as vehicles to get your message out.

How social media can boost your communication strategy:

Increase Visibility

  • Create awareness by raising the profile of your organization on social networking sites. Cultivate long term support for your organization by creating your own network of scientists, research partners and interested individuals.
  • Use social media tools to promote your projects, events and activities. Announce time-sensitive, newsworthy items and get a head-start on others by microblogging. Microblogging involves posting short sentences (max 140 characters) that can be used to promote your journal article or a useful website, act as a reminder for an activity, or even ask questions. Tip: Ensure that your microblogging network consists of like-minded individuals who share your interests and concerns so that the information exchange is meaningful. Be prudent in selecting whom you follow.
  • Promote your name: use social media to establish your reputation in the research and development arena. Blogging is a great way for researchers to share their research ideas with others and gain feedback from a wider, online audience. A recent Blog Tips post  provides practical reasons why blog sites may surpass websites in generating traffic to increase Internet presence.Well-thought-out blogs attract people with similar thoughts and queries, people who can validate your ideas and also challenge you by sharing varying opinions.

Engage people

  • Promote issues that resonate with people to encourage involvement and gather support for your cause. A great example of this is the Obama campaign which relied heavily on social media to garner visibility and support, resulting in victory for the Obama camp.
  • Form strategic alliances with influential people and institutions that help boost your organization’s profile.
  • Source expertise or talent, whether potential research partners, service providers or other experts.
  • In the ICT-KM Program’s Social Media Tool series, I sharedMicrosoft Clipart some thoughts on how social networking sites can help you engage with others. Reinforcing the sentiment that it is easy to find and connect with people of similar interests and even easier to set up online groups, Christian Kreutz and Giacomo Rambaldi provide interesting examples of local and global engagement. They also describe the various levels at which people engage while participating in social networks.

Share Knowledge

  • Social media transcends geographic boundaries. Test your research ideas by sharing them with your colleagues globally. Collaborate, enrich and validate your work at a fraction of the time and cost associated with face-to-face meetings. As wide-reaching as it can be, collaborative sharing sites also come with security options that allow secure knowledge sharing.
  • Create an environment where people recognize your expertise, and establish your organization as the expert in your field of research. Whether you are a researcher who is new to a field and eager to learn more, or the resident expert, share your knowledge and experiences by contributing to insightful blogs. I may be new to blogging, but already I’m learning so much from just opening up to a new community. My boss, Enrica Porcari, CGIAR Chief Information Officer, is a regular blogger and attests to its value. As she believes, and as I have been experiencing, blogs go beyond just sharing your words. The true value of blogging is in the exchange of information and knowledge, and the nurturing environment that allows differing ideas and opinions to emerge without defensiveness.  See how these successful bloggers use their expertise to share and learn:
    • Agricultural Biodiversity blogs  (by Luigi Guarino and Jeremy Cherfas, who are living their passion for all things related to biodiversity in agriculture)
    • ICT-KM Blogs (Blogs on knowledge sharing and social media in the CGIAR by 6 active bloggers and many guest bloggers)
    • Blog Tips (On blogging and social media for non-profits)
    • NEW: Rural Climate Exchange (new CGIAR blog connecting agricultural and environmental science to the climate change agenda) 
  • Share your photographs and videos online. Place useful slides online so others can learn from them. Tip: Think about the keywords/tags that you use to describe your product, such as blog, photograph, slides, videos, etc. How would you search for information online? Use that as a guide for your tags.
  • Get more mileage out of your research outputs by filtering content to fit different social media tools. Think of social media as strategic communication lines that branch outward to several different networks, which in turn branch into other networks.
  • Reach out to interested people outside your regular circle and gain valuable ideas/feedback from your pool of social networks. Practice what some call social listening.

As my colleague Simone Staiger-Rivas often quotes, “Social media is not about technology. It is about conversations enabled by technology.”

  • Going beyond self-promotion, we should be paying attention to conversations that are already ongoing on social media sites; conversations that we are also passionate about. Sharing is a two-way process, and we should take the time to interact with others in a similar fashion.
  • Share resources within interested communities and broaden horizons at a fraction of the time it would take to search for data or information or knowledge on your own. Social Bookmarks and Newsfeeds are great for keeping track of what’s being published on your favorite websites and blogs. Share this with others, and see the favor being returned manifold.

Consider your communication goals when you decide to incorporate social media into your strategy:

  • Decide on whether you want to increase visibility for your organization, share knowledge or engage people.
  • Choose the right social media tool(s) for your organization based on the target audience, research content and technology available.
  • Start small. Many social media tools are relatively low-cost to implement in your organization:
    • Experiment with a low-risk pilot project.
    • Use short timeframes, anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.
    • Evaluate your progress with pre-determined goals and measure its success. Read Antonella Pastore’s post on how to check if social media is working for you.
    • In the event a social media tool does not work for your organization, it is wise to let go and start over with a different, more suitable tool. Don’t take it too personally.

 Until you try social media out for yourself, you will never know what you’re missing. This reminds me of the days before the mobile telephone came along. Can’t imagine your life without it now, right? Similarly, the potential of social media is limitless. When you use several social media tools in tandem to inform, disseminate, share, collaborate and interact, you work within an environment of networks that grow exponentially. That’s power you can’t afford to ignore. Resistance is futile!

Till next time.


Social media is using the Internet to collaborate, share information, and have a conversation about ideas, and causes we care about, powered by web based tools.” – [We Media]

From the learnings from the successful pilot (See blog posts about the event), and second  Social Media Online Workshop, the CGIAR through its ICT-KM Program, is pleased to offer a new online opportunity for social media explorations, this time with the specific objective to embed social media in participants’ contexts of international development work. This fully online workshop will run from September 7 to 25, 2009.

Social media offers development practitioners and organizations a move from “push” communications towards a place where we can interact with our constituents, listen and engage with them in ways we never could before. It enables us to network with colleagues and some stakeholders. If facilitates collaboration in the lab and in the field.

Social media also offers so many options that it can be overwhelming. This workshop focuses on exploration of social media from some specific development contexts. So instead of saying “there is a tool, how can we use it,” this workshop seeks to answer “we need to do this activity, how can social media support it and under what circumstances.”

If you ask yourself questions like these, you might consider joining the workshop:

  • How can I support collaboration in wide-spread teams?
  • How can I provide opportunities for open dialogue with my stakeholders?
  • How do we support communities of practice and thematic networks, online and offline?
  • How do we share our content and knowledge effectively online?
  • How can we make use of social media under low-bandwidth constraints?

This online workshop is designed for researchers, research and development communications professionals and knowledge sharing practitioners.

Objectives of the workshop
This three week online workshop will provide a collaborative, peer based learning opportunity for you, as development practitioners, to address if and how social media can help address your needs, opportunities or challenges related to collaboration, participation, or communication. By the end of the workshop you should be able to understand and analyze the opportunities that social media can offer in the view of your specific research and development context, identify some potential tools and create a plan of action.

During this workshop you will:

  • Identify possibles usages of social media through small group synchronous and full group asynchronous conversation, exploring opportunities and constraints related to your work.
  • Obtain an understanding and appreciation of the role and value of social media.
  • Explore 2-3 different social media tools which may be appropriate for your context.
  • Start to plan the implementation of one or more social media tools that fit our work environment.
  • Learn from participants of mixed professional and organizational backgrounds.

Outline of the 3-week event

  • Week 1 to 2 – Context and Application of Social Media: Introductions, and telephone conversations in small groups to assess your research for/and development context and identify opportunities for social media practices.
  • Week 2 to 3 – Testing Social Media Tools. Explore select social media tools in small groups.
  • Finalizing week 3 – Reflection for Action. Reflect on individual and group learning of the past two weeks and  create an initial plan for social media implementation.

Maximum Number of participants: 18

Language: English

Participant Requirement/Dedicated time: This workshop offers an in-depth exploration of social media tools adapted to your specific context with personalized support and work in small groups. To do this, we ask the following of each participant:

  • Organize your agenda to dedicate up to 1-1/2 hours per day during the three weeks. If you will be on travel and won’t have time in a particular week, save some time for “catch up.” If you will not be able to participate in more than one week, please consider taking a future workshop. It will become hard to catch up after missing significant time.
  • Participate in weekly telecons of  60-90 minutes. These are scheduled for the afternoons for those in Europe and Africa, mornings for North and South American, and evenings for Asia. We will try to accomodate all time zones as best we can.
  • Read and respond to blog posts
  • Explore at least 2 tools
  • Reflect and share your learnings on the workshop blog and wiki
  • Complete a pre- and post-workshop survey.

Open to: CGIAR staff, not for profit partners, agricultural and development organizations. Individuals, consultants and members of for profit organizations may join on a space available basis as the unsubsidized rate. (See costs below)

Platform: Blog, Skype and/or telephone, email and wiki. Our teleconference platform allows you to call for free using Skype. If you choose to use a landline for the conference calls, you will be responsible for long-distance costs. You should have regular access to the Internet. Some tools may not be accessible for those with low bandwidths. You may need to check with your IT department, as some web-based services you wish to explore may be currently blocked in your organization and you may need to seek support to access them.

Facilitators: Nancy White (Full Circle Associates), Simone Staiger-Rivas (CGIAR-CIAT), Pete Shelton (IFPRI)

Cost: USD$ 850. Individuals who work for for-profits or consultants: USD$ 1050.

Contact: Please write to Simone Staiger-Rivas (s.staiger[at]cgiar.org) for questions and subscription by August, 10 at the latest.

Three CGIAR-related blogs we’ve come across recently:

Rural Climate Exchange: Connecting agricultural and environmental science to the climate change agenda

The Centers supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and their partners generate a wealth of knowledge that can better enable rural people in developing countries to mitigate climate change and adapt to its impacts. The purpose of this blog is to help bring such knowledge to light, so it can better serve global efforts to cope with climate change.

Crop Genebank Knowledge Base Blog: this is the blog of the Crop Genebank Knowledge Base promoted by the Systemwide Genetic Resources Programme (SGRP).

The Regional Plan in Eastern and Southern Africa Blog: last but not least, the blog of the CGIAR Regional Plan for Collective Action in Eastern and Southern Africa.

The Regional Plan in eastern and southern Africa, is the evolving, collaborative program of a network of the fifteen CGIAR Centers with Sub-Regional Organizations, FARA, regional networks and voluntary partners primarily from national agricultural institutes and universities that aims to add value to ongoing agricultural research in eastern and southern Africa.

Our colleagues at the ESA Regional Plan have recently published two reports based on the data collected in the CGIAR Research Map in Africa, powered by CGMap and based on the Google engine behind the system:

By the way, the CGIAR Research Map in Africa was selected as one of the top ten entries in the 2009 Science Forum Poster Competition on the theme “ICTs:  Enabling Agricultural Science to Be a Social Endeavour”. Check the announcement on the GFAR Website.

Special thanks to Simone Staiger and Evelyn Katingi for sharing the good news.

What else is out there? Post a comment and let us all know!

ICTKM Newsletter BannerStories in the latest newsletter:

Enjoy and let us know what you like the most.

Today it was an insightful day in the structures of an organization. The delivery of the class was interesting…it was like going to a film club.

We watched scenes from “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s nest” where to avoid prison McMurphy pretends to be insane and serves time in an asylum ward controlled by Nurse Ratched who rules the asylum with an iron fist, controlling every aspect until the inmates form coalitions to counter her will. We looked at the nature of organizational politics. It is a jungle, where might is right, the big animals eat the small ones, Where 3 is 2 against 1! So coalition is the recipe for survival, especially in time of scarce resources. The leaders sharpen a competitive spirit, followers act in solidarity. It can be quite a depressing environment…especially if you do not how to survive in the lion’s den!

How many “Nurses Ratched” can you count in your organization?

Hint! A coping strategy: “EVLN”: If you have trouble to fit in this frame here are your choices:
E for Exit, get out!
V for Voice: speak up, ask for help, build coalitions.
L for loyalty, work with the system.
N for Neglect, psychologically check-out while remaining in position.

The choice is yours!

Ghandi’s life was the inspiration for the next film clip. The 1982 Oscar grand slam featured Ghandi when he decides to challenge the Royal monopoly on salt-making in India through civil disobedience. The movie was full of symbols – compelling signs with a significance. Salt as independence, the white clothing as solidarity, the sunset as the end of the British empire, the lighthouse as symbol of hope …..

Ghandi an inspiration for all, representing a compelling value system, embodying justice and shared beliefs. He brings inspiration and a sense of authenticity. Ghandi’s equivalent in an organization is the “fearless leader” one who inspires confidence, one that we would follow blindly, who provides the glue that holds the organization together. Quite compelling….who in your organization inspires you?

“Five Easy Pieces” features a brilliant Jack Nicholson, a lapsed pianist on his way to see his ailing father who stops with a group of friends at a roadside café to have a meal…. Things quickly go wrong when he demands a toast…. not on the menu. The waitress refuses to “break the rules” and Nicholson shows the best of his acting! Should the waitress have been more flexible, and Nicholson willing to meet half way?

This clip was meant to show us the importance of human development, should the waitress have been better trained? But also I wonder: Should Nicholson learn some manners? Do we think we can fix all with some training?

“Twelve O’Clock High” a 1949 film about a military operation during world War II showed the importance of firm leadership in an organizational structure.

Every organizations has in some measure all of these aspects, the question is do we know how to balance? How to adjust according to organizational need? Do we have too much of a jungle? Too little inspirational culture?

And if so….what are we going to do about it?

Lately, we’ve been receiving many requests from people who would like to write documents collaboratively.

This is not the first time we write about this topic: Meena published a general overview of collaborative writing approaches, and Silvia Renn shared tips on writing proposals with Google Docs.

Having been involved in the Google Apps Case Study and currently in CGXchange 2.0, I’d like to share my experience with Google Docs and Google Sites since I’ve found these tools are helping me and the ICT-KM team improve the way we work.  In particular, I’m sharing tips for organizing comments and edits so that every collaborator feels comfortable with the tools and the collaborative writing process.

Enjoy and share your experience and feedback!


Today while a group was being coached by media professionals, others played a team building game where a group of us seating around a table was given a set of shapes – two pieces were missing from the set and we had to identify the missing pieces in 30 minutes. Piece of cake you would say…yeah, right… the only caveat…we were blindfolded. It was a horrific experience. We had to wear the blindfold from the very beginning, even when we were given instructions – for me this was the first moment of frustration….. I realized I cannot follow instructions if I cannot see – some may argue I cannot follow instructions period, but that’s not the point here.

Three teams were playing. At the end of the period, and despite an extension of 10 minutes nobody could identify the missing pieces. Frustrated, we took a break to re-gather a few minutes later to debrief on what we could have done differently…on what we could have done as a team to get to success. Bear in mind, the groups were extremely diverse, we never worked together before, we came from different countries, different background, very few were English mother tongue…. This is an occasion where diversity did not help. We did not have a common understanding, we did not have common grounds, we had different ways to express ourselves, referring to a piece in our hands as “This” does not help when you cannot see. We did not identify a leader….we did not spend any time agreeing on what the task at hand was…we all started from our understandings and the assumptions others understood the same, we did not spend enough time checking on progress as time was passing, we just concentrated on the task at hand, we set to work immediately, trying to get the job done without planning, without agreeing on roles, on responsibilities..just charging ahead…. A big lesson, learned at the expense of a frustrating afternoon.

Working with blindfold made me think of working with colleagues virtually….when you cannot see a person everything seems so much more difficult!



Ever heard of Myers-Briggs personality type indicators? Well, they are very popular tools to assess what your preferences are in terms of how you express yourself.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) instrument was developed by Isabel Myers and Katharina Briggs as an application of Carl Jung’s theory of psychological types.

This theory suggests that we have opposite ways of
– gaining energy (Extraversion and Introversion),
– gathering or becoming aware of information (Sensing or Intuition)
– deciding or coming to a conclusion about information (Thinking or Feeling) and
– dealing with the world around us (Judging or Perceiving).

If you prefer Extraversion you focus on the outside world to get energy through interacting with other people. You are gregarious, expressive, active…
If you prefer Introversion, you focus on the inner world and get energy through reflecting on information, ideas, concepts. You may like spending time alone, to reflect, decompress, there is so much of the external environment you can take in at once.
If you prefer Sensing, you notice and trust facts, details, and present realities. You are realistic, practical…

If you prefer Intuition, you trust interrelationships, theories and future possibilities. You are abstract, conceptual, original..
If you prefer Thinking, you make decisions using logical, objective analysis. You are reasonable, critical…

If you prefer Feeling, you make decisions to create harmony by applying person-centered values. You are empathetic, accommodating, accepting…
If you prefer Judging, you tend to be organized and orderly and to make decisions quickly. You are systematic, planful, methodical….and probably you can tell by looking at your closet or your desk at work! A typical Judging type will look for the 5 basic steps to becoming more flexible 

If you prefer Perceiving you tend to be flexible and adaptable and to keep your options open as long as possible. You are spontaneous, open-ended…. You do not need to plan a holiday in advance…. You just go with the flow!

It is assumed that each of us has, in one measure or another, all 8 types, but we have a natural preference for 4 of them, just like we have a natural preference to use the right or the left hand. There is no right or wrong…this is not an instrument to measure your skills, but rather a way to help you identify your style and to appreciate other people’s style so you may better understand why they act in a certain way.

I first took the MBTI about 10 years ago I was in a very different job, very different circumstances (not last I was 10 years younger!)…but was really surprised to see my preferences had changed quite dramatically. I will not dwell on what type I am now, all I will say is that the trait “Original” is the most dominant among my sub-traits, the typical trait of someone who looks for what could be better, new or different. Who always strives to improve, who likes being original, often seen as both creative and practical and may occasionally surprise others by going off in a new direction.

My type was summarized with the following adjectives: Original, Reasonable, Questioning, Critical, Tough, Early Starting….Yes, I can see myself there.

Fun bit: ‘TJs” types seem to be over-represented in the management ranks.
The only ‘preference’ that has a gender bias: Feeling (well – we kind of suspected that!)
Remember: While preferences stay the same Behaviours CAN change! No excuses!
Try out http://www.keirsey.com – they offer a similar test you can do for free on the web.

When we began our blog series on Social Medial Tools two months ago, we had no idea how successful it would be. Feedback from readers has been positive and encouraging, so much so that Meena Arivananthan (who has written the series with input from Antonella Pastore and Simone Staiger-Rivas) finished the tenth post on these tools a few days ago. And there’s no stopping her.

For easy reference, we have assembled the various links to these mini tutorials below, so you can now tell at a glance where to get help on newsfeeds, wikis, microblogging, and much, much more:

1. Microblogging
Looks at microblogging tools like Twitter and Yammer

2. Blogging for impact
Blogging and agricultural research

3. Social Media: how do you know it’s working?
Incorporating social media into your communications strategy

4. Social Networks: friend or foe?
Using social networking sites to your advantage

5. Social Media: Are You Listening?
Practicing social media listening

6. Social Bookmarking: storm-a-brewing
Social bookmarking and the CGIAR

7. Wikis, sites, docs and pads: the many flavours of collaborative writing
Tools for collaborative writing

8. Are newsletters a dying breed?
How effective are e-newsletters today?

9. Newsfeeds: delivering the latest news to your virtual doorstep; and ways to share it!

Taking advantage of newsfeeds

10. Put it out there! Tools for photo, video and slideshow sharing

How to share photos, videos and slideshows

Phil Collin’s “You can’t hurry love” is one of my favourite songs of the ’80s. And it is a song that came to mind as I woke up thinking abour organizational change. Well…read on, they do have something in common.

Phil Collins says

“My mama said
You cant hurry love
No, youll just have to wait
She said love dont come easy
But its a game of give and take
You cant hurry love
No, youll just have to wait
Just trust in a good time
No matter how long it takes

How many heartaches must I stand
Before I find the love to let me live again
Right now the only thing that keeps me hanging on
When I feel my strength, ooh, its almost gone

I remember mama said
You cant hurry love
No youll just have to wait
She said love dont come easy
Its a game of give and take
How long must I wait
How much more must I take
Before loneliness
Will cause my heart, heart to break”

Well, think about it in organizational terms. How long are we willing to stay true to our commitment to change? how many heartaches, difficulties, moments when you feel “why am I doing this” are we willing to live through before we give up, how long are we willing to nurture the people around us and help them go through it? How may seeds are we willing to spread in the hope one of them will blossom? How many times are we willing to take the punch, fall, but get up and start walking again? How many projects we are not willing to see through to success because we just cannot stand the course? How many good ideas are we willing to be responsible to see fail because we just do not have the courage to carry on?

In the case we looked at the other day here at IMD, we saw that for change to really “stick”, for culture to change deeply, for change to be adopted so that there is not relapse, it takes on average 10 years. Basic a generational change. Ten years of commitment, to ensure that just superficial changes in the “observable artifacts” trickle all the way down to the soul of an organization, to its DNA, to change those basic assumptions that are its foundations.

Ten years is a long time one may argue…. but if we know this is what it takes, we should have the honesty to only start those changes that we are willing to see through to success, otherwise just do not even start.

PS: thanks Simone for sharing with me today an example of how one of the pilots we started with our program is now bearing fruits…. yes, change can happen… just stay the course!

We were given the task of designing a communication plan to convince a group of (very stubborn) leaders and managers of a company to implement a new system in their company. It was a computer simulated exercise, we were given an organigram, some clues about the individuals, a credit of 120 days to convince all 24 top managers to adopt the new system (and be happy at the end of it, and try to keep our job!). We were split in groups of 4 and told them we had a few tools, no time limit (the test was the only thing between us and lunch though!) and we were wished good luck…..Easy (thought some if us)….well…. it was quite challenging, no matter what we tried, some simply refused to “just do it”. So we had to find out about internal politics, about influence networks, who the early adopters are, who goes for lunch with whom, who are the “passive aggressive” who is willing to spend his “goodwill account” (or I prefer calling it his brownie-point bag) to help you, whether hierarchical relationships are more important than the informal networks….3 hours later and with zero credit we had convinced 95% of the group, not the whole group, but we were pretty happy with the results and learned a lot of do’s and don’ts along the way and the 4 in the team happily went for lunch together (I mean we were still talking to each other despite the radically divergent opinions on whether sending a decree was more effective than having a one-to-one meetings).

What are some of the take-home messages from this exercise about using communication to manage a transition?
Find out early who is committed to the change, target early the Innovators, the opinion leaders, the gatekeepers, the network leaders (they help you influence others)…lave the resistors to the end, create and maintain momentum, use small group meetings to “seed” and large events to “harvest”, do not abuse people’s time, do not over-communicate (face-to-face are at the top of the media richness scale, mass e-mail at the bottom!), respect people’s view, ensure the change is fair (both in process and outcome…which means make sure people are heard, decisions are applied with consistency, feedback is given in a timely fashion, decisions are based on facts, communication is sincere and personal, you need to understand early what drives people..so you can better influence them….we learned the lesson during the exercise…we started having more success when we realised who was going for lunch with whom… 🙂

gandhiToday was a fun day, one in which we could spend the time looking at ourselves, and our styles. Our seating arrangement was very different from the previous day….and we were told….the arrangement has a meaning.

In preparation for the course we had to fill a questionnaire, many questions probing about ourselves, our preferences, our habits…some of the questions as usual were quite irritating in efforts of this sort, but I complied…. I knew it was going to be interesting to see the results.

The three change styles defined were Conservers (those who accept the structure, who prefer incremental change, who appear disciplined, who enjoy predictability, who may focus on detail and routine) – conservers are about 25% of the working population (roughly!), the pragmatists (those who explore the structure, who prefer functional change, who may appear practical, who are focused on result, who operate as mediators, who may take more of a middle-of-the-road approach – these are about 50% of the population and then there are the originators, the remaining 25%,those who challenge the structure, who prefer expansive change, who may appear unconventional, unorganized, undisciplined, who will likely challenge accepted assumptions, who enjoy risk and uncertainty, who are visionary and treat accepted procedures with little regards…these are the BIG ideas people….but who easily get bored, who hate routine, but these are the people who will get the organization moving and will keep it moving!. Well, for those of you who know me, it is not hard to figure out which group I fell in and with both my feet! And quite a number of fellow CGIAR System Office leaders were in the same group….surprising, eh?

I won’t tell you what an originator thinks of a conserver, and I won’t dwell on a pragmatist’s view of an originator…. but we all agreed an ideal team is composed of a diverse mix of the 3 groups, you need balance, you need to ensure that you have great ideas but that someone takes the time to implement them! But if you do not want to stagnate, get into “stationary motion”, you know who to call!

OK, in our line of work we are so used to jargon that we do not even question anymore what an MTP is, who is on the TMT, your next EPMR….the list could go on…. but in a training where you are lucky enough to sit with people who come from different backgrounds, the basic assumptions get questioned…so there was a statement that included the “S” word… “stakeholders”… most of us did not even realise it, we are so used to using and abusing the word that we do not even question what (or who) a stakeheolder is…. but one of the participants was brave enough to say…excuse me….”what is a stakeholder”…. after a few feable attempts…our trainer venutured into a “anybody who can affect or be affected by you….in simple terms anybody who can ruin your day!”

Many of us giggled….

– “Visitors are informed that in the United Kingdom traffic drives on the left-hand side of the road. In the interest of safety, you are advised to practice this in your country of origin for a week or two before driving in the UK”…. uh? (Road Safety Act 2006)

Try to break a piece of glass by throwing sand at it….think about it when you try to make a difference in your workplace

– Culture is a simplification, a convenient short hand, it keeps on breaking down as you get closer to the point that you get to the level of individuals.

– If you want to change culture, hold your stated values long enough to change the basic assumptions

– Show me a good loser and I will show you a loser – Lou Gerst (Former CEO, IBM)

– Be aspirational, not only inspirational! Go beyond the incremental!

– Friendship expressed as a Fruit Culture

Peach culture: soft on the outside, willing to share personal information with people you hardly know….but after the soft part is over you reach a hard nut at the center…hard to get thru

Pineapple culture: prickly on the outside, but once in, you go all the way to the core. Once a Friend, always a Friend!

Today was the day of culture, one when we looked at how cultures can influence an organization. We studied the cases of IBM and WWF.
Some of the nuggets..
Culture is inherited wisdom, allows you to stand on the shoulder of the giant, but be careful to keep it alive!

The best way to change culture may not be the most direct one….

Small things matter, YOU can start to change, you do not have to wait for some superior force to come. You can make a difference when there are things you believe in.

Individuals bring with them a little piece of each culture they come into contact with. Individuals are a unique combination of experiences.

Lou Gerstner, CEO IBM once said: ” I came to see in my time at IBM that culture isn’t just one aspect of the game it IS the game. In the end, and organization is nothing more than the collective capacity of its people to create value. Vision, strategy, marketing, financial system can set you on the right path and can carry you for a while. But no enterprise will succeed over the long haul if those elements aren’t part of its DNA”

So the question begs “Is strong culture good for performance?” …in 1982 Tom Peter in “In Search of Excellence” said a definite YES! “The excellent companies are marked by very strong cultures, so strong that you either buy into their norms or get out”
In 1992, the same Tom Peters in “Liberation Management” tried to convince us absolutely NO! “It is the remarkable difference of character among the so-called ‘subordinate’ units that allow the parent to thrive…..”

and how about now? after 2 and half decades of management research we finally came to the conclusion that “YES and NO”….. this leaves me wonder about management scholars and their self preservation….but more than that this makes me think that high performance comes from sharing a SMALL SET of “living” core cultural elements letting everything else vary as needed.

Today was a day when I appreciated once more the value of diversity!

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