Is community in your budget?

A recent McKinsey Quarterly article: When your calendar is a moral document article featured a talk by Reverend Jim Wallis.  Although he was talking about how we should live in our modern world with its current crises at Davos, I was pulled in by the notion of something as benign as a calendar having any moral impact.  But as he spoke, I was reminded by thoughts I’ve had in the past.

In my life, I’ve had lots of exposure to the religious concept of the tithe.  Whether you take it literally or not, the idea of giving some portion of your earnings elevates the value of the rest.  I think that’s where Rev. Wallis is going with his idea of a calendar being a moral document.  It is, just as a budget is. If you would give a dime of each dollar, would you give 16-17 hours of each week to doing good?

Budgets and calendars each establish priorities.  A financial budget is a spending plan and a calendar or personal diary is a time plan.  The items on your budget are your priorities as are your scheduled meetings and appointments.  That’s my jumping off point.

Last week my client, a 50-something 3-star, said, “A lot of news shows are starting to report on the viral video of the day… I start every day looking at a few sites that I follow.”

YES! That’s a priority.  It’s in his budget.  This will be his tithe or investment in the community.  His staff will know they want to be in the social computing environment saying things and commenting on the ideas of others, because they know they will be noticed.  This is exactly the behavior we’re looking for to drive adoption.  It reminds me of the time back in the 80s when executives didn’t have their own email accounts or manage their own calendars.  They couldn’t quite understand why they didn’t know what was going on (their assistants did, though) and they couldn’t understand why their staffs were wasting their time “doing email”.

The beauty of the social media versus email is you don’t have to handle it all (yes I know you can have email filters, but truly most execs won’t go there).  As an executive or staffer at any level, you can spend a little time every day, say 15-20 minutes, looking at the channels you are tuned into and you can get the vibe of your world.  You can feel the ebb and flow of your river of activity and you can recognize and stimulate good activity.

Remember the old saw “leaders are readers”?  There should be a corollary in the social media world.  “If you are an executive or leader you need to commit that 5% (24 minutes of an 8-hour day).”

If community and collaboration are important, you need to get them on your calendar, in your budget.  The leader needs to not only commit their own time, they should communicate that they want this in everyone’s budget.  It’s that important.

Merging Command and Control with Expand and Extol: Coming to grips with social media in the military

In his book, Social Networking for Business, Rawn Shah discusses different leadership styles, ownership styles and aggregation styles. The discussions resonate with me as I work to bring new social computing tools to my military client.

Many people think that the introduction of new tools necessitates totally new social structures. That if the old way was a centralized, command and control, hierarchical management style, it would be necessary to transform into something different: flexible, self-organized, and flat-structured or informal. I doubt it. I can’t imagine how it makes any sense to overturn a milenia’s old military structure that efficiently mobilizes the activities of thousands of moving parts to meet readiness requirements and threats. So what’s the point of introducing social media?

I think Rawn explains a bit in his developerWorks blog. He differentiates the who and the how. The effective deployment of the emerging tools requires us to consider the culture into which we deploy. We need to understand the current norms and customs, understand the strengths. As we move forward, we need to put into balance new ways of working that enhance these norms, customs and strengths.

I think part of the problem comes from looking at the structure rather than the process. I suggest there may be completely different processes for generating ideas (collaboration) versus communicating policies and directives (command). I think that adding the notions of expand (inviting others to participate in many discussions) and extol (recognizing participation and promoting good ideas and behaviors) provide a great compliment to the future of the military.

That we could get situational awareness from the furthest reaches of the organization to any point in the network and having people tuned in to this network activity could significantly improve the nimbleness. In no way, does this obviate the need to leverage the existing and persistent leadership models. In fact, it makes them more responsive as more current facts can be brought to bear without having to exercise a march down and up various command structures. Ideas and facts can flow in any direction, while policies and directives will still flow down through the echelons.

Of the attributes of the control nature —reactive, top-down, formal— is any wrong? No. But the emergent nature provides useful complements —active, collaborative or networked, fluid. I think the future is bright for the deployment of collaboration communities and social media tools in the military, especially as we ask the forces and their civilian colleagues to do more with less and to work in more and more joint missions.