Saturday, 10 October 2009

How To Achieve Real Transparency

I keep getting told in work that we have this thing called "transparency" and everyone is open and honest and there is clear communication from the top down.  Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but we don't.  There are silos, there are Ivory Towers and there are a confusing number of senior management groups with confusing acronyms - SME, ITPB, ITPO, MWE2 ITPB - and people don't really know these groups' remits or which group a particular issue should be raised in.

So how do we fix things?

SME (which stands for Senior Management Executive) have taken steps to address some of the issues in sending out regular bulletins of things that have been discussed and actioned at SME meetings.  This is a big step forward in addressing some of the confusion around SME, but that's just one of the groups, what about the others?

So how do we REALLY fix things?

This is where I see E2.0 / Social Business Networking / Call it What You Want making a real difference and adding real value.

We happen to have chosen Lotus Connections as our platform, but you can pretty much substitute any E2.0 platform you like - it's not about the technology, it's about the mindshift.

So in our organisation what if:
  • We had a Community visible to all of Information Services?
  • We had Wiki defining the remit of each group?
  • We recorded meeting minutes on the Wiki?
  • We had Blog post updates from all of the above mentioned groups?
  • We added project proposals to Files?
  • We had a Forum for seeding new ideas for projects?
  • We templated Activities for every task required to move a project through the system?
  • We used Activities as a light-weight management tool for managing a project that had been approved?
  • We give it a shot?
Use Case 1

Everyone in Information Services can see projects moving through the system and know at what stage each project is at.  It shows that the system works, even if people don't have projects in the system at the time.

Use Case 2

People understand the remit of each group, what is being discussed where and where they need to raise issues.

Use Case 3

Frank sees that Joe's project (which Frank didn't know about) has been rejected, but is important to Frank so Frank contacts Joe to help with getting the project re-submitted.

Use Case 4

Joe sees that Frank's project (which Joe didn't know about) has been accepted, but the project impacts on Joe so Joe contacts Frank to ensure project proposal is adjusted to reflect Joe's team effort.

Use Case 5

Andrew has had a lot of projects rejected, but sees that Mike has had a lot of projects approved.  Andrew contacts Mike for advice on how to submit projects.

Use Case 6

Mike has had a lot of projects accepted, but sees that Andrew has had a lot of projects rejected.  Some of the projects are of interest to Mike so Mike contacts Andrew to offer advice.

Use Case 7

Bob starts a thread on the Forum to ask if anyone is interested in helping him with a project proposal to reduce storage costs.  Andrew responds offering help and invites Paul and Rhys to contribute to the discussion.

Use Case 8

Rebecca is a new employee within Information Services and has never submitted a project proposal before.  Rebecca uses the Activity Template for project submissions and has a clear set of steps, tasks, milestones and documents to help her through the process.

Use Case 9

Andrew and Simon have their project approved and use Activities as a light-weight project management tool to share and complete tasks, track milestones and share relevant documents and emails.

The Reality

I know getting the mindshift to do this is not going to be easy, but it has to be worth a shot doesn't it?  We keep talking about business change, so let's change, let's do things differently.

The Expansion

This post is specific to Information Services, but I guarantee that the same structures and problems exist with every School or Directorate in Cardiff University - and I bet this solution fits for all of them.

The Conclusion

I honestly think this would work and if you want to see this happen then let me know.

I also accept that I am "politically naive" so if there are stumbling blocks to what I'm proposing then shout - but if you are a CU senior peep then if you shout against this you don't really believe in transparency ;)


Phillip Fayers said...

Ah, I see - or rather I wouldn't because the transparency you suggest is only for the internal walls, not the external ones.

Andrew Frayling said...

@phillip - I understand what you're saying, but I'm trying to start with small steps here.

And the external transparency thing works both ways, e.g. as Web Services Development Manager I have no visibility whatsoever of the Web Governance Group nor the Web User Group.

'รถ-Dzin Tridral said...

Thanks Andrew. Anything you can do in this regard would be wonderful. Opaqueness besets all organisations so any steps towards transparency would be good. Even translucency would be a step in the right direction. What we need is a place where various streams of university life can flow together. A confluence, if you will. It would be helpful to see the structure, remit and discussions of the various groups within the university. Even the wikified discussions we've seen so far have been useful.

Rocky said...

Hi Andrew,

Lots of common sense there.

As professionals we should be able to work together in this way and look to management for appropriate support as and when needed.

Of course, in many cases, this is exactly what happens in practice - I can think of L3 migration, Shibboleth - you can think of others.

I guess the mix of technology might be almost as confusing as the array of management groups you mention.