I am in the very earliest stages of implementing Working Out Loud (WOL) circles at my organization, and even though we have yet to formally launch our first circle, I have already learned a lot.

A Working Out Loud circle is a group of peers/colleagues that meets for one hour, once a week for 12 weeks. We each establish a goal for ourselves, and together we ask ourselves, and try to answer, three questions.

  1. What am I trying to do?
  2. Who is related to my goal?
  3. How can I contribute to them to deepen our relationships?

After reading Working Out Loud by John Stepper, I immediately recognized how much I could personally gain by being involved in a circle, and I thought my friends and colleagues at work would have a lot to gain as well. Additionally, as the administrator of our internal and external Yammer networks, I had hoped that WOL circles would bring more familiarity and comfort with our technology platform.

Supervisor Support: Though WOL circles often begin organically, I wanted to be sure I first had the support of senior leadership and HR. This meant that nothing would be a potentially unhappy surprise, and that WOL could be introduced with full management support and cooperation.

Announcement: I work on a large team at my organization, and my supervisor encouraged me to introduce WOL during an all team meeting, after which I posted information to our team group in Yammer, which is public to all staff at our organization. Our staff Yammer network has slowly become a meaningful part work culture over the last couple of years, and sharing this news in a group that was visible to everyone was instrumental in helping ensure that staff members throughout the organization felt connected to WOL, even if they chose not to participate.

Response: I didn’t know what to wish for. On one hand, I wanted lots of people to express  interest in WOL circles. On the other hand, I wanted to be the coordinator of the group so I could see first hand how WOL circles actually worked, and I knew I had neither the time nor the bandwidth to be involved in more than one circle.

Initially, we had three people from my team express interest. Then, we had another person from another team express interest. We are advised that a WOL circle should have no more tan 3-5 participants, so I was all set. Perfect! Then, we had one more person express interest. OK, so we will go with 6 for our first circle.

Technology: I want WOL circle participants to become more comfortable with Yammer through their WOL activities, and so I modified the WOL circle guides so we would create and share information in a Yammer group private to our WOL circle participants. John Stepper, the very person who developed the idea of WOL circles, advised me not to do that, making the excellent point that technology can sometimes be a barrier to participants’ full participation.

However, many of our organizations’ teams are now doing work in Yammer, and we are also working to actively engage almost 8,000 of our constituents in an external Yammer network. The potential of our WOL circle participants becoming more familiar with Yammer is an opportunity I just can’t pass up. Also, now that Word files can be created natively in Yammer will make it particularly easy for people to work in the group. I hope it will work, but if not, I will gladly make public amends to John.

Goals: I created a private Yammer group, and uploaded the first few circle guides. I invited participants into the group, and we started to communicate about a time to meet each week that would work for everyone. I was thrilled when I received a private message from one of the group members. “I already know what my goal is. I can’t wait to start!”

We will begin to meet after the first of the year. Feels like we are on our way.




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