Yammer and the Light Switch Mentality

DCF 1.0The light switch is one of the most simple pieces of technology we use in any given day.

One piece of plastic. There is a clear, embedded display to indicate the status of the light, and changing the lights’ status is as easy as…well…flicking a switch.

We see the tool, and know what to do with the tool, and in almost every case, the tool operates as we believe it should. Over time, we have developed a mentality about the light switch, and what we expect it to do. We see it. We flick it. It works.

This mindset of convenience and functionality, this “light switch mentality,” creeps into other areas of our lives, especially technology. We expect to “flick the switch,” and our technology will work right away. We open the box, peel the plastic off the screen with a delicious satisfaction, press the power button and see the screen light up for the first time. It just works.

To an extent, we have this same mentality with web sites and digital platforms. We click on the icon, or type in the web address, and we (realistically) expect to see the information we want to see, and interact with the people we want to interact with, right away.

Yammer, Microsoft’s Enterprise Social Networks that supports communication and collaboration within an organization, works differently. Though we can easily set up a network and invite users into our online space, further success will take much more than a mere flick of a switch. Yammer network managers will be much more likely to find success if they understand the time involved, and if they understand the changes they are asking users to make.w

“Please, change the way you work.”
Though email is a very poor tool for group communication and collaboration, it is the software platform most of our colleagues have used for decades. Yammer network managers need to understand that users are being asked to abandon a tool they are comfortable with and know how to use, in favor of something they have never used before.

“Please, work transparently.”
Yammer encourages users to work in a way that makes their work processes, challenges and successes visible to their entire organization. When our organizations are more transparent, colleagues are better connected, duplicative efforts are avoided and opportunities for cooperation and connection are found. And yet, Yammer network managers need to understand that transparency represents an incredible leap of faith and habit for most people to make. What was once private is now public. Information once closely guarded by a chosen few is now out in the open for all to see.

“Please, check here regularly.”
We are in the habit of checking email every day. We are in the habit of checking websites for the news, social media and business networking. When a new Yammer network is rolled out, Yammer network managers need to understand that a network represents a new place to check, and therefore a new habit to create.

We can quickly turn the lights off and on. We just need to flick the switch. But, a Yammer overly-complex-light-switch-covers-by-green-tree-jewelry-1network succeeds only after people have developed new habits, after they have learned how to use new tools and after they have learned how to work in new ways.

So, launch your Yammer network, but do so with the clear understanding that just because you have “flicked the switch,” the light will not turn on for everyone right away. Train your users, give them compelling reasons to visit the platform, and help them to realize the benefits of working in a transparent, collaborative platform. Give yourself and your organizational leadership the gift of time, patience and understanding. Change like this does not come easy.

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One Perfect Song: Sweet Child o’ Mine

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“Sweet Child o’ Mine”
Written by Guns N’ Roses
Recorded by Guns N’ Roses
Released April 17, 1988

I was working at The Wiz in Georgetown (in Washington D.C.), an east coast based chain of CD/Cassette Tape stores when I was a junior in college, back when there were record stores in every shopping mall and on almost every commercial street corner. Being a lifelong music fan, I was thrilled to finally get paid to be surrounded all day by music. Music I knew, music I was discovering, music I could recommend, music I could dismiss with a now qualified upturn of my nose.

My responsibilities took me from the stock room, to the sales floor, to the cash register. Music was loudly played over the store sound system all day. Depending who was working, what time of day it was, it could have been anything from Jazz to Neo-Soul to Country Western to face melting Heavy Metal. It was a blast.

Located in an old brownstone storefront on Wisconsin Avenue, our store had three floors. The basement was dedicated to classical music, the main floor to popular music, and the top floor was for everything else. It was a bright sunny spring day, and I was running up the stairs to help a customer. I am not a big heavy metal, so I had not been paying very close attention to the new album that was playing that day. Loud guitars and screaming vocals are fine, I suppose…just not my cup o’ Joe.

Then, all of a sudden I heard the bright, clear clarion call of an anthemic guitar solo intro blasting throughout the store. It was as simple as a musical scale, but more complex. It grabbed my attention immediately, and I could not help but to think to myself at hearing the first few notes “this song is going to be a huge hit.”* I did not know the name of the song, I did not know the name of the band.

Escalating in harmonics and intensity, the crystal clear arpeggio continued. A bass guitar comes in to lead the melody along with a rhythm guitar followed by the drums. We are now into the song.

I’ve never thought of heavy metal music as a platform for evoking romantic sweetness, tender childhood memories or a longing for things we once had and will never have again, but this song was different.

“She’s got a smile it seems to me
Reminds me of childhood memories
Where everything
Was as fresh as the bright blue sky
Now and then when I see her face
She takes me away to that special place
And if I’d stare too long
I’d probably break down and cry.”

Frank Sinatra could never be this vulnerable. Marvin Gaye could never be this nostalgic. Who of us can’t think back to a memory from our childhood that makes us feel good and safe as soon as that memory washes over us? Who of us can even come close to describing that feeling?

“Her hair reminds me of a warm safe place
Where as a child I’d hide
And pray for the thunder
And the rain
To quietly pass me by”

The guitar arpeggio continues in different forms throughout the song, but when the original melody returns, it serves as a sweet reminder of where the song came from, just like we remember our own sweet childhood memories.

There are so many things that can make a song great. The sincerity of the lyrics, the skill of the musicians, the honesty and commitment of the singer. But music can also be satisfying in the way it surprises us. The unexpected turn of a phrase, or the guitar solo that takes twists and turns we never expected. A smart ass lyric that makes us smile. The smash of a cymbal out of nowhere.

“Sweet Child o’ Mine” breaks down at the end with a completely different melody and new direction. A dissonant coda tagged on to a perfectly melodic song. Repeating the lyric “Where do we go, where do we go now, where do we go?” The rhythm guitar scrapes along, like knuckles on a concrete sidewalk. Singer Axl Rose screams in perfect control, wondering where to go next. Guitarist Slash brings everything back by repeating the clarion melody, a guitar riff for the ages. Extending the dark, dissonance a bit further, the video for “Sweet Child o’ Mine” is a grainy black and white rehearsal film, which serves as a perfect anti-narrative to sweet, wistfulness of the song.

Whenever I hear Slash’s opening salvo on “Sweet Child o’ Mine,” I see myself on the staircase at The Wiz. The bright sun is shining on me, I am at a job that I love, and I am hearing one perfect song for the very first time.

*I’m glad to say I was right. When I first heard the guitar intro to “Sweet Child o’ Mine,” I thought to myself the song would be a huge hit. The song peaked at #1 in the United States, and  it is listed by Rolling Stone magazine as #198 on the list of the 500 Greatest Songs.

Working Out Loud: The End

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I shared the following message with our Working Out Loud group this week:

Tomorrow.
Tomorrow is our last meeting.
Tomorrow we continue the learning.
Tomorrow we discuss our accomplishments, what we have learned, and how we have incorporated WOL into our lives.
Tomorrow we share our challenges. What did not work, what did not go as planned, what else we wish we had time for.
Tomorrow we make plans for the future.
Tomorrow.

When our group first met 12 weeks ago, we were colleagues. Though we all knew each other, most of us were not close friends. But, as soon as Working Out Loud began (only about halfway through our first meeting!), we all became tightly connected to one another. We shared challenges, we were vulnerable with one another, and we all became deeply invested in one another’s success.

When our group first met 12 weeks ago, not everyone was even sure what Working Out Loud was all about. But, people trusted the process, and made a commitment to learning and participating.

  • “While I had NO idea what the heck this was about, I took a leap of faith to experiment and explore and I am glad I did! It opened a whole new way in bringing intentional thought to personal goals and did so with the help, encouragement and trusting conversations from our WOL Circle.”
  • “I too took a leap of faith and pushed myself out of my comfort zone and feel blessed and honored to have connected with such outstanding colleagues who are now friends. Each of us is growing and connecting our sacred work and our lives in new ways…both within and with each other.”
  • “WOL is now a sacred part of my week! I’m grateful to have this opportunity to connect with colleagues across the organization in such a unique way and working towards my personal goal has brought focus to other areas of my work (and life).”

We had goals in mind, but we did not have a clear idea about how those goals might be achieved. We worked together. We followed the excellent circle guides created by John Stepper, and we all made meaningful progress. We supported one another, challenged one another, and celebrated with one another.

This is not to say Working Out Loud is not without its challenges. Time must be found outside of meetings to pursue goals, and grow relationship lists. We read books and we read blog posts. TedTalks were watched. We researched, we wrote emails, we sent tweets and we made posts. We committed to our goal, and we found ways to pursue that goal every week for 12 weeks.

But every person in the group found some level of success. Everyone made new connections, learned valuable new skills and developed habits that will serve them well as their learning and networking continues. Some group members are even talking about doing Working Out Loud again, as they feel they want to experience the process again.

Sadly, not everyone in our group could join our last conversation, as holidays and vacations conflicted with our meeting. So, we agreed that our meeting today was Part 1, and we will have Part 2 of the meeting once everyone has returned to work. While it would have been nice to have everyone on the call, I think it will be nice to be able to reflect with everyone after a couple of weeks have gone by. Will we still be using our newfound skills? Will we still be making connections? Will we still be Working Out Lod?

When we first met 12 weeks ago, we did not know what Working Out Loud was. Today, the six of us are connected by an incredibly positive shared experience. We have learned new skills, and we have made positive changes to our work lives and personal lives.

12 weeks seems like so long ago.

Working Out Loud: Week 11, The Week I Missed

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A Working Out Loud (WOL) Circle meets one hour a week for 12 weeks. As Working Out Loud author John Stepper points out in his circle guides, this may feel daunting, but it actually represents only 2% of your time. When we commit this one hour a week, we give ourselves the opportunity to create new habits within a fixed period of time. We know we won’t get burned out. We know the end is in sight, only 12 weeks down the road.

But, our lives are busy, and other commitments may conflict with our WOL meetings, despite our best efforts to keep that a “sacrosanct” time. I was out of town this week for several days of meetings, and for the first time, I missed a WOL meeting. Though I was very sorry to miss the time with my group, as we meet regularly using Zoom video conferencing software, the meeting was easily recorded and shared in our private Yammer group for later viewing.

It was a long week away from home, but upon my return I was able to settle in and watch the meeting recording. Usually, I dread the prospect of having to watch a recorded meeting or webinar, but watching my WOL friends and colleagues talk about their goals, their challenges and victories was a real joy. I felt oddly detached and closely connected, all at the same time.

It occurred to me that these people I was watching started WOL only as work colleagues, and now one could only surmise they were all dear, lifelong friends. They were laughing, sharing intimate insights, and encouraging and challenging each other throughout the entire conversation.

It was a real joy to see how far along we have all come. The assumption is that after 12 weeks, we will have developed new habits and be thinking in new ways, and watching the meeting recording, I found this to absolutely be the case. People are blogging, people are connecting with contacts in new, innovative ways, their work and personal lives are being changed for the better through what they have learned in WOL.

It was a real joy to not facilitate the meeting. Don’t get me wrong, I love facilitating WOL conversations, but after facilitating this group for 10 weeks, I was so happy to see the momentum easily continue in my absence. Other participants stepped right in, they kept the conversation on track, and they prepared for the next meeting.

It was a real joy to be tested. Yes, tested. The meeting was liberally peppered with information my WOL colleagues insisted I report back to them to show that yes, I had indeed watched the recording. I love this. It mattered to them that I was not there, it mattered to them that I keep up with the group, and it mattered to them that I continue to learn along with them.

It was a real joy to know that although I missed the meeting this week, I was able to continue making meaningful progress in my goal. Through connections made online and in person, the work of Working Out Loud continues.

Although it is just 2% of your time, one hour a week for 12 weeks is a serious commitment, and from time to time, meetings will need to be missed. But a missed week does not mean missed opportunities. Stay connected to the group, stay connected to the goal, and before you know it, week 12 will be here!