Month: February 2011

We’re not talking mobile anymore – we’re living it

Mobile is as much a part of my life as yours, but its not something I’m any kind of expert in. Nonetheless, CMSWire asked if I had something to contribute on that topic. Here are my thoughts:

It used to be about “mobile access” but that’s not it anymore. Our portable devices are now access, participation and creation devices. The rise of the decent camera on the phone and the ease with which pictures and video can be posted, tweeted and even emailed or texted has made us all photojournalists, inspectors and, most importantly, actors in our own stories.

Two Truths About Mobile, Three Personal Stories to Prove Them

It’s a Mobile World

This has a dramatic impact in every sphere of life from the personal — where I can document the charming antics of my children and share them with whomever is in my address book, to the professional — where I can scout locations and send back information to the team, to the political — as we watch the map of the Middle East and Africa redraw the in real time.

It is no longer enough to look up the meeting room schedule at a conference — you must be able to update it or even relocate it from your pocket while standing in a random corner of the convention center.


Read more here.


its not accountability you’re looking for

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In nearly everything i read on organizations, collaboration and management they use the word. It comes up in meetings too. Accountability. But few actually say what they mean by it, and most hear “You’ll be publicly flogged and fired if it goes wrong”.

That’s not accountability – its management by fear.

I will be accountable for that – means I will take the blame if it fails.

I am committed to that – means I will do what it takes to succeed. Different. I will figure out what the problems are, I will face up to them, I will figure out how to solve them. That’s commitment. Not accountability.

Why do things fail?

Bad or vague goals, unreasonable expectations, changes in external factors, bad planning, ineperience and mistakes,… there are many reasons they fail. I don’t have data – but I’m going to begin to look for it – to say that the number one reason things fail is because no one cared enough or was committed enough or brave or humble enough to say “somethings wrong – maybe its my fault, maybe not – but its a problem, and I’m going to own it and deal with it”.

That’s commitment. And its also ver important to be clear on what we’re committing to.. Are you commiting to a date, a process, or an outcome?

Is our  government accountable to the people? Yes, in that we can fire it when we don’t like it. Is it committed to the people? That’s a different question, isn’t it. Egypt found a way to make Mubarak accountable to them – they took that power for themselves, and we are all humbled and inspired by that. But accountability is just the entry fee of  what they want from their next leader. Not to a list of demands, but to an outcome – an outcome that is about political, religious and other freedoms, security and prosperity of the people.

In the office, its a different thing entirely of course. When you talk about accountability you create a blame based culture where the majority of effort is spent taking credit and shifting blame. because that’s what accountability does. It makes you want to get out of the way.

A commitment culture on the other hand is where we’ve got each other’s backs – because we’re committed to the outcome – and want to do what it takes. In a commitment culture, finding and seeking out problems and addressing them head on is a deep core value. In an accountability culture, it is at all times unwise to go looking for trouble – unless you’re trying to shift it.

It means problems are hidden or ignored. Opportunities are always lost. No is the only answer.

Commitment however is a very personal thing. You need the right people, they need to really understand their goals. They cannot have conflicting underlying agendas. They need to be in it together and to win it – they need to respect one another enough to ask the tough questions – about the issues, not question each others credentials. And trust each other enough so that when something’s wrong, they don’t want to hide it for fear of being attacked.

The accountability culture is the dominant norm. Changing that is not easy. It involves leadership, attacking very uncomfortable issues. It involves a detente. It requires that the organization have a clear purpose and that all the work is aligned around it.

Ok – this is a bit more of a rant than a serious paper, but its a blog, so that’s allowed sometimes. Just please think about changing that one word might do for you.

What would be different if, instead of demanding accountability, you sought commitment from the people you work with?

What comes next: Discovering the 21st century organization

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We are enabling and discovering the next generation organization. Command and Control served us well for a long time, but we’ve reached its limits. Its still useful, but for organizations to be successful in the 21st century, they need to be more fluid, more efficient, learning and production entities that are focused on the team supported by things like processes, structures and other assets.

Command and Control has its limitations.

Have you ever watched an organization try to reorganize? Have you heard the debate about what should be centralized, what should be team based, reporting structures, “matrixes”? Its a mess, eh? Because any truly functional organization is deeply interdependent. Command and control does not model interdependence well. The 21st century organization will be learning how to foster interdependence amongst functions and individuals

The command and control structure that is the norm in nearly all organizations of the last few hundred years embody two 18th century “truths” – that are still true, but meaningfully different in the 21st century. First – not everyone has equal skills, talent and power. Second, communication to and amongst a large number of people is difficult and must be inter-mediated.

We are not equal: Skills, talent and power

People are not fungible. We have different skills, talents, backgrounds and perspectives. ( People talk about the “A” team and the “B” team – but on only part of that  is raw “talent” and many times  context, experience and commitment are equally important. Are they in the right place, with the right insight, right resources, right support, right leadership. But this is really another conversation entirely) It has been shown that cognitive diversity – different ways of thinking – makes for faster, better solutions. We are not talking about demographic differences per se, but differences in perspective, experience and interpretation.
So People rightly have roles – that hopefully reflect their specialties, expertise and experience.Those roles, however are not as strictly defined as they once were. The leader of the marketing team may be a contributor to the messaging team. The leader of one research project may be a subject matter expert to another.

The concept of the team has evolved. We need teams to be able to form on demand – the right people, the right resources, the right objectives. Sometimes these teams include people from multiple organizations (think G-20, disaster responders, or any kind of partnership). These teams can last hours, days, months or years – depending on their purpose. They may include 3 or 3,000 people. People may come and go over time. Sometimes this is called “swarming”. I like the term.


Here’s where we’ve seen the most obvious, material change. It is now radically easier to communicate amongst groups of all sizes. Since communication is the foundation of collaboration, coordination and problem solving, the basic tools to enable ad hoc teams to form and be effective are now widely available (if widely different in approach and efficacy).

Seamless group communications relieve the burden of command and control to be the primary form of communication. It also unleashes the ability for observations, expertise and insight to flow throughout the organization, rather than only along lines of command. This is a radical shift that we are only beginning to see the implications and massive benefits from.

Now that we’ve unlocked these abilities, however, we’re finding that the fundamental assumptions of how organizations work have been challenged. What we’re doing now is exploring, learning and refining what the new organization really is. Its pretty cool, we know that.

It does better things. People are more fully in. We can rise to new and different challenges. We waste less. Expertise is more fully leveraged. We see the potential to connect the dots (even if we haven’t completely connected them yet).


The most effective form of 21st century leadership is recursive. That is, leaders  cultivate leaders. Each individual develops their own sense of purpose, that relates to the overall purpose of the organization. And they should be leaders of and for that purpose – that is, shepherding that purpose, orchestrating action, actively learning, and making decisions in accordance with that purpose. Some people call that self actualization. Some call it “employee engagement”  (a term that I already mistrust as a platitude of ineffectual leadership), but the fact is that each individual is the master of their destiny, they are invited to and required to lean-in to the problem, and to bring their best to understanding it and sorting it out. This can be made ever more powerful with the support of processes and systems that take some of the grunt work out of the process, and ensure that what the organization has learned is practiced, but fundamentally this is the non-process work – the discovery and creation of the new, improved, novel and possible.

Much great writing is being done on each of these themes. Umair Haque, Charlene Li, Daniel Pink, John Hagel and John Seeley Brown are just a couple of the scholars and writers that are redefining work and organizations in the 21st century. But this is not the stuff of the ivory tower. this is happening in YOUR business, government, school and community right now. What will you contribute?