I don’t. Whenever I am asked, what Connections is made for, I get in to trouble. I know what it does and I know pretty much how I can use it, but explaining that, is rather difficult. Lot’s of „imagine“, „well“, „ah“ will be included the next 15 minutes of a roller coaster ride around the different elements of Connections, with a bit of Notes thrown in … you can see I make a complete mess of it. While the mess get’s bigger I am still talking, desperately trying to get less messy, with the obvious result. I just have bored the listener to death. Interestingly it looks that others have the same problem. Nobody I have met was able to explain it to me in a simple way.
Whenever I explain something with success, I paint a mental picture.
Having recently read the book of Kelly Johnson, somebody you all know, I am sure, I think I can now explain, what social business software does to people.
Apart from being one of the best aircraft designer of all time, Kelly Johnson was also a genius in organisation and project management (he wouldn’t have made a mess of the Obamacare website). Fortunately he had an employer, Lockheed, who saw this and let him have his way.
Now that picture:
Lockheed Skunk Works was known for its ability to get extremely complex airplanes in the air within time and budget. Many times even below budget and well before deadline. Something many project managers are struggling with. How did they do it? First, they were all in one building. Every engineer was working as close as possible to the project he was assigned to. Which means, that they had their plotting boards literally below the wing of the airplane they were working on. Everybody was working so close together, that a formal hierarchy was something on paper, but not lived. The informal hierarchy was much more important. Decisions were often taken right on the spot, not in endless meetings, and with input from everybody. Kelly Johnson himself wanted almost absolute control about the project and would only report to the top management.
Kelly Johnson also treated his employees in that way. If you worked for him, you got the absolute control about your part of the project, but if you disappointed him, somebody else would take your job. But not in a sense of hire and fire, and that is in response to what I have discussed with Grant Osborne on Palmi Lord’s blog. Kelly was well aware, that Lockheed owned its employees some sort of job security. Just as a side note.
In aviation paperwork is important. Everything has to be documented. The 747 probably can’t carry its own documentation. Kelly Johnson wanted only the absolute minimum and no redundancy, but thoroughly. He never accepted a standard report longer than 20 pages. Everything that already had been reported or somehow written down, was referenced, but not copied.
Kelly Johnson cut down the time for the whole project by encouraging collaboration and communication, eliminating endless meetings and useless reporting and paperwork being sent around.
Now isn’t that exactly what social software does? By pulling down formal hierarchy and encouraging people to bring in their own ideas? Cutting down lost time in endless meetings by using ad hoc web meetings and discussion portals? Replacing endless one-to-many reporting done by eMail by a self-serving documentation in one place that is always up to date? Finding expertise everywhere, even on the shop floor? Getting people engaged in project, which also means, that they feel more responsibility.
All that in a fashion that makes access easy and less time-consuming.
Social Business Software encourages many of Kelly’s 14 management rules, which still are true today, although a bit modified if you don’t work with the Government or in aviation.
What do you think, is that a picture that works?