Monday, July 18, 2011

The New Normal – Asynchronous Organizations

Years ago I was 'invited' to a weekly staff meeting at 8:00 AM Monday mornings. Eight people in a room for an hour – the equivalent of a person-day of time invested. Don't get me wrong – the meeting had useful, even important content and we all heard it together (the donuts were fresh too). When done we could carry our coffee cups back to our office and begin the day.

Convenient since we were all in the same location, but unfortunately travel could not begin before 10AM Monday nor could client meetings – almost without regard to the urgency of the need.

As technology improved and costs decreased, the meeting changed a bit to include others not physically present – staff off-site for travel, client meetings, or in other offices (the 5:00 AM West Coaster meeting from home was a classic). However, it continued to occupy all participants simultaneously.

Now in my organization there are 5 key individuals, no staff meetings, and a greater degree of communications, planning, and coordination (volume of donuts, however, is sparse). This is an asynchronous organization – it has no central office, locations in three states, and each individual is strategically engaged and briefed on all projects.

Updates, output, project results, and other such results documents, are copied to all 5 key people when written. As needed a phone call between two of us will cover updates, problem solving, scheduling, idea exploration, and closure on pending items in under an hour. Before lunch notes from the from the meeting – and action items – are distilled and distributed.

The success of the communications is based on the receipt not scheduling, each individual can access and respond when best able to do so. An asynchronous approach.

How does it work in practice? Recently I was suddenly called away for a family emergency and had a presentation scheduled later the same day. With a two minute call on the run to my partner Dick, he could step in with all program resources and the presentation concluded to enthusiastic applause.

Cory Doctorow in his book Makers describes a future world with a much greater degree of coordinated independent activity – a truly asynch environment in which business can successfully operate and thrive. Individuals satisfying consumer needs and getting results individually or in concert with others adding value as well.

The New Normal is being built on this foundation in reality – not as fiction. Look around and you can see the growing evidence.

Do you see it too?
Check out Blah, Blah Blog at the Web Managers Roundtable, on August 9, and BlogLab, coming August 16.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Client Newsletter Evolves to the Blog

Can you recall the fanfare when an organization first introduces their newsletter? Ideas for stories abound; writers volunteering to contribute; a robust list of potential topics and content grows almost by magic. A real event – like Spanky, Darla, and the Little Rascals putting on a show.

Fast forward about a year and some of these newsletters have evolved and matured to become a vibrant communications tool, by informing, keeping it visible, and aiding the marketing effort. At the other end of the newsletter spectrum are the ghosts of newsletters past – the energy has drained and the production is a burden.

Why the difference and what lessons can be applied to the company blog?

Successful newsletters have common traits:
  • Clear purpose & mission
  • Targeted, specific audience
  • Focus
  • Reliable schedule
  • Valuable, useful content
  • A person with passion 'owns' it, is responsible for it, and it is now part of their job.
The same traits also apply to blogs. The most obvious addition to the newsletter list is a blog post is single topic and through technology, the reader can contribute thoughts and feedback as comments.
Think of this as a one-on-one written conversation repeated many thousands of times. Good conversations impart value in the form of information – great conversations contain relevant views and thoughts – exposure to a perspective rather than merely reporting.

For example, take a look at the Zappos blog - in addition to product info, the writer shares personal thoughts as well. As an internet-based seller, this helps to develop a relationship with the buyer and supports the Zappos goal of wildly satisfied customers.

Does the blog support Zappos? Do you get useful info and greater confidence in shopping with them. Are you influenced by the Zappos guarantee or by the writer's personal thoughts? Both!

Blogging is serious work. It is not a casual activity. As a company blogger you are offering a personalized view of the organization to clients and customers, one topic at a time.

How often do you write blog posts? Frequently enough for the reader to look for the next one...for our blog, we do two blogs per week from each writer - this is right for us. Whatever the frequency, be reliable and consistent so your readers will anticipate when the next one will appear.

Be ever vigilant that the blog does not become a ghost, like newsletters of the past.

More? Check out Blah, Blah Blog at the Web Managers Roundtable, on August 9, and BlogLab, coming August 16.