Tuesday, November 22, 2022

From "Yammer vs. Teams" to Yammer in Teams

I have managed an internal Enterprise Yammer network for the past three years.  It has been an interesting evolution, both in terms of the maturity of our network but also the constant "upgrades" brought on by Microsoft.  

Adaptability is becoming an ongoing theme.  There is no point in complaining about constant change.  Constant change is part of the new normal. Change has always been "normal".  The new normal involves more rapid change.  Three years of rapid change feels like an eternity.

We re-started in 2019 with an underutilized Yammer network. While Yammer was technically available to staff since 2016, it had been launched in a meaningful way.  The new corporate strategic plan launched in 2019 created new opportunities to leverage Yammer and engage our global workforce more effectively.

And yes, we immediately encountered the confusion and at time frustration that employees felt with the multiplication of tools for collaboration and communications.  In particular, it wasn't always clear why people should use Yammer when Teams seemed to be the way to collaborate.  By the time COVID-19 sent everyone to work from home, Teams was where people worked with their immediate colleagues, and Yammer became the place where you could share much more broadly and keep up with corporate events even if you were not in the office.  That was what I was saying to anyone who would listen but it took a while to sink in.

As of the end of 2022, there are still a few who think Yammer is a waste of their time and prefer to use other tools (beyond Teams). However, a number of factors have helped us get in the right direction in terms of finding the right balance between Yammer and Teams.

1. Leadership Support: Yammer has had strong support from the very top of the organization to move from corporate emails that went to everyone to Yammer announcements in the All Company community.  This has led to a significant reduction in corporate communications via email listservs and created more opportunities for staff to engage with leadership in Yammer.  Leadership engagement in Yammer is critical and it should be several layers deep.  

2. Communications and guidance around what to use for different purposes. When should you post in Yammer vs. in Teams.  In addition to general communications via internal blog posts and in Yammer, it became critical to control both the proliferation of Teams sites and Yammer communities.  Additional governance was put in place first to control the creation of Teams site, and later, the creation of Yammer communities.  The added burden on IT was well worth it because it created opportunities to redirect people to the appropriate platform when IT received requests for either of the tools.  This was also facilitated by the fact that with the exception of a few early communities that remained closed, the relaunch of Yammer in 2019 was based on the assumption that all new communities would be fully open.  There was no rationale for closed communities in Yammer.

There are still legacy instances of Teams sites that should have been created as Yammer communities.  In most cases, these were created by people who specifically wanted a closed group approach. However, it goes counter to the corporate approach of having open, accessible conversations to harness collective knowledge.

3. Integration of Yammer in Teams. Yammer communities in Teams (when it was still called the "communities" app) were not as functional as the Yammer app itself, but they provided another way to access Yammer without leaving Teams.  Once the Communities app was replaced by Viva Engage, it became clear that for most staff who did not already visit Yammer regularly, the Viva Engage app in Teams would be an opportunity to engage more often.  Only, several challenges emerged around the same time:
  • Notifications changed.  Announcements no longer automatically went to all community members' email inbox.  The community admins must specifically select "send to all" every time if they want to make sure all community members see the announcement as an email. 
  • Notifications in the Teams feed only cover announcements.  People need to understand the full set of notifications (in Yammer) to get the specific highlights they want either as email notifications or in a more limited manner, in Teams. 
  • Announcements became overused as the primary mechanism for getting "views" on messages and the great majority of posts became announcements.  These generated reactions, but very limited engagement in the form of comments or replies. The Yammer network was turning into just another channel for corporate communications, displacing email announcements via listservs but not really creating engagement.
Status update as of mid-November 2022:
  • We are seeing increased active engagement (posts) in the All Company community.  This is very encouraging because these posts come in two varieties:  1) engagement with polls and questions that are tied to corporate campaigns and posted by corporate leaders; 2) posts by project leaders describing project activities, progress, success stories.  It is particularly encouraging to see the number of views and level of engagement with posts in the All Company that are NOT posted as announcements.  
  • Smaller, topic-specific communities are not experiencing this increased engagement.  This is partly due to lack of active community management.
  • New Features:  I am still somewhat hesitant to launch Storylines and Stories.  There is no added cost but launching these two new functionalities in Viva Engage would create added complexity in terms of communications.  We need to rationalize these additional tools based on existing and emerging corporate strategic plans (and say "no" or delay as needed).  In addition, without being able to test/pilot with a smaller group, we will inevitably be very reactive in our communications, addressing questions and concerns as they are experienced.  We can also wait for other organizations to launch and look out for their immediate lessons.

    Caveat:  There is a broader layer of project communications that happens completely outside of my purview. Therefore I am only seeing a narrow slither of our internal communications.

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Some Thoughts about the Wisdom at the Top of the DIKW Hierarchy

The Data-Information-Knowledge-Wisdom hierarchy, sometimes called the DIKW pyramid, is a model originating in information science that is commonly used in Knowledge Management.  It has been critiqued before (1) and that is not my intent here.  I still find it relevant and useful as a trigger for deeper thinking and conversations. As a side note, the original model is a simple triangle, not a pyramid.  

In my recent adaptations of the DIKW hierarchy/triangle, which I have transformed into a more complex pyramid model with a base, edges and multiple faces representing different aspects of an organization's knowledge ecosystem (more about that in a future post, perhaps), I have dismissed wisdom and replaced it with innovation.  I had some reasons for doing that but I am now reconsidering and trying to find a way to re-inject some wisdom in the model.  

While attending this year's KMWorld conference, which is heavily focused on the data and information layers of the hierarchy or the bottom of the pyramid, I only heard the word wisdom once.  It was in the last keynote panel and not surprisingly (2), it was brought up by Larry Prusak who joined via a remote connection.  That is what brought me to reconsider my dismissal of wisdom.  

I would rather inject wisdom throughout the model than have wisdom as an outcome or ultimate level in the hierarchy. We certainly need wisdom to address the challenges of the data and information layers of this hierarchy.  Lots of people are becoming very knowledgeable about AI. Do they all have the wisdom necessary to apply AI?  Is there a mandatory course on the wisdom of AI in Data and Information Science academic programs?  Is there a course on wisdom in KM academic programs?  I have not addressed it in any substantive manner in my own teaching of KM (3) and that could be a gap to fill.  

If knowledge is the capacity for effective action, wisdom brings in the notion of sound judgment in the application of that knowledge.  For example, I may have knowledge of physical techniques to disable someone which I have learned in a self-defense class and that gives me the capacity for effective action.  If I have enough wisdom to accompany that knowledge, I should have enough good judgement to know when to run away and when to stand my grounds and fight (something like that).

If talking about knowledge in a way that clearly differentiates it from information is already a challenge in organizations, talking about wisdom further elevates the challenge, especially if conversations around profits and bottom lines are the dominant narrative.  However, I have also found that as long as the conversation provides some value and is perceived as insightful to the participants, all is not lost even if it doesn't immediately address a corporate challenge that is top of mind for corporate leaders. There is a time and place for these conversations. Serendipity also plays a role.

As a result, I am on a quest to find ways to inject wisdom into conversations or perhaps just to have conversations about the role of wisdom in organizations.  How can I seed conversations around wisdom? How do I connect these conversations to a sense of WIIFM (what's in it for me?) so that it's not an impractical philosophical discussion.  It could very well be that it connects to employee engagement and wellbeing, a sense of belonging to a community that cares beyond the bottom line.  Wisdom is about doing the right thing, working towards the greater good.

There is another term I am trying to use more:  collective intelligence. I'm wondering here if I'm not using the word "intelligence" in "collective intelligence" to mean the same thing as wisdom.   However, if I say "collective wisdom", I don't want it to be confused with the wisdom of the crowd. There is a place for the wisdom of the crowd but if the wisdom of the crowd is the folksonomy, collective intelligence is the ontology and I am more interested in the ontology.  And finally, here is an adjacent question:  Is there a difference between a smart organization and a wise organization?

One aspect of collective intelligence is that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. As individual employees, we cannot know or do as much with our individual knowledge as we can as a collective.  The collective intelligence of John and Jane (John/Jane) is bigger than the the sum of John and Jane's knowledge (John + Jane).  When John and Jane collaborate, they unleash new capacities for collective action.  When John and Jane collaborate, do they also become wiser?  What's the connection between collaboration and wisdom or doing the right thing?

The leap or missing piece between the capacity for effective action and the wisdom to activate that capacity at the right time and in the right place seems to be "agency".  More about that in a future post perhaps. 

(1) Weinberger, D. (2010). The Problem with the Data-Information-Knowledge-Wisdom Hierarchy. Harvard Business Review.

(2) APQC (2015). Big Thinkers. Big Ideas:  Larry Prusak  -- practical wisdom.

(3) George Mason University, Organization Development and Knowledge Management Program, Knowledge Management and Collaborative Work.  Syllabus, Fall 2022