Digital transformation in companies often focuses, naturally enough, on the technology, but often leave workforce adaptation as a ‘nice-to-have’ or simply primarily on provide workers with basic familiarity with a user interface. Knowledge workers are asked to absorb technology without concomitant support for their capacity building to adapt and integrate new mental models of work, to use digital practice to integrate burgeoning knowledge flows, to effectively collaborate, and to develop personal agency at managing themselves in networks.
Two years ago, I introduced Working Out Loud Circles at a large technology company, as an adjunct to a major enterprise social network implementation change program. I invited author, John Stepper, to speak to a live internal TV audience of several hundred employees to engage and orient people around the process. I then launched an ‘organic’ bottoms-up Working Out Loud program, using John’s free Working Out Loud Circle resources. We started with 16 circles of about five people each, and I provided coaching and support with live webinars and online support. Each circle group worked on their own to move through the guided mastery of the Working Out Loud Circle program. Circles meet together for 1-hour a week, using the Circle Guides to set goals and move through a peer-supported learning process.
But this blog post isn’t about me.
….It’s about two women who each were in different circles and who, by moving through the WOL Circle process, transformed their approach to work and communication, enlarged their organizational reach, advanced their own professional development and the professional development of colleagues, and expanded their networks. They have generously shared their journeys with me, have inspired me, and we remain connected today.
From social media novice to social media maven – and so much more
Liz Brummond is a marketing and communications professional. Prior to engaging with Working Out Loud Circles, she had only dabbled with social media using LinkedIn, a traditional approach to professional networking and a bit of Facebook. Her initial goals for the Working Out Loud Circle process was to improve her writing, start a blog and improve her ability to build relationships via LinkedIn. By the end of her Circle process, she had completed a company Digital Certification program, became an award-winning member of their Social Ambassador program, and became active in various professional development groups for women at the company.
Through the process, she became more comfortable with a number of the digital and collaboration platforms, an adept, impactful user of Twitter, and developed sustained, collegial relationships with some of her Circle colleagues.
Liz also embraced the concepts in Working Out Loud Circles to be more proactive with knowledge sharing, making work more visible and accessible to team members, engaging more productively with digital and social tools, and extending her insights and gifts on her network.
Bringing Working Out Loud to a culture of deep expertise
Peggy Fry is a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt and quality professional, and wanted to use the Working Out Loud Circle process initially to improve her communication techniques and use of important new digital tools at the company. The concept of the 12-week guided process to build skill and mastery was a comfortable one for someone steeped in Six Sigma expertise. The powerful aspect of Working Out Loud was the sharing while learning.
For Peggy, there were several surprises and benefits to her Working Out Loud Circle experience. She moved through the 12-week circle process with three of her colleagues during a time of major re-organizations. The WOL Circle actually became an anchor for the members of the group, as they all experienced significant change in their organizations, and, as Peggy says – it helped them ‘thrive, not just survive.”
Using the Circle process also helped Peggy expand her industry connections to Lean and Six Sigma professionals outside the company. This lead to a rich set of interactions and event participation and helped her bring back new insight and up-to-the-minute content back to her company Six Sigma Black Belt community.
Once Peggy moved through her first WOL Circle, she initiated a number of WOL Circles for her Six Sigma community members, becoming a linchpin for this specialized cohort in the company. As she mentioned to me, people with high degrees of specialization sometimes don’t communicate or network well, and she felt the Working Out Loud Circles would help them develop these new skills, especially in an increasingly digital world.
Peggy finds that she uses some of the tools and approaches from Working Out Loud in her day-to-day work. She adapted the influencer matrix approach from WOL Circles to the team goals and stakeholder analysis process in a Lean workshop she led.
Like pebbles in a pond
Liz Brummond and Peggy Fry and I remain connected. Their enthusiasm and commitment to the Working Out Loud process allowed them to really grow professionally and to develop as mentor-leaders in digital ways of working. They also took that professional growth and immediately sought ways to help and impact their teams and company. In the process, they became more adept and comfortable with the digital and social networking tools that their company had provided and are part of 21st century work life.
A Working Out Loud program can help people master new approaches to working more transparently, sharing knowledge more generously, help them feel connected and more in control, especially in the face of frequent organizational and technology change, and give them new, networked ways of developing and deepening relationships for professional and personal development.
In the spirit of Working Out Loud week, I salute their example, their relationship building and the legacy impact they’ve had in their networks. Hats off!
Catherine Shinners is principal and founder of Merced Group. Her work for clients is at the nexus of organizational change and design, social and digital technology implementations, and individual work practice to help people embrace new skills to support digital and network competencies
Sometimes called “Future of Work” practices, they are a set of skills that empower individuals to navigate and thrive in networks, to build capacities for continuous learning, and supports new management practices that foster social and digitally enabled structures such as communities and adaptive teams.
Catherine speaks, blogs and writes about social business and is an adjunct faculty member of Columbia University’s Information and Knowledge Strategy Master’s program. She is also a member of a learning and practitioner network of global professionals, Change Agents Worldwide. She contributed a chapter to Smarter Innovation: Using Interactive Processes to Drive Better Business Results with Change Agent colleagues. (published by the Ark Group in June 2014).