The “Narrating Your Work” Experiment
I have just finished writing a small proposal to the rest of my team. I thought it would be interesting to share here:
We work in a virtual team. Even though there aren’t many of us, we often have few ideas about what the other people in our team are working on, which people they have met recently and what they are struggling with. The time difference between our main offices make our occasional feelings of being disconnected worse.
This “Narrating Your Work” experiment is an attempt to help overcome these problems.
If you are interested in some background reading, you should probably start with Luis Suarez’ blog post about narrating your work (”it’s all about the easiest way of keeping up with, and nurturing, your working relationships by constantly improving your social capital skills”) and then follow his links to Dave Winer, ambient intimacy and declarative living.
“Narrating Your Work” should really be approached as an experiment. When it was first suggested, some people showed some hesitation or worries. We just don’t know whether and how it will work yet. The best way to find out is by trying. In Dutch: “niet geschoten, altijd mis”.
The experiment will have a clear-cut start and will last for two months. After running the experiment we will do a small survey to see what people thought of it: Did it deliver any benefits? If any to whom? Was it a lot of work to write updates? Did it create too much reading to do? Do we want to continue with narrating our work? Etc.
Three ways of participating
It needs to be clear who is participating in the experiment. If you decide to join, you commit to doing one of the following three things (you are allowed to switch between them and you will be “policed”):
- Constant flow of updates: Every time you meet somebody who is not in the team, every time you create a new document or every time you do something that is different from just answering your emails, you will write a very short status update to say what you are doing or what you have done. This will create a true “activity stream” around the things you do at work.
- Daily updates: At the end of your day you give a one paragraph recap of what you have done, again focusing on the people you have met, the places you have visited or the things you have created.
- Weekly updates: On Friday afternoon or on Monday morning you write an update about the week that has just passed. To give this update some structure, it is suggested that you write about two things that went very well, two things that went less well and two things that are worrying to you (or at least will require attention in the next week).
The first option requires the most guts, whereas the last option requires the most diligence: it is not easy to take the time every week to look back at what happened over the last five working days. Are you the type of person who likes to clean the dishes as the day progresses, or are you the type who likes to leave them till there is nothing clean left? Choosing one of the first two options (rather than the third) will give the experiment the greatest chance of success.
Participation only requires the commitment for writing the updates. You are not expected to read all updates of the others, although you might very well be tempted!
How to do it: making it work
To make the work updates easily accessible we will use Yammer. You can do this in two ways:
- You can post the work update with the tag #nywlob to your followers. People will see this message when they are following you, when they are watching the company feed or when they follow the nywlob topic.
- If you don’t feel comfortable posting publicly to the whole company (or want to say something that needs to stay in the team) then you can post in an unlisted and private group. People will only see this message if they are members of the group and we will only let people in who work in the HRIT LoB and have agreed to join the experiment. Posting in this group will limit your chances of serendipity, so the first method is preferred.
When you are posting an update, please think about the people who might be reading it, so:
- When you refer to a person that is already on Yammer, use the @mention technique to turn their name into a link (and notify them of you mentioning them)
- If you refer to a person outside of Shell, link to their public LinkedIn profile.
- If you mention any document or web page, make sure to add the link to the document so that people can take a look at it.
I am very interested in any comments you might have. Does anybody have any experience with this?
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