Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Blogging for knowledge workers: organizational storytelling

Blogging within corporations and organizations has become fantastically popular. Within my own organization there are dozens of blogs that I know about.

Blogging is done for many reasons, many of which are described in two great posts by Lilia Efimova:

But what role might corporate blogs play in organizational storytelling?

Organizations, cultures and societies are sustained by stories and our attempt to understand and negotiate the world is grounded in narrative. Storytelling translates bare facts and logical argument into a form with which people can engage – both emotionally and intellectually. A good story is the simplest and most powerful way to create a desired future. It is the story that guides us in our day-to-day interactions. It is the story through which knowledge is created, stored and passed on. While people may come and go in the organization, it is the story that remains to remind people who they are and where they are going to.

According to, Organizational storytelling comes in two distinct flavours; the life stories of the individuals that comprise the organization and the organizational narrative. It is important to engage both; the stories of individual employees are useful in understanding the unique organizational 'diversity mix' and the organizational story creates context for day-to-day experience.

Individual narrative engages stories from the front lines with themes such as 'here's how I do things, this is my experience, opinion or judgement". While stories are widely told in the workplace (around the water-cooler, for instance) there are relatively few places for individuals to tell their story to a larger audience or to record their story. An internal blogging platform that is easy to use, available to all employees, and searchable by corporate search engines could be a powerful way to capture and share tacit know-how held within the organization.

Organizational narrative engages stories with themes such as 'what is going on?, who we are? what do we sell? how we do things here, where we are coming from and where we are going to'. These are profoundly important stories and they need to be deliberately told and controlled by leadership. An internal blog regularly updated by senior managers could be a powerful way to pass on those stories and engage staff in a conversation about what those stories might mean for the work of the organization.

I have seen numerous examples of individual narrative captured on blogs, but I have seen only a few examples of organizational narrative effectively told on corporate blogs.  If you have examples, I'd love to hear about them.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Implementing the Information Life Cycle

Library and Archives Canada has been promoting its Records and Information Life Cycle as a means to help users understand, plan, implement and improve their Information Management (IM) initiatives

copyright: HM Queen in Right of Canada

Accordingly, a year or so ago, we conducted a survey of 22 creators and users of scientific information to see which parts of the life cycle they regularly apply in the management of their own information. 

Through a series of detailed questions, we asked respondents whether or not they thought each stage of the cycle was applicable to their information management needs.  If it was applicable, we asked them whether or not they had planned to address that stage of the life cycle and the extent to which they had actually implemented any planned activities.

Copyright HM Queen in Right of Canada
The survey revealed that most respondents had initiated activities to plan for information needs, collect, create, receive and capture information, organize information, and use and disseminate information.  However an increasing number of respondents had not planned for the maintenance, protection and preservation of their  information, the disposition of their information after they were finished with it, or to evaluate the effectiveness of their IM practices after the project was over.  This was valuable information in telling us where we needed to direct our efforts.

Recently, I reanalyzed the results to better understand where we could use internal expertise to improve the management of records and information, and where we might need to draw on external expertise.

First I scored the respondents answers using the following scale: 0 = Not Applicable, 1 = Not Planned, 2 = Planned but not initiated, 3 = implemented and up to 25% complete, 4 = implemented and up to 75% complete, and 5 = implemented and 100% complete.

Copyright HM Queen in Right of Canada
Using Chris Collison's River diagram technique, I then plotted the minimum and maximum scores among all respondents for each stage in the life cycle.The area shown in blue in the diagram above is the area between the minimum and maximum scores.  The bottom bank shows the minimum level of attainment for each stage of the life cycle, the top bank shows the maximum level of attainment for each stage.

Collison suggests focusing on the widest parts of the "river" in order to leverage the most out of internal experience.  The diagram shows that for stages 1 and 3 in the life cycle, everyone surveyed is at least planning to implement relevant activities for their information, therefore, these stages should not be priority areas to focus on.  In stages 2, 3 and 6 some people have obtained a high degree of experience, having completed their planned activities for this stage, and it may be possible to share best practices.

For us the widest part of the river is at stages 2 and 6.  By sharing their best practices or by pairing individuals who have completed their activities with those who have not even planned activities, there is great potential to raise the lower scores.

Conversely, at stage 7 there is no one who has completed all their planned activities.  In this case, there is less internal expertise we can draw on and we may have to bring in external expertise to try and improve the scores.