Working Out Loud

I’ve been following John Stepper’s journey for many years, we met in person at a Melcrum conference where we both had to do a terrifying quick fire presentation. He’s as amazing in person as he is virtually. And you can find out more about his work here Working Out Loud

On my return from maternity one of my colleagues shared that she’s starting to work out loud through the Community Roundtable and on a weekly basis she is sending me her list and in our one to ones we have started to discuss the book a few chapters at a time.

I am a big fan – in fact one of the areas we’ve been looking at within our Jive community is how can we encourage working out loud amongst colleagues. Over the years iterations of the Jive platform and changes to UI has pushed the ability to work out loud deeper into the weeds. At Pearson we used to ask the question “what are you working on?” front and centre of our homepage.

One of our first homepages in 2011

Alas we no longer have this capability and I think our community is suffering because of it. I no longer hear the anecdotal stories describing the serendipity moment that we had in the early days. I miss it.

What is the answer? Do we bring the status update back to our homepage? I’m not convinced this is the right way to go…our community is more mature some of our users are now more sophisticated than that. Which brings me back to Working Out Loud. John recommends creating WOL circles and we’ve talked about creating a dedicated space in our community for working out loud.

The challenge is bringing 36,000 people with you. It is a change in behaviour and change in the way people work and we all know change, engagement and communication can be really really hard.

Never one to step away because something is hard, we’re going to start small we’re going to model the behaviour ourselves and we’ll bring people along with us.

Of course this also means a massive shift for me because I’ve discovered working out loud isn’t coming naturally to me. But I am committed and I want to change my behaviour because I am a massive believer in setting out your intentions.

So here I am committing to working out loud and sharing my experience with you.

Listening to your community, part two focus groups…

The next step to really listen to our community was to dig a little deeper on the themes we had identified through the survey.

When you cover a community of 40,000 people you need to narrow your numbers down, you also need to think about what is a manageable number to facilitate. We’re a global company covering a variety of time zones, this meant we wouldn’t’ have the luxury of face to face and we needed to cover as many time zones as possible. We use google but I didn’t think a google hangout would be manageable with the numbers we anticipated, we chose WebEx.

We set a limit of 20 people per session, we should have had some back ups in hindsight. I’m based in the UK so we ran sessions at 7am, 12pm and 8pm. We had asked the respondents of the survey to include their email address, we invited these people to participate first. We then communicated the focus groups through our normal communication channels.

Top tips:

  • People will drop out, you can oversubscribed by about 5-10%
  • Be clear up front with the attendees that you welcome honest and open feedback, we used Chatham House Rules.
  • Make sure you record your focus groups you will want to listen back after the session for your notes. We were clear the recordings were for note taking only and would not be shared beyond our team.
  • Two facilitators make for a more productive use of everyone’s time, one should lead, they can take care of facilitating the conversation, ask the questions and move the conversation along. This person needs to be the time keeper too, it is critical you keep on time, if you don’t you won’t get through all your questions. The second facilitator can lead the conversation in the chat window, this gives everyone in the session the opportunity to get involved and share their views and be heard.
  • Limit the number of questions you want to ask and circulate ahead of the session if possible.
  • Turn your notes into really clear and actionable items, we chose to pick out short term actions and long term actions.
  • Share your summary with the attendees before posting in your community to check you’ve represented their views and comments (anonymously obviously).
  • You need diverse representation – it is important to listen to those who love your community and those that don’t.

The focus groups proved incredibly valuable – even more so than the survey, of course without the survey we wouldn’t have been able to narrow down the themes for the sessions. If you really want to listen to your community you need both.

We now have enough insights to help prioritise our time in the community and we will be able to use the information we’ve gathered for our roadmap and strategy planning. Going forward we will run this listening exercise annually.