Team & Individual Effectiveness Intertwined

It seems like a platitude to say that team effectiveness is intertwined with individual effectiveness, but there is a surprising amount of sentiment contrary to this.  I explore this, and explore an exciting new product in this post.

Many collaboration environments become graveyards for documents precisely because the collaboration environment is separate from the group member’s work environment.  You set up a wiki for a group to share information, but the group members are not using the wiki for their own notes.  Instead they keep local documents on their local system using their favorite editor.  Later, when the guilt piles up enough, the go to the wiki and attempt to bring it up to date, but this is often too little too late.  The problem is a vicious cycle:  if the wiki is not always current then it can’t be trusted, and if it can’t be trusted nobody uses it, and if nobody uses it there is little motivation to keep it current.

Often these shared places are set up by people filled with grand ideas of how everyone will benefit, only to be abandoned with great disappointment later when they find that it is just a drain on the group.  OR worse: they are not abandoned and continue to be a drain.

In discussions about making groups effective, I talk about how individuals need to change their habits, and I often get push back on this.  The argument goes like this: a person should be able to work however they want to work, and later share what they want when they want to share.  It is a nice idea, and I can relate to the desire to have a private place to work, but this is fundamentally the problem: the unnecessary duplication becomes a barrier.

If you want the group to be more effective, you need to change the way that the individuals work and keep their own information.   A case manager should not work on the side, and then update the case when needed.  Instead, the case manager must work directly within the case environment.  Ideally, all actions, all notes, all documents, all email, is automatically part of the case, even if at first it does not seem relevant.  Only through this, will the case be trustworthy.  And only when it is trustworthy, will it actually yeild the benefit.

Nobody says this better than Justin Rosenstein as he sets up for the demo of Asana’s new collaboration environment.  He says when you set up a collaborative environment, but what you see is that people generally don’t have those tools open for their own use.  They end up copying back and forth.  He says:

if something is going be successful the way that a group organizes its information, it also has to be the way that individuals organize their information.  In order to be the best group collaboration environment, it needs to be the best personal productivity tool.

It is well worth watching this demo, because it is an excellent representation of how an Adaptive Case Management product could be constructed.  Jacob Ukelson write along the same line in his post “Asana and Adaptive Case Management (ACM).”

In the end, our goal to make groups of people more effective, is intertwined and can not be separated from the tools and approaches that individuals use to make themselves effective.  This is tricky, because you need to have incremental adoption, because nobody is going to use anything until they see some benefit of using it, and network effect is necessary to see the benefit.  But the vision should be nothing short of a complete revamp of organizational working environment.

Is it BPM?

For my friends who insist that ACM is just a branch of BPM, please please watch this video, and point out for me where the BPM comes into the picture.  As I have said before: if all you have is a hammer, all the problems start to look like nails. I maintain my position that we are working toward something that is dramatically different from BPM.

6 thoughts on “Team & Individual Effectiveness Intertwined

  1. I’m pretty sure the Asana guys don’t consider what they’re doing ACM. They see themselves as competing with things like your corporate wiki, from what i’m hearing in the demo. No doubt things like yammer and asana and twitter will all be incorporated (integrated, monitored fed) with BPM solutions. It doesn’t make it something that falls outside the discussion of business process and business process management.

    That hammer / nail analogy. I have another one for you: pot and kettle 🙂

    If what you’re saying is that all collaboration tools are ACM – then fine. But then I’ve got news for you – all the incumbent software vendors have already lost this market to facebook, twitter, yammer, linkedIn, and the like. But those collaboration tools mostly preceded mastering the unpredictable and ACM. In other words, your back-testing your trading algorithm, rather than forging new territory. I like what Asana is demo-ing… it would make a great portal into a BPM system 😉 Its nice to see a startup so focused on tasks and delegation and task lists (stuff that is core BPM as well) 🙂

    So where is the fujitsu ACM that I can hold up and compare to Asana? At least, with Asana I have something concrete to look at – if you’re telling me that’s what ACM looks like, great. More thoughts later…

  2. Scott, you are absolutely right that the Asana have probably not heard about “Adaptive Case Management” and probably don’t care about this term. But if you listen carefully to what they say and the words they use, you will find their descriptions are very very similar. Throughout the demo Justin mentions knowledge workers directly several times, and talks about the needs they have, and how to meet them. He talks about “Getting Things Done” which was purposefully included in the subtitle to our book: “Mastering the Unpredictable: How Adaptive Case Management Will Revolutionize the Way That Knowledge Workers Get Things Done.” Regardless of what it is called, I think you will find that what Asana is doing is much closer to what the authors of MtU envisioned, than a typical BPMS is. That doesn’t mean that a BPMS can’t incorporate features like those of Asana, but it would be misleading to describe the features of Asana as BPM.

    This has been one of our problems is that some of us (myself at least) comes from the BPM space, and so from the beginning was always automatically associated with process. You have to admit that Asana has tasks and sort-of process, but it really is not the kind of process that you mean when you talk of BPM. Yes, they can certainly be integrated, but then everything can be integrated, but we don’t claim that everything is the same.

    If I had it to do over again, I would have talked a lot more about Enterprise 2.0, Enterprise Social, and Social Business from the beginning, and a lot less about BPM. But of course add the ability to talk about goals and time related things. But the problem is whever you talk about tasks, people want to go from that to organizing those tasks, and automating those tasks, and before you know it you are talking about BPM.

    Facebook, Twitter and Linked in have most decided NOT captured the Enterprise Social space …. yet. For example, you can not talk about a customer’s credit card number on any of these! Now, they might eventually get there, but then they might find it hard to meet the public requirements and the enterprise requirements at the same time. My guess is that they will excel at only one or the other, and there will be opportunities for new vendors to enter the space.

  3. thanks for the response, Keith. Also, I feel I must apologize for my use of smiley faces which converted to icons (I forgot it does that in some comment systems!). I’ve looked at other people’s software offerings or methods and found similarities with BPM as well, so I shouldn’t throw rocks from my glass house, regarding doing the same with ACM – I’d just say that it is different to describe something as a process, than to describe something as BPM – likewise something can be described as a case without being the same as ACM, etc.

    For example, my notion of process includes high level processes that clearly have a lot of ambiguity underneath the hood (knowledge work even). Customer Development, to me, is a process. The Lean Startup describes a process. But much of what happens in these things is what you would likely call ACM.

    I agree with you that talking about ACM (as you’ve defined it) in the context of Enterprise 2.0, social, etc. would have been more clearly differentiated what problem space you want to address with ACM.

    While twitter, facebook and linkedin haven’t captured enterprise social (yet), there are tools that leverage each that are likely to do so. And then there are a few tools in the yammer category (which started as, essentially, an enterprise version of twitter, but has evolved from there).

    To me these products and tech are going to be highly complimentary to BPM products and I look forward to working with both in concert.

  4. Keith, Scott,
    I think the success theses kinds of tools (knowledge worker tools) will only happen if the particpants in a group process will adopt the tools on their own because it is worthwhile for them – because it makes them more effective and productive. This goes beyond ease-of-use to what I like to call “joy-of-use” – you use it because you want to. Then as users get drawn in because it helps them – the group will benefit as well (sort of an Adam Smith approach).

    Scott – they actually mention the “P” (process) word and it shows up in future directions – so I am guessing in they see this more than just a collaboration tool – but rather one that blends collaboration and process.

    Jacob Ukelson – CTO ActionBase

  5. Pingback: Tweets that mention Team & Individual Effectiveness Intertwined | Collaborative Planning & Social Business --

  6. Pingback: Barely a Year Old, and ACM is Dead » Process for the Enterprise

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