Blog or E-mail “Status Reports”

November 21, 2003

in Blogging, Conversational Blogging, Knowledge Innovation

Is e-mail and managing-up the missing links in activating the corporate blog? It’s nice to see excitement in posts. Weblogs as Status Reports 2.0 hits a chord. I’ve advocated Team Briefs for some time, using language that perhaps was too attuned to “down under” (NZ / Australia) and so “Status Reports” just hit a note with me and both Roland and Jim. Blogs are also not easy to introduce. Their comments only briefly linked here are better read on their blogs. They also stimulated another line of inquiry.

Weblogs as status reports – It can work but the barrier is cultural not technological. (SOURCE:Rands In Repose: Status Reports 2.0 via McGee’s Musings)- We’ve tried over the last 2 years to replace status reports with blogs at a e-commerce company I do consulting for. Success has been mixed. Even though most of the people are engineering staff (i.e. technical people who should have no problem with the ‘geekiness’ of today’s blogging tools), getting them to document in real time what they do has been more difficult than I anticipated. Roland Tanglao

Jim adds:

Status reporting should become more about discovering and understanding the implications in those variations. [McGee’s Musings]

There’s a hurdle to getting to Roland’s more transparent state and solving Jim’s creative incentive to write stuff down. Taking the organization forward needs a dedicated blogger to begin with. That blogger must understand categories and the capabilities it creates to repurpose information. So when the new corporate blogger becomes all excited and tries to encourage others to blog he starts showing them the technology. Then the potential co- bloggers go to a new web page (they write almost everything in e-mail now) and are asked to make a post. All of a sudden it becomes hard, they know it is the web, it becomes more transparent (gee everyone will see this) and they feel more vunerable. In addition we probably start asking for html etc. This is a big step. At this point they don’t want to learn a new tool. However being pointed to a new “information look-up point” – blog – is much easier to handle.

I’m sure many bloggers have multiple methods to post to their blogs. I certainly do. So why the tendency to introduce potential new bloggers to weblogs via the blogging tool interface? Let’s be realistic. If the format is set up, they are an author on a team or project blog then why introduce them before they are ready. As the manager you need content. You need to make the capture simple, it has to repurpose work that is already done. It also has to be understood that this “blog” is internal vs external.

How might this solution track?
Consider introducing your co-bloggers to blogging via e-mail. Give them the or equivalent address. Redirect all status reports or what you are trying to capture to the blog e-mail. What’s missing here is any capability to add categories. However now a project manager can do that easily converting the posts from drafts to publish status. The new participant can see the updates in the “blog” via the url. In fact confirmations could be posted back to them. Dependent on the blog… either subscribe your new bloggers or alternatively add NewsGator so their RSS feeds become active. It won’t be until you are swamped with posts or editing issues that the team needs to become more active and responsible.

Now we get multiple participants with the blogging manager / owner assigning categories and coaching on posts. In this process there is never anything to stop the new blogger from going direct to the authoring tool. In fact now’s the time to start the second blog in parallel that reports on the implementation, enables questions and answers. This is simply a place for learning about blogging. As it is an internal blog, combine it with other easy to navigate features and enable a quick log-in from the home page.

What’s different in this strategy? These initial blogs are more likely to be informative rather than linking blogs. Blogs involved in research and for gathering ideas and spreading memes are more likely to come later or be specific to a particular department. I’d not advocate the above for a research department, however using e-mail to move my reps from e-mail to blogs might well make sense. Similarly with marketing and HR.

My rule remains that you need the square root of the number of people in the company to really change the culture. Once those up the chain find it is easier, quicker and smarter to access the blog for information you’ve won. So this brings me back to the old set of questions around you as a manager. As a manager what is your first responsibility? No…. it is not… Your first responsibility is to manage yourself. Now you have that straight, what is your next responsibility? No… it is not!. Now you must manage your peers! So you are being a pretty good manager, your time is controlled, your peers are happy….. Now what must you do? Manage your boss!!! For those that operate in this way will find their reports are already managing them.

So for my two cents. One of the things we are missing in internal BLOG implementations, is the idea of managing up! We talk about it and see it as a grass roots phenomena. It’s why you will really need so few to change the work pattern. When a blog helps you personally manage better, flows more effective information from your department into buckets (categories) that are consistent with what your peers want then you are on the way to winning the blog vs e-mail challenge.

Using e-mail to initiate blogs starts with tools that people are already comfortable with. Appointing a manager (or two or three) that manage the initial flow helps to build categories and the “managing up” dashboards that blogging pages easily adapt to. Adding subscriptions and RSS keeps people in the loop and yet begins the recategorization process. You copy the blog not CC the world.

To close I’ve mentioned before that I’d like to be able to post more easily from Outlook to my MT blog. Even better if it was supported with a plug-in that would enable choice of which blog and the category. When asked today about an upcoming virtual conference, I thought it would be nice to enable all registered attendees to immediately be able to post session comments via e-mail to the blog. Perhaps not so simple. However did wonder if anyone is doing this?

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