Work Out Loud wasn’t a shout, but wasn’t a whisper

We recently promoted a Work Out Loud week in our internal learning community and we had some success and saw areas for improvement.

The goal of the week was to teach learning professionals the value and benefits of sharing their work. The secondary goal was to get a globally dispersed, divisionally siloed learning organization to network with one another so that eventually they can teach the entire company how and why to work out loud.

To set up the promotion, we created an ad for the homepage of the community site. I then wrote a blog explaining Work Out Loud, why it is valuable and why we need to do it. I linked to posts from John Stepper and Jane Bozarth and immediately followed my blog with posts in the microblog stream. We posted those a week ahead of the promotion. Within all promotional messaging we told people to use the hashtag #workoutloud. We did not use email, like we do to promote live chats, as I wanted to keep this promotion strictly within social media functionality.

Once the promotion started, we enlisted the help of some “friendlies” who could seed the stream during the week to keep momentum going. Seeding is important when changing to a social culture inside a corporation. Unlike the real world, you have to nurture the grass-roots with plants before a community takes off on its own. Since we have a gap in social media skills and use, leveraging champions is important to show everyone how and why it is important to communicate with social media, even at a subconscious level.

We had about 10% of the community actively participate during the week using the #workoutloud hashtag. That’s about 55% of the people who participate in a live chat. The live chats also generate more posts and likes than the Work Out Loud promotion. We had about twice as many posts for the chats than the promotion, not too surprising really. It did spike traffic for the week, especially on a Tuesday. That’s a good thing, because until people begin to use the community as part of their daily work, appointment viewing is the best way to grab eyeballs. The goal is to get them there and because the community contains static as well as dynamic content, they’ll see the value in returning.

The weird part is some folks in the org already Work Out Loud, they just don’t know it or specifically call it that. That was evident when scrolling through the microblog feed during and after the promotion ended. People were talking about their current tasks or asking questions but didn’t use the hashtag (maybe they just don’t get hashtags) and some posted after the promotion, so I take that as a good sign.

All in all I’d say the promotion was a success. I think we’ll be able to embed Work Out Loud more solidly within the organization as we seep social learning into all our learning process areas. The bottom line is we have to close gaps any way we can.



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Getting to the Tasks at Hand

Do you hate using MS Project or a spreadsheet to track your project? I do. Project is too complicated and spreadsheets are not sophisticated enough to do the job properly. But by using a SharePoint Project Task List and some creative page design, you can create a personalized project management destination.

Previously, I wrote about how to use columns and views to show targeted pieces of a List while dumping folders. We’ll be using some of those techniques here again, so get ready to curse me. For starters, be comforted in the knowledge that a List is a List, whether it’s a Task List, or a Custom List or whatever. They all function the same. Here’s what we’re going to do:
  • Create a Task List
  • Create a Project Tracking Page
  • Personalize it for everyone on the project
Here’s the link to the follow along cheatsheet. As always, we won’t go into every detail of a step, so some basic SP knowledge is needed. Now let’s go over over our rules of the road:
  • I start all Tasks on a Monday
  • I make all Tasks Due on a Friday
  • I stick to the basic statuses – Not Started, In Progress, Completed
  • The cheatsheet uses July 8, 2013 as a publish date, so all the dates reflect that moment in time
Start by creating a Project Task List. Once you do that, change the default View from Gantt to All Tasks. For you MS Project-philes out there, the Gantt View must seem like a warm blanket, but for what we’re doing you need the All Task view or you will spend a lot of time changing the View and re-writing the filters once you add it to the page. Start seeding the list with your tasks. For this blog, we won’t be adding any custom columns, but you can do that to say, break the project down by phase or workstream.
Now that we have a task list, we’re ready to show off our project management skills. Create a Web Part page within your Teamsite or Community. We’ll be adding the Task List to the page 5 times and writing a different View for each instance. This will allow the project to be viewed by:
  • My Tasks
  • Overdue Tasks
  • Task Due This Week
  • Tasks Starting in a Week
  • Tasks by Person
A couple of things:
  • We’ll be using the [today] and [me] commands. These use the system settings for current date [today] and who ever is logged into SP [me]. This gives us the personalization we’re looking for
  • We’ll be using variables other than is equal to, specifically “not equal to,” “less than or equal to” and “greater than or equal to”


We’ll start by personalizing the page by setting one version of the List to tasks assigned to you. You can do this 2 ways; you can simply Choose My Tasks from the Select View drop down. That’s OK, but I like to write the View because you have more control. We’ll be using the [me] command. Edit the Webpart and select the Edit the Current View link; it’s subtle – the blue text between Selected View and Toolbar Type. Go to Filter and select Column = “Assigned To” is “Equal To” and then [me]. Only those Tasks assigned to the person viewing the page will display, same as the simple way. I add another value so only active tasks are shown (who cares once something is done, right?) Click the “and” radio button and set the filter for Task Status is “not equal to” Completed. Now only my active tasks are displayed so I know what I need to work on.


The most important thing to the PM is what is overdue; who do I need to hunt down. We’ll be leveraging the [today] command here. Select another version of the List that you’ve added to the page. Set the Filter column “Due Date” to “less than or equal to” and [today], choose radio button “and” and task status is “not equal to” “Completed” Now all the late tasks are there for the whole world to see. I keep this one and the My Tasks at the top of the page.


This will give a you insight into what is coming due and what is starting, which is a good way to balance your resources. For Due this Week, set the Column = “Due Date” is “greater than or equal to” and then add [today]. Add another set by selecting the “and” radio button and set Column = “Due Date” is “less than or equal to” and add [today]+7. This will bracket the tasks in a 1-week range. To make sure there are no completed tasks, we’ll first choose “”Show More Columns…” link to add another set of drop-downs and then select the “and” radio button and set Column = “Task Status” to “is not equal to” Completed. This will show all the other statuses except Completed, thus only active tasks. The process is the same for Tasks Starting in a week, except instead of Column = “Due Date” use “Start Date.”


Finally you may want to know how all the tasks are distributed on the team. A simple grouping will show you how many tasks each person has. Just go into the View and set the Grouping to “By Assigned To.”
Make sure to change the title of each webpart for clarity. You can add all sorts of things to the page as well. I often add the project library so that people can get at shared docs. You can also show the project in Gantt form or any other combination by adding more filters to show workstreams or phase. By combining these techniques with dynamic and static content; plus a microblog stream, you have yourself a very effective and efficient project portal.
I’d love to know if anyone has a cleaner way to set the upcoming dates formula; I’ve been doing it this way for a while, so I just keep replicating the View settings every time I do it. Give it a shot and let me know how it goes.
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Let’s chat about live chats

At my company we have great enthusiasm for social learning, which is awesome. We also have an enormous gap in social learning and social media savvy and skill, which sucks. At the intersection of those points rests part of my job; the place where I have my greatest challenges, frustrations and thrills.

We use many techniques to try and close those gaps and I’ve outlined some of them in previous posts about standing up a social learning capability. One technique we’ve had great success with recently are live chats. They’re great for communication, change management and pre-work in formal learning programs. I’ve found the set-up, promotion and coaching needed doesn’t change much no matter what the topic or goal. We recently held two live chats, one for pre-work in a program and another for talking about the upcoming organizational changes.


Preparing and promoting a live chat is pretty easy. I create an ad for the community homepage detailing the host, time and topic of the chat. We’ve found two hours to be a good length of time. We’ve held the chats from 10-noon ET and we’re looking into other times to make it easier for ex-US colleagues. We reiterate over and over that we expect people to multitask during the event, so they don’t feel like they need to stare at the microblog stream all day. We link the ad to a job aid detailing how to use the stream and general rules about hashtags and etiquette. Since we are internal, we take advantage of old school communication to drive traffic. We provide an Outlook calendar invite, which prompts people to join. We re-iterate in the invite that you can and should multitask. I post in the stream a week out as a teaser and everyday for at least three days leading up to the event. And then right away in the morning and then 15 minutes before it starts. That seems to prime everyone up.


I meet with the host prior to the chat. The first question I ask is how fast they can type. As a former newspaper guy, I can type as fast as I can talk and that is really fast. This can be a hurdle for some hosts. I coached one of hosts, who lives in Korea, via Instant Messenger and I’ve spoken with others in person and over the phone. The most important thing for a host is to know their subject. They need to think fast to keep up with the questions because unlike a “real world” Twitter chat we want to answer everyone since we are educating on the topic but also getting people used to the technique. We don’t want anyone disappointed in the experience.


I’ve done these with host sitting next to me and a world away. The most important thing is to have someone other than the host keeping an eye on the stream so you know who needs to have a question answered next. I spend my time during the chat trying to take that burden so they can focus on each answer. Our stream refreshes with the newest posts on top, so that makes it easier. There is usually someone else on the team helping out and if the topic is sensitive. For the chat on org changes, we had someone from HR on hand. If you think you’re going to have too much traffic for one person, have another coach answer questions and feed it to the host through IM. This saves typing time. I find IM is great for this as well as verbal communication. My host in Korea could have been driven mad by the fluidity of the stream and my blinking IM. She was awesome, but she was exhausted after answering questions non-stop for 2 hours.

We prepare seed questions for each topic in case folks are shy about jumping in; remember we have a skill gap so I never know how fast the stream will be. I announce the start of the chat and then the host introduces themselves. From there we let the community take over. People are getting better at speaking among themselves as well as interacting with the host. I post at the 30, 60 and with 15 minutes left since we expect people to pop in throughout and not be glued to the stream. Those markers are also a good time to drop in a seed question. I never use a seed question with less than 15 minutes to go as I don’t want the conversation running over.


Once the chat is over, we all take a deep breath. The chats remind me a little of how a newsroom buzzes around deadline. Of all the things in newspapers, I miss that rush the most. The clacking of the keyboards and the quick relaying of information back and forth and then to users is a lot like deadline. We tell everyone, especially off timezone users, to go back into the thread anytime and add to the conversation. This gets us a way to tap into ex-US users and provide an asynchronous experience. We have alerts set on the stream so we get an email when a new post comes in. We then gather the information from the chat and create content for the community that can be delivered in many formats. We’ve created FAQs in the case of the org chat and we’ve used the questions and answers as seed topics for the live portion of the formal program. I’m still working on good metrics, but I can easily count the people who post, and the amount of posts. I’ve been toying with comparing the hourly page visits before, during and after the chat. I figure if I subtract the number of people who post from the visitors during the chat hours I’ll get the gawkers.

So far the feedback has been positive and my fears of a silent stream for the two hours has yet to happen. I haven’t had any hosts run from the room so we’ve got that going for us. I think you’ll find this social technique as valuable as we have.

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Sum it up with a graphic

Looking for a more unique way to promote yourself? Try an info graphic. I built this with Picktochart, which won’t come easily to many.., you can do the same thing with PPT


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Enough with the folders

May the Apple gods forgive me for saying, but there are many things I really love about SharePoint, especially its ability to serve up content from Libraries or Lists.

When I see people at my company using a SharePoint library with folders I want to scream; and I often do, ask anyone on my team. Since we use SharePoint as our internal collaboration and social platform, I thought I’d share how, with a few simple configurations you can easily manage your content and serve up only what your users want. No more drilling down into folder upon folder. No more multiple versions of docs floating in email. There are a couple of basics to grasp:
  1. Lists and Libraries function the same way; one is for data points (List) one holds documents (Libraries)
  2. You can add custom “Columns” which allow you to filter, group, count, whatever, to serve up the content. It helps to equate it to a spreadsheet column to understand the concept
  3. You can put a List or Library on a page as many times as needed to give your users what they want.
MarcheSodaImagine the soda aisle at the market; that will be our List for this discussion.
The sodas are not thrown all over the place haphazardly, they are organized by brand, size, flavor, etc. So imagine you have a List called “Soda.” Besides the out of the box Columns that come with the site (such as Title, Modified, Modified By, etc) you can add your own. We’ll call them:
  • Brand
  • Flavor
  • Size
If you had folders you’d likely have main folders for Brand: Coke, Pepsi, etc and then folders inside for Flavor, and Size, etc…what a mess. With folders, you can’t show all the items by Size, or only show just the Diet Cherry Coke. You’re going to force people to dig to find what they want, when maybe they only want to see all the 2-liter bottles. With Columns, you can manage the items more easily and spit them out as needed.
Once you create the Columns, you’ll establish the values through the List Settings. So for the Column “Size” you’d have 2 Liter, 16 oz, 8 oz, etc. As you upload or add items to the List, you’ll assign a Size value. To make the values appear in the form when uploading, you need to create the Column “Flavor” as a “Choice” Column and then add the values (you can also pull them in from another List where you manage all the flavors, this is more advanced so let’s stick with the basics). You want to make sure that users can only add one value per item so set it to drop-down or radio button. You can allow multiple choices, but then you won’t be able to Group items, only Filter (we’ll get to that, so bear with me). So, as I said, when you add items to the List, you set the values for each Column. For example:
  • Brand – Coke
  • Flavor – Classic
  • Size – 2 Liter
OK, still with me? Now comes the real value of SharePoint – using the List to serve content rather than have users search for it. Remember users don’t want to cook the dinner, they just want to eat it. So we have a List with all the sodas in the store, all classified (remember this works for a Library as well, the items would be documents instead of data points of soda). So say you have two groups of people using your List; one focused on the size of the bottles and the other on all the Coke products. It is impossible to show this with folders, but with your snazzy List, it’s easy.
First add the List to a page. To keep this from becoming a more of a manifesto than it already is, we won’t go into the detail of every action, just the broad strokes. Anyway, once you’ve placed “Soda” on the page, it will show every item. Not great if there are hundreds of sodas. But now you’ll write a “View” to show what you want.
Group 1 wants to see everything on the List by bottle Size and Brand. You do this by selecting Edit webpart and then use the Group function to bucket the List by “Size” and “Brand.” Now all the items are shown in buckets with all the 2 Liter Coke products together, all the 2 Liter Pepsi products together etc.
The second group wants just the Coke products grouped by Flavor. This will require a Filter of the “Brand” Column and a Grouping by the “Flavor” Column. You set the Filter to Show items when Column = Brand “is equal to” Coke. Then set the Group By to “Flavor.” Now you have only Coke products by Flavor. Make sense? I’m sure by now you want a Coke product with a little rum in it.
You can filter or group in as many ways as you want to get the desired display. The best way to start is to ask what your group wants; how do they consume your information? How do you want to show it to them? That’s actually the harder part, seriously. Once you know what to serve, the keystrokes to set it up are relatively simple.
So ditch the folders and let me know how it goes.
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Amplify, Socialize and Work Out Loud

The most popular posts in almost every community center around someone sharing their work. I’ve seen it time and time again; people post a job aid, or a solution to a problem and it is liked, shared and implemented by others.

This sharing, or amplifying of a message is one of the core principles of Working Out Loud. It’s a main piece of our company’s social learning strategy and is being championed by people like Jane Bozarth (@janebozarth) and John Stepper (@johnstepper). We’re set to launch a promotion around it next week and I’ll let you know how it goes. But now I thought I’d post this, since even people who are tapped into social learning in my org were not sure what it is.


Working Out Loud helps foster innovation by allowing community members to add onto one another’s work. By sharing your experiences, you may be able to help someone with a similar issue. You may post an idea or a problem that others in the community can help solve. It also connects people together. By seeing what others in the community are working on, you can align your work with others and reduce duplication. Or make tasks more efficient by combining efforts.


It’s really simple; just post something in whatever microblog stream you use. It can be Twitter, Yammer or an internal feed like we have powered by Newsgator. The post doesn’t have to be earth-shattering or the cure for global hunger. If you’re working on something, chances are someone else will find it interesting and someone will be able to use what you share. For example, a while back someone I was mentoring in social media asked how to ease the clutter in their Twitter feed. I made a quick job aid in PPT (it took me less than 30 min) on how to use Twitter lists. Now rather than just send that to the one person, I posted it in our microblog feed to share with others. It was work I was doing during the course of my day and it was liked by 5 people and others commented on it.

It doesn’t even have to be something you’ve produced. It could be an issue you have or a problem you resolved. Let people know what you’re doing. It helps the group discover more about you; what you’re working on, what expertise you have. And don’t forget to add onto what others are sharing, that’s what makes the whole thing go round and round.

Another great example would be if you leveraged something you picked up in a community. Did you create a piece of bite-sized learning after reading a blog on the subject? Did you or your team struggle with a way to do it? Let the group know. There are no wrong answers or perfect questions.

You don’t have to narrate your entire day, or post every day. But really make an effort to get involved in the conversation. Amplify what you’re doing; show your value and work out loud.​

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Do it again, without missteps

Over the past four posts, we’ve covered how to set up a social learning capability. My team and I built this at the large company where I work and now due to a re-organization and staff shakeup, I’m using these strategies to stand it up once again.

What I hope to do, and by extension hope that I have shown all of you, is how to do this and avoid some of the bumps I encountered the first time. So what did I learn and how am I working to adjust?

I mentioned this in a previous blog and it is worth reiterating: you must continually cultivate and nurture your sponsors. In a corporate setting, old hierarchies can be difficult to change culturally. They also often change structurally, which mine has recently. It is better to stay ahead of these changes than get run over by them. Sponsors will have varying degrees of comfort and knowledge of social media, so education and managing up are critical skills.

You will get very frustrated telling the same people the same thing over and over again. You have to fight the urge to scream: WHY DON’T YOU GET THIS! This is a lesson I wish I was better at; though I don’t think I’ve yelled at anyone yet. You are likely the social trailblazer and that’s part of the job. The more you teach, the more people will get it. This is also the area where you can find your champions and trend setters. Latch onto the ones who get it; they’re the best ones to spread your message.

I admit I do not easily gravitate to metrics. I totally understand the value, but I am not the first one to dive in and design metricing reports. That has caused me some issues and I am overcoming them this time by tapping into people who love metrics. This is a common lesson that we preach but sometimes forget ourselves – if you don’t know something, ask someone who does. I can’t give you the magic answer to metrics, and not because I’m not good at it. Measuring learning is tough, measuring social learning is tougher. Social learning is an intermediate indicator. Defining the goal of your social learning capability and the pieces inside of it will help you measure its success. A lot of times social learning pushes to a goal but can’t directly cause a goal to succeed. Don’t oversell.

Someone asked me if it was worth sending a colleague to get a social learning certificate (I won’t mention the program). I am a big believer in learning through experience. Some people may feel more comfortable getting information in a classroom, but I always thought it was ironic that people sit in a classroom to learn how to use social tools. I think the best way to learn and get better at this is to jump in. Get a Twitter account and follow thought leaders like @julianstodd @hjarche or @JaneBozarth That will lead you to other thought leaders (maybe like myself @jbuonora). Get involved in chats like #lrnchat, which is held every Thursday at 8 pm ET. And just get out there and practice social learning. If your company has communities, build one, or use one that exists. I really believe you learn social learning by doing social learning.


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