Working out loud from the top – half a century ago – at NASA

November 17, 2017

Working out Loud, a mindset independent of technology

“Monday’s Notes” – at NASA in the 1960’s

Wernher von Braun, head of the Marshall Space Flight Center (part of NASA) set up a system for working out loud. Most people do not know this case because (1) it happened half a century ago, and (2) it is not sexy or media-worthy as there is no technology involved. It’s all based on paper, pens and a duplicating machine.

From Science magazine, the publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, November 1968:

“….It may turn out that [the space program’s] most valuable spin-off of all will be human rather than technological: better knowledge of how to plan, coordinate, and monitor the multitudinous and varied activities of the organizations required to accomplish great social undertakings.” (ref. Dr. Launius)

Very simply, Von Braun asked each of his senior managers to send him a one-page note each Monday listing the past week’s activities – successes, concerns, questions. He personally noted his comments in the margins of each page, and returned each one to the original writer. The ultimate step – the genius of the approach – was that all the papers were photocopied and shared with all the managers. The system rolled down and included project leaders, R&D people, and so on.

I visualize Von Braun’s approach as follows.

WOL NASA netjmc

I learned of this case from Dr. Roger Launius who wrote a description and analysis that is well worth reading.  Please take the time to do so. It will give you a new perspective on management. (This case is also developed in Show Your Work by Jane Bozarth where I first discovered it.)

Where did “working out loud” come from?


PeopleBarometer V2

November 9, 2017

After much discussion, feedback from people around the world, and much thought on my part, the V2 of the #PeopleBarometer has been created.

Why the PeopleBarometer?

The barometer is intended to “give a reading” of the atmosphere in the organization by looking at visible signs of authority, interactions, relationships and behaviors. (These are the text blocks on the chart.) The barometer looks only at people and behaviors. Technology is of course a major part of transformation, but it is deliberately ignored here. There are plenty of technology-oriented maturity charts, but few, if any, based purely on people.

I’m working out loud on this initiative, sharing versions as they are developed. This approach has greatly accelerated and improved the quality of the Barometer.


People Barometer V2

Transformation is continual, starts from the steps, and in fact never stops.

Changes earlier readers will notice

  • We now have a concept of zones, which is a more neutral concept than in the versions 1 and 1.1 which went from medium to transformational impact. We cannot predict the future with reasonable certainty, especially as most organizations are not yet in Zone 3. That’s why the “beyond” zone has been extended on the horizontal axis.
  • The three areas are Leadership, Practices and Culture. (The earlier readers will see that Involvement has become Leadership.)

Please continue to share your views and feedback

If on Twitter, use the hashtag #PeopleBarometer or message me directly @netjmc. My email is here. You can also join the conversation in comments below. Thank you in advance!

People lead!

November 6, 2017

I spoke at the i2Sumit 2017 in Zurich last week. I would summarize my presentation in two words: People lead!

I talked about how people start movements in organizations, and organizations run to catch up (or not!).

I demonstrate with data how top-down decision-making for digital initiatives is still too common, and how it triggers internal politics.

I shared the first version of the #PeopleBarometer but I have removed it as it is still evolving, thanks to feedback from Zurich and from many people on Twitter.

Organization in the Digital Age i2summit17 from Jane McConnell

People Barometer V1.1 is out!

October 31, 2017

The #PeopleBarometer is intended to help organizations get a sense of their “digital atmosphere”, much like a weather barometer tells us atmospheric pressure which can in turn forecast changes in the weather.

People and behavior

The #PeopleBarometer looks only at people and behaviors. Of course technology is a major part of transformation, but it is deliberately ignored. There are plenty of technology-oriented maturity charts, but few, if any, based purely on people. It is divided into three sections: Leadership, Practices and Culture. It contains three stages: medium, high and transformational impact.

This is a first text draft for version 1.1 seen below. Thank you in advance for your interaction and contributions. You can contact me here or tweet me at @netjmc using the hashtag – #peoplebarometer.

NOTE. The #PeopleBarometer V1.1 originally displayed and described here has been replaced by V2. See the #PeopleBarometer V2 here.




A People Barometer

October 22, 2017

barometer-700 250

What is a traditional barometer? “An instrument measuring atmospheric pressure, used especially in forecasting the weather and determining altitude”.

What is my people barometer?  It is intended to help you get a sense of the “digital atmosphere” in your organization as well as to give indications of your “altitude”, that’s to say, where you are on the road to transformation looking ONLY at people and behavior. Of course technology is a major part of transformation, but I have deliberately ignored it when designing the barometer. There are plenty of technology-oriented maturity charts, but I’ve never yet seen one based purely on people.

Take a look at the chart below and tell me what you think.  

The #PeopleBarometer V1 originally displayed and described here has been replaced by V2. See the #PeopleBarometer V2 here.


Trickle down does not work

October 21, 2017


From senior leaders’ strategic vision to reality on the ground, trickle down does not work.

Let’s take a look at the data from 300 organizations around the world who took part in my research at the end of 2016.  Looking at the bars on the right of the chart, we see the typical flow of going from strategy to reality. We’ll start, as many organizations do, by defining a “clear role of digital in strategic vision” and making sure “top leadership is strongly involved”. So far, the data are not too bad. But when it comes to the next apparently logical step – “cross-organizational alignment”– the figures drop. It is not therefore surprising that “collaborative decision-making” and “buy-in from business units” are both at relatively low levels. And of course, lower still is “change initiatives owned by frontline and operational people”.

Successful lasting digital initatives

The trickle-down “red flow” approach is the most common. I have seen it often. Senior people define a global digital strategy and expect people in business units and countries to align, regardless of their own on-going initiatives. (more…)

Media is going individual. Enterprise is following.

June 24, 2017

Media are becoming more individual and people-driven, according to Mary Meeker. The enterprise world is following.

In her 2017 Internet Trends report, Mary Meeker shares an analysis of how media has evolved since 1950, moving from the network era to the cable era and to the current digital era.

I was struck by the similarity with my predictions from 2009 about the evolution of the internal digital work environment. It’s clear we are moving – externally and internally – to more individualistic and personally controlled environments – in both entertainment and work life.



Workplace Orientations: Where to Focus?

June 24, 2017

There are many demands on investments and energy in organizations today. “Competing priorities” was cited by over half the survey participants at the end of 2016 as a “serious obstacle holding us back”.

How to decide where to focus? What do data say? What do people say?

I’ve researched the internal digital work environment for a decade – 2006 through 2016 – through annual surveys with internal digital practitioners and leaders from approximately 300 organizations worldwide.

In 2011, the research participants looked at four future orientations and indicated (1) where they saw high, moderate or low potential value for their organizations, and (2) how far advanced they were in each one. Six years later, in early 2017, I ran a quick poll checking to see if perceptions had changed and if progress has been made. Then just last week (Enterprise Digital Summit in Paris) I ran a workshop with 24 people where we brainstormed opportunities and risks inherent in the different orientations.

Four orientations examined:

The four orientations are complementary, each potentially impacting the others, but it helps to have a primary vision. (more…)

Updated Presentation from Enterprise Digital 2016

March 13, 2017

I’ve updated the presentation I gave last June in Paris at Enterprise Digital 2016. Apologies for the delay.

Reality Check: People and Organizations in the Digital Age from Jane McConnell

4 Future Scenarios: Reality Check 6 Years Later

March 5, 2017

Intentions vs. reality, time for a closer look

2 questions, 2 minutes. Please vote:

My research into intranets and digital work environments over the past 10 years (since 2007)  has shed light on a wide range of trends and challenges. My 2011 research questions included asking people about their vision and planning around four future scenarios for the following three to five years. We’re now in 2017, six years later, and it’s time to see how things have evolved in those four areas:

  • My Apps
  • Smart Systems
  • People-Centric
  • Super Search

In 2011, I specifically asked people (1) how they rated the potential value of each scenario and, if relevant to them, (2) how far advanced they were in achieving them.

I’ve set up a Quick Poll with the same 2 questions. Please do the poll (link below), and share the link within your networks. The more voices the better. Thank you!

2 minutes only: 

Results will be shared directly with all participants, and a summary document published.

The 4 scenarios: descriptions



My Apps – Getting Work Done

The internal digital work environment has evolved into a set of highly customized apps. People select what they need to do their jobs and build their own “digital workplace”. They can even define their own mashups by combining information from different sources into personal apps that can be shared with others.