I worked in an organisation that had ‘the three phone call rule’. It went something like this: within three phone calls, you will find someone who can help you with your problem. No one ever carried out a study at that time to ascertain whether or not it held true or was simply apocryphal (in the dubious authenticity sense). But it was a well known part of a very strong culture of informal collaboration.
Working in a central senior role, I knew many people and had knowledge of most major initiatives. And so nearly every day I would receive an unsolicited phone call from someone that would begin ‘I know you won’t know the answer to this question, but you might know the person who will…’
Think about email. Your email network in an organisation is usually limited to people you know or engage with on a regular basis. Of course, if you are game you can send an email to @All_staff, but that usually meets with severe disapproval from the IT and Communications teams.
What you really need is to find people who know. You already know who you know.
I also recall, with a shudder, being expected to update a skills profile within a people management tool. Regularly. I’m not a big fan of that as a solution – it’s always an additional task, there is no context around the skills update to link it to a project or activity (and if I want to go that extra mile it means substantially more work), and quite frankly, if I am searching for assistance then context is important. For that I need dynamic information.
So will moving interaction into social networking tools broaden your contact list? Absolutely.
Social networking tools let you broadcast a request for information in a non-threatening and non-spamming way. You might not get much of a response the first time, but as the community grows the returns will improve.
Wiki knowledge repositories link content and author, so the first step of the three phone call rule could ideally be replaced by an intranet search.
There is a great deal of discussion in many forums about the value of social networking and engagement externally for organisations and government. But there are huge advantages internally, within teams, business divisions or across departments.
And in case you think it’s just a nice to have, consider this article today reporting the NSW Ombudsman, about the failure of the Joint Guarantee of Service for People with Mental Health Problems (JGOS). It stated ‘a NSW Ombudsman’s investigation has found the scheme has not worked because of poor communication between organisations.’
A key reason was confusion over when client information is able to be shared. And not sharing information has put people at risk. Your risks or objectives might not have such dramatic results, but they are important to your business.