Innovation Reality

Social Media May Not Be All It Is Cracked Up To Be

We know already that social media tools by definition leak like a sieve–except when, worse, they broadcast. So why are these tools so heavily promoted within company and for daily life? While there is utility, there is also great harm–not mere risk, actual harm. Social media monitoring is already widespread and already abused; use of social media is already trite. The great danger is its inchoate nature; rogue actors and malicious groups can wreak heavy damage instantly and potentially globally. The serious privacy issues will not go away. Neither will the destructive potential of flash disruptions, fraud, and defamation. Usage is not inevitable.

Risk managers should by now have already identified social media as an inadequate tool for which risks and costs far outweigh benefits. Good risk managers clearly are realizing that social media tools open highly confidential company data of all kinds to platform provider and hacker scavenging for strategic information and trouble making. The last thing risk managers need is for employees to accidentally or intentionally inform the globe of company risk, security, and other trade secrets.

Any ‘crowd sourcing’, incident monitoring, or emergency response can be much more reliably and just as quickly accomplished by email and text with greater awareness that what employees, suppliers, and customers say is on the record, covered by retention rules, and discoverable. If social media become perceived as an entity condoned way around discoverable documentation and thus around regulators and civil and criminal liability, watch out below.

©2013. S. Caroline Schroder. All Rights Reserved.

Social Media Law Just Keeps On Changing

The law of social media has been in quite a bit of flux over the past several years and can get pretty difficult to sort out across multiple jurisdictions. Not a topic to wade into without company counsel. In the U.S., employers and counsel reviewing employee handbooks and employment, confidentiality, and other agreements in detail given recent highly publicized NLRB decisions and the bulk of state legislation determining employer access to employee social media. The National Conference of State Legislatures has been tracking the progress of bills from state to state: http://www.ncsl.org/issues-research/telecom/employer-access-to-social-media-passwords.aspx

Then, of course, there are other laws as well. And that’s just the U.S.. Other jurisdictions have their own mix of laws. In the US, the wording of guidelines and restrictions on categories of information must very carefully worded to satisfy the NLRA and state social media law requirements and other law. The law has changed significantly and often. If a company has regular in-house or outside counsel, counsel should already have this emergent area in hand. If a company hires counsel on an ad hoc basis, this is a good time to go to employment counsel for guidance and drafting. Companies should not wait for the first crisis or lawsuit –of any kind. Imagine social media meeting e-discovery…..talk about exciting times….

© 2013 S. Caroline Schroder. All Rights Reserved.

Dysfunctional Communications or It’s Too Technical

It was in the context of identifying distressed power assets and renewable energy technology for acquisition that I first came across the condition which cripples operations and development and is very much at the root of today’s banking, business and global economic crisis: Business and technical teams are dysfunctional in their communications, both unable and, more seriously, unwilling to understand the work and concerns of the other.

Too often, critical knowledge and discernments are passed over or rebuffed as being the technical mumbo jumbo or neurosis of the other. Points are missed. Risks are unassessed. Business issues are overlooked for failure or refusal to look complexity in the face and work to understand. Engineers do not want to understand the business model from the economics and legal risks to the depths of the customers’ needs and prejudices. Finance people just want to crunch the numbers. Geologists and designers don’t want to manage people; they just want to see inanimate patterns. And the business people just want to keep moving, trouble them not about risk and regulation; send the complications back to engineering and have IT stay late to do whatever it is they do with code and networks. Marketing people just want to get it out there.

While a systemic problem, this communication dysfunction is considered far too much the normal course of management engagement (or nonengagement). It is a complex problem rooted in attitudes towards risk, planning, deal making and project development. It is a matter of silo-ization, specialization and insulation from all the moving parts of organization, market and product. It actually requires not only education but re-education and attitude shifting (I hate to use the word ‘alignment’) to face the issue and resolve the conflict. It takes not just communication across and within all the parts of the organization and its outside consultants and stakeholders, it takes movement. It takes getting up and sharing to know and do what is done throughout the organization and its associated parts and interfaces. It now takes daring to say ” No I don’t understand” or “”How does that work?”” or “Should it?” and “And then what?” It takes daring to say the emperor has no clothes or the CDO is bare. And it should not.

© 2009 S. Caroline Schroder. All Rights Reserved.

Across the Date Line: Work When We Work. Work How We Work.

Do your teams work for you? Whether you have teams spread across silos in one corporate park, you understand the problems of getting them to work together. But now in a globalized workforce, spread around the world in separate offices, subsidiaries and joint ventures, how do you get them to work together across the dateline? A tech team manager recently complained that in working extensively via conference call with other tech teams spread over all continents, he has had a problem getting everyone to show up on time and hit project deadlines. Everyone agrees on the target times, but some regions don’t show up. The wider collaborative team then misses the ultimate target, the project deadline, and yet the missing teams don’t feel they have failed in a commitment. How do you improve on that? That’s a complex problem.

First, deal with the time element. Try reinforcing with a delinquent team the vast differences between time zones and the difficulties this time element presents in getting everyone free during working-or waking hours-amidst other commitments. Particularly in coordinating a three-way call between the US and, say, the Mid East and Australia, one can run into some knotty problems of day and night. Find a way to visually impress on the other tech teams the time in each zone for a set of their times: 8 am, 11 am, 2pm, 4pm and 10pm. Show them what time -and day – it would be in your zone. Make them understand the density of the problem. Get them to think about the flow of other work and other meetings.

It may be easiest to set one agreed time and day of the week as a scheduled recurring meeting regardless of progress and need. Alternatively, you can have the teams trade around the inconvenience so that it is not always the same team coming into the call at a bad hour. Tech teams often work at odd hours, late into the night (or early into the morning) and on weekends, but so do other teams in finance, law, sales and testing. You may have real flexibility.

If international teams are missing calls and causing the collaborative group to miss project deadlines, it may seem that those teams do not want to work with other teams. You may simply need to increase visibility by video conference. Empty chairs stand out. However, the real problem may be as simple as their having a hard time understanding the common spoken language and needing to see words in writing. I have found that in collaborating even with fluent speakers of multiple languages that they fall into one category or another: either they are weak in reading or they are weak in listening. You might think of other forms of collaboration or, however cumbersome it may be, a translator. You may want to consider having not just conversation but documentation translated real time. The added expense may justify itself in time saved and mistakes prevented or corrected.

However accomplished, however senior, your people may be having a real problem understanding each other at a basic level. I have seen more deals and projects fall apart because people simply did not understand each other. At a basic level they may have agreed but at the same basic level they could not communicate about parties, structure, specs and risk. Distrust develops as miscommunication grows. Memorializing in writing overcomes as good deal of distrust.

Alternatively, the uncooperative team may feel autonomous and not required to contribute. They may feel immune to layoffs or firing because of country laws. They may feel inadequately recognized, compensated or heard. They may feel excluded. They may feel used. They may not like the mix of work assigned to them. They may disagree seriously with specs, architecture, goal or strategy. They may have some critical information and insights. In some cultures, an employee will never say no and will not argue; the work just won’t get done. They may have their own internal squabbles. They may simply be lost and be unprepared.

You have to travel and sit down with each team and take the time to take the temperature and pulse of all the members. And you might just buy all the members a compact pocket world time clock so that they can see time for themselves.

© Copyright 2009. S. Caroline Schroder. All rights reserved.