Monday, October 12, 2015

Just thinking...

When I read a non-fiction book, I often take notes.  I've brought out of the closet a dozen notebooks of various sizes and color and as I scanned through them, I wondered:  If I read a book again, by chance, would I remember that I've read it before?  Would I take essentially the same notes?  Would taking the same notes suggest I didn't really internalize anything from my first reading of the book?  It would seem to suggest I'm stuck.  Or, does it simply reflect the fact that we need refresher courses in everything.  We forget!

Just thinking!  

There's more to this.  I'll need to come back to it.  I've barely scratched the surface of my questions.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Performance Evaluations, Knowledge Management and Gamification

I've never liked performance evaluations.  Who does? The employee is cynical about it. The manager is cynical about it.  Why bother?  Under current circumstances, I am no different from anyone else.  I can't escape it.  It's part of "business-as-usual".  From a knowledge management perspective, I hear time and time again that knowledge sharing and other knowledge management activities should be part of an employee's performance evaluation.  As soon as I start imagining what that would look like, I cringe.

  • "How many lessons learned did you write this year?"
  •  "How many knowledge sharing workshops did you attend?" 
  •  "How did you share your knowledge?"
  •  "Did you coach or mentor someone?"
I fear that adding Knowledge Management questions to a faulty performance evaluation process will not add a great deal of value.

Solutions often emerge out of personal frustration with processes. Faced with the prospect of yet another useless performance evaluation I came up with a variation.  I didn't ask for any changes to the process (I typically don't try to rock the boat).  I simply gave it a personal interpretation. I had recently taken a course on gamification (a MOOC) and while I had a hard time figuring out exactly how to use that new knowledge directly in the context of the work I was doing around knowledge management, I could certainly experiment with some gamification within a more personal context, my own performance evaluation.

I came up with an overall personal mission statement, six core goals, and a number of specific objectives for each goal. Five of the six goals correspond to the responsibilities of my position while the fifth is more oriented towards personal growth, yet directly related to the demands of the job.  The five core goals would be the same for anyone doing the job.  The sixth is something specifically designed to address what I consider to be a personal weakness.  Addressing that weakness would allow me to better perform towards the other five goals.

The next step was to assign points to each objective.  After playing around with the numbers for a while, I settled on an annual goal of 100 points, spread across the six goals and objectives.  Part of the adjustments I made with the points and how they were allocated had to do with the need to be able to monitor progress on a regular basis.  I have a good mix of objectives for which points accrue on a weekly basis and objectives that can only be reached over a much longer period of time and for which points can only be earned at the successful completion of a milestone.  Having done some work in evaluation in prior years, I had a few ideas about setting clear criteria for completion and making it relatively easy to monitor.

In a real gamification initiative, all of this would be automated and points would show up on a digital dashboard on my computer.  Until I have some evidence that this is working for me, I'm keeping it very low-tech.  Next year, I might enhance it with an Excel spreadsheet and a mini-dashboard.  Since my goals and objectives are completely unique to my job, this approach can't easily be scaled to an entire organization.  If the approach was standardized so that everyone had the same categories of goals and objectives and employees were competing for the highest number of points, not only would some employees become tempted to "game" the system, but the goals and objectives would become too generic to add real value.

Why would I want to compete for points against other employees who do completely different jobs? I'm interested in enhancing my own performance within the specific context of my very unique work.  I want goals and objectives that are designed for this specific position.  Since I'm designing the approach, I even get to say what the goals and objectives are.  I did share the goals and objectives and the entire point system with my manager in the context of the performance evaluation meeting.  I can't think of a much better way to see if expectations match. I can't think of a much better way to discuss actual performance next year.  For once, I will have very precise data to provide... and a few lessons about applying some gamification principles to employee performance.


P.S.:  There is a lot of hype around gamification.  Like anything else, when done poorly, it will fail.  If done right, it can work. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

10 Tools Challenge - The Book

My 10 Tools Challenge needs a reboot.  As is often the case, other interests have taken more of my time and I have neglected this one.  My goal for the next few weeks is to focus on the book as a tool for learning. Not a very original idea, but I'm thinking in terms of connections between a book (whether it is being read or being written), and complementary tools.  I'm thinking of a web of tools, a mindmap, with the book at the center, and some large branches leading to key categories of tools.

We'll see how this goes.  I'm off on vacation with a couple of books.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Web conferencing tools

Until this past week, I had used web conferencing tools in the role of participant/attendee rather than organizer or speaker.  As an attendee, I have encountered three obstacles to overcome:  1) making sure the web conferencing tool is compatible with the computer you are using; 2) figuring out the best audio solution when there are options (connect via computer vs. call-in via phone); 3) identifying options for engaging with the speaker (via chat panel or audio).

This past week, I conducted my first webinar as a speaker. Having attended several of the previous webinars in the series, I was most concerned about the audio channel, which had created multiple problems in the past.  Testing my audio connection ahead of time helped to ease my anxiety levels. I had brought in an external microphone to try to improve the quality of the audio compared to the laptop's embedded microphone.  It all worked out well from a technical perspective.  I was also surprisingly able to keep an eye on the chat panel for questions.  It helped somewhat that I work with two computer monitors. One displayed the screen that was shared with the webinar participants.  The other displayed the chat panel and other webinar tools. 

I really enjoyed it.  Much less intimidating than a room full of people.  I do need to practice getting rid of my "ums" and "ahs".  I'm afraid of listening to the recording. :)

Two connections: 
  • The best video lecture content presented in the three Coursera courses I recently took was a combination of the professor talking primarily via a small window on the screen (up to half the screen) and other dynamic content on the screen.  The content was dynamic in the sense that a) specific points appeared as the professor was addressing them; b) the professor was using a stylus or some other tool to highlight, circle, or point to specific things he was talking about.  In essence, even though none of it was live, it almost felt live because you were never staring at the same screen for more than a few seconds.  That was the Gamification course.  The Physics course videos were also great, but in a very different way.  The professor was showing a lot of hands-on activities and leveraging multiple filming locations to make it more interesting.  
  • We should really do much more with video to enhance knowledge sharing within my work environment.  I have to come up with a specific proposal connected to an existing activity.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

10 Tools Challenge: CMAP Tools for presentations

I'm a big fan of CmapTools.  I use it extensively for a wide variety of maps.  When an opportunity presented itself to experiment with a low-risk audience, I decided to ditch PowerPoint and use CmapTools to develop my presentation. I had a number of options:
1. Use CmapTools to develop the content but then make the content fit into PowerPoint slides for presentation purposes.  I would have copied maps into the PowerPoint.

2. Use CmapTools' full functionality and both design and deliver the presentation using CmapTools.  This requires using my own computer (or using CmapTools on a USB stick).

3. Use CmapTools to design the presentation in such a manner that it can be turned into a set of hyperlinked web pages, navigated using any web browser.

I picked option 3.  While I've experimented with the presentation functions embedded in CmapTools, I've found that building a presentation that way is very time consuming and forces you to define a very specific path through your presentation, replicating the linear aspect of a PowerPoint.  I wanted a presentation that had few slides/web pages, but many options in terms of navigating from one place to another, opting in and out of various paths depending on time available, questions asked, etc... I eventually came up with a presentation that could take 10 minutes using the shortest path (10 minutes was the time I was given) and potentially an hour or more if I had clicked on every link and taken every path available.

So, how is that different from a PowerPoint with a lot of backup slides? The main difference is in how I could navigate to the backup information in the context of each core page.  Technically, it's possible to do the same with a PowerPoint by simply creating a link to a specific back up page.  Instead of thinking of my presentation as a set of sequential slides, I was visualizing it as a set of circles.  I had a core of 5-6 maps at the center, a set script or sequence for going through these maps in 10 minutes, and wider circles around that full of backup options should there be questions about any of the core maps.

Two disadvantages of using a web version of a CmapTools presentation:

1. Sitting Down: If you embedded links and you are navigating using links, you can't do it standing using a page clicker / slide changer.  Think about whether standing in front of the audience is important.  I wouldn't do it with a large audience.  It works fine in a relatively small conference room where everyone can still see you in a sitting position.  You can do it if you're standing at a podium, but make sure there's a mouse available or bring your own.

2. Fixing Size: With a PowerPoint, you are guaranteed that your slide will appear in the appropriate size, filling the screen.  With a CmapTools map transformed in html, you may need to adjust the size of the map on the screen using CTRL+ or CTRL-.  It's okay if you're comfortable adjusting quickly.  Ideally, you can open up all the pages ahead of time and set the right zoom level for each screen.  I have to look into how to set a standard / template size as I design those maps and avoid this page specific adjustments.

A reminder:  The rules that apply to PowerPoint apply to any presentation medium: pay attention to the font, font colors and always test on a projection screen.  It may look fine on your computer screen and not so good when projected.  I was particularly disappointed with the colors.  I had nice background images that didn't look as good as they should have. I might have been better off showing the background images separately, or using them for transition purposes.

Given the overall purpose of the presentation and the chance to demonstrate an innovative approach, using CmapTools was a good decision in this case. Most complex maps developed with CmapTools cannot be read when projected on a screen in a conference room.  It requires zooming in and out or slicing a map into smaller elements (which is what the CmapTools presentation functionality does).