Working Across Time Zones

WashULaw

Chelsea Wilson, the Community Relations Manager from Washington University School of Law (@WashULaw), contacted me recently about a new resource that they had created: the “Working Across Time Zones” infographic. She asked me whether I was interested in sharing this on my blog.

Having worked for teams that are spread across multiple time zones (and having lived in multiple different countries), I know the importance of “awareness” when it comes to communicating with others. (Refer my earlier posts.)

@WashULaw also gave some excellent tips when working across time zones. I’ve repeated these below, and added my own comments.

  1. Stick to one reference point. When discussing a time for a conference call, use a single reference time zone – generally yours or your counterpart’s. This can cut down on the possibility for confusion quite a bit.
    Agree totally. There’s nothing worse than trying to work out whether that’s 3pm your time, or 3pm my time.
  2. Always specify a time zone. Don’t forget to mention a time zone when discussing times. It’s a good habit to be in even if you aren’t making international calls. With today’s interconnected world, you never know where a person might be located when you correspond with them for the first time.
    I would go one further. As well as the time zone, I suggest adding the offset from GMT (or UTC, if you prefer). Just having the time zone of the organiser can be confusing. Not everyone knows what the acronyms mean. But most people know what their own time is in relation to GMT/UTC. And by adding the GMT/UTC offset when discussing times, it makes it easier to work out the time difference. For example 11am NZDT (-13GMT) helps someone in another time zone work out what 11pm NZDT would be in wherever they were.
  3. Use a modern calendar app. Google Calendar, for example, will allow you to create events and email invitations that automatically adjust for each invitee’s time zone. All you have to do is set a meeting time in your own time zone — no calculations are necessary.
    Having the app adjust the time certainly is handy.
  4. Check the time before making a suggestion. Again, Google is your friend. If you search for, “Time in _________” and insert the name of the city you want to know about, Google will tell you the current time in that city. This can be very helpful when calculating the distance between your time zone and your counterpart’s. Once you have an idea of the gap, you can figure out which times are optimal for each of you, and you can start off the conversation by suggesting a time that might work right off the bat.
    The WorldTimeBuddy is a good way of seeing the times of different locations at a glance.
  5. Don’t forget about daylight savings. Some parts of the world observe daylight savings while others do not. On top of that, even if both parties observe this practice, the date when the clocks change might be different. @WashULaw’s  graphic indicates if the cities listed observe daylight savings time but don’t forget to check the specifics prior to scheduling meetings around that time of year.

…and two more that I would add are:

6. 24hour format. The concept of am/pm is not used everywhere. Many countries use the 24hour format for their time. (Even 12am/12pm can be confusing for people who do use am/pm). Best to include the time in both 12hr, and 24hr, format to avoid confusion. E.g. 11pm/23:00.

7. Be specific. Avoid saying something like “half ten”. In some parts of the world “half ten” is a quick way of saying “half past ten (or 10:30). In other parts of the world “half ten” means 09:30, or 21:30)”. This can occur when people from different countries are discussing times. Best to be aware of the confusion taht it might cause, and state a specific time.

Here’s the graphic from @WashULaw

Working Across Time Zones

Working Across Time Zones provided by @WashULaw, an online LL.M Degree program from Washington University School of Law

A stupid question is …

A stupid question is any question that can be answered through Google.

However, this removes the opportunity for dialogue. For discussing, and learning…

For example, I want to know what HTML5 is. I could go to Google, (or Bing, or any search engine) type the four letters and one numeral in, and get an abundance of results.

However, if I ask someone, there are a number of outcomes:

stupid question

Click on image for a larger version

Do you see what happened there? The easy solution was to Google the answer. Simple, easy & fast. However, by asking someone, I engaged in dialogue, and when the person started explaining the answer, the dialogue started becoming rich, and each interaction created new richness.

People communicating,and sharing ideas, thoughts, knowledge, concerns is, actually, a pretty great thing. :O)

The Silverback gorilla and the Outsiders

Silverback

The large male silverback stood with a menacing look on his face as the small group of silverbacks from a different territory marched into the confine. The large male’s stance, and posture, said it all. “This is my territory – I am here to protect my group.” The only thing separating the large male from the “outsiders” was a flat piece of wood sitting atop of 4 posts.

The outsider silverbacks started to grunt and gesture at a piece of paper that was sitting on the flat piece of wood. The look on the large male’s face grew even more menacing. Suddenly he puffed out his chest and beat it a few times. The outsider silverbacks went quiet for a moment. They exchanged nervous glances between each other. The alpha male in the outsider group stood resolute and gestured back at the paper.

The large silverback started beating his chest rapidly and made large scowling vocalizations. He was clearly challenging the outsiders. Again the alpha male from the outsiders stood firm, and picked up the piece of paper. He looked the large male directly in the eye.

All of a sudden the large male withdrew. He stopped beating his chest and became very mild. It was all bluff. The outsider group continued with their grunts and gestures while pointing at the piece of paper.

-  Observations from a Project Planning Meeting

Revisiting Hofstede’s five cultural differences

Instead of the convergence phenomena we expected with information technologies availability (the “global village culture”), cultural differences are still significant today and diversity tends to increase. So, in order to be able to have cross-cultural relations, we have to be aware of these cultural differences.

In an earlier post, I talk about Geert Hofstede, a Dutchman, who came up with a way to understand different cultures.

As I mentioned in that earlier post, Hofstede’s model helped me to get my head around what the small things were they was making the culture I was (then) in, different from my own.

Recently I came across a course (“An introduction to business cultures“) that the Open University runs. The very first part of the course discusses Hofstede’s five cultural differences. Because the material is available under the Creative Commons ‘Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share-Alike’, and because it’s still really relevant I have reproduced the text from part 1.1 of the above-mentioned course.

Hofstede’s five Cultural Dimensions

A series of perspectives that we might use to achieve a different insight into business was introduced by Morgan (1986) in his book entitled Images of an Organization. One of these was the business as a culture, a type of micro-society where people work and ‘live’ together on a daily basis, with certain rules and understandings about what is acceptable and what is not. The idea of a business having a culture was developed from the work of Hofstede on national cultures (1980). His research focused on ways of measuring national culture and how these ‘measures’ might work differently in different contexts. The cultural values that are important in a national culture, he suggested, could be reflected in the way businesses within that country are operated and organised.

Hofstede’s five dimensions (he developed four in 1980, then added a fifth in 1991) were:

Power distance This concerns the extent to which less powerful members of organisations within a country expect and accept that power is distributed unequally. National cultures that demonstrated what Hofstede called a ‘low power distance’ are ones in which there is a concern to minimise inequalities. Hofstede included Sweden and New Zealand as examples of this. In general, Hofstede found that Latin American and Latin European (France and Spain) countries had higher power distance scores. The less powerful in these societies tend to look to those with power to make decisions, and inequalities within society are more acceptable. This is represented by a tendency for the centralisation of power and the subordination of those with less power within businesses.

Individualism/collectivism In an individualistic society, people are expected to look after themselves and their families. In the case of business this is reflected in, for example, employment contracts based on hiring and firing. Two examples of countries with high scores on this dimension were Australia and Canada. In more collective societies, people are more concerned for others and the culture is based around more cohesive groups, such as the family, which offer protection in exchange for loyalty. This tendency is reflected in businesses as well as elsewhere in society. Hofstede cited Ecuador and Indonesia as examples of more collective societies.

Masculinity/femininity This refers to the degree to which gender roles are distinct and adhered to within a society. In high femininity societies, social gender roles overlap, with both men and women valuing ‘feminine’ qualities such as modesty, intuition and quality of life above the more traditionally ‘masculine’ qualities of aggression and competition. Hofstede’s research suggested that Denmark and the Netherlands were more feminine cultures, while many other Western countries exhibited more masculine values. The USA was ranked fifteenth out of 53 nations on this masculinity score. Japan, the UK and West Germany also scored highly on masculine values.

Uncertainty avoidance This concerns the extent to which the members of a society feel threatened by uncertain and unknown situations. Hofstede suggested that Jamaica and Singapore were relatively low uncertainty avoidance cultures, where precision and punctuality are less important, innovation is encouraged and people are motivated by being esteemed by, or belonging to, others above other things. High uncertainty avoidance scores mean that there is a fear of ambiguous situations, a preference for being busy and being precise and punctual. Relatively high scores on this dimension were found for Latin American and Latin European countries, Japan and South Korea.

Confucian/dynamism This refers to the extent to which long-termism or short-termism appears to be the dominant approach. Long-termism stresses perseverance and being sparing with resources. Short-termism, in Hofstede’s analysis, involves a greater emphasis on quick results. Hofstede found that the USA tended towards short-termism, while the Netherlands was the most long-termist European nation, ranked tenth out of 23 countries surveyed.

These differences between national cultures are based in deep-rooted values and so are largely implicit rather than openly acknowledged. They create all sorts of problems for employees in multinational companies who go to work abroad, or for representatives doing business with suppliers or customers in other countries. We can use the simple activity below to explore some of these differences.

Activity 1

0 hours 10 minutes

Purpose: to consider business practices in different cultural contexts.

Task: consider each item in the following list. In your country’s culture, is this behaviour considered to be acceptable or not?

  • Paying an agent for an introduction to a business opportunity.

  • Paying a government agent for bureaucratic procedures to be bypassed or speeded up.

  • Making a copy of a product that you have seen at an international trade fair.

  • Paying people to find loopholes in tax laws.

  • Giving gifts to the purchasing manager in a large business organisation.

  • Charging high interest rates for unsecured loans to individuals.

Discussion
If you and I came from different cultures, we would give different answers here. You might think some of these behaviours were inappropriate or unethical, but I might think you were wrong. In either of our countries, these business behaviours could be against the law, but, as a visitor, we might not know that, nor realise that we were offending the people with whom we were attempting to do business.

Note – Hofstede also went on to add a sixth dimension “indulgence” at a later stage.

no team member …

indispensableIn one of the responses in an ongoing discussion in LinkedIn, I saw the following sentence:

no team member should be indispensable. That’s a *team* problem, not an individual’s problem.

The discussion was related to the availability of a team member during a Sprint phase, and the above-mentioned was just one sentence in the lengthy discussion.

It really captured what I’ve tried to portray in an earlier post:
What secret agents can teach us about Project Teams

Many thanks to Paul Oldfield who made this comment

Virtually working – managing virtual teams

virtual-teams

I’ve worked in a globally dispersed team with colleagues in France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the US. The team worked really well.

Virtual Teams do require a little bit of extra effort, however, to get all the players to “gel” well together. The team I worked in had regular communication, and an awareness that things had to happen differently than in a usual everyone-in-the-same-building situation. There was no water cooler, or hall, conversations that resulted in any other (remote) team member wondering what the heck was going on. There was no surprises, and each member respected the culture of the other, as well as the fact that, for most, English was a second language.

When the team did get together in the same place, it was always “business as usual” – it never felt like we were meeting strangers.

Because of my experience with working in a virtual team, my interest was piqued when I stumbled across the web site of MVT. MVT stands for “Managing Virtual Teams“. It’s a relatively young company (4 years) that provides consulting and excellent resources focused on managing multicultural virtual teams.

As well as several courses, and other services, MVT has a list of free Team Activities that can be used to improve the communication, and work, in a virtual team. You need to register, but there are 32 pages of the activities and they fall under the following categories:

Further to that MVT offers several free virtual team Guides on such things as Project Management, Training, Human Resources and Multicultural Teams.

MVT is run by Anna Danes. and Carolina Leon Maya. Anna has a degree in Communications and is based in Spain. Carolina has a degree in Psychology, and is based in Colombia. Theses facts make me believe that they understand the kind of work environment that I described in the opening paragraph of this post.

If you want to learn about getting your teams (virtual or not) working together better, I strongly recommend that you check out MVT’s site. Now that they are on my radar I am going to explore what they have to offer more.

Emergent Collaboration

Mike Jacobs from Chess Media Group presented at AIIM’s conference in 2012. I discovered it on YouTube last night (click here to view it).

In his talk on Emergent Collaboration, he described a social business framework. This consists of 5 main areas:

  • Process
  • Organizational Culture
  • Governance
  • Goals and Objectives
  • Technology 

These 5 areas were further broken down into various sub-areas, You can click on the image below to see more on this.

This really got me thinking…you need to cover all five areas to make sure the adoption of a collaboration strategy is sucessful. Just having one is not really enough.

For example… having the technology is important, but this by itself is not enough…

Dialogue mapping explained in a clear and simple way

markjowen:

Kailash’s post on dialogue mapping is excellent. It makes it easy to understand the concept of this technique.I recommend that you take 7 minutes from your busy schedule to read the above mentioned post.

Originally posted on Eight to Late:

It was about half past eight in the evening a couple of weeks ago; I was sitting at my computer at home, writing up some notes for a blog post on issue mapping.

“What are you drawing?” asked my eight year old, Rohan. I hadn’t noticed him. He had snuck up behind me quietly, and was watching me draw an IBIS map. (Note: see my post entitled, the what and whence of issue-based information systems for a quick introduction to IBIS)

“Go to bed,” I said, still looking at the screen. It was past his bedtime.

“…but what are you drawing. What are those questions and arrows and stuff?”

A few minutes won’t hurt, I thought. I turned to him and explained the basics of the notation and how it worked.

“But what good is it,” he asked.

“Good question,” I said. “It has many uses, but…

View original 1,066 more words

Better Knowledge-Sharing: Fill The Dry Knowledge Well With These Practices

The post below was written by Sebastian Francis in 2010 for OilandGasInvestor.com.
At that time Sebastian worked for SAIC.

It’s an excellent article that describes describes some major concerns with knowledge management (including the capturing of tacit knowledge) along with making that knowledge retrievable and useful.
I’m grateful that Sebastian has given me permission to reproduce it here.

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Better Knowledge-Sharing: Fill The Dry Knowledge Well With These Practices

- a Guest Post by Sebastian Francis

Here are a variety of quick and easy ways to share important business information each generation needs to know.

Today, a popular need of organizational leaders is how to quickly identify, capture and reuse information from employees who are retiring, or about to do so, for these people have industry expertise and can make it quickly available to those who need it.

The ability to quickly access the right information can improve competitive position, promote innovation, reduce rework and errors, and increase the speed to identify new opportunities.

Unfortunately, searching for information (such as proven practices, lessons from prior unsuccessful attempts, tips and techniques, documented procedures and, most important, experience and intuitive expertise locked in the heads of individuals) can take far too much time.

As the crew shift change continues—Baby Boomers retire in mass and few Generation X and Y talent enter the oil and gas industry—leaders have an opportunity to manage this shift by leveraging the latest information-sharing technologies and methods. To meet business strategy, many leaders crave the ability to “google like Google.” They desire to create a deep reservoir of information that replenishes itself and deploy methods and tools that will enable each generation to find the right information within a few clicks.

Too often, organizations rely on only one method, such as launching communities of practice, conducting after-action reviews, and promoting the use of best practices. Or, they use a limited number of technologies such as social networking tools, content repositories and search engines, and use the same solution across the board. This tends to produce dry knowledge wells.

A savvy strategy begins with understanding the needs of the internal talent group: Who has the information and who needs it? Next is meeting unique requirements by implementing several methods and technologies to create custom solutions. Characteristics of the solution should emulate popular knowledge-sharing practices that occur outside the organization.

Understanding generational issues

“What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.”
–Strother Martin, Cool Hand Luke, 1967 film starring Paul Newman

Communication problems are as old as human history. Bridging gaps is a continual challenge, and industry leaders need to know how to capitalize on overcoming those gaps.

Within the oil and gas industry (as well as in other industries), there are four generations of talent: Traditionalists (birth years 1925-1945), Baby Boomers (1946-1965), Generation X (1966-1980) and Generation Y (1981-2000). Since the 1990s, professional journals have alerted oil and gas leaders that the Baby Boomers, now the largest percentage of the workforce, are exiting the workforce at an alarming rate. The potential consequences include: 
Increased competition for talent. Due to the decrease in skilled talent following the retirement of the Traditionalists and Baby Boomers, competition for workers with required professional degrees and experience will increase. 
Shifting geography. Technology enables talent to work from anywhere and teleworking is becoming more commonplace; therefore, organizations will be able to source talent globally. This shift will affect organizational communication, strategy and business processes.
Shifting generation. The corporate leaders of tomorrow will most likely be talent from Generations X and Y. Currently, organizations are balancing the activities of retiring two groups and preparing the organization for two others, while not neglecting any.
Aging workforce. A majority of Baby Boomers are predicted to exit the workforce by 2015 and are followed by a much smaller group of talent, Generation X. In addition, the next generations of talent have different learning styles, communication preferences and work/life balance requirements than their predecessors. To recruit, retain and develop the next generation of talent, organizations must recognize and adapt to these styles.
Lost information and tacit knowledge. As Traditionalists and Baby Boomers exit organizations, some for the last time, so will their communal know-how—their tacit knowledge—especially if it has not been adequately identified, captured, codified and stored in corporate knowledge repositories.
Preparing and training talent. The fact that Traditionalists and Baby Boomers are retiring does not mean that they will not re-enter the workforce in some capacity, such as starting a new career, or working as a consultant or part-time employee. In some cases, organizations will be able to leverage veteran expertise in this way. As a result, organizations will need to update the skills of these workers, or train them along with other new hires. Thus, learning/training departments may simultaneously have to train several generations, each having distinctly different learning styles. This can perplex learning organizations that do not understand the needs of each generation.

Bridging generational gaps to improve knowledge management

“When you’re 17 years old, green and inexperienced, you’re grateful for any guidance and direction you can get.”
–Christina Aguilera, pop singer

Leaders who recognize and respond to generational communication and learning commonalities and differences, can bridge gaps and prepare for the future.

Different generations favor different learning styles. Traditionalists and Baby Boomers usually prefer face-to-face, classroom and instructor-led training activities. In contrast, Generations X and Y may resist formal training sessions and prefer to connect to people informally and quickly search all information sources. Technology tools, such as handheld devices and social-networking sites, facilitate their fast connections to information.

Traditionalists and Baby Boomers tend to communicate using formal and personal methods, such as writing e-mails, meeting face to face and holding conference calls. In contrast, Generations X and Y usually like just the right amount of information, when and where they need it, such as sending abbreviated text and instant messages, and meeting via online chat sessions.

When information exchange is effective, employees seeking information receive what they need—a knowledge gem. Unfortunately, during communication, valuable information is often lost because the organization does not have an easy-to-use method of identifying and systematically collecting and depositing gained knowledge into a repository.

Capturing critical knowledge

“Any customer can have a car painted any color he wants, so long as it is black.”
–Henry Ford

Because the talent of today and tomorrow is multi-generational, a one-size-fits-all approach to information capture, collaboration and reuse does not work. What works are multiple approaches that consider each member of the audience.

Now that the typical characteristics of each generation group is understood, the next step is to understand the two phases of information flow: capturing it and accessing it for re-use. Let’s explore two key steps to capturing it.

– Step One: Understand and identify knowledge that fuels the organization.
What information, knowledge and expertise is valuable to the organization? Some businesses are uncertain and attempt to capture all information regardless of value. A better practice is to identify critical business processes and their associated performance targets across the organization’s value chain. In other words, identify the most important business activities that yield success, are vital to avoid failure, and identify where information gaps exist.
Analyzing key processes, creating knowledge maps and interviewing stakeholders will lead to key process identification. The output will assist leaders in understanding where the information is located, who has it and the prerequisites for information capture.

– Step Two: Capture what’s important.
Information and know-how are scattered throughout an organization in e-mails, individual and networked hard drives, binders containing operating procedures and training manuals, SharePoint or other Internet sites, conversations around water coolers, and within people’s heads.

Knowledgeable organizations use a variety of capture activities such as on-the-job team learning processes before, during and after major activities and are supplemented, when relevant, through a series of individual interviews.

“Learning before doing” is supported by a peer-assist process, which targets a specific challenge, imports knowledge from people outside the team, identifies possible approaches to address obstacles and new ideas, and promotes sharing of information and knowledge with talent through a facilitated meeting.

A U.S. Army technique called After Action Reviews involves talent in “learning while doing” by answering four questions immediately after completing each key activity: What was supposed to happen? What actually happened? Why is there a difference? What can we learn from it?

At the end of a given project or accomplishment, a process called a Retrospect encourages team members to look back at the project to discover what went well and why, with a view to helping a different team repeat their success and avoid any pitfalls.

A critical component of capture technique requires an effective method to record information that is comfortable for the information providers and appeals to the information seeker. For example, a Baby Boomer’s preferred sharing method could be a written report. In contrast, a Gen Y would have no interest in such and would ignore it.

This issue raises the importance of using a variety of communication methods as well as an opportunity to emulate information and knowledge-sharing practices that occur outside the organization.

Social-networking sites such as Facebook, Wiki sites such as Wikipedia, and video-sharing sites, such as YouTube, are popular tools for capturing information, connecting with people, sharing ideas, searching for information and viewing content. Such sites are popular, free and used by each generation. Instead of inventing something new, organizations can transfer popular features from public sites into the design and functionality of corporate tools. 

For example, attaching a webcam to a laptop or using a smartphone instantly equips anyone with just-in-time ability to capture information, especially dialogue and images that are challenging to document. A handheld production studio allows for ad hoc or planned capture of interviews with experts, after-action reviews, safety procedures, an equipment repair procedure, etc.

Uploading multimedia files (sound bites and video clips) to a knowledge repository creates a powerful capture and sharing opportunity. The “YouTube” approach makes it possible for any employee to post a video to a corporate site so that any team member can watch it instantly. “Nu-tube” is the name of a concept that a nuclear energy company gives its effort.

Launching pop technology is “hip” when end-users are engaged, needs are understood and the solution meets their requirements.

Make Information Accessible Quickly and Easily

“I try to learn from the past, but I plan for the future by focusing exclusively on the present. That’s where the fun is.” 
–Donald Trump

With a plan now for perpetually capturing valuable information, people must be enable to access and use it. Two steps help to achieve success here. The first is to leverage technology to visually present information. The second is to involve end-users in the design of the sharing process. The following case study describes these two steps in action.

Recently, a U.S. pipeline service company realized that critical information trickled throughout its business unit. The increasing inability of talent to readily tap information sources sharply diminished the value of stored resources. The service company encountered several challenges to make information available.

The overwhelming amount of information to capture, organize, store and manage caused employees to spend days (then) versus minutes (now) searching data.

A document repository contained unmanaged versions and uncontrolled copies of files scattered in network file shares, laptops, intranet sites, CDs, flash drives and filing cabinets.

Other challenges were increasing regulatory constraints, litigation and business-continuity issues, and the rising need to capture “know how” from retiring staff.

Considering generational changes as an opportunity to plan for the future and social-networking tools as an opportunity to innovate, leaders acted. The result is “e-discovery,” a solution that increases the speed to find reporting information from across disparate business units, regulatory-compliance improvements and business-performance enhancements.

Solution highlights include preserving content on an enterprise level versus only at an individual level, implementing a self-service information portal, facilitating contextual and “smart” search, and reducing administrative costs of managing paper records.

The method of designing this solution contributed to its success. The e-discovery design team:
– Identified the valuable information needed to comply with legal requirements,
– Understood learning, technology and communication preferences of each generation,
– Devised methods to allow users to share and access information in multiple formats and
–Designed a tool that emulates features of popular social-networking sites (easy, visual presentation of information, collaboration, smart search and dashboards).

The e-discovery impact on the pipeline business segment includes preparing litigation-status reports in one step versus multiple steps; retrieving archived documents in minutes versus days; eliminating risks associated by damage to paper-based files; reducing employee frustration of not finding who or what they need; and serving as a solution model for re-use within the enterprise.

And most importantly this method helped all generations of talent quickly find the right information when they needed it, so that they can perform their job.

“Diamonds are forever.”
–De Beers ad

Information can be a valuable organizational asset when people can quickly recall where it is stored.

Fortunately, organizations have an abundance of internal information sources: documents, expertise, lessons learned, best practices and the like. Unfortunately, waves of experts are leaving or retiring, usually without depositing their rich knowledge or revealing the location of information “gems” critical to performing business processes.

Leaders can respond by providing a variety of communication and learning methods, leveraging popular social-networking technologies, and embracing the uniqueness of each generation. The impact for the organization can be a rich field of valuable information that continuously replenishes itself.

Note – this article can also be downloaded here.

“Infographic Thinking”

Troy Larson has written a post on Infographics that I like.

If you have read my earlier Infographic posts (here and here), you’ll know that I don’t think much of the majority of Infographics that I have seen.

Well, Troy has the same opinion:

…after surfing the web for a few minutes looking at some of these, you quickly come to the conclusion that most of them suck.

He follows this with the best comment on Infographics that I’ve ever seen…

most people wrongly think that information + graphics = infographics

And then he takes the whole “infographics” discussion to another level…he discusses an interview that Gestalt had with Francesco Franchi, the Art Director of one of Italy’s top financial newspapers. 

It’s a great post. Click here to read what Troy wrote (as well as watch the video of Francesco Franchi).

===========

UPDATE

Also just noticed that my friend Ant Clay, from 21apps has also published an amazing post on Infographics. Definitely take a look at it!
http://www.21apps.com/uncategorized/that-aint-no-infographic/

Summary of The Pharma Summit 2012 – by someone who was there

The following is an excellent overview that Carolyn Buck Luce has written on her blog of The Pharma Summit 2012, recently held in London . (Everything below is hers. The highlighting, however, is mine, and I have added my own comments.)

Clearly some very interesting topics have been discussed. And from Carolyn’s excellent notes, it’s readily apparent that there is a huge move in this industry.

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Insights from Economist Pharma Summit – Finding New Directions

Here are some insights that are “sign posts” of Pharma 3.0 where the patient is in the middle, not the product and the focus is on delivering health outcomes to individuals at an economic benefit for health systems and society.

  • GSK CFO, Simon Dingeman, observed that in emerging markets most medicines are paid for “out of pocket” by individuals. This reality has spurred a different business model by more closely integrating the Consumer, Pharmaceutical and Vaccines businesses to focus on ultimate customer.
  • Bruno Strigini, Merck President of Europe/Canada — reflected on the demise and bankruptcy of Kodak and observed that in hindsight the trends were visible to all but changing a business model is exceedingly hard. This is quite analogous to the pharma industry where it has to move to delivering outcomes. For Merck this includes increasing innovative partnerships with non traditional players like food and IT companies and building solutions and services.
  • Managing Director of GAVI, Nina Schwalbe, discussed that every two minutes a woman dies of cervical cancer but now, based on the system working together, there is a vaccine for this.
  • Stephen Whitehead, CEO ABPI, and Bruno Strigini, Merck President Europe/Canada
    — Fascinating conversation about value and outcomes. Everyone agrees that today there is not a common definition of what is the optimal health outcome with payors, patients, doctors and pharma having different perspectives. All stake holders have a role in the measures to assess value. And this can include a range of interventions to innovations. For example, if a pill can be taken once a day instead of 4 times a day could increase patient adherence and is therefore a valuable intervention.
  • Patrick Flochel, EY, observed that we are in the health business not the sick business. The HC system needs to put the patient in the middle. And the HC system will be shifting to health care everywhere – beyond the two pillars of the doctors office and hospital to the “the third place(s)” —wherever the patient/health care consumer is.
  • Theresa Heggle, Shire: A shift from provider to payor with the patient at the center has helped Shire shift their focus to the needs and value to the patient. Working with rare and orphan diseases, Shire works closely with patient organizations and families, possibly a model for the future of “personalized” medicines. There are already 300-350 drugs for orphan diseases and over 7000 such diseases.
  • John Pottage, ViiV: HIV is a good example of patient at the center model where patients literally took an activist part to become equal partners in innovation and regulatory process. Relationships, incentives, roles and responsibilities, data transparency etc were redefined.
    Now, ViiV is an example of a business model where the focused resources of two large companies contributed to a new company that is focused on just one disease with extensive partnerships and collaborations, from medicine to delivery with the patient at the center.
  • Wendy White, Siren Interactive. Patients and caregivers with rare disorders are now frequently the primary drivers of diagnosis and treatments given their active use of internet and mobile technology to get educated. Their activity can be predictors for future innovations as innovation happens at the margins.
  • Fascinating conversation about the value of transparency and data.
    For example everyone publishes what IS working in clinical trials but there is a wealth of insights in the data of what didn’t work but those data are not published in an easily accessible way.
    On Social media —notwithstanding the regulatory constraints of using social media in interactions with doctors and patients, pharma companies are beginning to dip their toe in by listening. However, there are challenges —in part due to the quick response expectations that don’t leave time for appropriate reflection and educated deliberations. Building trust is key to the industry so missteps in social media would be a real setback for the industry.
    (This is an excellent point. Listening, however, is an excellent start. There is a continual stream of incredibly useful feedback that the patients are giving. – Mark)
  • Sir Andrew Dillon, Chair of NICE — the trend of value-based pricing will continue. This is a growing trend that will touch both developed and developing markets.
    Sir Andrew encourages pharma companies to not “run away” from the developed markets to find countries without this approach as there will eventually be a NICE-like agency in China and India etc. The future will have funders, providers, innovators and users working more closely together earlier and earlier in the process to come up with good decisions. There will always be tensions but they can be creative tensions that produce value for health systems and better outcomes for patients.
  • Anders Ekbloom AZ - it was interesting to hear his perspective on what the innovators need from the payers:
    • reward value that medicines contribute to the overall cost of health
    • create trust by considering all the relevant data and being transparent in rules for decision making
    • insure rigor in how decisions are made to insure they reflect the needs of the population
    • justify decisions with clarity and give innovators opportunity to reflect and react
    • go faster as sometimes it takes payers up to a year after approval to agree on price but the IP clock is ticking

In the end, innovators have a long lead time and are making big investments. The more harmonized, clear and transparent rules and decision making across boundaries are with respect to reimbursement, the greater the win for all.

  • Reflections upon listening to Brian Griffin, CEO Medco International on Patient Data and how it will transform the Pharma Industry:
    Many of the health systems strategies around bending the cost curve through cutting prices has not been effective and the focus is turning to increased adherence which will be driven in part by better data —integrated, actionable and accessible to stakeholders, including investors.Facts in Europe. — 50% of patients don’t take medicines. This is made up of 1/3 don’t fill their prescriptions; 1 in 10 stop taking their pills; 1/2 forget to finish regimen and 1/4 of all patients don’t take recommended dose. This costs pharma companies in Europe $125B and causes 200,000 premature deaths per year.Focusing on real of use patient data and offering an integrated medication support package with a suite of adherence services can make a real difference and provide the base line improvements that support demonstration of value. These real use data will also provide key insights on patient behavior that will help build incentives and interventions to improve adherence and safety.
  • Freda Lewis-Hall, Chief Medical Officer Pfizer and HBA 2011 Woman of the Year, spoke on The Future of Medicines – The Disruptive Innovators.
    As usual, Freda had compelling perspectives of the future from the patient perspective and the need to approach this with a sense of urgency. She made the point that disruptive innovation is only disruptive in hindsight.
    Pharma can’t lower performance or be all things to all people – ie better, faster, cheaper – given the imperative to move to targeted precision therapies. More important that we start asking disruptive questions like 1) how to best characterize diseases, and 2) how do we streamline the matching of therapies to disease to increase precision and 3) how do we create 21st century science by upgrading 1950’s funding.
  • The conference ended on a high note with a keynote from Tachi Yamada, former President of the Global Health program at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and now EVP, Chief Medical Officer of Takeda, speaking on changing the game in global health.
    Tachi spoke eloquently about the importance of the emerging markets to the industry and the “moral tragedy” of the current state — 8 million children dying unnecessarily life expectancy less than 50 years; with examples like TB which kills millions of people every year and is being fought with a vaccine that is 80 years old and medicine that is 40 years old.
    His answer is to revolutionize innovation, turn things upside down and get to work with the following prescription: 1) Challenge accepted dogma and promote those that challenge 2) Be willing to fail and fail often and take big risks 3) Forget peer reviews because innovators HAVE NO peers and don’t let the experts kill ideas 4) Decide fast while the excitement and enthusiasm is there 5) Create a sense of urgency so that desperate ideas are welcome.(The comment “Forget peer reviews because innovators HAVE NO peers and don’t let the experts kill ideas” is brilliant and worth repeating – Mark)

Forget peer reviews because innovators HAVE NO peers and don’t let the experts kill ideas

Carolyn’s original post can be read here. Also check out her other great posts.

Why giving the users what they want is not enough – the Importance of communication

What follows is a post that I published on AIIM’s site as an “Expert Blogger”. (The original can be read here)

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Why giving the users what they want is not enough – the Importance of communication

As you are all most likely aware, giving the users what they want is not the right thing. Why? Because, often, the users don’t know really what they want.

Consider the following example:

A large restaurant chain has restaurants across the globe. Each restaurant needs to maintain documentation such as construction plans of each restaurant, recipes, procedures, and methodologies, etc. The “critical” documents are kept in a legacy ECM system and several SharePoint doclibs store the non-critical documents. These systems are located centrally, and are all globally accessible.

The business users work primarily with the legacy ECM system, but often also need to work with the documents in SharePoint. When a document was needed, a search was either done in SharePoint, or in the legacy system, using its rather complicated search feature.

Performing searches in two different places wasn’t easy, or efficient. And so, the users cried out “Give us a one central place where we can perform a search” When asked for more details they business users replied “Make it like Google”.

The restaurant’s IT-people (who might have been a little too enthusiastic) swung into action, without anymore questions. They found a tool that would allow SharePoint to “talk” with the legacy ECM system and crawl all the documents, indexing everything it could.

After working many weeks getting things set up, and configured, the IT-people sat and watched as SharePoint crawled through the content. Once finished, initial tests were done to ensure that a search action would actually return content. It was working perfectly. And it was “just like Google”.

A demonstration of the Search system was given to the users, who were ecstatic. They were able to easily enter search terms, and get results from the SharePoint, doclibs as well as the legacy system’s repositories. It was fantastic. It was easy to use, and there was no extensive training required. There was much cheering and showering the IT-people with small gifts. After further testing, the search facility was officially moved into production.

For the first couple of month the users were keen to use the “enterprise search facility”. But then, gradually, complaints started being heard. “The search results contained too many hits”, “Why wasn’t it more like the search feature in the legacy system?”, or “the search results were just showing the title of the document.” Users went back to using the legacy system’s search feature for the “important” documents, and the SharePoint search was just used for the documents in the document libraries. Namely, the “central” search facility was a failure.

What had gone wrong here? The business users wanted a single search facility, and they wanted it “like Google”. And that’s what the IT department had delivered – there was a single box where users could type in words they wanted find. And the search would return documents from all the different document repositories.

In this case, however, the users didn’t really know what they wanted. Yes, they wanted “easy”, but they also wanted something that allowed granular searches to be done (just like their “old” search tool). They also wanted to know where the search results came from. And they wanted the “important” documents to appear at the top of the search results.

The IT team should have asked more, and then they should have listened more. And then they should have repeated this process. Until it was understood what the Business really needed.  The team had followed a Waterfall approach, where requirements were asked up front, and then were not allowed to change. Agile programming techniques could have been used where a “finished’ product is shown to the users several times during the project. The users could give feedback which would lead to a better understanding of what they want, as well as the ability to refine the solution.

Fortunately, the IT team had the opportunity to improve the search system. They did add a small button to the search result screen, where users could provide immediate feedback. Working with this, as well as sending out regular “satisfaction” questionnaires, the IT team was able to identify areas of improvement. These include not only changes that were required on the user interface, and results screen, but it also allowed the IT team to see where further refinements were needed in the indexing process. Every four months, the improvements were presented to the business, and then implemented.

Now, the business users don’t use anything else.


Working with Global Teams: Not all in the same room

This is part of the Working with Global Teams series

Previous Post: Working with Global Teams: Pesky Time Zones Revisited

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A friend of mine,Shoaib Ahmed, has an excellent blog on Agile, and Project Management. 

He’s based in New Zealand, and as New Zealand is literally so far away from “the rest of the world” (said with a cheeky wink), he has a pretty good idea of some of the challenges that are met when working in a globally dispersed group.

Shoaib’s latest post goes into this in more detail. He mentions things such as time difference, culture, and reporting lines. Click here to read what he says.

Related posts:

 

Different Systems and Different Silos – A Real-life Disaster

What follows is a post that was recently published on AIIM’s site as an “Expert Blogger”. (The original can be read here)

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Different Systems and Different Silos – A Real-life Disaster

Discussions had been going on for months. Plans had been drawn up. Even though the main tasks had been itemized, there was agreement that these would still have to be refined further into the project.

Nothing had been done to assign owners to the tasks, but there was a mutual agreement that whoever could, would work on each task as they saw appropriate.

In any case, the goal, and the timeline, was clear. There was no disagreement there.

Over the weeks, considerable time and resources were committed to working through the various items that made up the project task list, and the necessary information was diligently recorded, and documented.

Progress was regularly reported to the various parties involved. This was done verbally. It involved the person who took ownership of the task describing what had been done, along with what else had to be done, and any impediments that they had encountered. If they felt it was necessary the task “owner” could describe a plan of action to overcome the impediment. The other parties involved could ask for more information, or give suggestions.

Communication was informal, but each party were confident that they were apprised of task activities, and that they knew the status of the project.

Then, one day, everyone involved, got together to “walk through” the progress of the project. This involved visiting the various locations where the tasks were done. It was, essentially, an internal, informal “audit”, and a complete day was scheduled. As is necessary for such an event, all “distractions” were removed. Everyone was asked to turn off their mobile phones, Blackberries, or similar handheld devices. An extended dinner was planned. Everyone had been working hard, and this would allow them to relax, and discuss the results of the audit, as well as talk about whether the project goal was still valid, or whether it needed to be modified.

The walk through of the first task went well. The recorded information was double-checked (obviously by someone other than the task “owner”). Everything looked good. Everyone was happy. The walk-through of the second task (identifying potential candidates for future sub-tasks) also went well.

But then, major issues were starting to appear. And these were not to do with the actual data, or even with the tasks themselves.

It turned out that each party had used their own system for recording information. This meant that the data, although present, was stored in two different systems. And in each case, the data had been recorded in a way that “suited” the person entering it. This meant that there was no “common” structure, and different metadata. And there was no way to simply “merge”, or import, the data from one to the other.

Further to this, because there was no real management of the tasks (as mentioned, it was a very informal process), it turned out that there was a duplication of activities. It appeared that some of the “unassigned” tasks, had been worked on by one party without knowing that others were also working on them. Result – a duplication of data. And, with the data recorded in two disparate systems.

To fix the “problem” would involve deciding which system would be the “master” system, and then manually entering all the data, from the unwanted system, into it. It was going to be a big job, and there was a lot of tension. The elaborate dinner that was planned was called off.

At this point, I turned to my wife, and suggested that the next time we were going to move house we need to make sure that we write everything down on the same notepad, instead of each of us having our own…

Based on true-life events.