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Narrating Your Work: Developing a replicable methodology for improving knowledge sharing in virtual teams February 17, 2012 Eleni Boursinou, Dane Lukic and Anoush Margaryan Caledonian Academy, Glasgow Caledonian University, UK

1. Purpose This report summarises the findings of the project Narrating Your Work: Developing a replicable methodology for improving knowledge sharing in virtual teams. The aim of the project was to further develop the Narrating Your Work (NYW) methodology, piloted by Hans de Zwart and others at Shell1, into a robust and replicable method for improving knowledge sharing and sense of connectedness in virtual teams. The specific objectives of the study were to: 1) Refine the NYW methodology, by building upon the outcomes of the original pilot, and 2) Develop a practical toolkit that can be used by other virtual teams wishing to adopt the NYW methodology. In this report, we, firstly, describe the methodology of our study. Secondly, we summarise the key findings. Thirdly, we propose a set of recommendations for the improvement of the NYW approach. 2. What did we do? Firstly, we analysed updates within Yammer generated by users through the original NYW experiment. This included all updates made in the period from March 18th to June 20th 2011. Updates posted both within the overall Shell Yammer network, open to all Shell subscribers, and updates within HRIT LOB team (a closed group) were extracted and analysed thematically. Descriptive statistics of the Yammer data are shown in Table 1. Table 1. Yammer data Threads Questions Replies to postings Liked @ #nywlob Open (SHELL) 106 39 92 50 186 109 Closed (HRIT LOB) 266 57 54 56 240 27 Total 372 96 146 106 426 136

For the details of the original experiment see http://blog.hansdezwart.info/2011/03/18/the-narrating-your-work-experiment/

This report is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 UK: Scotland License

Secondly, we conducted semi-structured interviews with 12 out of 16 members of the HRIT LOB team. Interviewees were based in four different locations: The Hague (n=8), Houston (n=3) London (n=1), and Kuala Lumpur (n=1). During the original NYW experiment, there had been 18 members in the team. However, two of these were no longer part of the team during our study. Thirteen members of the team had agreed to participate in an interview, but one person later dropped out of the study. Three individuals did not reply to invitation to participate in the study. A summary of respondents is shown in Table 2. Table 2. Summary of respondents Employees The Hague 2 Houston Kuala Lumpur 0 0 3 0 3 1 0 1 London 1 0 0 1 Total 3 7 2 12

Leadership Role within the HRIT LOB team Staff 3 Contractors 2 Total 7

It is worth mentioning that during the interviews it was challenging to ensure that respondents describing their perceptions and experiences limited to the timeframe of the original experiment (March to June 2011). Therefore, the interview data refers to the use of NYW both within the original experiment and in the period after it. 3. What did we find? Main findings are structured around four key research foci we set out to investigate: engagement and connectedness; knowledge exchange; co-creation of ideas and innovation, and change. Miscellaneous findings are also outlined. Engagement and Connectedness The majority of the respondents indicated that the NYW experiment, coupled with face-toface meetings, contributed to improving team cohesion. As one respondent stated: Without NYW, we could go on for 10 days without receiving any news [from others in the team]. All respondents based in Houston and Kuala Lumpur indicated that NYW was essential and valuable for their knowledge sharing and feeling connected with the rest of the team. In contrast, for co-located team members, NYW appeared to be less important in terms of enhancing the sense of connectedness. During the experiment, three members of the team acted as NYW champions. They took on this role informally and organically and played a crucial role in launching discussions, chasing people to contribute to the experiment and leading by personal example. These champions helped motivate other team members to engage with NYW. A number of key factors that motivated the participants to engage with NYW emerged from the analysis. Firstly, the respondents were motivated to participate in NYW when they sought advice on a work-related issue or task. Secondly, they were motivated to participate when they sought visibility within the group. Thirdly, improved sense of comradeship was an important reason to participate. Fourthly, praise and rewards were key motivating factors. Fifthly, respondents indicated that what motivated them to read others postings are if the 2

This report is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 UK: Scotland License.

postings were short and to the point, contained a good story, humour and fun. NYW contributed to raising awareness and building understanding on what other team members were working on. This was viewed as very valuable by all respondents. A minority of respondents felt that others in the team and especially managers that were not co-located could judge their performance on the basis of their NYW postings. Therefore these respondents tended to post lengthy, detailed updates about their daily tasks. They feared that had they narrated less, colleagues would perceive them as being inefficient or unproductive in their work. These respondents indicated that being able to post non workrelated, social updates had helped them overcome their unease about NYW. Non work-related postings may be equally important to work-related postings for enhancing connectedness. The majority of the respondents suggested that finding out about different facets of a team member increased the sense of connectedness. Knowledge Exchange NYW appeared to be less interactive within the closed, HRIT-LOB group than in the open group. Few conversations took place and few questions were asked. Most of the questions largely focused on seeking advice on some issues - were posted in the open group or the group that had the relevant area of expertise. Having an option of posting in a closed group was perceived by some respondents as enabling them to build a sense of community, allowing social interaction and creation of deeper relationships important to effective knowledge exchange. Other respondents perceived that limiting postings to closed groups was detrimental to organisational knowledge sharing, which is essential in global companies such as Shell. NYW methodology was instrumental in supporting the participants in finding solutions to issues (mainly IT-related) as well as locating people with relevant expertise: I found out that one of the BAs was working on a similar project and I used his expertise on the matter to solve some of the issues I was facing, instead of trial and error. We ended up connecting on a personal basis and I found out more about his hobbies... As the conversation progressed, we came up with an idea of a project for one of our clients. Co-creation of ideas and Innovation In contrast to what we anticipated, the combined analysis of the Yammer and interview data did not provide substantial examples of co-creation of ideas and innovation occurring as a result of NYW. This is not to suggest that NYW had not led to co-creation of knowledge or innovation, but simply that there is no evidence to this effect in the relatively limited data we generated through this small-scale study. A more extensive follow up study, using a more sophisticated set of methodologies, could help ascertain whether or not NYW could lead to knowledge creation and innovation. Change Our hypothesis that NYW could have led to behavioural change was not supported by our data. Only two limited examples of change in behaviour were evidenced in our dataset. The first example consisted of a change in the way a participant formulated issues and questions, 3

This report is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 UK: Scotland License

adapting the contributions to different audiences, as a result of his/her participation in NYW. The second example included a team member who changed his way of dealing with an issue, after receiving feedback from a colleague. Change is best studied through longitudinal methodologies and by incorporating rich data from multiple sources, for instance workplace observations, interviews with participants as well as their line managers and colleagues, examination of the workplace artefacts being produced and so on. A more extensive follow-up study could examine the capacity of NYW methodology to bring about behavioural change. Miscellaneous The majority of the interviewees stated that they experienced difficulty in summarising their tasks and deciding on the content of their postings. At the same time, NYW was perceived by all the team members as an essential opportunity for self-reflection on ones own work. They suggested that NYW had sometimes been time consuming but valuable for their learning. Participation in NYW enhanced some respondents self-esteem and confidence. It reminded me of what I had achieved during the day. It is good for the soul to feel like that as you leave work. You receive likes and you pick up the value.

3. Recommendations on the enhancement and implementation of NYW methodology Recommendation 1: Demonstrate impact and added value of using NYW to potential users, by disseminating examples of benefits of NYW for knowledge sharing and connectedness within virtual teams. A NYW Toolkit we are currently developing will be instrumental in this regard. Recommendation 2: Appoint a NYW Champion within each virtual team wishing to adopt the methodology. The Champion will be responsible for the overall moderation of NYW, encouraging engagement and flagging up useful posts. Recommendation 3: Use praise, polls, likes and other relevant rewards for motivating team members to participate in NYW. Recommendation 4: Encourage team members to complete their Yammer profiles to enable more efficient expertise location and more productive knowledge sharing within NYWs. Recommendation 5: Add NYW as an agenda item at regular team meetings and webinars. Recommendation 6: Introduce NYW into onboarding or other relevant training events for new team members. Recommendation 7: Encourage NYW posts that are formulated as specific problems, in order to foster conversations and knowledge exchange rather than mere broadcasting of knowledge. Recommendation 8: Include functionalities in Yammer that allow feedback, for example recommendation mechanisms and user feedback (see Google Moderator). Recommendation 9: Offer the possibility to each team member to track the extent to which their audience interacts with their posts, for example through notifications on number of replies. Recommendation 10: Improve history search options through federated search and filtering coupled with consistent tags, to enhance knowledge reuse and to promote Yammer as a collective memory space. Recommendation 11: Encourage a safe environment where individuals narrate their work without fear of being judged negatively. 4