Over the last three years, my career trajectory had altered somewhat where I spent half my time as a SharePoint practitioner, doing all of the things that us SharePoint practitioners do, and the other half was spent in a role that I would call sensemaking. Essentially group facilitation work, on some highly complex, non IT problems. These ranged from areas such as city planning, (envisioning and community engagement) to infrastructure delivery (think freeways, schools and hospitals), to mental health, team and relationship building, performance management, board meetings and various other scenarios.
Imagine how much of a different world this is, where a group is coming together from often very different backgrounds and base positions, to come to grips with a complex set of interlocking problems and somehow try and align enough to move forward. We cannot simply throw a “SharePoint” at these problems and think it will all be better. By their very nature, we have to collaborate on them to move forward – true collaboration in all its messy, sometimes frustrating glory.
As a result of this experience, I’ve also learned many highly effective collaborative techniques and approaches that I have never seen used in my 20+ years of being an IT practitioner. Additionally, I’ve had the opportunity to work with (and still do), some highly skilled people who I learned a huge amount from. This is “standing on the shoulders of giants” stuff. As you can imagine, this new learning has had a significant effect on how Seven Sigma now diagnoses and approaches SharePoint projects and has altered the lens through which I view problem solving with SharePoint.
It also provided me the means to pinpoint a giant blind spot in the SharePoint governance material that’s out there, and what to do about it.
The first catalyst – back injury
In January this year, my family and I went on a short holiday, down to the wine country of Western Australia called the Margaret River region. On the very first day of that trip, I was at the beach, watching my kids run amok, when I totally put my back out (*sigh* such an old man). Needless to say, I could barely move for the next week or two after. My family, ever concerned for my welfare, promptly left me behind at the chalet and took off each day to sample wines, food and generally do the things that tourists do.
Left to my own devices, and not overly mobile I had little to do but ponder – and ponder I did (even more than my usual pondering – so this was an Olympic class ponder). Reflecting on all of my learning and experiences from sensemaking work, my use of it within SharePoint projects, as well as the subsequent voracious reading in a variety of topics, I came to realise that SharePoint governance is looked through a lens that clouds some of the most critical success factors. I knew exactly how to lift that fog, and had a vision for a holistic view of SharePoint governance that at the same time, simplifies it and makes it easy for people to collectively understand.
So I set to work, distilling all of this learning and experience and put it into something coherent, rigorous and accessible. After all, SharePoint is a tool that is an enabler for “improved collaboration”, and I had spent half of my time on deeply collaborative non IT scenarios where to my knowledge, no other SharePoint practitioner has done so. Since sensemaking lies in all that ‘softer’ stuff that traditionally IT is a bit weaker on, I thought I could add some dimensions to SharePoint governance in a way that could be made accessible, practical and useful.
By the end of that week I still had a sore back, but I had the core of what I wanted to do worked out, and I knew that it would be a rather large undertaking to finish it (if it ever could be finished).
The second catalyst – Beyond Best Practices
I also commenced writing a non SharePoint book on this topic area with Kailash Awati from the Eight to Late blog, called Beyond Best Practices. This book examines why most best practices don’t work and what can be done about them. The plethora of tools, systems and best practices that are generally used to tackle organisational problems rarely help and when people apply these methods, they often end up solving the wrong problem. After all, if best practices were best, then we would all follow them and projects would be delivered on time, on budget and with deliriously happy stakeholders right?
The work and research that has gone into this book has been significant. We studied the work of many people who have recognised and written about this, as well as many case studies. The problem these authors had is that these works challenged many widely accepted views, patterns and practices of various managerial disciplines. As a result these ideas have been rejected, ignored or considered outright heretical, and thus languish (largely unread) in journals. The recent emergence of anything x2.0 and a renewed focus on collaboration might seem radical or new for some, but these early authors were espousing very similar things many years ago.
The third catalyst – 3grow
Some time later in the year, 3grow asked me to develop a 4 day SharePoint 2010 Governance and Information Architecture course for Microsoft NZ’s Elite program. I agreed and used my “core” material, as well as some Beyond Best Practice ideas to develop the course. Information Architecture is a bloody tough course to write. It would be easy to cheat and just do a feature dump of every building block that SharePoint has to offer and call that Information Architecture. But that’s the science and not the art – and the science is easy to write about. From my experience, IA is not that much different to the sensemaking work that I do, so I had a very different foundation to base the entire course from.
The IA course took 450 man hours to write and produced an 800 page manual (and just about killed me in the process), but the feedback from attendees surpassed all expectations. This motivated me to complete the vision I originally had for a better approach to SharePoint governance and this has now been completed as well (with another 200 pages and a CD full of samples and other goodies).
I have distilled all of this work into a master class format, which ranges from 1 to 5 days, suited to Business Analysts, Project and Program Managers, Enterprise and Information Architects, IT Managers and those in strategic roles who have to bridge the gap between organisational aspirations and the effective delivery of SharePoint solutions. I speak the way I write, so if the cleverworkarounds writing style works for you, then you will probably enjoy the manner in which the material is presented. I like rigour, but I also like to keep people awake!
One of my pet hates is when the course manual is just a printout of the slide deck with space for notes. In this master class, the manual is a book in itself and covers additional topic areas in a deeper level of detail from the class. So you will have some nice bedtime reading after attending.
Andrew Woodward has been a long time collaborator on this work, before we formalised this collaboration with the SamePage Alliance, we had discussed running a master class session in the UK on this material. At the same time, thanks to Michael Sampson, an opportunity arose to conduct a workshop in Ireland. As a result, you have an opportunity to be a part of these events.
The first event is terrific as it is a free event in Dublin on November 17, hosted by Storm Technology a Microsoft Gold Partner in Dublin. As a result of the event being free, it is by invitation only and numbers are limited. This is a one day event, focussing on the SharePoint Governance blind spots and what to do about them, but also wicked problems and Dialogue Mapping, as well as learning to look at SharePoint from outside the IT lens, and translate its benefits to a wider audience (ie “Learn to speak to your CFO”).
So if you are interested in learning how to view SharePoint governance in a new light, and are tired of the governance material that rehashes the same tired old approaches that give you a mountain of work to do that still doesn’t change results, then register your interest with Rosemary at the email address in the image above ASAP and she can reserve a spot for you. We will supply a 200 page manual, as well as a CD of sample material for attendees, including a detailed governance plan.
In London on November 22 and 23, I will be running a two day master class along side Andrew Woodward on SharePoint Governance and Information Architecture. The first day is similar to the Ireland event, where we focus on governance holistically, shattering a few misconceptions and seeing things in a different light, before switching focus to various facets of Information Architecture for SharePoint. In essence, I have taken the detail of the 4 days of the New Zealand Elite course and created a single day version (no mean feat by the way).
Participants on this course will receive a 400 page manual, chock full of SharePoint Governance and Information Architecture goodness, as well as a CD/USB of sample material such as a SharePoint governance plan, as well as IA maps of various types. Unlike Ireland, this is an open event, available to anyone, and you can find more detail and register at the eventbrite site http://spiamasterclass.eventbrite.com/. In case you are wondering, this event is non technical. Whether you have little hands on experience with SharePoint or a deep knowledge, you will find a lot of value in this event for the very reason that the blind spots I focus on are kind of universally applicable irrespective of your role.
Much of what you will learn is applicable for many projects, beyond SharePoint and you will come away with a slew of new approaches to handle complex projects in general.
So if you are in the UK or somewhere in Europe, look us up. It will be a unique event, and Andrew and I are very much looking forward to seeing you there!
Thanks for reading