Tag Archives: culture

The strategy graph

I rather like this diagram that appeared in a post talking about Microsoft (which is well worth reading in and of itself).

strategy-graph

It describes all the elements that make up what an organisation is and does. At the top, there are fewer words and they don’t change very often. At the moment, there are a lot more words and they are subject to regular change.

Strikes me as being a useful model to use to think about this stuff.

LocalGovCamp 2014 thoughts #1- culture

I found LocalGovCamp a really refreshing and cheering event this year. I’m going to spend a few quick posts writing up my thoughts.

Lot and lots of discussion about culture and culture change. This discussion has been going on since forever, and if we are being frank with ourselves, it isn’t going to change dramatically soon.

So what to do? Don’t lets make the culture change discussion stop us from doing things. Have a go, fix what you can right now.

It could be that by having enough people doing this at the same time the culture will look after itself.

Link roundup

I find this stuff so you don’t have to:

Link roundup

I find this stuff so you don’t have to:

Link roundup

I find this stuff so you don’t have to:

Link roundup

I find this stuff so you don’t have to:

A bit more on #networkedcllr

This morning’s round table, held by EELGA with the support of Public-i, was an enjoyable couple of hours, hearing about how councillors and others involved in local democracy see the future of the role and the impact the internet and social media will have on it.

One of the best things about the beta Public-i report is that it takes the view of ‘networked’ councillors in the widest possible sense. In other words, not just online networks, but all networks.

So we want our councillors to be available, open, accessible, transparent, collaborative and so on – whatever medium they may use is up to them, as long as it meets the needs of the community they serve.

Go read the report – it’s good stuff.

Following on from the session this morning and in addition to my previous notes, here are a couple of thoughts.

Firstly, there is still a clear need for training for councillors in using the internet and social media. This needs to incorporate hands-on stuff, showing people how to log in, which buttons to press and so on; but also cultural stuff, including the netsmarts that Howard Rheingold talks about. How to write, how to know when to respond, identifying trolls, that sort of thing.

Second, we need to put some thought into what the councillor role should be. I think much of what success looks like for councillors will depend on their original motivation for doing it in the first place. For me, as a parish councillor, I see the role making certain tools – processes and structures and procedures – available to me that wouldn’t be otherwise. So it’s a means to an end to get stuff done for the community.

However, it’s fair to say that the role has barely changed in the last decade or so, despite the radical changes to society, the economy, and how people live their lives. If we were starting from scratch, now, to design how our local elected representatives would perform their role, what would it look like? Nothing like it does now, I’d have thought.

I don’t think it’s possible to make existing councillors change their culture or their worldview. If they haven’t been open and collaborative before now, I don’t see how they can be encouraged to change. The effort should be going into designing a role that will appeal to new councillors, who are net-savvy, time limited, mistrustful of bureaucracy, and so on.

So I am looking forward to where the conversation goes next, and hope to get to play a part!

Link roundup

I find this stuff so you don’t have to:

Convenience vs control

Everything in life is becoming a balance of convenience versus control. Only, it’s not so much of a balance as a mass grab for convenience. Sometimes this doesn’t matter, sometimes it does.

Take food for instance. We love the convenience of ready-made meals! Those microwaveable lasagnes make cooking so easy – you don’t need to know how to make a lasagne, you don’t even need to know the ingredients for lasagne!

Only, such is the great convenience that we lose control of what we are eating. We end up consuming horse meat without knowing it. Horse meat may not technically be bad for us, but not even knowing what we are putting into our mouths is a scary place to be.

So what do we do? Retreat to the fields and only eat what we pluck from the ground, or slaughter ourselves? As delightful as that may be, it’s probably not practical, so some sort of compromise is needed. Some of course are happy to put up with all manner of inconvenience to have total control over their diet. We might laugh at them now and again, but I can’t help but feel that the last laugh will be theirs.

What does this have to do with technology? Well, the convenience versus control thing is happening all the time when we use computers, too. Almost every aspect of our use of technology involves us choosing between these two things.

Cloud computing is a classic example. No software to install or maintain! Access your files from anywhere! Let us worry about viruses and all that stuff – just make sure you have an internet connection and a browser!

We do this all the time, sometimes without knowing it. Letting the easy convenience of having Amazon look after our ebooks, Apple our music collections, Google with pretty much the rest of our lives. A recent example is Adobe making their software subscription only. If you stop paying your subscription, will you ever be able to open your files again?

Most of the time, this is fine. It’s a simple trade off and it’s unlikely anybody will get hurt. The downside of systems built around convenience though is that when they go wrong, they are pretty difficult to fix. They aren’t designed for the user to fix them and often these companies aren’t able to cope, either. Ever tried getting hold of Facebook’s customer support? You’ll know what I mean.

Culture matters too, and perhaps philosophy as well. For computing, who are the equivalents of the Romanian butchers who sold us that horse meat? They are Silicon Valley companies, all funded by VC money, looking for a payout via the stock market or by being bought by a bigger company. Now, I’m not necessarily against this per se, but one does have to bear in mind that all these companies don’t actually care about their users, or their data – or rather they do, but only in relation to how they can make money from it.

So there’s a way in which these companies and the services they provide are ephemeral – they are there to make money rather than for some higher social purpose (in other words, Amazon doesn’t really care about the future of the novel, they just want to sell us – or, technically, rent us – ebooks). When they get swallowed up by another company or just run out of cash, they won’t care too much about the users who rely on the convenience they have seduced us with.

We could claim control of our computing in the same way those seeking control of their diets do, by doing it all ourselves. Use free software, run your own servers, manage your own data. Again, sometimes we laugh at such people, and imagine them wearing hats made from tin foil. But they won’t be the ones left looking daft when the company you entrusted all your stuff to goes bust.

Of course, there’s a middle way, a sensible approach. We don’t all have to learn Linux and bash scripting (although it might be a good idea to at least know what these things mean), but we should understand where our data is, who actually owns it, and grab a copy we can keep safe just in case.