Information sharing may mean different things to different people:
- Some may think of internal communication (within an organization), others of external communication (to reach out to potential clients or employees).
- Some may think of written articles and documents, others of talks and discussions.
- Information may be shared in a one-way direction, “one to many”, top-down (“company informs you”), or we can have lively discussions, where everybody is involved and engaged, “many to many”, bidirectional.
So there are many aspects to information sharing. For the scope of this article, I will confine myself to information sharing within an organization, both in the real world (“offline”) and via IT systems (“online”).
- Sharing information by writing (internal) blog posts/articles (much like Facebook)
- Blogs and forums for information exchange around technologies, etc.
- Internal courses and education with training plans
- Frequently asked questions and their answers
- Idea suggestion system for continuous improvement and disruptive ideas
The very first step to information sharing may be the technical part, to have a system like CORE in place that supports those scenarios. The next step, however, is to get everyone to understand how to use the system on a technical level, and – much more difficult – to get people to actually share the right information.
At first, people are passive, they just consume information. Only a few actually hand out likes and comments. It’s hard to get people to actually write something. It’s even harder to get people to write valuable content on topics that matter.
Over time, we have found that we want information shared around the following categories:
- Success stories: let’s celebrate what we’ve achieved
- People stories: the place to share welcome messages from new team members, baby photos, etc.
- Value stories: stories from real life where somebody clearly behaved in the best sense of our Catalysts values
- Meeting minutes: the place to search for meeting minutes, presentations, etc.
- Threat info: warnings about malware, viruses, etc.
- Events: announcements of team breakfasts, evening dinners, funtastic team events, etc.
You could keep reminding people to write valuable content for those categories – most likely with mediocre results. We’ve seen that it is key to have actual “offline” meetings in real life to support the creation of “online” content. I’m going to explain our approach in the following.
At Catalysts, we have a General Meeting every Monday (same place, same time) with the following structure:
General Meeting (2017-mm-dd, 11:45)
New Team Members (let’s give them a warm welcome)
Leaving Team Members (sorry to see you go)
Success Stories (let’s celebrate what we’ve achieved)
New Blog Articles (let’s make sure we don’t miss our new blog articles)
Implemented Ideas (let’s celebrate what we’ve achieved)
Events (let’s make sure that everybody knows about our events)
Recently procured books (available mostly as kindle books)
Thank You So Much (let’s publicly thank our colleagues for what they’ve done)
Update From Management (any relevant decisions taken and the reasoning behind)
Q&A – Session
Those general meetings happen in real life with a regular cadence, every Monday around lunch time. They are typically quick (within 15 minutes). They cover areas where we feel that it is important for information to flow freely and they end with an open questions and answers session where every team member may ask any question and we will try to answer it on the spot.
The online channel (“sharing articles in CORE”) has the following benefits:
- Defines the categories and allows everyone to share their messages without a delay.
- Allows everybody to read those messages, to like them, to comment on them; thus you can gauge the “energy” level that’s behind a story.
- Allows everybody to be well-prepared (by following the updates in CORE), even if one is traveling, on parental leave, or on vacation.
- Makes sure that everybody has a chance to get up to date even if he/she did not follow the updates during the week.
- Allows us to speed up the physical meetings (since we don’t have to read out the entire message but can give a short summary instead).
The offline channel (“having General Meetings”) has the following benefits:
- It reinforces the point that we want to have messages in the defined categories.
- Gathers an audience to tell those stories.
- Allows us to applaud on those stories.
- Allows our leaders and management to thank team members for their achievements.
- Allows everyone to ask any question and fosters openness.
This blending of online and offline information channels has proven quite useful. However, it is not cast in stone – from time to time we add a new category or remove an existing one.
In the next blog articles I will cover how we share information about technical topics.