A Tool for Transformation

During the transformation planning process last year, we began using a variety of social media tools to invite staff discussion and participation in transforming the agency.  Staff participation has been and continues to be critical in providing new ideas as well as feedback for our transformation initiatives. As we continue to work on transforming the agency, we are carefully investing in new social media tools to sustain and increase staff collaboration and participation.

One of the tools we are preparing to roll out to staff over the first half of 2012 is a tool we are calling the Internal Collaboration Network (ICN).  What is it? The ICN is a social business software tool for the staff to more easily communicate and work together.  We are using the Jive Social Business software platform to make it happen.  Check out this short video that previews how this kind of software is helping NASA today:



Although we are at the forefront of federal agencies using a comprehensive social media tool for our work, we are definitely not alone. We surveyed peer organizations, looked at their lessons learned, and discussed social collaboration systems with their staff. Examples of what others are doing include: the Army’s MilBook, NASA’s Spacebook, Defense’s DoDTechipedia, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Knowledge Center.

These organizations understand the value in using social media tools that enable staff to collaborate on projects, communicate across offices, and build a searchable knowledge base.  It’s simply about all of us efficiently working together.

Effective use of our Internal Collaboration Network will help NARA staff reach our transformation goals by:

  • sharing best practices and knowledge across agency offices (One NARA)
  • building our internal infrastructure with innovative tools (Out in Front)
  • sharing our expertise and opinions (An Agency of Leaders)
  • learning from each other, encouraging innovation, and allowing for trial and error (A Great Place to Work)
  • improving work processes (A Customer-Focused Organization)
  • making internal information easily accessible to other staff (An Open NARA)

The tool alone will not break down silos or build bridges. The tool alone will not encourage innovation or increase productivity. But it will make these things easier to do. I am calling on the leaders of NARA, whatever your position in the agency, to take hold of this tool when it is available to you and use it as one of your ways to transform the agency.

**To avoid the appearance of endorsing a product, as per our posting policy, we removed the embedded Jive software platform video on November 28, 2011.  You can still view the video here: http://youtu.be/S8Y89jALsXo  – NARA staff

7 thoughts on “A Tool for Transformation

  1. I’m really excited for the implementation of the Internal Collaboration Network. I can’t wait to get in there and start collaborating with my NARA coworkers. I think it’s really going to help change the way we work — for the better!

  2. It’s amazing what this kind of tool can do for agencies that make effective use of it. I’m looking forward to getting started!

  3. It looks like the ICN will facilitate communication between offices by helping employees find determine the best person is to contact for a particular question, which will improve efficiency in work processes. I hope the problem of computer access, especially at the records centers, will be addressed in tandem with the development of the ICN so all employees have ability to particpate in these new social media tools.

  4. Glad to hear about this forthcoming rollout, David. Sounds as if it could be a useful tool. Clicked on the vid — looks cool. Would love to have a chance to use something like that in Fedland.
    Of course, conditions have to be right to get the maximum benefit out of something like this. That is to say, the performance management system has to encourage collaboration and teamwork. Not just by making it a critical element — people tend to figure out how to game the system on a lot of that stuff. But by NARA working to establish conditions under which it can flourish. Some things you can’t control, of course. People build trust zones based on how they assess each other, over time or in first impressions. The human element always is a big part of how well things work. Like you, David, I’m really interested in people issues. (Some of your best posts here have covered such matters).
    I know of organizations which pay lip service to collaboration and knowledge sharing but undercut that by setting up rating/ranking systems that encourage people to play zero sum games and withhold knowledge from each other. That’s because focusing on “I” rather than “we” is seen as the best way to get ahead. And money talks! (Wait, strike that, no one has money in Fedland any more. . . .)
    I do have a technical question, however. I remember you mentioning in your State of the Archives speech last year that not all NARA employees have computers. I can relate to that. Although I was lucky to have a good career ladder, and now am well positioned in Fedland, I still was working on my M.A. when i joined NARA. So I came in as a GS-6. Back when I started as an archives technician in 1976, I didn’t even have a desk, just a shelf in a compartment in 1W2! Did a fair amount of what we called “rox and box” work back then.
    If not everyone has their own computer, doesn’t that mean the playing field isn’t level in terms of using tools for knowledge sharing, brainstorming, etc.? I was always a bit of a smarty pants even when I was a GS-6. (You wouldn’t have guessed that, would you? LOL.) I know I would have wanted to provide input and to join the convos even back when I was entry level. My wheels are always turning (too much so sometimes, ha.) Do you see a workaround for the “digital divide” at NARA? I think you’re on the right track on your transformation effort but I also see considerable challenges, including budgetary ones, to #makeithappen. Wait, wrong Social Media tool. Eh, that’s ok, you won’t mind!

  5. I am really looking forward to the deployment of this network agency-wide. I am particularly interested in using the tool to build communities of practice with other staff who do similar work throughout the agency.

    I did some of the research with the other agencies that have launched these kinds of networks, and it was fascinating to learn about the great sucesses these agencies have had in information sharing and collaboration. I cannot wait to see what NARA staff do to make this tool our own!

  6. I too, am excited. We need good tools to collaborate, and, as anyone who’s ever tried to assemble a piece of furniture with a butter knife instead of a flathead screwdriver, the right tool makes a world of difference.

    I’m also glad you pointed out that it’s up to us to use it well. People generally have lots of tools available to them in society (our gym is just one example of one for well-being) but it can take time to become fully integrated into a routine. Thank you for being the kind of forward-thinking agency that embraces technology to help employees work well together on our centralized mission. It makes me proud to work here.

  7. I’d like to see this, even if it is just at it’s base a photo directory of all staff. Seriously all I want is to at least match a face with a name. I’ve been with the Archives since 1997, there are people I’ve seen in the hallways and cafeteria for years. I don’t know who they are or what they do. Maybe we can help each other, maybe not. Yes, I get the emails saying so in so has moved to this dept or division but that doesn’t help me because I don’t know who so in so is.

    Also how many staff, by location, aren’t on-line at all? We should consider the off-line staff but not at the expense of making on-line staff more productive.

    I can see this helping people who already know each other in the begining. Maybe as time goes on, it can grow so that more staff gets comfortable with it, and then it will be awesome.

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