It’s Not the Tools, Yo!

It’s the management!

One of the MAIN points I make in any presentation I do on SocMed is that people who want to ban b/c of “productivity issues” are focusing on the wrong thing. Big time.

What they’re talking about isn’t a technology issue – it’s a management issue. If someone is inclined to screw around on the job, they’re going to do it by whatever means necessary. Block social media tools? They’ll play solitaire on the computer. Uninstall solitaire? They’ll surf the web. Block web access? Personal phone calls. Turn off the phones and block cell service? Coffee breaks and walks around the block. Lock them in the office? Bathroom breaks. Monitor bathroom breaks? Aside from turning into the USPS, you can’t prevent people from daydreaming.

Any tool – ANY tool, including a pencil and a piece of paper – can be mis-used. That doesn’t mean we should run around banning things that are useful, just because someone might use it to be less maximally productive every single second of every single work day.

And where did we EVER get the idea that people can be laser-focused for 8 solid hours, 5 days a week, anyway?

4 thoughts on “It’s Not the Tools, Yo!”

  • Sooo true. As far as I’m concerned, when you work in an office, probably 50% of your day is “wasted” walking to/from the coffee pot, the bathroom, the copier, the lunchroom, etc. You walk by someone’s desk and say hi and it turns into a 10 minute conversation. Multiply that by every desk you potentially walk by or every person you pass in the hall and that’s a lot of time. Then phone calls, personal email, etc–there goes most of your day.

    And don’t even get me started on the time wasted in meetings…

    But a social activity that takes place on your computer while you’re already staring at the screen all day anyway? That’s the thing that companies think will kill productivity? If anything, they should ban live conversations away from your desk and force you to communicate via social networks.

    It’s funny because we started using Yammer at our office and it really affirms this idea. You take 2 seconds to send a quick message to everyone–asking a question, talking about a work-related thing or just general water cooler stuff–then back to your work. You still feel connected to your coworkers, yet instead of having wasted tons of time walking around chatting all day you were sitting at your computer doing actual work.

    Same thing goes for telecommuting and it drives me crazy. If you’re not physically in the office you are obviously lounging around doing nothing. How about the people who lounge around doing nothing at the office?

  • It also gets to the blurring of work and not-work. Really, so what I spend 5 minutes “goofing off” on social media at work (and given that so much of work life these days is about nurturing relationships with people, defining “goofing off” is getting increasingly difficult anyway)? I’ll bet I spent AT LEAST 5 minutes when I wasn’t at work thinking about some work problem or issue.

    I strongly suspect in the end it all evens out, if not tilting in favor of work. So relax already and just make sure your people are getting their work done.

  • To a degree I sympathize with those who are concerned about the impact of social media in the workplace and its potential for abuse. I should say, I totally agree that the line between one's worklife and non-worklife is a fuzzy one for many of us and that it's far preferable to focus on outcomes. But as a former manager of a large association staff, I can also understand some amount of frustration about yet another disruptive activity being introduced into an office. It's yet one more opportunity for some people to fritter away time. And for those people naturally inclined to distraction, social media can be like crack cocaine.

    But maybe the whole issue is being framed wrong. For nearly any subject one could care to name, meaningful online communities are already out there. The content in these communities are free and the quality of the dialogue and the content in many cases are as good as what's available through associations addressing the same topic — in some cases perhaps even better. For ever-growing cadres of potential members, access to industry or professional information is becoming less of a reason to belong to an association. The paradigm is changing rapidly.

    Is it too radical a concept to perhaps look at the heavy-personal users of social media tools as an opportunity? What if these people were tasked with being the vanguard of the association's social media efforts? Who better to build an association's network than those that are already engaged users who understand how to create and work a community?

    Yes, it would likely take a fair amount of managerial guidance to channel a bad habit into a useful job skill, but what better and faster way for an association to understand and become more engaged with a segment of potential members/customers/consumers that may be flying under the radar? Social media is a still immature technology, but is rapidly evolving into a powerful medium that associations need to figure out how to best leverage for their own purposes. The longer they take to accomplish this, the less relevant they risk becoming. If there's an in-house resource that can help get there quickly, why not tap it? Seems to me that one of the hallmarks of good management is to match needs with skills.

    Eric Casey, CAE
    Casey Management & Marketing Services

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