A conversation about Working Out Loud Week

Today, we are featuring an interview with Simon Terry from Change Agents Worldwide—a network of professionals specializing in future of work technologies and practice—and Angus Florance, from the Product Marketing team at Yammer. Members of Change Agents Worldwide actively practice, consult on and advocate Working Out Loud.

Angus: Simon, you are an advocate of working out loud and a co-founder of International Working Out Loud Week, what is working out loud about?

Simon: Bryce Williams of Eli Lilly created the initial definition of working out loud as “Visible Work + Narration of Work.” This definition highlights the importance of transparently sharing work in progress as it happens so that others can get insight into your goals and approaches. John Stepper, a leading global expert in collaboration and working out loud, has built on this and extended the definition through his book and blog as:

Working out loud is an approach to building relationships that can help you in some way. It’s a practice that combines conventional wisdom about relationships with modern ways to reach and engage people. When you work out loud, you feel good and empowered at the same time.”

Angus: Why are we talking about working out loud in Yammer now?

Simon: Well, maybe because this week is International Working Out Loud Week (November 7–13). Seriously though, working out loud is something we have always done though we used different terminology. The concept is not new. What has changed is the organizational priorities. Digital transformation is a key priority for organizations. To leverage the potential of digital technologies requires new ways of working as well as underlying changes to organizational culture. We have already seen organizations adopting a range of new digital ways to work like agile, design thinking, collaboration and more. What these practices have in common is a focus on making work in progress more visible so stakeholders can contribute and learn from the work. The practice of making work in progress more visible in a purposeful way is working out loud. Yammer in the Office 365 Suite offers a great way for organizations to enable their employees to benefit from working out loud.

Angus: When people hear the idea of sharing work in progress, lots of them think that is the last thing that they would want to do. What do you say to that?

Simon: I hear that comment a lot and I understand that concern given the way traditional organizations have taught us to work. Working out loud is not always a comfortable practice for people in our organizations. Over the years, many people have learned that the best ways to work are to perfect their work output in isolation and only share a finished product when they are ready to collect the glory. Too often we see that this approach results in wasteful work, missed expectations and rework. Overcoming this means helping people change their behavior by encouraging them to practice sharing their work early and often.

Angus: How can organizations help people overcome barriers to better leverage working out loud on Yammer?

Simon: In John Stepper’s approach to working out loud there are five key elements of working out loud that need to be the focus of the change management to enable people to overcome their reluctance to share work and to benefit. Organizations need to foster these elements and Yammer offers a perfect platform to enable these five elements throughout your organization:

  • Relationships—Yammer is a platform that provides visibility to many more people across the organization. Rather than only relying on a hierarchical org chart and the official communication channels, Yammer enables people to engage everyone interested in and involved in their work.
  • Generosity—The daily back and forth of sharing in Yammer reinforces the culture of generosity in the organization. Having the proper role models to reinforce the benefits of generous sharing will also help promote this practice within your organization.
  • Visible work—Yammer works best when the culture of the organization supports transparency with two-way conversations and open groups so information is not hidden in silos. Yammer also enables people to find people, work and information that are relevant to their goals and challenges. Integration to tools like Delve takes this further by using the power of algorithms to bring relevant documents to employees. Visibility of work in Yammer enables greater peer accountability and fosters greater trust in your organization. This lays the path for the greater employee autonomy that the digital workplace demands.
  • Purposeful discovery—Between our challenges and our lack of time, purpose can get lost in our organizational conversations. Yammer as a platform gives people an opportunity to start a conversation about the purpose or effectiveness of work and to align with others around shared purposes, through groups. In this way, working out loud in Yammer can deliver organizations significant benefits in strategic alignment and engagement.
  • Growth mindset—A learning mindset is key to individual and organizations success, particularly in the digital era. Yammer offers a platform for social learning and for experiments, encouraging employees to empower themselves with new connections, new learnings and new information to improve their work performance.

Angus: So if I want to get started on working out loud, what are some simple approaches to work out loud on Yammer.

Simon: Getting started with working out loud in Yammer is easy. Here are many ways you can begin working out loud in your daily practice at your organization:

  • Share your progress or, better yet, ask a question about a piece of work in progress in a relevant Yammer group: Take one piece of work that you have underway. Find a Yammer group that is relevant to the success of that work. Share information about your work, ask for feedback or ask a question.
  • Start a group for a team, a project or a key group of stakeholders to work out loud together: Choose a group of people who have a shared purpose in their work. Explain to them why you think there are benefits of working out loud. Run a pilot of sharing your work and learning from each other.
  • Build a habit with the three daily practices of working out loud: Working out loud is a habit. Start with some triggers to practice daily. First thing in the morning, share in Yammer a challenge from your day ahead. At lunch time, join a Yammer conversation and respond. At the end of the day, use Yammer to celebrate someone’s achievements. We can all do with more celebration.
  • Support people with Working Out Loud Circles: John Stepper’s Working Out Loud Circles are a 12-week peer-supported process to enable people to achieve a personal goal through working out loud. Run a pilot of working out loud circles in your Yammer network.

Angus: Where can people learn more about working out loud if they want to take things further?

Simon: There are several free resources available to help people get started with working out loud:

  • John Stepper has a fantastic site: Workingoutloud.com has a blog and materials to get started with Working Out Loud Circles.
  • Make the most out of International Working Out Loud Week: Wolweek is a global conversation about working out loud. Learn from others.
  • Join the Microsoft Tech Community: In the Microsoft Tech Community, you will find peers who do similar work. It is a great place to share and to learn about the opportunities in Yammer.

Angus: Thanks, Simon. It was a pleasure speaking with you today, as always.

—Angus Florance