04 October 2005

Blogging for managers

Formerly "Use your blog as a management tool"
Blogs serve different people in different ways. The functional structure of a blog is quite flexible and can be applied in many ways; from sharing photos with friends and family to promoting your products and services.

But some of the principles that lie behind good blogging are surprisingly similar to principles of good management. Here are some of the things that good managers and good bloggers have in common:
  • They're frequent. Good managers communicate with their people, at least informally, on a daily or weekly basis; just like good bloggers.
  • They're consistent. They know who their audience is and what expertise they have to offer; and they focus their messages on things that are important to that audience.
  • They're simple and clear. They are easy to understand, and offer concepts, ideas, and "rules of thumb" that are easy to share with others. They often have a personal voice that is unique, memorable and recognizable.
  • They're personal. They use a conversational tone, and when communicating they use stories and other informal communication techniques to make issues feel more relevant.
  • They're habitual. Both good blogging and good management are behavioral; they're habits for both the sender and receivers. They happen informally and often, and are not exceptions but simply part of the natural course of business.
If you're a manager, you can use your blog as a multi-purpose management tool. Here are some of the functions your blog can serve:

  • Focusing device. I try to feed my blog with content daily. If you do the same, you'll be constantly looking for those nuggets of wisdom that might have value to your readers. They could come from anywhere: a random conversation, a billboard, a business meeting, or something your waiter said at dinner. There is a great idea to be heard every day, if you are listening.
  • Notebook. By saving your posts as drafts, you can use them as reminders for things you might want to think about or write about later. Simply writing the headline can be enough. I have many posts that are saved as drafts: it's a good way to capture an idea and keep it on your task list.
  • Management database. As a manager you often find yourself repeating things over and over as you attempt to communicate them to others. If you make the time to record that conversation once, you can re-use it countless times. When a topic comes up that you've seen before, you can simply email the link. What's more, you can continually update your blog post on any issue to reflect lessons learned over time. You can even create an index to make it easier for people to find your posts.
  • Feedback mechanism. As people comment on your posts, you'll learn how they have dealt with similar issues. You'll see what's worked for them, and discover where they agree or disagree with your thinking. Their responses can help you see how broadly your thoughts are shared (or not!), and can help you identify the strengths and weaknesses of a given approach.
  • Reference file. In your blog, you can store links to anything on the web. This is helpful because, in addition to the link, you also add your thoughts on why it's important or useful.
  • Anonymous suggestion box. If you allow anonymous comments, your peers and employees can post to your blog anonymously without fear. This can get you valuable feedback on your management approach and how it's perceived.
  • Endorsement. Often, as people comment on your thoughts they will endorse the ideas, or tell you how it works in their world. Now, when you email a link, it's not just you talking: your thoughts will gain stature and credibility with your team, when they see that others agree.

A recent thread with Roland Jones got me thinking about this. Roland, who just started his blog, compared it to a brand new Moleskine sketchbook. To me it's a bit different --I don't think of my blog sequentially, but more like a set of index cards, where each blog post stores a single, cohesive thought.

Along the "index cards" line of thinking, I wish there was a link you could add to your blog that allowed readers to do a "random shuffle" of the blog's contents.

How do you think of your blog? Do you use it as a management tool? If so please share your thoughts.

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Mohamed Eldesoky said...

In fact in the past, I used to think of blogging as "Webrestige" that some people want to have.
But after trying it myself, I spend good time daily thinking of the potentials of blogging, specially in a business environment.
For now, I use my blog as a note taker, and focus device, plus, I hope it could open new warm zones !!

Roland Jones said...

But my (metaphoric) Moleskine need not be linear, see the 43Folders web site where practitioners of the GTD method have some hacks and more hacks that allow different uses and entry points. Personally, I see my Moleskines as an external thinking aid, a place to store important pieces of information I don't use enough to remember and a designated locus for temporary storage of index cards containing lists, coupons, sticky notes with reminders, and other things I want to tell myself at a later time. This way, it's continuously visible until I get it done or realize I didn't need to do it anyway and can "forget it."

Personally, I see blogs as one part of that potential, contextualized information space I posted on the other day. Another key for me is the idea of negotiated understanding, or in a more traditionalist view, the Socratic dialogue, in which people with different experiences can contribute to making sense of complex problems. Yet another key is how such dialogue opens up the normally private thoughts of an individual so that the individual can mediate first impressions or thoughts on a topic with the experience of communicating this nascent knowledge in order to refine thought and consciously choose how the individual presents himself or herself to the public. This gets back to Foucault's technologies of the self and self writing, both of which offer potential constraints and liberations, new spaces to affect and construct the self.

Bringing these observations together, I'm currently pondering the multiplying and constructing of self in terms of becoming a cyborg (hybrid of technology and organism)...but this almost takes me off topic...so to the point of this posting, I also see blogs as a tool for projecting oneself into the virtual online community...one that does not depend on a 1:1 relationship with a body, so that it could be 1:many where I potentially have a blog for my personal ideas, one for enhancing my career path by showing collaboration and scholarship, one for marketing my product, one for effecting social change by putting out new memes, one for entertainment or sharing interests and hobbies, and the list could go on to include any reason we as humans communicate.

[As an interesting side note, I'm cross posting this to my blog as a response to this thread which was related to my previous posting which was based on a previous thread on this blog...all within a few days...think of the possibilities this media offers!] :)

Roland Jones said...

BTW, this link tells how to add a random button based on all the links in a given page. Stick this at the top of your index page and you might get that random shuffle! I also found some more Blogger hacks in the help.

dave said...

Good points all. It's interesting how a thought becomes a thread becomes a conversation.

I also use sketchbooks in non-linear ways. I have been capturing ideas in sketchbooks for more that 20 years. I have hundreds of them around. When I leave the house I usually pick one up at random.

The result is that ideas and sketches of today mix randomly with those from years before. They can make for interesting reading!

regina said...

i think so...blogs can be a "management tool." As long as they are truly participative - where comments are allowed and considered as important feedback and disagreements/opposition is allowed without fear of retribution. I see it as an additional channel and the balance of blogging vs phone coaching, f2f coaching, mbwa, etc. all has to be part of the management approach.

sexy11 said...