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Using Technology to Assure Accountability and Create Traction

As a manager, you’re often asked to join a cross-divisional team where your influence is supported not by your power base, title, or role, but rather by the strength of your ideas and your ability to engage people in a common cause. Often these are ad hoc teams created to support projects initiated by senior managers to pursue goals they care about—goals like cost reduction, product and process innovation, or research.

Creating accountability in this kind of situation, where the cast of characters is unfamiliar and it’s hard to know what motivates them, is often challenging. Blogs and Wikis, now easier to implement, are beginning to play a powerful role.

As you may know, blogs, which reside online, allow their hosts to share their words, images, and sounds while soliciting a dialogue with their readers. With blogs, the readers are welcome to post responses. With Wikis, anyone can edit the page and improve upon the content. Originated by software developers putting their minds together to evolve code and later popularized by Wikipedia.com, Wikis facilitate the wisdom of crowds and consistently generate better work. Both blogs and Wikis are being used as business tools by some of today’s savviest organizations. 10e20, a Web design shop in New York, decided to launch a blog for each project, requiring employees to post updates on their progress twice a day. Within the first six weeks of the new system, ten projects were completed early. (How often does that happen in your office?) The blogs played a key role. Being able to read about the other participants’ challenges and successes was inspiring for those involved.

Blogs help team members sense the momentum, stay connected to the community between meetings, and really think about, see, and enhance one another’s contributions. Blogs also provide visibility into projects for those who have sponsored them, but may not be directly involved. The senior executive who cannot attend every meeting can go online 24/7 for a status report and join the ongoing conversation with personal thoughts and encouragement.

These increasingly simple technologies are facilitating age-old practices in a way that is uniquely convenient for the participants.

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