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  Connected Executives - Chapter One

A Strategic Communications Plan

The full text of Connected Executives is available from The CoWorking Institute for $38.95. Send email for ordering information.

About This Book

This book is written for and about an emerging and increasingly more powerful group of people who are virtually taking over the leadership of the business community - connected executives. 

Connected executives are executives who are as computer literate as they are socially literate. They use every communication or information technology they can find to become more informed and to communicate more productively. They use phone and fax, e-mail and electronic bulletin boards, whatever they have available to increase the speed and efficiency of communication. "Connecting" their offices, they redefine the very concept of "executive office." Connecting their personal workstation to their network computer, to their home computer, to their personal laptops, they control a personal workspace that has no physical boundaries.

Connected Executives is a step-by-step plan to help connected executives do for meeting rooms what they have learned to do for their offices - to redefine the very nature of the workspace (the meeting room) and the work (the meeting itself).

Knowing that it is not the technologies alone, but rather the use of those technologies that truly makes communication productive, this book is a strategic plan for introducing and inventing communication strategies - technically-based methods for increasing the interface between people. 

Since most executives spend up to 85% of their workweeks in meetings, it is inevitable that the such an effort be made to make meetings more productive. To do so, connected executives only need learn to use whatever combination of technologies that are already available to them. Most of what they need is already there for them: computer projectors, fast printers and copiers, software, multimedia, even speaker phones. 

The central strategy for connecting the meeting room is the creation of a new role (or the redefinition of an old role) that is generally ascribed to the person who takes notes or writes on a flip chart. 

By giving that same role to people who are also both computer literate and socially literate, the connection becomes instant and complete. 

With the right selection of software, a big enough screen, a good enough modem, and fast enough printer, groups can use the computer to do the same things the connected executive does in the connected office: plan, draw conclusions, pipe dream, "what-if," create and distribute reports, communicate and coordinate with people in other offices or parts of the world. 

All that is needed in addition to the technology are the people who know how to make it work in the meeting room. These people I call technographers: the executives, consultants, instructors, and secretaries who use computers to help other people communicate more effectively. 

With technographers in place, executives can spend their meeting room time more productively, so much more productively that they begin to challenge the conceptions of what a meeting has to be, or how it has to be conducted, or where and when it has to take place. The face-to-face meeting in the boardroom becomes one in a continuum of communication events between connected executives, on-line and off-line, before the meeting, and after the meeting. 

In making the connection between meeting room and communication technologies, a connection can be made between head and heart of the organization. As the connection becomes stronger and more efficient, so does the organization. 

My purpose in writing this book, this "strategic communications plan," is to help you create whole corporations and entire networks of clients and services that communicate more clearly, effectively, and responsively. 

My plan is not designed to be achieved instantly, but rather to be begun, immediately. As this book is being published capabilities are evolving that are continually enhancing the possibilities for connectedness. And, at the same time, as we wait for these capabilities to emerge and become recognized, we must also recognize that we already have every thing we need. All the technology is already in place. All we really need to become more profoundly connected is the agreement to try. 

Executive Summary

This book shows you how to bring a dramatic increase in personal and group productivity to your work. It presents a sequence of seven steps for combining computing with communications technologies to make communication more productive, successful, efficient, and fun. 

As a business leader, two of your most mind- and time-consuming activities center around: 

1) clarifying and communicating plans, and 
2) inspiring commitment.

Your success depends entirely on the amount and complexity of information you can successfully gather, organize, integrate, and communicate in a world where markets, and missions and jobs are continually being redefined. You can't take more time, because there is none to spare. But, by enhancing the "connections" between information and communications technologies, your work can be made vastly more productive. 

The chapters of the book are each devoted to one in the sequence of seven steps. Following these steps, using only readily available technologies, you will increase the effectiveness of your work and of the people with whom your work is shared. 

Seven Steps to Connectedness   

Step One: Identify the Productive Meeting: Begin where better communication tools find the warmest welcome.

Step Two: Connect the Technologies: Find the right combination of communication and information technologies to help you "get it together," together.

Step Three: Connect the Support Services: Find the people who know how to operate those technologies.

Step Four: Connect the Workstyles: Practice using outline processing software to enhance both personal and group productivity.

Step Five: Connect the Meetings: Support productive communication wherever executives meet.

Step Six: Connect the Company: Develop organizational access to facilitators of, and facilities for, productive meeting techniques and technologies.

Step Seven: Revise the "Rules of Order": Establish new management practices for enhancing communication and participation.

      • Step One: Identify the Productive Meeting 

    Since the goal is to enhance the productivity of executive communication, the most appropriate place to begin is where executives are spending the most of their time communicating: in meetings.

    Since we are enhancing productivity, our first step is to identify the meetings that can most immediately benefit from productivity enhancements - meetings that are held specifically to produce something: plans, agreements, new information. 

    Once these "result-oriented" meetings are identified, we pay particular attention to the kinds of communications media used during the meeting. We examine three different kinds of result-oriented meetings, focusing on the impact of including the computer in the mix of meeting media.

    • Step Two: Connect the Technologies 

    As we become aware of the potential impact of technology on meeting productivity, the first step has been taken. The next step is for us to establish a greater compatibility between the technical resources available to us.

    The first technology to be explored is the most computer-related: the outline processor - a software tool that is central to the proposed method for increasing the productivity of both individual and group users. 

    As we make the connection between personal computing and group computing, the next connection to be considered is to "conference table" publishing. Bringing the full capabilities of desktop publishing into the meeting room, we forge the link between "executive productivity" and the productivity of the meeting. 

    We then make the connection from the personal to the collaborative uses of graphic software and computer display capabilities, concluding this step with an examination of a variety of computer-enhanced meeting environments for supporting different kinds of groups and purposes. 

    • Step Three: Connect the Support Services 

    We have by now: 1) made our meeting places more compatible with our communications technologies, and 2) increased the compatibility between our information and communication technologies. Now we are ready to involve the human resources who can maintain compatibility between the diverse technologies and the diverse needs of connected executives.

    We begin by developing a job description for a new role, and then by establishing the criteria for evaluating prospective candidates. 

    The job is for those people within organizations who are "power users" of the needed technologies, who work with mixed technologies and are good at using those technologies to help other people work together. These people are called "technographers."

    • Step Four: Connect the Workstyles 

    Now that the technologies and the support services are finally becoming compatible, we can shift our focus from "getting everything together" to "making it all work together."

    In this step, we focus on technique. We explore methods for using a readily-available commercial software application, the outline processor, to increase personal and group productivity in the office, between offices, and in the meeting room.

    • Step Five: Connect the Meetings 

    Having created a compatibility between communication and information technologies, the executive office, and the meeting room, we reach the next step, in which we begin to connect our enhanced communication capabilities to more and larger organizational meetings.

    In this chapter, we examine two computer-enhanced meetings. Each meeting characterizes a different size group and a different use of technology to enhance its productivity. 

    • Step Six: Connect the Company 

    As we have established a successful precedent, both for ourselves and for the people with whom we meet, we want to have this capability everywhere, available to us in every phase of our work. Which means, ultimately, that we need to develop a new role and a new set of meeting procedures throughout our business community.

    Taking this step, we examine three components, each self-sustaining and self-promoting, which make it possible to institutionalize computer-enhanced communication: 1) The Practice Group is like a computer user group, meeting specifically to develop skills and share information, which leads to 2) the Technographer'sHandbook, an open-ended, electronic publication for standardizing and exchanging information about enhanced communication technologies, which makes it desirable for the larger corporation to establish 3) Communication Centers, as permanent, regional environments for developing and sharing group communication technologies. 

    • Step Seven: Revise the "Rules of Order" 

    Finally, as a natural result of the improved productivity of enhanced meetings, changes begin to occur, company-wide. Meetings become structurally and qualitatively different. People develop more efficient processes for communicating, brainstorming, prioritizing, organizing, synthesizing, deciding. In order to take full advantage of the support that we now have in place, we begin to reexamine our assumptions about how meetings should be run.

    In this last step, we lay the groundwork for this reexamination, comparing traditional with computer-enhanced meeting procedures, demonstrating new directions for the continued evolution of executive and organizational productivity. We look at a selection of meeting activities, alphabetically, from agendas to writing plans and resolutions, and consider how each might be performed with the support of a technographer. 



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Last Update: January 22, 2001