Collaborative working

The PACE values at CIPD

You probably haven’t heard of PACE, but everyone who works for the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development certainly has. They are the values underpin everything we aim to do and to be at CIPD, they run through our corporate culture like the words ‘Brighton’ through a stick of rock.

The PACE values are on display throughout the CIPD HQ in Wimbledon, on posters and stencilled onto the wall in our ‘OpenSpace’ coffee shop. This jaunty acronym stands for

Ever since I joined CIPD two and a half years ago I’ve been mulling over the PACE values, what they really mean, how we put them into practice.

In this week’s post I’m going to explore collaborative working and what it means for the Digital Production team.

We are Collaborative

Of all the PACE values, I think of collaboration as the meta value; we can’t be purposeful, agile or expert without collaboration.

  • To build an agile, innovative business, able to navigate and exploit the vagaries of 21st century economic reality;
  • To build our own expertise whilst contributing to the collective understanding of our teams and networks;
  • To deliver successful outcomes;
  • To develop motivated, high performing teams;

we need first and foremost to collaborate.

We are Drucker’s ‘knowledge workers’

According to the Work Foundation, in their 2009 Knowledge Workers and Knowledge Work report, 30% of the total UK workforce constitute ‘knowledge workers’ in ‘jobs with high knowledge content’.

The now ubiquitous term ‘knowledge worker’ originates with Peter Drucker and perfectly describes the work we do in the Digital Production team at CIPD.

Productive work in today’s society and economy is work that applies vision, knowledge and concepts — work that is based on the mind rather than the hand.

Peter Drucker, Landmarks of Tomorrow, 1959

For the Digital Production team we apply our collective vision, knowledge and concepts in the production of useful outputs, namely the delivery of digital platforms, communications and learning.

But knowledge is no longer stable

When Drucker described the concept of the ‘knowledge worker’ almost 60 years ago the knowledge acquired during one’s professional career had some degree of permanence.

But the knowledge acquired during the typical 21st century knowledge worker’s professional career has a shorter and shorter lifespan (see next week’s post Building and Maintaining Expertise).

And knowledge is no longer power

Knowledge might once have been power, but with the transient nature of today’s skills, the miserly hoarding of knowledge is no longer the path to success.

It is those who share their knowledge freely, pooling it with others to build a common, more sophisticated understanding, who thrive and progress in the modern workplace.

Working out loud

The Digital Production team, in common with the rest of CIPD, uses our Workspace intranet platform to work out loud, to share work in progress, milestones and ideas.

Bryce Williams crystallised the behaviours and outcomes of using Social Collaboration tools with the phrase ‘working out loud’ which he boiled down to this simple formula:

Working Out Loud = Observable Work + Narrating Your Work

Working out loud is particularly useful for one’s own reflective learning: grounding acquired knowledge through public narration.

John Stepper expanded Bryce Willliams’ definition, to identify the 5 Elements of Working Out Loud:

  • Making your work visible 
  • Making work better
  • Leading with generosity
  • Building a social network
  • Making it purposeful

Blogging – let’s face it – does have an element of self promotion. (And why not?) But it’s also, as Stepper puts it, about ‘leading with generosity’, contributing ideas to the wider debate, building on other people’s ideas, using platforms and tools that encourage networking, sharing and debate.

The interoperability of people as well as systems

Today’s economy is a social economy with collaboration at its center. In the past, we could dominate by accumulating resources and driving efficiency, but now agility and interoperability that rule the day.  We need to shift our focus from assets and capabilities to empathy, design and networked organizations.

Greg Satel, Why the Ability to Collaborate is the New Competitive Advantage, Forbes.com

I often talk of the importance of the interoperability of systems and of data (see last year’s post on Open Standards and Open Platforms), but the interoperability of the people who build those systems is equally important, particularly the exchange of information and ideas.

We geeks need social skills

For the digital workforce, our social, interpersonal and emotional skills are equally important, if not more so, than our technical skills – for our technical skills soon date.

Communication, empathy, an awareness of how we interact with others and how others will interact with what we build; but above all, the ability to collaborate. And that collaboration isn’t just the ability to get along with your team mates, but the sharing of knowledge and the building of communal ideas with a shared sense of ownership. (For more on this look out for a future post on Ideation.)

Being a ‘techie’ doesn’t mean we’re somehow less human, that we’re some kind of Spock-like, robotic, coding machines. Being a successful techie, building workable solutions, has always meant the close collaboration of peers on common projects of extraordinary complexity.

The interconnectedness of digital skills

The Digital Production team operates in a space where the boundaries of our skills intersect with those of our team mates. Let’s take web content strategy as an example, it has some core skills and processes of its own, but has many commonalities with information architecture and user experience, in fact shares the same worldview (the centrality of the online customer experience).

The edgelessness of the web tears down the constructed edges in the company. Everything is so interconnected that nobody has a clear domain of work any longer – the walls are gone, so we’re left to learn how to collaborate in the spaces where things connect.

Frank Chimero, The Shape of Design

Because of this ‘edgelessness’ of digital work, we must, as Frank Chimero puts it ‘collaborate in the spaces where things connect’. And that’s what makes digital work so much fun: collaborating, building on one another’s ideas and expertise, working together to develop new and innovative solutions that delight, help and inform.

‘Job’ should never be ‘a four letter word’

That interconnectedness of the digital work domain also means that we can no longer think of our jobs as neat, self contained little boxes with a pre-determined, static set of tasks and accountabilities.

‘Job’ according to Harold Jarche ‘is a four-letter word’ because of the way that tightly constrained job profiles and narrow minded managers can stifle the ‘intrepreneurial’ spirit, narrow the space that we need to collaborate, dampen the creativity we need to be innovative – all those behaviours and that momentum businesses need to harness in order to exploit ‘transient competitive advantage’ (Rita Gunther McGrath).

Job profiles as a jumping off point for collaboration

So job profiles mustn’t be a straight jacket, but rather a jumping off point for collaboration and contribution towards the team’s, and ultimately the organisation’s goals and purpose.

Breaking down job boundaries – whilst ensuring people feel safe rather than threatened, that their unique contributions are acknowledged and valued – is key to engendering the collaborative spirt and creativity needed to solve the complex problems we’re working on.

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