Just browsed through the notes of July 2004 meeting of the EGRIN Consultative Committee. The ladies and gentlemen of the Committee have prompted much improvements in EGRIN. The site has been made use of intensively in the dissemination of information. The materials there are richer and colleagues are able to find much information they need at work just by accessing EGRIN. The best improvement is the depository of training notes. Training officers also started discussion threads in the forum. This is a very good move in elevating interaction and collaboration in EGRIN.
We have put so much information in EGRIN to make it useful, fresh and content-rich. But what is the result, the utilization and the acceptance by staff? EGRIN is created because we want to be at the leading edge of knowledge management and sharing. GGO has taken good steps in persuading all colleagues to get information about the Grade from EGRIN: announcements, posting notices, KIT, etc. But if colleagues just read when prompted without responding, EGRIN will remain a cold medium with a one-way information flow.
Just a casual check on read-count of mail. When a new mail is posted, it is read about 50 times in several days. Many of them are repeats and I guess there are only about 30 colleagues reading. Compared with eo_net, about 130 members receive mail delivered to them. From the two figures, I wonder why even many eo_net members who use their computers frequently for communication do not read EGRIN mail.
Obviously, something must be done to improve the participation of colleagues in expressing themselves. Once this culture is established, views and comments on various aspects of the grade will follow. From the notes of meeting, there was discussion on whether authors of mail could be anonymous. The advantage of revealed identity was recognized as that authors would express their views in a more conscious manner. Since when EOs are irresponsible and engage in vandalism?? In eo_net, members are not required to reveal their identity. Although the moderators make sure that members are serving or ex-EOs when they join, such personal information are immediately discarded. Still, many members use their real name when writing and all mail are respectable. I would suggest that colleagues could choose their own user name in EGRIN and keep their real name from others if they wish. The registration record could be kept confidential by the administrator, for witch hunting only when absolutely necessary. The bottom line is: trust us.
The other item discussed was the recognition to colleagues who contribute to EGRIN. The concern was resources and their attractiveness, as if EOs wish to get sufficient benefit in order to contribute to EGRIN. This greatly missed the point. I recall reading a management book on motivation that a CEO wished to reward his subordinate so badly that he just gave him a banana from his lunch box. There is no need to spend time administering a reward scheme; just give everyone who contributed to EGRIN a banana.
To improve the participation and interactiveness in EGRIN, we first need to make the discussion forum busy. The suggestion to encourage access to EGRIN in KIT and departmental meetings are very useful. I would also like to share with anyone who have such desire in mind the experience I have in managing bulletin board and forum.
There are mainly four major tactics.
We need some important people to write in the forum: people that colleagues would be attracted to read from. Perhaps DGG and senior members of the grade could address all colleagues in this manner. In the meantime, we still stick to the old fashion way of letters and memo. It seems to me a bit odd reading in EGRIN a letter in PDF format which should instead be delivered by a postman. Discussion forum has the advantage of instant response. Colleagues will have the opportunity to respond to such high level mail quickly. This could be the way of seeking views on official issues. I think all consultation exercises should be accompanied by such mode of communication.
Second, the forum should be used to discuss topics of interest. This is the way EGRIN forum is being pursued but the result is not encouraging. We need some knowledgeable colleagues to show their faces in order to establish the reputation that EGRIN forum could really help. I put up some interesting topics from time to time, and our colleagues in T&D also did the same. However, there are few readers, not to mention writers. The first thing to do is make the place looks busy. I have suggested all GGO colleagues to take turn to write just one message a day. As follow-up on training sessions, some trainees may be invited personally to express their views. Focus group members could openly discuss their topics in the forum. We can first artificially create a continued dialogue among these groups. This can act as a nucleus to snowball the number of readers and then writers.
Even without any serious discussion on work topics, the discussion forum could be made busy by greetings, congratulations and simple remarks. The very conservative view is that an official forum must not contain non-work-related issues. I wonder if congratulation on promotion is considered non-work-related. EGRIN should be made a meeting place for colleagues, just like colleagues in the office where they do not just discuss work all the time; they also discuss parenting and news.
When there is absolutely no response in a business setting, people make cold calls, just like the phone calls we received from advertising companies, insurance agents, financial consultants, etc. The last move is to address colleagues personally in EGRIN forum and hopefully prompt some responses to improve the traffic. Any small moves above could add up to make EGRIN forum a busy place.