Author Archives: mlavoie8

About mlavoie8

Enterprise Collaboration Community Manager at EMC Corporation, Hopkintin, MA, US. Six Sigma Green Betl with over twenty years of experience in learning, education, program and project management. Author of six workforce management books, and panel speaker at 2011 Enterprise 2.0 Conference.

One Lesson Above all Else


I was raised Catholic, and spent ten years in Catholic school.  I also spent that ten years learning French, and am unable to write, read, or understand a word of it.  So it goes.

What I’ve learned in my life, having been on a number of spiritual ‘quests,’ is that one message permeates the religions I’ve learned about.  One message.

Now that’s pretty amazing.

And it’s nothing complicated, nothing you have to do.  You don’t have to fast, forego meat on Fridays, attend synagogue or church, you don’t really have to give up anything to express your love.

Just love.

Love one another.

Teach By Being: Practical Tips for Community Managers


ImageTest plans, training plans, communication plans, social launch strategies, webex training….just a few of the many ways that Community Managers educate others to partlcipate socially.

While all of these may be necessary, I would argue that one item is glaringly missing from the lists of training activities that I see – teach by being.

It is the Community Managers role to establish a voice for the organization, to model appropriate behaviours in both postiive and negative situations on a social platform, to resist the urge to shout “But I TOLD you that would happen” when folks  make what you considered an informed decision only to learn that they had no idea what they were agreeing to.

Teach by Being

  • Slightly formal with folks you don’t know
  • Informal and conversational with folks that you’ve come to know
  • Moderate in the heat of a disagreement
  • Accepting of all opinions
  • Clear about when you are expressing your opinion as an employee, and not the Community Manager
  • Apolgetic – out loud – when you make a mistake
  • A spotlight for the good things that are reported in your community

Classes?  Webex training?  User training?

Yup, need all that.

But teaching by being is by far the most effective in my opinion.

What do you think?

How NOT to Conduct User Testing




You would think that by now, most companies would have figured out how, and when, to conduct user testing.  But today I have a story from the Northeast, US where a new cable company just rode into town.

They laid all their cable beneath streets and lawns, and heavily marketed themselves as cheaper, faster, and just all around dizzyingly better than the ‘old’ cable company.

My 86 year old father-in-law has taken to adopting new causes every now and again; and this was one.  He researched the options, he spent about 3 hours total on the phone with both companies to compare rates (mind you, he doesn’t need an internet connection….just phone and television cable stations).  Ultimately, and to my great surprise, he decided to CHANGE!

Poof, just like that, he called and asked, “How do I sound?”   “Um, good,”  I said.  Only then did he tell me that he was using a new cable provider and couldn’t even tell the difference. AND, it was less expensive.  That was day one.

Day four he called his new cable company to disconnect the service, and went back to the old standard.


He couldn’t see a damn thing on the television remote. It was so complicated that he couldn’t figure out how to change a channel, and if he stumbled upon the right button (apparently there were dozens) he couldn’t see it so couldn’t remember it for future use.

Here’s the clincher.  When the folks came in to disconnect the new cable, he spoke to them.  They told him that this was a common complaint, that he wasn’t the only one having difficulty with seeing and operating the remote.  In fact, they were removing service as much as installing.  “But don’t worry,” they said, “there will be no charge and we’re using all of this feedback as input for a usability study.  

Yes, a usability study.

After the fact; after the install; during the uninstall.

I wonder how much that costs?  Are lost opportunity costs calculated?

Am I the only one who sees that usability testing is clearly intended to occur BEFORE deployment?

Helping People who are Always Late to Meetings


What ties us together is shared experiences.

Meetings are one of those experiences that some of us have to endure.  I’m the ontime type; logging in to the shared workspace or dialing in either a minute before or at the meeting start time.

But others aren’t able to do that. I get it, I really do.  When you schedule meetings for 60 minutes, back to back, there comes a time when you simply HAVE to go to the bathroom.  Or get a drink of water. Or even say hello to someone.

We’re always looking for BIG ideas; the ideas that will propel our organization, our company, our industry into the glory zone.  But not all ideas are BIG; in fact many are small.  And maybe those small ideas  have an impact more heartening, far-reaching and efficient ….especially if there are lots of them.

I’ve recently begun a new practice.  I don’t honestly remember if I read about it somewhere; I don’t think so but you never know so if I’ve missed an attribution I apologize.  And please let me know.


Meeting Start Time Stratregy:

  1. Take great care, pre meeting to identify two separate optical illusions or riddles (sometimes up to three riddles on a slide)
  2. Put those two slides at the front of your presentation
  3. At exactly the meeting start time, give instructions about the first illusion/riddle (don’t blurt the answer out load, when you have it just shout out your name or message me)
  4. Slide forward
  5. Let folks giggle, and ponder and think
  6. I allow two minutes for each of the two slides. At meeting start time, I introduce  the first slide.  Time for thinking, pondering, blurting out names….at about start time plus 1 minute 30 seconds, I ask the first persont who blurted or wrote to ask the answer. Chaos generally ensures
  7. Meeting start time + two minutes. Second slide.  I like to change up the second slide so if I had an optical illusion on the firstl slide, I use a riddle on the second (and vice versa). Keeps the brain active!
  8. Repeat items 4 – 6
  9. Beging recording the meeting at meeting time plus four minutes; announce the meeting title and date.
  10. Meeting begins.
  11. First two ‘fun’ slides for those who attend on time (up to four minutes late) are not recorded.

During the most recent four twice-weekly meetings, there has been a noticeable increse in folks arriving on time.

They don’t want to miss the fun.

It might be the only fun they have that day.


What are YOUR strategies to manage meetings?

Rebooted, Rewired and Ready to Roll


My last week at work, before a short vacation included:

  • My observation that a telephone conversation was non productive, and a subsequent hangup
  • Several freakouts where, just say, I wasn’t on my best behavior
  • One incident of crying….tissues and all… my bosses office
  • Several incidents of unkindness toward those I care about and work with

Mea culpa.  Blame stress, blame stalled projects, but maybe best not to place blame but rather to admit that I was simply overcome, overwhelmed, overstimulated, and overtly unhappy.

Well, apologies have been said, weekend kirtan and meditation retreat completed.  Not sure I’m ready to go, but certainly empty of the powerless feelings that sometimes drive me to act like someone whom I don’t even recognize.

I owe this cleansing to so many who love and support me.  You know who you are!

Special blessings to @krishnadas and @sharonsalzberg who are able to encourage the opening of hearts






Blackfish – Social Impact


ImageI don’t know how many of you have  seen the CNN documentary  “Backfish.”  I believe it is also now available on Netflix, and other demand services.

Loving movies, I sat to watch this one with a hint of what I might see.  I knew it was an anti-whale-captivity documentary, but it was so much more.  Professionals will always warn you not to assign human traits – like a mother’s love, or the desire for freedom – to animals, but any of us who have pets know they do display those traits.

My mini-Schnauzer knows exactly when he is guilty of piddling on a rug (which he always favors over hardwood floors).  He’ll stand there, tail between his legs, eyes downcast, waiting for his reprimand.  I believe that animals do have feelings, relationships, customs, norms, and we know that male whales in the wild will stay with their mothers their entire lives.  They travel in pods, and like many other animal they demonstrate behaviours that are familiar to us.  They communicate; yet we do not understand.

After watching the movie, I was inspired to tweet using the #Blackfish hashtag.

Try it, you’ll find that there are thousands of people out there devoting time, money, and love to saving these beautiful creatures.

@SeaWorld?  Their execs are dumping stock; attendance is dropping; and weekday prices have dropped.

Does it end there?  Doesn’t look like it- awareness is growing.  Zoos, circuses, aquariums and related ventures that rely on captive animal will all be affected.

And why am I, a Community Manager, posting this? 

It’s a great illustration of the power of social media to change hearts/minds.

How we treat the helpless is a sign of our humanity.

Watch #Blackfish; you’ll understand.

Balance between Collaboration and Control


ImageAs we march toward our social intranet launch date, we are becoming more and more aware of the change management impacts it will have on our 45K users.  Oh, we knew it would be a huge change but within 12 hours of asking our Community Managers to change their layouts to 2 column we had already received our first ‘exception request.’

Our social platform has been around for 6.5 years.  It had little fanfare, virtually no marketing, and just one day appeared.  Over its lifespan, it grew and grew to over 800 communities.  This was organic growth, to it’ not surprising that many spaces were …well, not redundant….but pretty much aligned to other existing spaces.

Our preparatory cleanup leaves us with 482 parent spaces, and although you’d think that’s an issue, that’s not it.

What is really bugging people is a requirement for use of a two column layout template.  Our users have become proficieint in creating beautiful artwork and designs on their pages, complicatd layouts, and each one is unique.

Talk about user experience; the user needs an orientation to virtually every space since no design requirements have ever been established.

Why put a ‘rule’ around templates and layouts?

  • User experience.  We want our users to visit any space, and to easily locate what they are looking for.  No searching the horizontal or vertical navigation, left or right; a consistent user expereince.
  • Community management.  We want our Community Managers to become proficient in managing collabortion versus managing design.  One template, allowing for the addition of widgets as necessary, focuses our Community Managers on serving relevant content.

Why the exception request?  “My space is different;”  aren’t they all?

Digital Vacation


on off switchThose of you who know me won’t be very surprised that I willingly disavowed any connection to social media on a recent vacation to the quaint and historic island of Bermuda.

Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn……not once did I miss the ongoing stream of information.  And I particularly did not miss the self-generated extended family drama that plays itself out repeatedly, throughout the generations of my extended family.

There was one time, though, when we missed our digital age.  Lying beneath the blue skies, faces turned to the sun, we looked at each other and said, simultaneously, “What time is it?”

Did I mention that neither of us brought our phones?  Insert GASP here.  No access to time, traveling on the tail end of a blizzard and expecting to arrive in much the same weather, not even a phone.

We had a good laugh, realizing that we didn’t have to be anywhere anyway so what did the time matter?

Here’s what I learned from my digital vacation:

  • I really don’t need to know about every detail of people’s lives; particularly those whom I haven’t seen IRL in years
  • Even family members, no matter how distant, seem only to post things that feed my inner worrier
  • Most couples and families can eat an entire dinner without ever saying a word (MOST disturbing); even without digital access

So, have I changed?  For now, but I know the insidious path that digital and electronic devices take to furrow back into your heart, brain and life. I’m on the watch!


Funny Moments when Planning a Platform Upgrade


ImageWhile planning for an upgrade of our social community platform, our company decided to take it one step farther and to integrate our intranet with the platform.  HUH?  Integrate a static, broadcast, ‘tell ‘em’ kind of space on a social collaboration platform?

Some interesting responses:

  • We must have every employee post their company badge photo as their avatar.”  Um, no, that’s not really going to work on a social platform because everyone can choose their own avatar.


  • Then, each person must post a photo of themselves….not their pet, children, or other avatars.”  Um, no, folks have been posting photos for more than six years without an issue.
  • We have a longstanding policy of not publicizing people’s titles on the org chart.”  Um, sorry, people’s titles have been all over the social collaboration space for the past six years.
  • You want to integrate with Linked In to publish skills?!?!  That will encourage our employees to fill out profiles and get new jobs.” Um, if they have a LinkedIn profile they’re either looking or just being social anyway.
  • We don’t want people to ask us any questions (guess the organization).”  Hmmm, they’ve been able to ask questions among themselves for the past six years, you just weren’t listening to the conversations.

Great fodder for a new book on organizational change driven by technology upgrades; that’s how I plan to spend my retirement :-)

Be Good


I’ve been on vacation for about two weeks now, and aside from two quick peeks at Tweetdeck, couldn’t help myself, have been socially disconnected.  Well, not socially disconnected but device disconnected.  And news disconnected.

Filling your days, and weeks with alternatives to hearing dreadful events on the television news…..there MUST be some good news somewhere.  If I have to suffer through a 4:00 am news broadcast where a woman reports on the traffic, THE TRAFFIC?  It’s 4:30 am, there IS no traffic.  Let’s change that up and add a story about someone who is overcoming, who overcame, who gave more than they took, who offered more than what they could afford.

Let’s talk about the two homeless guys at a holiday charitable event.  As they’re walking, one mentions that he wished he could have gotten to the event in time to get a hat.  The other guy takes the knitted hat from his head and hands it to him.

There is good. And regardless of how badly the media wants to position, push, infiltrate, guide, influence and machine our thought processes, we should be talking about good things.

That easy.Talk about good .

Write about good .