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.

And so it happened that god was mentioned……


Feels like I’ve been waiting for this day to happen for some time; the day when someone posts a message in our enterprise community that is ‘charged’ for any number of reasons.

Before we go there, I blogged a few weeks ago that our HR team was initiating faith-based employee circles.  We have dozens and dozens of employee circles – Latino, ELGBT, Women’s Leadership, Asian and Black Employees Group etc.

When I first noticed the faith based post, it gave me pause as I could imagine some of what might happen.

Back to the story.

Employee A posts (not quoted), “Have a blessed weekend. May god be with you.”

Employee B is offended, and unfollows Employee A.  This should be the end; it’s not.

Employee B notified his boss who, as you might imagine handles it like a hot potato and delegates upward and sideways until it reaches me.  I see nothing wrong with the post, it doesn’t violate any of our social guidelines, and knowing that HR is working to introduce faith based circles it would seem that we can expect some ‘god’ talk and…………GASP…………maybe even the names of god.  Buddha, Jesus, Allah, Yahweh; you get it.

So I contact HR to notify that there’s been one mention of lower-case god, and one person who was offended.  Several meetings ensued, and my primary goal was to ensure that no one contact Employee A since he did not do anything wrong.

Outcome?  Still don’t know; but I do know that HR is re-assesing their position on faith based employee circles.

Has this happened to you?

Affiliation Builds Community


Thanks to those who patiently read my pathetic rant; life goes on.

Today, want to talk about affiliation.

Don’t actually read too much about affiliation, so if you have resources, please reply!   Managing communities in a technical company can be challenging in that much of the content is, well, technical.  And as it should be.

But there are employees who are not technical, who enjoy a good marketing story, or IT experience sharing, or just plain business talk about their particular area.

Nowhere is this seen more than in our external facing community, where our customers often drop by to get an answer to their technical questions.  Kind of a good news/bad news thing; the good news is that it looks like they can find their information quickly and leave.

The bad news?  Sometimes, they don’t come back.

Hence, affiliation.  My argument is that you build affiliation to a company, brand, or community via social interaction.  I don’t necessarily mean that we have to have ‘motorcycle’ or ‘gardeners’ groups on our technical communities, but rather offer opportunities for customers to engage.

The example of the day:  Movember.

It’s a great challenge, for a great cause, and almost drives users to relentllessly post selfies with new growth moustaches.  I call it engaging; others argue that it doesn’t at all ‘fit’ with the technical nature of our audience.

So, techies, are you only interested in technical information?  or do you want to feel a part of something larger? do some good?  meet some new folks with similar interests?



My fave song lyric is “every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”  So true, so positive, so hopeful.

Working on a huge, enterprise project to deliver the first social intranet in our enterprise took about 17 months of my life.  Not just mine, mind you, but dozens of others as well.

Hard work, long hours, so many meetings, negotiations, disagreements, reconciliations, additions, deletions, go, hold, stop, hold, go again…..a virtual whirlwind of continuous activity all driving toward one nearly insurmountable goal.

Goal accomplished.

Social intranet launched.  Not just launched, but launched with great success and embraced by the workforce.

Great, right?

Right after that, of course I had the blush of glory for a week or two, then the frantic activity of bringing a new Community Manager aboard but also I felt sort of empty/weird.  Everything I had done, everythine we had done, had proven successful beyond our imaginations.  Now it was over.

Suppose that is always the result of a grand project, it’s a pinnacle of careers and yet it does end and I know I should be thankful that it ended successfully.

During the five months post-launch:

  • My boss, who had worked tirelessly on this project with all of us, abruptly quit.  At least, it felt abrupt; I wonder if he was feeling the same letdown.
  • Our dog, whom we had raised since he was six years old, got sick and we had to put him down.  The 10 yo mini-Schnauzer was a hellion but he was OUR hellion
  • My father-in-law, over a period of three weeks, had a heart attack and died at 86.  You might think that is a ripe old age, but he was healthy and active, and hard as it seem to believe this all came as quite a shock.
  • Oh, and did I mention my Mom?  She’s deteriorating from the effects of Alzheimer’s although I thank the great being that she’s still with us

So if I seem on edge; sensitive; upset; not myself, please understand that sometimes endings CAN trigger new beginnings…..just not the ones we expected to have to overcome.

What About a Faith Based Community?


We knew it would happen someday; as any of our 65K employees are now able to create their own groups.  Our enterprise social intranet has a new discussion titled “Are  you interested in a faith based group?”

That in itself is a bit strange, as the employee could simply have created the group without any sort of permssioning or review.  The  responses are also very interesting, ranging  from the all in (I’m so glad someone is doing this!) to the more cautious “Maybe.”

My question?  What IS a faith based community?  Does it apply to a particular faith, or is it open to all who live who have a faith. Will it be offensive to anyone (oh dear), and how is it different from other interest groups or employee circles which focus on race, ethnicity, country of origin.

So, community managers, what would you do – if anything – in response a direct request for a faith based community in your company?

Must, Should, Could


We’ve been put into circumstances where we are responsible for the sale of a house; this is not about the circumstances but rather the way that I’m feeling most comfortable making family decisions.

I’ve had a list of things in my mind that we need to do to prepare the house and property.  When lists get too long in my mind, I have to write them down. Before I began to write, I prioritized each item, thought about each activity as a:

  • Must (required to sell at best price) or
  • Should (definite improvements that may impact sale price) or
  • Could (over-the-top improvements that may be risky)

Then, I wrote each of 34 potential home improvements on similarly shaped and sized paper.

I cut three pieces of cardboard, shaped like bookmarks (remember them?), each saying either “Must” or “Should” or “Could.”





You can figure out the rest.  It’s group decision-making without the conversation.  You can do it alone with no instructions. There is no judgment, everyone prioritizes and most votes win.Without a meeting room, schedules that span time zones, in-depth discussion, or group interaction.

Sure this could be, and probably already is, digitized somewhere but it’s an intersting way to approach let’s say….business priorities, family priorities, group decisions and virtually any difficult decision.

Hope it helps you.  Although I’m probably the only one in my family who will actually complete the exercise since the others don’t have the same compulsion to write lists and then make games of them.

Optimizing User Behavior in a Community


Sometimes the easiest questions can push you over the precipice.

how long

He asked, “Can I get a report of how long it takes (average) for someone to answer a question in my community?”
Pretty clear cut, right?

Although it may seem as though I am fanatical about asking questions, I had quite a few about this request:

  • Do you want the time that the question received a response, which may or may not be an answer?
  • What if someone replies with a ‘pithy’ comment?  Would you want to measure that time?
  • Are you really looking for the time from question posted to the requestor marking an answer correct?

And there’s the rub, the third bullet is probably suitable for this request but we haven’t yet built the habit of marking answers correct.  And there’s my next thing…….

Adrift in the Tide


twinkleChange is a funny thing, it’s constant so you’d think that by the time you reach my age you’d have your strategies and tactics to manage it all tied up in a neat little bow.

Not so.

If you’ve been keeping up, you know that I’ve experienced some recent changes.  My boss left his job, we had to euthanize our beloved 10 year old mini-Schnauzer….all that happened within two days.  Atop the general day to day drama that fills your head when you have two aging parents and are involved in your extended family….even though most of it occurs in your own head.

My new boss asked me a very simple question yesterday. “So, how are you feeling.”  I had to think about that a moment as I’ve been feeling such conflicting things.  “Anchorless,”  I replied, “like I’m floating around, certainly busy and doing things, but without that feeling of being tightly tethered.”

To his credit, he observed that this was a natural and expected result of a dramatic amount of change in a short time; that I wasn’t alone in the feeling; and that we were only four days into what promised to be a longer-term shift in the roles we fill, in the jobs we do.

Nothing less would have comforted me.

That proverbial ‘light at the end of the tunnel?”  It’s started to twinkle.