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.

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.

Week of Goodbye



Last week was difficult.  

It was the week that I had to say goodbye to my boss, and my now friend @Brennels. Brace is the only man I know who really did leave his job to spend more time with his family.  No drama, no package, no being asked to leave….a decision proving tht there are, indeed, some great people in this world who have their priorities straight.

Then, on Friday, we had to put our dog down.  Seamus Blue, a ten year old mini-Schnauzer, had a routine verterinary appointment the week before during which we learned he had four distinct medical issues.  In the five days following the diagnoses, he was visibly suffering so we made the most difficult, tho loving, decision to let  him go.

I’m sure there’s a lesson in this experience, as there is in every other.

I just hope that I’ve now learned that lesson, and can stop trying to ‘get back’ and begin moving forward.



Lessons in Non Attachment



non attachment

As I look back over the past year, all I c are the vast numbers of changes that I have experienced.  I know that change happens all the time, it’s good for us etc. but it can be damned difficult as well.

Upon reflection, some of the changes:

  • Mom, who has Alzheimers has really become a funny and wonderful new addition to our family. I know that sounds strange, but when she was healthy, it was difficult to even determine where she was since she traveled so much – and tho, at the time, I may have been a bit resentful, I am now comforted by the fact that she had a good life.  Her life now, although not to be envied, is filled with music, dancing, and the seriously most funny giggle you ever heard.  Particularly when she’s drinking a beer.
  • My baby, EMC|ONE, has completed the evolution to a social intranet.  Happy and excited with our success, I do leave a piece of my heart behind as the Community Manager role ‘saved’ me (I’ll spare you the details!) and provided an opportunity to be part of the best team I’ve been blessed to work with in my career.
  • Now, I’m thrashing a bit about losing a workfriend who has enriched my life, made going to work fun, challenged me, watched me cry, comforted me and all around become so much more than a work colleague.
  • That was last week, but I can’t forget the weekend.  That’s when we learned that our loved mini-Schnauzer, Seamus, likely has Cushing’s disease – another way to speak an illness without using the ‘cancer’ word.  His time may be limited, but we’ll keep him comforted and warm on his journey.


In the midst of all this change, I thrash and flail but in the depths of my heart I know that there is no way to go but forward.  No looking back, no changing the past, no wishing for what is not to be.  Just one step, one moment, on day at a time.

I share because we all face challenges, and many of them are for more serious than any I’ve mentioned.  But we all bear the burden of change, no matter the scope.  And we all have to learn to live with the uncertainty of what seems certain around us.

My lesson in non-attachment is fully underway.

Praying that I learn the lesson being taught; although even that makes me a bit afraid of what is next.

Such is life.

The Value of a Place


Two months ago, on our legacy collaboration platform, employees had to request a place (group or community).  It was a formal process that required answers to some heady questions such as “What is your three month content plan?” and “How do you plan to engage people in discussions?”

Since the launch of our social intranet, we’ve changed our strategy.  We now encourage employees to create their own groups.  That’s awesome, right?  If a person needs a group – they can create one in about 3 minutes.

declining trend

What has this done to the perceived value of a group?

Group value has tanked.

Users are insisting that they need communities, and that groups willl simply not fit their needs.

Still have some of that Sociology major in me, so I find this fascinating.  When we make something easy for people to do, it’s devalued; when we make it difficult to do, value increases.  Must be some theory that addresses this.

How do I handle this issue?

I’ve tired of explaining; and have now developed the key to meet everyone’s needs.  Instead of talking, I show them a beautifully designed group and they “OOOOH”  and “AAHHHHH”  …… “THAT’s what I want!”  And the magic then happens, I say, “You can have that right now, let me point you to the instructions to set it (notice I’m not using the word ‘group’) up.

Problem solved.




Community Manager as Maestro


The community manager role is so diverse, and intensive in so many areas, that I’ve come to think of it as orchestrating a huge musical ensemble.

Strings are here; percussion there; horns behind; and voices added.

Sounds familiar, right?

Community Managers must be able to orchestrate any number of spaces, in our case over 500; and any number of people, in our case 61,000 or so. It’s frightening when stated that way, but the ‘magic sauce’ of being a Community Manger are the abilities to:

  • Act as a lightning rod to spark conversation and engage
  • “Turn up the volume” on strings, while toning it down on percussion.
  • See the bigger picture, the full orchestra, even when working with one segment
  • Bring people together to understand the shared outcome and to ‘hear the music’ even though each person is only playing their instrument

If that’s not enough, all must be accomplished with good cheer, great knowledge, and an avid devotion to providing the optimal level of service.


To all Community Managers, be Maestros and let the music begin!

The Art of Collaboration


We’ve added tens of thousands of new social intranet users during the past seven weeks.  They’re an interesting group of people, as many have not been exposed to collaboration platforms previously.

They tend to be tenuous in their responses, and uncertain as to what is appropriate to say.  This has led to some humorous interactions, particularly if you’re a community manager.

My fave discussion this week?

Jake:  Does anyone collect comic books, and if so which ones?

David:  I do.

That’s it, “I do.”  Being the moderator that I am, I replied to David, “Hi David, man of few words, could you share what comic books you collect?”

David’s response:  All of them.


You can’t teach collaboration; but you CAN prompt responses and model behavior.  Adding value to a conversation is, apparently, an art :-)