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.

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 :-)


Overcoming Organizational Barriers to Collaboration


Everything changed with the June 2, 2014 launch of our social intranet.  And lest you think that I’m exaggerating, let me share just one quick story.

One of our corporate departments published a notification of an upcoming change in a benefit plan (trying to be a bit obtuse here, forgive me).  They have done that routinely in the past, posting it to the intranet with a “click here to discuss” button that would bring employees to the social collaboration space to comment.  Rarely did anyone do so.

For reasons unknown, aggregating the intranet with our collaboration space yielded far different results.

There were 123 responses to the change announcement.  Initially, comments were positive but then began a downward spiral of employees who were incredulous about the change, unhappy that they weren’t asked their opinion in advance,  and generally feeling ‘left out’ of the decision making.

Let’s face it, that’s usually how business works.

In our case, this all happened on the second day following the launch of our social intranet.  We didn’t have a plan, we were literally buried in user help requests, and the fires were being stoked by opinionated employees (we have lots of them, and luv them).

What happened?

After the first day of posting, a number of different executives joined the conversation to provide additional context about the change.

The Sr. VP of the organization issuing the change joined the conversation and actively thanked employees for their feedback.

And, she openly expressed surprise about the feedback and made a commitment to follow up.

The best part?

She did follow up, and made subsequent changes to the original policy change to address employees’ questions and issues.

While not all policy changes can be put up for an employee vote, and some will of course make some employees unhappy, here’s what we learned:

1.  “Marketing” speak doesn’t work well with employees.  “Because you told us” or “Based on your Feedback” will result in employee asking to see the data.  Better have it handy.

2. This one discussion, and the subsequent change in policy, ‘proved’ to employees that they are being offered a tremendous opportunity to influence our company’s direction and operation.  While we recognize that not all policies can or will change due to employee feedback, this instance occurred so early in our release that it set the tone for future announcement and, dare I say, discussion about policies in advance of decision making.

3.  It’s not personal.  This was a very difficult lesson as the Sr. VP had always issued the same type of announcement with no resulting impact.  BAM – do it the way we always have done it, and now receiving employee reaction is a whole new thing.

It’s a whole new way to work!


Have you Planned for Outrageous Success?


We launched our social intranet four weeks ago. In that time, our engaged employees went from about 35K to 61K. In four weeks.

While we had every pre-launch disaster plan in place:

1. Fall back if the system didn’t update properly over the weekend
2. Revert to former version if functionality didn’t work
3. A full list of go/no go functionality (if we can’t launch this then…)

But we didn’t plan for, which is obvious as we look back, is the all out adoption of a new platform.

We knew we had about 35K active users, but we were upgrading from a software version 4.5.6 to version 7. Version 7 bore no resemblance at all to v4.5.6 so we had thirty five thousand people who were going to need training.

With a prep time of 12 months, and openly working on a project in the old platform, we knew we’d have to really on strong social advocates. We met with them every other week for a year.

We published a three-part user training, each video ten minutes or less describing new functionality, how to get started, what to do.

And, guess what? That did it. People, 25K who had never been part of our former v4 community, jumped right in.

There were many dozens of us who worked on this project, some in and out as their expertise was needed. All of us gave it our all to acknowledge and reject corporate politics as the intranet reported to one group, and the community to another.

We just forged forward doing what we knew was right. It took a toll; there was a day when I both vomited and cried. At work. And I have a feeling that more tears were shed than anyone ever let on.

But now, 4 weeks later, our users are asking for functionality updates. “Really?” I reply. “Do you remember when you couldn’t even post a video?”

Time to march on and loosen my own feeling of platform ownership. We did an awesome thing, one that I’ll be sure to consier the pinnacle of my career.

My Name is Che


Many of us already use names that we dreamed up in high school or that were names of affection from family or friends.  Margarets became Maggies, Roberts became Bobs, Katherines became Kathys, and Kathys become Kates.

Born Michelle, I was ‘reborn’ in my teens as Mitch.  That’s how I know how far our relationship goes back.  When someone looks at me and says, “Mitch, I haven’t seen you in years” I know two things:

  • i knew this person during my adolence to late late 20s
  • This is someone who knew me rather weill (outside of work)

Then, as I got older and my jobs became more like my career, Mitch was just too confusing.   I always had to spell it as people often misunderstood my name to be Midge (I’m not tall).  So I went all out Michelle.  And that’s what people knew me by at AT&T, my first professional job, A.T.Cross, Stream Int’l, a brief stint at a Providence RI startup, and most recently at EMC.  All twelve years + of my time at EMC.

Today I change again.  The name Michelle was given by my parents; the name Mitch was ….. I really don’t remember.  A third circle aquaintance said it once, and it stuck.  

My new ‘display’ name is Che.  I recently reawakened a lazer beam focus on users; call it user experience or call iy just being plain old sensical (POS) when planning collaboration strategies.  Someone whom I respect likened me to a Marxist revolutionary which, if you think about it, I could have taken offense to.  Instead, I embrace “Che (pronouned Chay)”

It makes sense if you think about it. If I need more motivation or you more convincing how about this?  

Michelle has the name Che within it. 

Others named Che have either been heroes or revolutionaires depending on your point of view.  But I’m not them.  I prefer to think of myself of change agent, with a twist.

When you see me, call me Che.

I’ll remind you.

And I understand that this may seem alarming, stupid, self-absorbed, crazy or any other number of descriptions.  But this time, I’m choosing my name.

What if the Most Awesome Thing Happens and…………


If you’ve been following, we’ve just finished week two of launching our social intranet.  To catch you up, we aggregated our intranet, updated our collaboration platform three full versions, and combined them.  Our social intranet was ‘born’ on June 2, 2014.

At the end of the first week, quite a discussion ensued about the release of a new service anniversary program.  It’s not the discussion that I’d like to talk about, but rather the ‘what now?’  

Because it has happened.  Employee have found their place, their voice, and they’re using it. Oh shit (merde).

I find it easier to think in use case format to remove all the emotion in a situation. So here’s the use case:

Human Resources announces a change to the service anniversary program.  Many positive comments are posted; seems like folks are happy about the change.  Then, as quickly as one post, dissension rises.  You start to see comments like “Based on your feedback….you didn’t talk to ME!” and “Who is going to be able to claim this on their taxes?” and “I’m offended by the company making the decision and then saying that it was in response to my request.”

These are people new to social communities, and this is the first HR related issue they’ve reacted to.

There were about 20-25 negative comments; getting progressively more personal rather than constuctive.  There were about 10 positive comments.

The anti-change comments are long, filled with capital letters, bolded in certain places, and are in general “loud.”

As one of the social leads in your organization, you have an opportunity to offer guidance  to Human Resouces.  The VP has already responded in the community, and has answered questions to assure employees that they will revisit the policy.

What would YOU advise the HR VP to ?

The Case for UnMarketing


Just starting the fifth day of our social intranet, the end of the first week. 

Have learned many things but one item is standing our starkly agains the rest so thought I’d share.

We have always published corporate communications (you know, the kind that go through editing and review several times before being published; more formal with great attempts to sound conversational) on our homepage.  In the legacy collaboration platform, virtually no one ever pushed the “Discuss this” option to share their thoughts/feelings about whatever message was being communicated.

That’s changed!

We’ve had two incidences during our first week of deployment that remind us that our formal  #MarketingSpeak is not necessarily the best way to communicate with employees.

In both cases, the communication was worded flawlessly and it’s obvious that much time and attention went into the selection of phrasing.

But, in both cases, employees reacted quite strongly in their comments.

While folks did comment on the changes themselves, they also reacted strongly to the phrases:  

  • “We heard from you that…..”
  • “As you’ve told us…..”

Both phrases obviously being used to show that the company is reacting to employee suggestions or feedback.  But both phrases have instead resulted in employees questioning , “where did you hear that?” or “I didn’t want that.”

Time to drop the #MarketingSpeak and just talk to each other.

Write the message, tell folks why, explain in plain English (or whatever language is being used) and re-focus on the message itself vs. the requirement to provide data to back up these statements.

A Social Intranet is Born


On Monday, June 2, 2014 we launched  a social intranet.  While upgrading our existing collaboration platform (up three versions  – a totally new expereince), we also integrated our intranet to provide our employees with one place to learn, share and collaborate.

So much to talk about; let’s start with the metrics.

Our legacy collaboration platform retired with 45,321 registered users (of about 63K employees).  At the beginning of day three of the social intranet, we have 57,236 users representing 89.5% of our global employee population.

But you know how it is with numbers, so let me shed some insights on this awesome accomplishment:

  • our legacy users ‘carried over’ so we’ve added about 12,000 users in two days plus an hour or two – still AWESOME!
  • any employee who attempts to access the legacy collaboration space or the former intranet are redirected to the social intranet

Ten months of planning, dozens and dozens of people involved at various times, for various reasons….IT, User Experience, Corporate Communications,  Global Security, Marketing…the list goes on and on.

Proud to say (with a bold hint of embarrassment thrown in) that one of the m0st reported issues is the display of local temperature in Fahrenheit :-(

Seems the rest of the world uses Celsius.

With that exception, I am over the top about our great employees, our visionary company, and my return to my roots as a Community Manager.

Let me know what else you’d like to hear about!