Last month I taught a day and a half workshop on intranet governance for Melcrum Publishing. It was designed from the start to be a working session, packed with information, but involving participants in small group discussion and giving them time to get some actual work done.

The group determined several important things when we concluded:

  • There wasn’t enough time. Everyone wanted more time to talk, to do exercises, to complete some of their templates, to get the work done.
  • To get actual work accomplished, they must bring important materials from the office that would guide their thinking, decisions and work during the session. Being prepared to get the most from a workshop is half the challenge. Most of us just show up.
  • They wanted time to show each other their intranets, gain insights from each other and me, the trainer. They wanted to talk about their concerns, their successes and the things they wanted to change. No more hoopla over other people’s “great” intranets – they want to analyze their own.

The first one is really interesting. Participants said they wanted an extra day after all the actual workshop stuff to work together, as a team, on the documentation they need to get done. As one said, “I’m always so excited to do all this stuff after a workshop, but once I get back to the office, I can’t ever make the time to do what I need to do.”

Take a look at most of the workshops, seminars and conferences out there right now. Dog and pony shows? Case studies from tech companies that better be doing cool stuff in this area? Evangelists who say it’s the future, it’s so cool, it’s what’s next?

“Fine, I get it, but how am I supposed to actually do it?” one women said to me after an evangelist session last fall.

So, we set out to do something completely different. Based on participant feedback it worked really well. Keep it small; keep it truly interactive (lots of dialog, sharing, doing of the work); give people a chance to take some accomplishments back. Not just a head of ideas. We focused on these areas:

  • Building your intranet strategy based on business/organizational goals
  • Making good decisions about technology, content, etc.
  • Understanding users, process, workflow and roles necessary to support the intranet
  • Establishing sound policy, code of conduct, standards, etc.
  • Using and integrating social technologies to support business goals
  • Cleaning up and migrating content
  • Using usability testing and user-centered design
  • Measuring the right stuff

We discussed, analyzed, dissected and tooled into documentation the participant organizations need. A primary question was how to keep the organization on the right track even after creating a sound strategy. Related to this was what do you do if your champion executive leaves. This is where the need for documentation is so clear. It’s hard to argue with “policies” and “standards” that have led to great metrics and results. What do I mean?

Write it down! Make a point to document these governance elements and to educate people about them. When that new executive comes in and says, we’re going to change everything, you have substantial support to point to and people behind you.

That is not to say that nothing should ever change about your intranet governance. Intranets are evolutionary. So, your governance also must evolve and should be evolving all the time. Change, in this case is great as long as it’s the right change, be it incremental or big.

My final thought is that our experience with this workshop is not unlike that of developing intranet governance itself. It must be interactive, thoughtful, involving people with different motivations, ideas and experiences. It has to include sharing, comparisons, research and trial. After last month’s workshop, I have a whole new group of converts on the topics, who all shared some of themselves in the process. One said:

“One of the most helpful conferences I’ve been to… period. I feel like I have the tools to be heard during our intranet upgrade.”

I’m working with Melcrum to reprise the workshop in the fall, improved in all the ways our participants desire: more time to dialog, share their own stuff, get the work done. Share your ideas with me on what you desire most from an interactive intranet governance workshop. Now is the time for us to make improvements.