SynBarCamp 2011 – The Day After

Last Friday I moderated together with Dominik Wind the first Synaxon Barcamp. Quite an experience I have to say. The camp was exclusively for Synaxon staff – employees only.

33 topics were proposed and presented in our opening session – they were burnt down in the opening session to 25 – still a lot to work through the day. At the end we had 14 presentations – a few topics were melt together, some other simply didn’t get enough attention. An impressive outcome – especially when you know that each and every topic will be kept on track by its own “Minister of the Future” – the person who is responsible to transform this idea into daily Synaxon practice. Tomorrow Synaxon’s management will decide how much “free” time per week a minister will get to work on his/her topic … a great commitment, I think, since the employees can then work on their ideas during regular working hours and don’t need to spent extra hours on top of their regular daily work – just like at Google.

You could feel the curiosity and excitement when the room get packed for the opening session. After a brief introduction by the internal organization team Dominik and I took over. We explained the basic rules of an open space and challenged the partcipants by showing a video with creative ways to present their ideas at the end of the day.

The intro of the 33 topics took 45 minutes, every employee explained his/her idea and told us about his/her expectations of what to achieve. Then they went off in working groups. The groups weren’t equal in size – some of them had 15+ members, others only 4. Nevertheless in all of them everybody was committed to achieve the best.

As a matter of fact the participation of Synaxon’s management was optional – meaning it was up to the employees to decide wether they participate or not. It turned out that in every group I saw members of the management were happily included in the open and absolutely critical discussions.

I visited 5 working groups during the day – and what I’ve heard was in many ways astonishing, at least for me:

  • trainees fighting for their right to get the best out of their education by proposing a radical new method how to deal with them
  • employees telling their bosses very openly what they are doing wrong (not having time for conversations, not following up on topics which were discussed … )
  •  IT geeks revolutionizing processes set by the management
  • other geeks were demanding open source software strategies for tools Synaxon has heavy invested in – and the CEO announced at the end of the day via twitter and Facebook that their software is going open source!
  • employees demanding and finally deleting a fair amount of the 198 company rules

So I asked myself on my way home if the Synaxon web 2.0 concept  – I only knew so far from conversations and interviews with Frank Roebers, Synaxon’s CEO – has really infiltrated the entire company? At the best I could, I checked it according to the principles I think enterprise 2.0 companies should follow – here in short my one day impressions:

Transparency

The Synaxon wiki way is transparent. Nevertheless being transparent doesn’t garantee that everybody knows everything which was made transparent. And this became obivious in some sessions. So there is the need to filter in order to reach the full potential of transparency.

And transparency is not only a top-down but also a bottom-up issue. If management is transparent things won’t work the 2.0 way if employees aren’t transparent as well. So it’s a requirement for everybody in the company … everybody is challenged. And this is something which employees need to understand: 2.0 is a 2-way street.

Openness

No lack of openness.

Collaboration

I’ve got the feeling that collaboration can be improved – especially across department boundaries and across brand boundaries.

No idea about collaboration with “external” partners.

Participation

It wasn’t optional to attend the BarCamp. It was a must for all employees – at least it was communicated as a must in the beginning. Except for a few which kept the daily business running.

The 35 topics were proposed from 15 people … so more than 10 % of the staff was actively involved. The management excluded themselves in proposing topics.

All the attendees seemed to be heavily involved in their discussions!

Failure, creativity and innovation

I’ve got the feeling, that failure is allowed.

Employees poofed their creativity in leaving their comfort zone for their presentations.

The topics discussed were closely related to Synaxon’s daily business … So it’s hard to tell about innovation. But since failure and creativity are vibrant parts of Synaxon’s culture – innovation shouldn’t be an issue.

My conclusion: In Germany definitely one of the most advanced 2.0 enterprises! And with this BarCamp they’ve installed their next tool to drive progress within their company.

 

And at the very end let me point out some details which made the BarCamp – among all the other things mentioned above – to a huge success:

  • the right food at the right moment is as important as a dose of fresh air once in a while
  • if you feel limits aren’t reached yet, push them a bit further
  • challenge the participants to step out of their comfort zone
  • include fun – e.g. something as the first SynEi Award
  • have always some music ready
  • never take things for granted

The day ended with finger food and drinks.

The biggest challenge for me at this time: to find a corkscrew for a great Italian red which we discovered among all the beer …