The People Puzzle:
Making the Pieces Fit
Kerry-Anne Gilowey
Content Strategy Forum Conference
Frankfurt, 3 July 2014
@kerr...
I’m an
independent
content strategy
consultantHealthcare
Government
Online retail
Financial services
Technology Startups
V...
I’m an
independent
content strategy
consultantHealthcare
Government
Online retail
Financial services
Technology Startups
V...
PEOPLE
Needs
Fears
Vulnerabilities
Passions
Struggles
Past experiences
Agendas
Motivations
Prejudices
Personality quirks
H...
We talk about
Our hard skills
Our knowledge
Our experience
Our objectives
We don’t talk about
Our weaknesses
Our hangups
Our emotional history
Our hidden agendas
Practical things first
Keep track of people
Image credit: Flickr user tjblackwell
What should you track?
Simple facts? Sure. But also:
Your impressions
Personality traits
Sticking points, agendas
Particul...
For your eyes only.
Do one-on-one sessions
Image credit: Flickr user levendis
Ask questions like these...
What are your processes and tools?
What’s working, and what’s not?
What does your team look li...
...not these
What are your business requirements?
What functionality do you need?
What buttons do you want on the admin
pa...
The magic sentence
(I have no idea how Kristina
can hear anything over that
loud party hat.)
ImagecourtesyofSeanTubridy!
“...
Puzzle time!
Tory
Marketing Manager
Brought you onto the project
Over-communicator
Goes back on decisions
Keeps you away from her boss
...
Tory
Marketing Manager
Her boss doesn’t respect her
She doesn’t know how to defend
her ideas
Afraid of losing her job
Feel...
Tory
Marketing Manager
Give her digital resources
Discuss ways to defend your ideas
together in advance
Give her YOUR resp...
Felix
Business Analyst
Is inflexible
Asks for inappropriate deliverables
Values deadlines over progress
Hides behind proce...
Felix
Business Analyst
He doesn’t really understand the
domain of the project
He’s afraid that if he deviates he’ll
be sho...
Felix
Business Analyst
Communicate frequently
Set up additional sessions to work
through subject matter
THE SITUATION
WHAT...
Sharon
Head of Customer Care
Frequently says, “I’ve been saying
that for four years...”
Sighs and rolls eyes during
meetin...
Sharon
Head of Customer Care
Feels she hasn’t been heard in the
past and isn’t going to get the
credit she deserves
Feels ...
Sharon
Head of Customer Care
Turn her into an ally
Get her on board
Give her credit for her ideas in
front of other team m...
Karl
Digital Editor
Has worked here for a long time
Helped build current version of
website
Seems uncooperative
Takes a lo...
Karl
Digital Editor
Feels threatened by negative
attention on current site
He’s struggling with perfectionism
Doesn’t like...
Karl
Digital Editor
Take time to understand past
challenges and history
Make sure he feels heard
Treat his deliverables as...
Laura
Compliance Officer
Keeps changing copy in ways that
are not customer-friendly
Sees everything in black and white
ter...
Laura
Compliance Officer
Afraid of being sued
Motivated by doing her job well
Sees herself as a champion for
compliance
TH...
Laura
Compliance Officer
Ask for feedback, not revisions
Make a visible effort to understand
the regulatory environment
TH...
Lee
Technical Architect
Doesn’t seem to trust you
Doesn’t get involved at workshops
Seems condescending
Doesn’t answer you...
Lee
Technical Architect
Has had bad experiences with non-
technical people in the past
Developed prejudices
THE SITUATION
...
Lee
Technical Architect
Demonstrate your technical
understanding early
Create clear, useful deliverables
Avoid marketing j...
Saul
Stakeholder from HR
Difficult to get hold of
Uncooperative during interviews,
doesn’t open up at all
Gives one-word a...
Saul
Stakeholder from HR
He’s suspicious of the project and
your motives
Afraid that he doesn’t know the
answers
THE SITUA...
Saul
Stakeholder from HR
Become his friend
Be open about the project objectives
and your motives
Reassure him
Ask about th...
Things to look out for
Non-verbal cues
An ongoing conflict
Image credit: Flickr user etolane
Passions and agendas
The silent ones
History
Putting the pieces together
Everyone
has their
reasons.
Everyone has their reasons.
He’s scared of
taking
responsibility.
She’s
struggling
with
perfectionism.
He’s worried
about
...
Solving the people puzzle
90%$
Asking why
The rest
Be just as empathic with
your team members and
stakeholders
as you are with
your users and readers.
Thanks for listening!
Kerry-Anne Gilowey
kerryanne@augustsun.co.za
@kerry_anne
The People Puzzle: Making the Pieces Fit
The People Puzzle: Making the Pieces Fit
The People Puzzle: Making the Pieces Fit
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The People Puzzle: Making the Pieces Fit

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Knowledge workers bring far more than just their intellectual skills to a project. They bring their fears, their prejudices, their motivations, their emotional history, and their personalities to the table too. At kick-off meetings we openly discuss our roles and skill sets, but these other intangible things are never exposed.

Yet the way that stakeholders and team members interact with one another is almost certain to have a greater impact on the success of your project than which CMS you choose or what goes into your style guide.

Of course content strategists don’t have the monopoly on people skills, but because of the highly cross-departmental nature of our work, we really do need to put in a little extra effort. Whether you’re working in-house or as a consultant, you need to learn to read people’s motivations, understand when and why they might be operating out of fear, make sure they feel heard, and keep your team connected.

Presented at Content Strategy Forum 2014 in Frankfurt on 3 July 2014 - http://www.csforum2014.com/events/people-puzzle/

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The People Puzzle: Making the Pieces Fit

  1. 1. The People Puzzle: Making the Pieces Fit Kerry-Anne Gilowey Content Strategy Forum Conference Frankfurt, 3 July 2014 @kerry_anne
  2. 2. I’m an independent content strategy consultantHealthcare Government Online retail Financial services Technology Startups Volunteer-run associations Advertising Web design
  3. 3. I’m an independent content strategy consultantHealthcare Government Online retail Financial services Technology Startups Volunteer-run associations Advertising Web design PEOPLE
  4. 4. PEOPLE Needs Fears Vulnerabilities Passions Struggles Past experiences Agendas Motivations Prejudices Personality quirks History
  5. 5. We talk about Our hard skills Our knowledge Our experience Our objectives
  6. 6. We don’t talk about Our weaknesses Our hangups Our emotional history Our hidden agendas
  7. 7. Practical things first
  8. 8. Keep track of people Image credit: Flickr user tjblackwell
  9. 9. What should you track? Simple facts? Sure. But also: Your impressions Personality traits Sticking points, agendas Particular interests, concerns
  10. 10. For your eyes only.
  11. 11. Do one-on-one sessions Image credit: Flickr user levendis
  12. 12. Ask questions like these... What are your processes and tools? What’s working, and what’s not? What does your team look like? What other teams and departments do you work with? Where are the bottlenecks? What are your challenges?
  13. 13. ...not these What are your business requirements? What functionality do you need? What buttons do you want on the admin panel?
  14. 14. The magic sentence (I have no idea how Kristina can hear anything over that loud party hat.) ImagecourtesyofSeanTubridy! “Tell me more about that.”
  15. 15. Puzzle time!
  16. 16. Tory Marketing Manager Brought you onto the project Over-communicator Goes back on decisions Keeps you away from her boss THE SITUATION
  17. 17. Tory Marketing Manager Her boss doesn’t respect her She doesn’t know how to defend her ideas Afraid of losing her job Feels she’s on shaky ground with the advent of digital WHAT’S GOING ON?
  18. 18. Tory Marketing Manager Give her digital resources Discuss ways to defend your ideas together in advance Give her YOUR respect WHAT CAN YOU DO?
  19. 19. Felix Business Analyst Is inflexible Asks for inappropriate deliverables Values deadlines over progress Hides behind process, project plans THE SITUATION
  20. 20. Felix Business Analyst He doesn’t really understand the domain of the project He’s afraid that if he deviates he’ll be shown up THE SITUATION WHAT’S GOING ON?
  21. 21. Felix Business Analyst Communicate frequently Set up additional sessions to work through subject matter THE SITUATION WHAT CAN YOU DO?
  22. 22. Sharon Head of Customer Care Frequently says, “I’ve been saying that for four years...” Sighs and rolls eyes during meetings when recommendations are made THE SITUATION
  23. 23. Sharon Head of Customer Care Feels she hasn’t been heard in the past and isn’t going to get the credit she deserves Feels sidelined by the new project, which she doesn’t own THE SITUATION WHAT’S GOING ON?
  24. 24. Sharon Head of Customer Care Turn her into an ally Get her on board Give her credit for her ideas in front of other team members THE SITUATION WHAT CAN YOU DO?
  25. 25. Karl Digital Editor Has worked here for a long time Helped build current version of website Seems uncooperative Takes a long time to submit work THE SITUATION
  26. 26. Karl Digital Editor Feels threatened by negative attention on current site He’s struggling with perfectionism Doesn’t like to show his work THE SITUATION WHAT’S GOING ON?
  27. 27. Karl Digital Editor Take time to understand past challenges and history Make sure he feels heard Treat his deliverables as works in progress, collaborate THE SITUATION WHAT CAN YOU DO?
  28. 28. Laura Compliance Officer Keeps changing copy in ways that are not customer-friendly Sees everything in black and white terms THE SITUATION
  29. 29. Laura Compliance Officer Afraid of being sued Motivated by doing her job well Sees herself as a champion for compliance THE SITUATION WHAT’S GOING ON?
  30. 30. Laura Compliance Officer Ask for feedback, not revisions Make a visible effort to understand the regulatory environment THE SITUATION WHAT CAN YOU DO?
  31. 31. Lee Technical Architect Doesn’t seem to trust you Doesn’t get involved at workshops Seems condescending Doesn’t answer your questions in detail THE SITUATION
  32. 32. Lee Technical Architect Has had bad experiences with non- technical people in the past Developed prejudices THE SITUATION WHAT’S GOING ON?
  33. 33. Lee Technical Architect Demonstrate your technical understanding early Create clear, useful deliverables Avoid marketing jargon and buzzwords THE SITUATION WHAT CAN YOU DO?
  34. 34. Saul Stakeholder from HR Difficult to get hold of Uncooperative during interviews, doesn’t open up at all Gives one-word answers or says he doesn’t know Extremely defensive THE SITUATION
  35. 35. Saul Stakeholder from HR He’s suspicious of the project and your motives Afraid that he doesn’t know the answers THE SITUATION WHAT’S GOING ON?
  36. 36. Saul Stakeholder from HR Become his friend Be open about the project objectives and your motives Reassure him Ask about things that he knows well to get him comfortable THE SITUATION WHAT CAN YOU DO?
  37. 37. Things to look out for
  38. 38. Non-verbal cues
  39. 39. An ongoing conflict Image credit: Flickr user etolane
  40. 40. Passions and agendas
  41. 41. The silent ones
  42. 42. History
  43. 43. Putting the pieces together
  44. 44. Everyone has their reasons.
  45. 45. Everyone has their reasons. He’s scared of taking responsibility. She’s struggling with perfectionism. He’s worried about looking stupid. She’s afraid that she’ll be blamed.
  46. 46. Solving the people puzzle 90%$ Asking why The rest
  47. 47. Be just as empathic with your team members and stakeholders as you are with your users and readers.
  48. 48. Thanks for listening! Kerry-Anne Gilowey kerryanne@augustsun.co.za @kerry_anne
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