The HR Juggler

What’s The Story?

Posted on: October 5, 2012

I have made many real and genuine friendships through Twitter and one of the aspects that fascinates me most about it is the human interaction that is constantly ongoing and evolving…as Mervyn Dinnen put it once “the conversation that never sleeps”. Anthony Allinson pointed out to me recently that if you watch carefully, you can see themes and stories emerge, snapshots of people’s everyday lives…new jobs, changing careers, friendships forming, romances blossoming or fading, new adventures and personal challenges, a whole range of emotions about a huge variety of different experiences. It is a wonderful form of people watching and a privilege to have a limited insight into the lives of others. Sometimes, we get to know each other better than we realise in short bursts of 140 characters…;)

Some of the stories I have loved hearing about recently are as follows –

  • Doug’s big US adventure. Following the tweets from his conference speech in Ohio was fantastic and to know that he has secured another speaking engagement in Louisiana in April 2013 is a brilliant outcome and well deserved success
  • The work that is being undertaken by the project management community at ThomsonReuters and the truly innovative approach they have taken to invite individuals from all different types of organisations and competitors to contribute to something meaningful that is bigger than the sum of its parts. Big corporations looking outward rather than inward is a refreshing change indeed…more power to Anthony, Diane and the team
  • Sukh’s new business venture, setting himself up as Challenging Frontiers
  • Some people can be conspicuous by their absence and Flora’s holiday and temporary radio silence and the reasons for it made me appreciate her all the more on her return

My own recent Twitter story is reaching the end of its Part One on Sunday when I run my first ever half-marathon in aid of Tommy’s. Thank you so much for all your support…I will let you know how I get on!

What do you love about Twitter? What stories have caught your attention recently? I’d love to know.

3 Responses to "What’s The Story?"

Stories. Very topical for me (we are doing lots with stories at work) and a great way of looking at the friendships that have formed from twitter. Great post !
One of my favourite stories is The Adventures of Mr Airmiles, as he jets about the planet.


Thanks very much for pulling this together. There must be a word for this but I cannot think what it is, there is a something fantastically compelling about a collection of essentially separate but loosely connected stories. This one is about community and friendship but what sprung to mind when I was trying to sum this all up in one word, was the movie “Love Actually”, one of the less famous Richard Curtis films. I watched this again recently having not really enjoyed it much when it came out. Back then I just thought it a disjointed patchwork of half stories, very much “One for the mortgage”. This time it left me with the same feeling I have reading this. Something tribal relating to the power of stories connected not by content but just by people. Grrr there must be a word for it 🙂

As an indication of how far I am from getting this down to one word, the closest I have come is this extract from a blog I wrote (behind the TR firewall) in the summer:

“I spent the first 20 years of my career in telecoms. It was a good time to be in the sector. Mobile exploded and we started calling people instead of places, my mother learned how to text. Predictive text meant that all her messages ended, “Love nun”, very strange. The internet evolved from an obscure hobby for techies and academics, via being a want, into something now considered a basic need by economists. While technologies like radio and TV had for a few decades made us less sociable, tying us to home and enslaving us through schedules, the latest wave of social media has to some extent reignited the camp fire and got us talking to each other again. Even though a lot of it is very very small talk, the valuable bits are amazing and compensate for all the banality many times over.”

I am going to comment properly in the form of a blog as as soon as I can. I get on a plane on Monday and will have time. Its a story but I will try very very hard to keep it brief. As usual you have made me think.

Finally, go for it tomorrow. I hope you enjoy it. Maybe you’ll make some new friends 🙂


As promised, a follow up. I asked permission for this monster comment 🙂

I omitted huge parts as this has spun out into lots of other stories so I limited this to the bits I have been involved in and kept the new chapter brief. You may find it difficult to believe, but this is a summary…

October 2010, @floramarriott (then @floramcdora) sent me a text, “I’ve just been to an amazing thing called an HR Unconference. The next one is in May. You must come, you’ll get so much out of it.” I replied not to be daft. I work in Technology not HR.

Nov 2011 – Apr 2011, variations on a theme of, “You must come”, with increasingly quizzical responses from me. England hammered Australia in Australia and retained The Ashes. I changed jobs.

May 5th 2011, I went to the the next HR Unconference and met a load of interesting people, including @alisonchisnell, @douhshaw1, @MervynDinnen among many others. I learned loads and started to change my mind about a few things. I observed that the content had little to do with HR and was actually quite interesting, which raised a few eyebrows and made a few more smile. Got home elated, only to find that the dog was dead which put a damper on the day. I’ve not met Sukh, but see him often in the timeline, especially when there is tennis on 🙂

May 7th 2011, I posted a review of the event which I realised later was my first blog. It began, “I don’t work in HR”.

I followed a few blogs including this one which always makes me think and smile. Developed a habit of commenting lavishly, I spend a lot of time on trains and planes. Often I would ask permission to comment (as I did for this monster comment!), partly due to the fact that I had veered totally from the point and partly because my comments were, well, epic.

I joined the #connectinghr Twitter conversation and eventually learned that adding purpose to SM makes the banal transformational. I have backed off a lot on Twitter and use it selectively now, however, I am applying what I learnt there elsewhere. I dip in and say hi now and again.

June 2011, I was asked to get involved in an activity to help ThomsonReuters get better at project management. There were various streams. Process, reporting and, among others, community. I put my hand up for that one as a contributor. 

Needless to say, building a community for project managers required a two year plan, depended on lots of non existant content, would founder without surveys, a precise assessment of  the requirement, etc etc. My suggestion that we should have a big conversation, find some advocates, give them permission and cheer them on didn’t get much traction.

July 2011, I had breakfast with Gareth Jones (@garelaos) in a dingy bar in Waterloo station. I scribbled some notes on how to build community that eventually turned into our plan. To my shame, I think Gareth paid for breakfast !

At around this time I met @DianeTC1 who runs a group in ThomsonReuters which supports the development of project management. I joined and started banging on about, “the people who do the work”, “conversations”, “the need to do a few things quickly, simply and well”. Somewhere in a little file I was marked as a trouble causer, at least I hope so. I think I was quite rude sometimes.

September 2011, I attended our PM Conference in London.  Someone couldn’t come.  I was asked to be a contestant in a PM Blind Date sketch with a couple of hours notice. I do improvisation… I got away with it. More importantly I met a few characters who I worked with closely as this story developed.

The event was good (really, I learned some things I can still recall now) but I knew it could be better and the after effects longer lasting. I started chipping away at Diane. She ignored me. A second black mark was added to file file. My phone started to click. Things weren’t where I’d left them when I’d left home. Ok, I am exaggerating 🙂

October and December 2011, I wrote a couple of guest blogs for Doug and Alison. The first one was published on day 5 of a gruelling trip round India with daily flights and full on agendas. Hooking into wifi in the Best Western in Hyderebad and seeing my first proper blog out there was like being given 8 hours sleep.  This was handy as the room was so technically over engineered I couldn’t turn the lights off to actually sleep (ahem!!).

I met a wonderful group of people in Bangalore on that trip, more on them later. 

My epic blog comments continued. Sometimes I didn’t even ask for permission. We were still deciding what to do about the PM community. The survey was useful. We found what people were interested and who might be willing to do something. This was useful later, but it was all taking too long. Basically we were trying to plan a conversation, worse still, by committee.

January 2012

My phone rang. It was the sponsor of the PM Community work. In a friendly way, it became clear it was my turn to put up or shut up and herd the PM community myself.

I got lucky.

The community platform based on Jive went live that month. We (a self selected small gang) ran the PM group as a magazine for a few months, running editorial sessions, highlighting content, whipping up conversations and frankly coercing people to join in and comment. In a desparately old fashioned way that I frowned on, Diane insisted on an email broadcast, I grudgingly agreed. The next day we had 400 more followers, a few weeks later we did it again with similar results. Big lesson, don’t forget the channels people already use when you are steering them to the ones you prefer. 

Because we were in really early on the new collaboration platform we ran discussions that went on for weeks as all sorts of people joined in just out if interest and novelty.  There was one discussion I used to call red spot, like the storm on Jupiter, it just went on and on and on… It started by accident in a panic one day when I thought we were losing momentum. I asked a simple open question. Like I say, we got lucky. This question led to our prioritising certain types of content and Webinars, mostly about leadership and agile methods.

I got blogging, writing my first one over the North Pole on my way to the USA. People read it ! Many began, “I am not a project manager”. The more personally risky they were, the more people read them. 

I met countless people, virtually and face to face, from all over the world. I learned about project management (obviously), agile methods, positive deviants, taking risks, making friends, doing things on purpose and that culture is one of the most complicated words in the English language.

March 2012, by this time, the PM events in September were looming. I became a little boring on how we must take some risks and that no one would die if we did.

To shut me up Diane agreed to go to the HR Unconference in April 2011. 

I then got really lucky. 

April 2012, I was in India again. It was a fabulous trip. I met some of the PM community face to face and saw a pulsating T20 match in Bangalore. I also met up with the same people I had met on the previous trip. We were building a team out there. I had learned just enough (tiny fragments) about culture for us to jointly write a brief about how we should behave, think and importantly therefore recruit. The words were only a start. Coming up with them together was important. When I meet the couple of people who worked with me on those words, we always refer to them. I think they worked. This appears unrelated but would not have happened without my connections to a couple of blogs and conversations gained through this story.

So how did I get lucky? I wasn’t at the April HR Unconference with Diane. I couldn’t lead the witnesses, point things out, participate and perhaps dominate a little. I am a bulldozer. Diane went with Louise Eccles, they went expecting to sit back and be informed, but they went and participated. 

I got this loud and clear on Twitter from the event while I was in Mumbai airport on my way home.  Then one of my oldest friends (@whitecc99) unexpectedly walked into the lounge in Mumbai airport. We had a party.

May 2012, I made a pitch to run the annual PM conferences as unconferences. Much of the pitch was about Pecha Kuchas, I was so enthusiastic I over ran by 20 minutes. I have never lived this down 🙂

We asked Doug to help us design and run the Unconferences. I have lost track a little but I think we worked from June to September on this with weekly planning calls. By July we were running Pecha Kucha surgeries every Friday afternoon with people from London, New York and St Louis. In September someone dropped out (for good reason) so I had to eat my own dog food and agree to do one. It was a shameless rip off of Flora’s from the April HR Unconference. There is a video. No you can’t!

Somewhere in the middle of all this I ran a discussion about which hotels we should stay in on our business travels. This turned into another red spot and initially drove Procurement mad. Then our blogger in chief and senior procurement type Linda Doty (@justlindastl) saw it and realised its potential as a means of encouraging responsible travel expense. As a by product we spoke a few times and interacted on each others stuff of the hub. We had another PK drop out in New York, Linda stepped, well barged, in 🙂 Since then we have connected PMs to sourcing best practice with training sessions planned. 

I have written endlessly about the events, probably too much. Suffice to say we will make something of them for the PM Community and the promised follow ups are this week.

Through this year my job has been changing. This has happened before. It will happen again. This time though I had new skills to hand. I applied them and defined a new role in the same place, which I started last week. It is a complete departure. I have just spent a week in the USA. More on this as it develops, but I thought and behaved differently to the way I would have a while ago.  I got involved in the story of the people I am working with (, considered how the work environment influences our effectiveness, connected to the people we are interdependent with and began to do the same with people round the world. We are interacting differently with other teams, among several examples planning interactive product hand overs to customer service where we present to Product, not the other way round. .

Through all of this I have developed a habit of writing things down. This started with weekly reports and developed into blogs, which in turn has developed into a habit of writing stuff I know I will never share. Those are never offensive but only written to help me articulate my thoughts. They come in handy when I need a policy, a plan or just find myself in a lift and need an answer to a tough question. The latter scenario has happened twice in the last month and each resulted in 2 minute meetings at which big decisions got made.

This is a long comment, but only reflects a fraction of what I do differently now. There are countless other examples and spin offs but those are stories for others to tell.

What’s the point? Social Media with Purpose is effective. Throw in the randomness that just a few connections to people and ideas and the stories are infinite. Much of how this story flows revolves around chance incidents and people far away from, and unknown to, those reading this.  I like random.

What I know for a fact is that a few people left our recent events and sent their friends and colleagues messages that said, “I’ve just been to an amazing thing called a PM Unconference”.  

Thank you for having me 🙂


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