Roadblogs: GTZ Egypt's experiences of introducing blogs for internal exchangeChristian Kreutz worked for two years at the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) in Egypt. The German Technical Cooperation works quite decentralized having country offices in most partner countries. Projects are mostly located throughout the countries. Efficient communication and fruitful knowledge sharing between projects and field offices are a challenge. Regularly, meetings help a lot but are not enough for an effective information exchange. The daily interaction happens mostly through email or a monthly newsletter, which does not always reaches everybody leading to the usual information overload. Valuable information and experiences are lost in individual email folders or are not always communicated outside the project team.
Objective:To achieve a better horizontal communication, promote corporate identity, enhance knowledge sharing, and achieve more efficiency. New incentives throughout blogging will enhance opportunities for cooperation and lead to a better networking.
Set up of a blog on a server with a classical layout of two columns including the full comments on the left side. That is important in order to motivate people to leave comments. Everybody from the staff has read and written (author) permissions. Categories help to filter between different themes and act as communication channels. A group with 5 enthusiastic members built the critical mass for ongoing entries. Email communication for general information (e.g. meeting schedule) was changed to the blog, which was important in order to raise "pressure" on everybody to at least read the weblog. The blog and a policy was presented on all different staff meetings combined with a training on how to use the blog. The overall expenses and resources (time) were quite low for the installation and the training.
Development:The first few months were quite difficult. Many people were skeptical about whether it would work, and criticized it as being a work overload. After four months and a lot of word of mouth propaganda, new authors came into the game. Also important is that some information was only distributed via the blog. As a next stage, people, who did not get specified training, wrote articles. They either learnt it autodidactically or had it explained by a colleague. In the first half year, the blog had up to 10 entries monthly. Now, after two years, there are more than 30 entries monthly from 50% of staff. The type of content is more and more differentiated: announcements, articles, documents, meetings, presentations, invitations, and recent development of projects.
Critical factors:Face-to-face introduction and training was a must. A critical mass of 5 authors was also very important. Patience in the beginning phase is needed. One key factor was to channel some information only throughout the blog, which previously went over email. The management has to support this form of transparent and horizontal communication. Another factor is a solid policy. The introduction of a blog has to be also seen as a power shift. Some colleagues have better opportunities to communicate and are better informed through a blog. The design and layout (usability) has to help in every possible way to navigate and understand the web content.
A virtual meeting place for all employees has been created. The blog is well accepted and is a middle point of common organizational communication. In an internal survey respondents felt they were better connected and saw more potential for cooperation. The blog builts a network between projects and different offices, and enabled a jump in information exchange. The blog has well written articles and summarizes and describes all important activities and development of different projects. Alltogether it is a valuable resource for information, an archive, and helps to get a better picture about the organizational life.