Build a cross-company Working out Loud Community to change the way you achieve goals

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By Ragnar Heil

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I have published a Blogpost at Microsoft TechCommunity, please find it here.
For archiving purposes I am going to share it below as well:

3,5 years ago, Jochen Adler and I along with a bunch of other outstanding people, founded the Working Out Loud (WOL) community in Germany, connecting people from hundreds of companies. Read more about our foundation history here.  Now, John Stepper’s Working Out Loud ® offers a new, innovative approach to reach goals better, easier and faster by collaborating in enterprise social networks.

Now, WOL is practiced in 40 countries, and more than 15 Iarge enterprises are using it to enable digital transformations. Find lots of customer stories here in my blog. In Our German speaking Yammer Network > 700 people are part of this journey.

I believe that this approach of “getting things done” with major impact on toolset, mindset and skillset is one of the best Use Cases I have seen in my last 6 years working with Yammer for communities, customers and partners.

Here’s why I believe this…

We can achieve complex, purposeful goals easier and faster when sharing what we are working on. We are using Microsoft 365 Modern Workplace, public social media channels and confidential Working Out Loud Circles. We are using private Yammer Groups when we talk about our confidential goals, tracking progress, helping each other, sharing documents (now stored on SharePoint) and making notes. For all other purposes we are using public Yammer Groups open by default.


We are organizing WOL Meetups, Conferences, localized webinars to reach all different audiences. We also share updates and news about recent newspaper articles and Blogs regarding WOL. That`s what we are doing on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn as well, but Yammer is our „Safe Place“ where we can reflect or talk more confidential about it. Yammer is our Baking Oven, it`s a kind of Think Tank where we brainstorm together and finalize together. 

We deepen relationships with this way of working, and we create advanced co-learning experiences and legacies. If you follow our Social Media Channels for Working Out Loud you can easily see how many friendships are created now.  People are sharing photos of Skiing activities and holidays with their new friends.  

We share with generosity to help others reach their objectives. The days are over when we only focused on selling products. Now, it’s all about making people more productive, listening deeply, doing purposeful work, improving people’s lives and making the world a bit better. 

We increase our reputation by making our work visible. Being a subject matter expert is becoming more important when machines are increasing their artificial intelligence — we might consider rediscovering our unique selling proposition (USP) as humans again. I really enjoy seeing how my WOL contacts have evolved to global thought leaders over the years and how well Yammer can be used as an incubator.

We are creating and executing a growth mindset. During my 11 years at Microsoft, we talked a lot about growth mindset, especially after Satya Nadella became CEO. I greatly appreciate that WOL is all about growing together. It’s the opportunity to have shared discoveries with personal focus which really matters to us.

Openness for change and new methods, connectivity, purposeful goals, curiosity, resilience and the courage to leave our own comfort zones are major drivers to stay on this journey. As a Microsoft Partner I am glad to see that many people in our network didn`t use Yammer or Office 365 before and found value immediately without going through trainings.

How it works

Sound interesting? I would like to share more details and best practices of how these WOL Circles are organized, so that everybody who is interested can join this movement.

Working Out Loud Circles last for 12 weeks (with a time investment of 2 hours/week) and are based on weekly group exercises which can be found here (also in several languages)

I am fully aware that some exercises sound strange and you might consider to skip a few weeks. These exercises are very powerful and can help to reach your goals easier and as a very important side effect also increase your self-organized Online Social Networking Skills – very relevant for many Digital Transformation Challenges.

“It helps the employee develop a critical work skill & a set of habits & mindset they can apply to any goal. They learn how to find & engage people related to something they need to do in a way that increases the chances of information, cooperation, and collaboration” (John Stepper).

Let`s look closer what these 12 weeks are suggesting: 

Week 1: Attune your attention: Create a relationship list which helps in achieving your goal
Week 2: Offer your first contributions to these key persons
Week 3: Take three small steps and learn to leverage your existing networks
Week 4: Earn someone else’s attention by improving your introduction communication
Week 5: Make it personal and share facts about you with your circle. Getting closer with your group and build this new network.
Week 6: Improve your visibility: Social Media Channels are made for active usage and networking
Week 7: Be purposeful: Write a letter to your future self and share it with your group.
Week 8: Make it a habit and learn how to use the checklist. 
Week 9: Explore more original contributions
Week 10: Become more systematic: From ad hoc contributions to systematic approach
Week 11: Imagine the possibilities: find tribes your care about and their leaders
Week 12: Reflect and celebrate: Think about finishing your circle with onsite meetup

Here’s a few of the best practices I’ve learned along the way:

A Circle consists of 3 to 5 members which are in best cases mixed between colleagues and people from other companies. Don`t make the mistake and create a circle with your direct colleagues you are always working it. Fresh input and feedback needed.

Circles can be hosted onsite (company meeting room, coffee shop, co-working space) or remote by video call. Make sure to activate video in your Microsoft Teams Calls, it really makes a difference and brings people closer together.

A host (circle manager) is inviting you(Outlook Calendar, Microsoft Teams) to weekly meetings (1 hour max), kicks off each session and makes sure that everybody is on-topic and time is controlled.

Create a “week 0” where you organize your collaboration methods like setting up Yammer Groups, inviting to Microsoft Teams, sharing notes (OneNote, Teams Wiki, Yammer Notes), buying a webcam and good headset. Introduce yourself, why you are here and share expectations. After week 0 every circle member needs to have a clear and attractive goal defined.

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