Wiki Maturation – Tossing Tennis Balls

Posted on: February 13th, 2009 3 Comments

Have you heard the story of Quadralay’s 14 year old tennis balls? It’s a great example of what can happen when you fail to maintain the principles of business value and ownership.

You see, back in the day (1994), we were working on creating this great new product to single-source FrameMaker 4.0 files to user-defined, text based outputs.  At the time, I called the project WDT – WebWorks Document Translator.  For some reason or other, our Marketing folks thought WebWorks Publisher would be a better name.  I guess they had a point.

Anyway, to break up the day, one of Quadralay’s founders would take a little time off and play some tennis.  One day, he bought a canister with 3 new tennis balls.  He played his game, came back to the office, and placed that container (now with two good balls left) in our storage room.

That was 1994.

Those tennis balls stayed in the server room until we moved our offices in 1995.

The tennis balls came with us.

We moved again in 1996.

The tennis balls came with us.

We moved a third time around 1997 to our current address on Burnet Road.

The tennis balls came with us.

The tennis balls eventually wound up in our server room.  The “owner” of the tennis balls left the company back in 2004.

The tennis balls stayed.

Until 2008.  I finally tossed them out.  And even then, I had a lurking voice in my head saying, “They aren’t yours to toss.  What are you doing?”

You see, we had lost sight of the two most important principles in business: value and ownership.  Some people use the term “responsiblity”, but that’s not the real issue.  Responsibility is a natural result of ownership.  And value?  That’s easy to assess once you realize value == use.

In 2006, I was placed in charge of Quadralay Development and IT.  And I started asking questions about “the stuff” I was responsible for.  And one day, I decided to change my thinking from  “responsible for stuff” to “owns stuff”.  And everything became crystal clear.

45 monitors, 40 computer shells, 10 UNIX workstations, the original Quadralay SunOS hard drive, our original DNS server machine (15 years old), and the tennis balls left the building.  16 years of collected tidbits which had no business value and no clear owner were gone.

What does any of this have to do with wiki maturation?

Simple.  I’ll bet you’ve got a ton of tennis balls in your wiki right now.  You call them pages.  Do not be fooled by their appearance.  They are tennis balls: fuzzy, yellow covered bits of rubber in plastic tubes.  They have no clear owner and no business value.

I know this because we have a wiki full of tennis balls.  Two wikis in fact.  We’ve been running wikis going back to 2003.  We’ve been working for 6 years to accumulated all this great “stuff”.  Now, we’re ready to do something about it.

Through experience, I learned about the need for clear ownership.  Through experience, I found value can only be assessed through use.  But I didn’t know how to tackle our wiki problem.

That’s where our founder, Tony McDow, comes in.  He found a tool to make our wiki work.  To change it back into the wonderful, useful, whicky-whacky agent of change it once was before we filled it full of tennis balls.  Tony gave us the ability to maintain ownership without sacrificing organizational flexibilty.  And with ownership, value became clear and our tennis balls began to disappear.

Want to find out how he did that?  Well, that’s Tony’s story.  I’ll let him tell it.

3 Responses

  1. […] at Quadralay/Webworks.com, gives an excellent illustration of this in his recent  post titled Wiki Maturation – Tossing Tennis Balls. He tells the story of a container of tennis balls that remained in his company’s server room […]

  2. […] at Quadralay/Webworks.com, gives an excellent illustration of this in his recent post titled Wiki Maturation – Tossing Tennis Balls. He tells the story of a container of tennis balls that remained in his company’s server room […]

  3. Sarah Hughes says:

    I came across your Wiki Maturation – Tossing Tennis Balls – Scenes from the Engine Room website and wanted to let you know that we have decided to open our POWERFUL and PRIVATE web traffic system to the public for a limited time! You can sign up for our targeted traffic network with a free trial as we make this offer available again. If you need targeted traffic that is interested in your subject matter or products start your free trial today: http://priscilarodrigues.com.br/url/v Unsubscribe here: http://acortarurl.es/97

  4. zuowi says:

    I would like to voice my gratitude for your kindness giving support to persons that really want help with this important area. Your real commitment to getting the message across appears to be remarkably practical and has continuously helped employees just like me to reach their endeavors. Your own helpful guideline implies a whole lot a person like me and much more to my office colleagues. Regards; from everyone of us.
    zuowi http://www.zuowi

  5. Adidas NMD Men Women Mesh Surface White Gold says:

    There are some attention-grabbing cut-off dates on this article however I don抰 know if I see all of them middle to heart. There may be some validity but I will take maintain opinion till I look into it further. Good article , thanks and we want extra! Added to FeedBurner as well

Leave a Reply