On-line collaboration! Hah! All it has meant for me so far is that I’ve had to waste an hour re-typing perfectly legible handwritten notes and emailing them to our scrum master/moderator. It takes a week to get posted - and half the team aren’t given access to it any way so they’ll just text me to ask about it. It’s OK for our project leader, he doesn’t mind wasting his time to look cool and trendy and anyway she gets her offshore writing to text provider to do it for her. But for me it’s just more work. What a waste of time. I just want to get on with the work - why does anyone need to know what I’m doing? It’s just to check up on me that’s all. What a waste of time - I haven’t got the time to spend like some others on staring at a screen all day - I’ve got to make things happen. I curse silently as the traffic which had started to move grinds again to a halt. Anyway, I get enough emails, lync messages, skypechats, yammer pings as it is. Why do I need more? Five more metres and then the traffic stops again. I’m going to miss my train at this rate. And I’m going to bate for the sprint update adobe connect session.
Now I’m sitting on a damp platform waiting for the next train due in twenty minutes. I’m trying not to waste my time but so far my attempts to reach half a dozen people by phone have drawn a blank. Phone tag. I’ve left messages about their messages. All I need are a few estimates on cost and an update on how the last phase of the implementation has gone - and I’m trying to update my sponsor.
The train arrives and I’m off for a full on face-to-face meeting with the key client - I like to see their reaction as I talk - Now I’m late I’ll only have forty minutes with them - I hope I can get it all in and it won’t be too rushed. The spreadsheet is huge and my tablet is small It’s hard to check and make all the corrections I need to. I wish had a bigger screen so I could go fast and modify my presentation to fit 40 minutes. No matter I’ll just leave out some of the pages and use a flipchart. I can always bring the chart sheets back with me. It’s really annoying. I’ve been up since six a.m. and will end up spending all morning to get a 40 minute slot. There must be a better way. But I can’t seem to get my message across at the weekly conference call.
On-line collaboration (OLC) is a better way - and I can vouch for it. After about two decades of working in a
I can vouch that if you do it right it’s a world beater, but if
you do it wrong.... Virtual
OLC is about using technology to reduce the challenge of space and time, bringing the team and stakeholders closer together emotionally and in terms of goals and activities.
The idea is simple enough: Collaboration conjures up ideas of conspirators - all in it for a common deeply held belief in a goal - so ideas become ‘free’ and there is a genuine willingness to contribute, challenge share, and learning.
All we need to do is to use digital devices and the ease of data sharing via the internet to capture, organise, share, broadcast and update information and knowledge for all the people involved in the project.
So why doesn’t it just happen? What goes wrong? I often hear three issues either people find it difficult to be effective on line, or it starts with a flourish and then slowly drops away or they complain that it is simply duplication of information and conversations which are held elsewhere! If you’re interested the bubble diagram below shows the most typical reasons why OLC is ineffective or just dies a death. Are any of these things happening in your project organisation? Click on the thumbnail below for the detailed BubbleDiagram or cut to the chase, skip the diagram and find the five root causes below.
There are five root causes for the failure of OLC
1. Individual readiness - Your potential collaborators individually don’t ‘get it’ and genuinely believe that not collaborating is more effective than collaborating (plus it gives better promotion prospects!)
2. Team readiness - People refuse to collaborate because it requires a level of trust in others they don’t have - the team isn’t mature enough.
3. Lack of effective ground rules - No one is really sure how it’s supposed to work what accountabilities other have and what demands they can make of them.
4. Lack of appropriate kit/ infrastructure - The kit, software and infrastructure available is not set up to make it easy.
5. Lack of Proactive digital Leadership - There is no one role-modelling and actively shaping the collaborative activities
Individual readiness -
Principle: Collaboration like a chain is as strong as it’s weakest link. Take time to strengthen the individual links.
...had to waste an hour re-typing perfectly legible handwritten notes and emailing them to our scrum master/moderator.
· Help people to see the benefits to them - ask them about times when they’ve needed input from others and it’s been hard to get hold of them. Ask them about the impact on the quality of their work of non-single source data inputs. Ask them about the last minute rushes they have faced because they were unaware of something which had been decided with a long lead time.
...why does any one need to know what I’m doing?
For exactly the same reasons you need to know what they’re doing
· Make sure that people can easily delete their own contributions (or else they won’t post any contributions)
· Spend time coaching people on the new tools
· Be patient with the ‘F2F for everything’ brigade - start them off gently, before they know it they’ll be comfortable with the new way of working. You may need to teach them how to ‘ping’ people for a response in order to work out the true emotional response
· Show them real examples of collaborative working
Team readiness -
Principle: Everyone must feel confident in their ability to add to and learn from the contributions of others
...It’s just to check up on me that’s all...
· OLC will not work without a level of trust and interdependence in the team - If use/ teach participants BlyndTrussed and have them apply it from the start.
...Phone tag. I’ve left messages about their messages.
· The team and stakeholders should make sure that they are available on-line easily and information others might want is also available.
Lack of effective ground rules -
...and half the team aren’t given access to it any way so they’ll just phone me and ask about it
Principle: Everything should be as transparent to everyone as is possible -
· Be sure to have ground rules which are obvious, clear and enforced.
· If there is the need for confidentiality this should be set up as a limited access area within the collaborative space (not a smoke-filled room outside it!)
· Your ground rules should include:
Synchronous working (all collaborators on-line at the same time)
· A moderator
· SpinCasting to ensure everyone contributes to the conversation
· Time drumbeats for summary and review (I suggest every 15 mins.)
· Notes taking /Decision /Action list/Accountability list Using RAPID to make sure nothing is missed
Asynchronous (not everyone on-line at the same time)
· Ownership of topic - is it with the initiator/ moderator/ concluder
· Record messages/Summaries for mission people or use KatchUp and set a time to close the loop (I suggest 24hours)
· Who/how the notes/action list/accountability is to be updated
· Add in humour and a human element :
...full on face-to-face meeting with the key client , I like to see their reaction as I talk!
Lack of appropriate kit/infrastructure -
Principle: Everyone must be able to enter any information they wish directly themselves without intermediaries and without delay
DO NOT USE EMAIL FOR COLLABORATION, IT DOESN’T WORK!
...Anyway, I get enough emails as it is. Why do I need more?
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...I wish I had a laptop then I could modify my presentation to fit 40 minutes. No matter I’ll just leave out some of the pages and use a flipchart. I can always bring the chart sheets back with me.
OLC warriors minimum kit
- A large screened device - This is your primary tool if you wish to stay sane you will ignore all that "The future is mobile" sloganeering (If the future is mobile where are they all going? Why move atoms (people) in a digital world where the electrons (data) moves easier?) Use this device in comfort for most of your work and only go mobile to collaborate if you have no other options!
- A light digital device – if it has a lid it must fold flat so you can see your colleagues over the top - preferably with wireless/3or 4G connection which allows you to take it into meetings and capture notes etc. ONCE directly ono QUBE DURING the discussion
re-typing perfectly legible handwritten notes and emailing it to our scrum master/moderator
Smart phone to insist on taking snapshots of all the notes i.e. yours and everyone else’s at the end of the session and posting to QUBE
[Advert Alert] Using QUBE as your collaborative space means you will avoid the trap of different softward versions so all your information will be available to everyone within the team/ stakeholder group
Select the best collaboration software for your team
Lack of Proactive digital Leadership -
Principle: You have to lead, You must change your behaviour. You must share and create psotive emotions for your followers. You must Derive the actions to be taken. You must encourage adn enable collaborative thought and learning.
...anyway she gets her offshore writing to text outsourcer to do it for her...
· You have to lead yourself - so get comfortable with OLC [Advert Alert!! Pentacle offers a QUBE eFacilitation course for this]
· You must be rigorous - capture all knowledge electronically - no old world dead tree back up systems
· Be clear on the behaviours you expect - pro-actively poke people in the ribs to alert them to new contributions and demand contributions from them
· Work with your internal IT department to help them understand what you are trying to achieve
· Create a cyberPersonality which you use consistently - a signature, a type of humour, a style of writing, etc.
There must be a better way!
There is! Find out more at http://QUBE.cc
@eddieObeng is Learning Director at Pentacle The Virtual Business School @PentacleTheVBS 20 London End Beaconsfield Bucks HP9 2JH +44 (0) 1494 678 555
@QUBEcc http://QUBE.cc is Pentacle’s answer to the challenge of collaboration in a world which changes faster than we can learn