Our team has a passion for helping people adopt more effective ways of working so that they can be productive, successful and enjoy life. The way people, teams and organizations work is on the verge of a sea change. The technology that supports collaboration is here, in fact many of the tools have been available at low or no cost to most everyone for several years now, and they are getting better and better all the time. Personal productivity tools like Google drive, Evernote, and free "teamware" such as Basecamp are ubiquitous on the web. As far as organizations go, it would be difficult to find one that hadn't already installed SharePoint or SalesForce Chatter or another collaborative suite. So why aren't we seeing more extensive use and results? Changing our behavior is tough, that's why! The tools are further along than our collective readiness for adopting new collaborative practices. We are stuck in a rut of meetings and emails, and need catalyts to help us seize the opportunities technology holds.
Internal collaboration (which is sometimes referred to as Enterprise Social Media) and change management have an interesting symbiotic relationship. Well orchestrated change planning is one of the biggest obstacles of collaboration. Conversely, collaboration is one of the most powerful tools there is for leading any change (think Arab Spring.) Organizations that get Collaboration implementations right, get a leg up on agility - the ability to thrive in our always changing environment. Adapting to new collaborative practices will soon be essential to keep up with all the other change that we are faced with.
For me, it's Nirvana as these two concepts, change and collaboration collide. It's basically impossible for me at this point to have a conversation with customers regarding one and not the other. Providing solutions of collaboration without change or vice versa is a formula for lack-luster performance. Business deliverables of today require speed, the ability to collect and synthesize information quickly, and practices that harness the collective power of employees. Peter Drucker forcasted it decades ago. Knowledge workers require a different toolset and operating system. It's here, now it's time to use them by adding some new tricks to our work playbook - Email and Meetings don't cut it anymore. The way we work will change, just as it did when email and the internet were introduced. The question is are you ready?
Prior to the Internet, we relied on fax documentation, overnight delivery and postal mail to communicate with teams outside of our direct reach. Can you imagine a company attempting to survive today using this out-dated mode of communications? The thought of relying on “Reply All” as a primary means of managing work is going to seem as ridiculous as faxing within the next several years. But right now, that's where most teams are stuck. They don't even see the possibility of any other way. Which brings us back to collaboration and change. The first step towards the future of work is introducing teams to the possibility, and little by little supporting them as they transition from old ineffective practices (like meetings oriented around status reports) and replace them with new practices.
Some possibilities to start with:
Project spaces that are one stop shopping for all the latest information
Tagging docs with several relevant categories instead of maintaining complicated file structures
Eliminating meetings that are just to provide information
Co-creating content in a simple wiki or other tool instead of ppt mania
Developing and collaboratively maintaining your groups best practices, and "how do I?s"
Leveraging profiles (LinkedIn, MyPage, etc) to make it easy for people with shared interests or complimentary skills and knowledge to find each other
I must admit, that I won't work on teams that haven't at least started down this path anymore. Once you work with internal collaboration tools, the waste and inefficiency inherent in the old ways of working (and by that I mean email!) will drive you crazy! So come on, start talking with your team about small shifts that move you closer to modern practices of working. If you need help... or a push in the right direction, join our conversation on twitter: #collabcatalyst, or learn more about how we can help you become a collaboration catalyst for your organization.
This post originally published in May of 2013.