Moving the needle on collaboration in your organization
How to move from the 72% to the 28%
People understand from experience that when they collaborate, they can accomplish more. And the numbers underscore that companies who collaborate better outperform their peers by 2 to 6 times.
Yet most companies or departments are in the 72% of organizations whose collaboration maturity is either, “Unsupported” or “Non-integrated”.
Whether I talk to a small businesses or a department in a large corporation, one thing is common, they all want to collaborate better. They want to be able to do more from both an effective communication and collaboration point-of-view. Even though they are doing some collaborative things, they know they can do more. But they aren’t sure what they should be doing next to collaborate better. Even when we start talking about some of the things that they could be doing, they have a hard time imagining themselves using the new collaborative tools within their businesses or they can’t imagine spending any money on the tools they want to get better at collaboration.
There are many different things that you can do to build your organization’s collaborative muscle and accelerate your collaborative performance. Here is a chart from SMART Technologies “Inspired Collaboration” initiative, which shows many of the levers which can be adjusted within your organization.
These levers are really good for a “top down” approach to collaboration within your organization, but they don’t help much when your company doesn’t have the resources to conduct a “top down” analysis.
Most organizations take a Crawl, Walk, Run (C-W-R) approach, which is a sound strategy, however, many never make it past the Crawl stage – the 72%
So how can you take the C-W-R approach and make sure you progress?
Step 1: The most important meeting
No matter how big or small your company is, let’s take the discussion down to a departmental level, to make this applicable to every businessperson, Ask yourself – What is the most important meeting you attend that recurs at least once a month?
Chances are that whatever meeting you picked, it is some kind of an update or status meeting. A meeting whose objective is to synchronize the activities of a team updating each other on what has happened since the last time you met. This could be a weekly Sales meeting, Operations meeting, a Project meeting, etc. – you get the idea.
In the meeting, it is likely that the team is making adjustments to some kind of scorecard or project plan trying to monitor their progress since the last meeting and deciding where their attention needs to be directed too. Once you have identified that meeting, you should now answer these questions from a collaboration point-of-view:
Are the participants all local or are some remote? If there are remote participants, are they all individuals or is there another meeting room somewhere that has a number of people that are joining the meeting (or both)?
What is missing? How do you want everyone more engaged, more involved?
Depending on the answers to these questions you can start to incrementally make your “Most Important Meeting” better. The first incremental improvements often don’t cost anything at all. Why? Because most people don’t know how to get the most out of the technology they are already using. I sometimes sit through a customer’s “Most Important Meeting” and after the meeting is over, I point out 2 or 3 things that they can do to make the experience better for everyone just by making a few adjustments.
The next part of the crawl is to add a couple of pieces of technology that will further enhance the meeting. These can be anywhere from a couple $100 to say $2,000. Adding these pieces builds the quality of the meeting experience, e.g. making it easier to hear and be heard.
The next step is where we start to progress from the crawl to the walk. Here is where we lay out how we can make the meeting better with technology, which makes collaboration easier for in-room participants, and for remote participants, makes them feel like they are in the room with the rest of the people.
This is where you have to spend more money on technology IF you want to get to this point. The types of technology you would add:
- In-room content sharing
- High quality audio
- Large format LED displays & Multiple displays
- Video conferencing
- Multi-function room capabilities
- Electronic Interactive Whiteboards
- And more
Depending on the size of the room these technologies can add up. Each one of them on their own can start at several thousand dollars and if you go big, 10s of thousands. But if you have budget constraints, you can prioritize and implement them one at a time until you get to the collaborative experience that is optimal for your “Most Important Meeting”.
The “Most Important Meeting” tends to drive the priority of having room technology to accelerate collaboration and enhance communication, but from my experience it plays a secondary, but important role in an organization’s collaborative development. You will get a much bigger payback if you can accelerate the collaboration of all the activities that take place between the “Most Important Meetings”. If you can inject greater collaboration into the activities between the team members as they do their day-to-day jobs, you will go to a full collaborative Walk.
But how do you do that?
Step 2: team activities between the most important meetings
Stay tuned to this blog for Steps 2 to 4 on moving collaboration forward in your business or department. But remember you can increase your collaborative muscle by:
- Taking small steps – some incremental things are foolproof and cost nothing
- Not being afraid of bigger steps
- Planning to learn from every step you take
And remember the goal, you can make your organization 2 to 6 times better by increasing your velocity of collaboration.
What is the difference between Communication and Communications?
Communication is a shared experience.
Communications is how that experience is shared.
It is not uncommon to see these two terms used interchangeably. Outside of the technology world, most wouldn’t even blink when they hear the term “communications” used in the wrong context.
However, while in many contexts “communications” is assumed to be the plural of “communication,” in the business world it’s actually a term used to describe the network of technology tools an organization uses to communicate. When trying to map out how your business operates, this is an important distinction.
Is your tongue all twisted up yet?
Let’s really break it down.
Different types of communication…
The first thing to keep in mind when it comes to communication is there are two different types: “real-time” communication and “iterative” communication. Also known as synchronous vs. asynchronous communication.
The easiest way to tell the difference is this: if you cut the connection and the collaboration session ends, it is real time (or synchronous), if it doesn’t end, it is iterative (or asynchronous).
When you are in a video meeting and you leave the session, then the conversation is over – this is real-time communication. If you want to continue the conversation verbally, you have to rejoin the meeting, or schedule another one.
If your coworker sends you an email at 7:00pm on Tuesday, but you don’t respond until 10:00am on Wednesday, this is an iterative communication. This is still a continuous conversation, but not all parties are required to be present at the same time to keep the information flowing.
…Require different communications tools
Communications tools that aid real-time communication can look very different depending on the type of work you do and where your employees are. In an increasingly hybrid world, many organizations are finding more and more of their team members working remotely.
This means we not only need to be considering what tools and technologies are available in the office — such as ceiling microphones, life-like sized screens and high quality speakers — but also need to keep in mind what remote members have access to.
This is why communications platforms such as Microsoft Teams or Webex are an important bridge. These platforms are extremely adaptable and accessible from anywhere on any device. Employees working remote and in- office can connect to the same environment and have a high quality experience without missing information or feeling disconnected.
Iterative communications tools can also range from instant messaging platforms, to digital whiteboarding apps, even websites for recording asynchronous video.
The key to iterative communications is keeping things organized. Project management tools such as Trello and Asana are great for tracking progress, leaving update notes for your team and linking important documents.
Giving your people the power to work when they are most focused — without the pressure of trying to coordinate who is available and when — actually saves time and leads to higher quality work much faster.
Communication is the core of every interaction we have
The relative framing for different types of communication, enabled by different types of communications, gives us an insightful view into how we collaborate.
If we can help our organizations to be better at communicating, we unleash the abilities to prioritize our time better, perform better, and connect better.
How can we be better at communicating? Here are two transformative things you can do:
- A corporate communications framework must be formalized. This is a framework that embraces both the real-time and the iterative collaboration requirements for the organization.
- Move past the idea that your organization’s communications must be real-time. This will have a profound impact on your business.
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