It’s 9am on Monday morning and Mark Elliott is already hard at work at his standing desk, headphones on, busy multi-tasking between his Mac and his iPhone. He deftly switches between screens and tasks, like a pilot, in a disciplined and well-practiced routine that he constantly hones and refines.
His main focus each morning are his key Trello boards, in particular ones relating to his priority business development tasks as well as his own board which he uses to program his day and his week. On his business development board he has several cards to action – a few client follow ups on proposals in various stages of development, a few follow ups with the team focused on particular leads, and a few less urgent ones that he ‘pushes’ to the next Monday.
His other key task is to program the rest of his day – and the next few days – around priority tasks that need his attention. These relate largely to business development and business management concerns. A few business development meetings to schedule, a few proposals to start and some to close, and a few internal internal meetings to focus and align our strategic and operational activities. As he scans his Trello cards a Google docs notification comes in indicating that he’s been tagged by John on a proposal, asking for his input on a particular section. Later that morning he’s scheduled time to collaborate with John on this very proposal. Together they’ll spend 45mins collaboratively editing the document in realtime, in preparation for sending it to a client later in the day.
By 9:45 he’s also managed to ‘zero’ his inbox which is a big win. All emails have been actioned, Trello cards are all updated, his day is programmed and it feels great! Just about time for the weekly 10am team stand-up meeting, an opportunity for the whole team to come together and connect not just on a practical level but also on a personal level. An important social practice that the team has been cultivating. At 9:50 he receives a message on Slack from Matt, who’s still struggling with a bad flu but would like to be dialled-in for standup. A quick Slack exchange and Matt is on standby. Hailey sends Mark a Slack message saying that she’s at Kinfolk:
Mark: “Strong Skinny Cap pls! You’re a legend! We’ll wait for you to start standup”
Hailey: “Cool, I’ll be there in 10”
Mark: “Great, see you then”
At 10:05, the team has gathered, all having gone through similar routines that morning on Trello, email and Slack. The team is primed and coordinated for a productive day and week ahead of collaboration!
This short narrative illustrates how Collabforge uses three online collaboration platforms to achieve two key outcomes:
Greater alignment & productivity as a result of tighter coordination
Overall greater collaboration capability – especially distributed collaboration – as a result of having shared channels and protocols to facilitate this collaboration.
Our short blog post on the ‘3Cs’ framework expands on effective Coordination and Cooperation as prerequisites for effective Collaboration.
Another key concept in action here is ‘Stigmergic Collaboration’ – the idea that as collaboration scales to larger populations and to asynchronous contributions, collaboration must be indirectly coordinated by leaving ‘marks in the environment, as opposed to direct coordination between collaborators. Comments in Google Docs, Trello cards with attributes or Slack messages are akin to these marks in the digital environment. They provide cues for our team about where, how and when action is needed, if at all.
- Other conditions that facilitate this collaboration environment within our team include:
We are early adopters and innovators in terms of new tech and tools
- We are efficiency and productivity geeks (!)
- We are not afraid of experimenting and adapting to new ways of working internally and with clients
- We have a clear shared understanding of the role each platform plays in our collaboration processes
What approaches and technologies does your team use to facilitate coordination and collaboration? What have you seen that works and doesn’t work? What challenges are you facing on this front?