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Collaborative Culture in Remote First Times

In previous blog posts, we already stated out that the company’s culture is a crucial component on the journey to this Innovation Championship. We figured out that one important aspect is a culture that empowers collaboration and makes it easy to connect with peers from other teams.

Especially in the new remote-first times, I am wondering:
what can be done to strengthen collaboration across teams since we are only connected virtually ? 

To be honest, I think especially for establishing an inclusive remote collaboration culture, those times are a huge chance. I know a lot of teams where some team members are in one office and some other members work from another office location or from home (it’s the same for me). Sometimes, the people not in the office might feel excluded from communications because things have just been discussed on the coffee machine in the office and did not result in a message to the remote colleagues. Now, since (almost) everyone is working from home, it’s the time to bring communication centralized to collaboration platforms where everyone can access it. This is the time where, when moderated properly, every member of an organization can be included in the teams’ communication, share opinions, raise interests, develop ideas.

not possible right now: stepping by at your colleagues’s desk to discuss your ideas

Some thoughts that I think are important to establish right now so we can profit from it in the future:

  • Switch your video on!
    • I cannot emphasize enough on the difference I feel between a meeting where webcams are switched on vs voice only meetings. You can see if the other people are listening to you or doing something else (see next point), you see if they look tired or stressed – and you just feel much more connected!
    • I know for some people it might still be intimidating to be on record or an activated video camera would just show you doing laundry in your home office room. But that might be a good chance to re-evaluate if you really need to attend a meeting or not. If you just dial in to not miss out information, the meeting could also be sent via eMail or Podcast recording.
    • A lot of companies do use Microsoft Teams nowadays as standard collaboration platform since it’s part of Office 365. While I like the idea (or the vision?) to have all collaboration in one platform, the fact that Teams Meetings only show 4 videos at a time is really a downer for the video experience. Zoom has the much better capabilities here since it shows all attendees’ videos at the same time. That makes you feel much more in a meeting room together than with Teams.
    • I would like to share this inspiration from Simon Sinek’s team (yes, I’m a fanboy!) how they try to reduce Social Distancing: click
  • Bring communication to open platforms
    • Many companies and employees still like eMails. And I do understand why: You have a unified inbox for everything that seeks your attention. Everyone can send and receive eMails without the need of a special account with e.g. Google or Microsoft. It works with every firewall and device. Got it. But: it’s easy to forget people on the list of recipients, history can’t easily be shared. Replies usually look messy in your eMail inbox.
    • Collaboration platforms like Teams or Slack bring some advantages here where I believe are enough blogs and opinions out there. To come to my aspect of “collaborative cultures in remote first times”, I’d like to focus on the advantage of open chatrooms in a remote team:
      • If you have an idea and look for people that are interested to work on that idea, you need a channel to post this idea to. An eMail asks you necessarily for a list of recipients, so you need to select in advance who might be interested or not. If you post it to a Slack channel for example, you still need to select a suitable channel, but it’s much more likely that people you haven’t even thought of see your ask for collaboration.
    • Also, if you have a new team member, you can include her to your team’s Teams group ( in such sentences I always wonder who selected this name for MS Teams ? 🙂 ) and there is all the communication history and even the files. No need to update a mail Delivery List, forgetting to invite the new member to the team meeting series, …. You get my point.
    • Especially for remote onboarding of new employees, it’s a huge difference in the first experience in their new team whether they find a vital and active collaboration room or not. Someone is posting about a topic you don’t understand? It’s easy to start a chat with that person by clicking the button without the formality of an eMail. Quick spontaneous video chat without a formal meeting request? Go ahead. It feels much more than the spontaneous step-by the desk.
    • If creating a new virtual collaboration room for a project, think twice if it really needs to be private. Imagine you are working on a sales pitch to promote your idea to internal stakeholders. If your group is public, there are chances that a Marketing expert that is looking for new challenges just enters the room and gives you feedback. Your voluntary project takes more time than you expected and now you are struggling to keep working on it? Just share the room’s/group’s public link with your team members and ask for support – you will be surprised! (This is how Project SURGE works by the way)

I know there is a lot content out there on “how to work remotely”. But since it’s so important for the collaborative culture right now, I wanted to share my thoughts that are relevant for a collaborative culture here as well.

As usual, I’d love to get your feedback on my thoughts. Any experiences you made with public Slack channels or MS Teams groups? Is there a chance to see more than 4 videos in MS Teams?

new home office times 

 

4 Comments
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  • I’ve been working from home for a little over 10 years.  Communication is key to making it work.

    I have installed and am using:

    • Teams
    • Slack
    • and now discord
    • Sharepoint
    • E-mail

    For meetings I have used Teams – small meetings.  Otherwise for my company it is usually gotomeeting.

    The interesting part is you have to know a bit about each product.   I always keep teams, discord, and slack running in the background.  That way my conversation with someone starts as soon as possible.  One of the big disadvantages on having so much software is that it doesn’t show you as busy.

    Now your question about what I would do differently.  I don’t always think video is the way to go.  It depends on who you are talking to and what you  want to show them.   A lot of the time, I only need to share my screen.

    A nice advantage of being remote is that people usually try to fix the problem themselves.  They usually don’t come to you before trying something.  So I get less calls.  My work output is better.

    Nice way of looking at the working from home tips.  Focusing on one point – communication.  I like it!

     

    • Thanks for your feedback, Michelle!

      the multi-app thing is annoying! But especially in big organizations, I think we will follow that path for some time since there is not one app to integrate all needs within one App. For now, I think the best way is to have good “house-rules” on when to use what app.

      I agree it’s ok to have some meetings without video, but I still think it should be the default to have the camera on instead of having the camera off instead of the other way round.

      I also like the less disruptive part. This morning, I did start to write a mail to my manager and while formulating, I recognize I don’t really have a clear ask. I went back and worked on the question a little bit more and … I could just solve it on my own.

      Thanks again for your different view on things!

       

       

  • Hi Nicolas Bost Thanks so much for sharing the link to the “huddle” – I love it 🙂
    I agree with you on the different communication tools and that it’s great to have them. The only thing I am struggling with too, like Michelle Crapo, is to set the “do not disturb” status in the different tools like slack, MS teams, skype etc. when you host a call. I sometimes forget but it’s important and much better to avoid distractions. In our team we are doing the team calls with video already since a longer time and for myself personally, I feel more and more comfortable with it. So I agree: it’s a strange time for everyone at the moment but also a chance to improve our collaboration behavior and skills.

    Thanks again for sharing!

    • Thanks for the feedback!

      Regarding “Do Not Disturb”, on the mac there is a setting to activate this system-wide (like on your iPhone). This doesn’t update your status in the different apps, but at least you don’t get any notifications when sharing your screen with someone else…

      maybe there is something similar in Windows?