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Are you working apart or working together, apart?on 2 April 2015Posted by Jacqui Hogan
It is hard to remember that, only ten years ago, only big corporates would have considered internet based electronic collaboration (e-collaboration) as a fully accepted way of working. They would install very expensive video suites where the crunch of a wayward crisp could interrupt the proceedings.
The rise of Social Media
The rise of Social Media changed all that. Social Media has moved us even further towards true ‘location free’ collaboration, in a process that began with the invention of the telegraph back in the mid-1800s.
“Almost everything we do depends on collaboration. Any system, process or technology involves collaboration. And, as a creature that is continually evolving and creating new ways of doing things, this means that the foundation, measures and methods of collaboration are also changing.” ‘Together Works: The Ultimate Guide to Ecollaboration’ (Dr D Avery, J Hogan, R McIntyre)
Today, Social Media has so infiltrated our lives now that it is hard to recall a time when we were unable to converse via Skype, text friends or exchange pictures of kittens on Facebook. We now expect our working lives to be equally enhanced by this technology.
The new working paradigm
E-collaboration is part of the modern world of work. Accelerating changes in technology, commerce and increasing globalisation, make e-collaboration a natural and necessary evolution of the way we work together. The growth of e-collaboration also goes hand-in-hand with the evolution of management itself: away from a more rigid hierarchical management (‘boss’) model towards more adaptive horizontal management models; models that incorporate elements of facilitation, flexible roles and shared leadership.
These are some of the features of this new working paradigm:
- It is more democratic. Management tends to be more shared, often with different leaders emerging at different times as different needs arise. Leadership will be more distributed, making it important to know who is responsible for what, and communicating accordingly. An effective collaboration tool will allow you to track tasks and priorities across the team, so everyone knows who is responsible for what. An integrated conference call system will also enable synchronous communication between team members just when they need it.
- It is likely to be more diverse in terms of culture, gender and language. You will no longer be able to pick up the kind of cues you would normally take for granted in a less diverse workplace where you are face-to-face with people. However, while it is easier to make mis-assumptions, you will gain from the wider idea pool this generates. When selecting your collaboration tool, ease of use is essential to encourage your team to share ideas in different ways and create a rich pool of options.
- Communication needs to be more explicit. In addition to having a more diverse working group, people will have a greater physical distribution. Aim to have both formal and informal communications, but be clear which is which. An easy to use tool makes both your synchronous and asynchronous communication more straightforward.
- Clear goals that everyone understands are essential. Although goal agreement is likely to be higher in an e-collaboration, because goals are defined and agreed by all participants, be aware that goal acceptance may wax and wane during the life of the e-collaboration. Because the team members do not see each other every day in person, this may not be obvious as quickly as with a face-to-face working environment. Be prepared to review the goals as a team and have everyone recommit to them on a regular basis. If your collaboration tool is easy to use, people will communicate more often, making it easier to share and discuss your goals.
- Trust, but verify. A lot of us talk quite glibly about ‘empowerment’ without really understanding what this really means. Empowerment means giving people the freedom to exercise assigned ‘power’ to make decisions and take actions when they feel comfortable, accountable and supported. It means taking a step back and not interfering even when the rest of the team is taking an approach that you would not take. It does not mean abdication, but facilitation. Therefore, even though you trust people to be progressing towards agreed goals, you should still ask questions about where they are. Perhaps they need your help, but are reluctant to ask. An easy to use and secure tool with the ability to coordinate tasks will give you the ‘light-touch’ control necessary to accomplish this.
There is no doubt that the world of people working together has changed and will continue to change; our ability to do this effectively rests with ourselves and the tools we choose to support our activities.
Glasscubes is a cost effective, easy to use and secure collaboration tool for businesses. Find out more about how it could help you rise to the challenge of this new way of working by calling +44 (0)20 3274 2310.
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