Keeping the team together onlineon 12 October 2016
Working online should in principle be no different from working offline in the same office, in terms of the outcomes. Having the right approach and using good tools can make the difference between a smoothly running organisation and a series of ‘rabbit-in-the-headlight’ moments.
Teams work best when all members of the team know what they are doing and how that fits with the activities of the other team members. This means you have to share information readily across the team. Unfortunately, we have got very used to being able to pop in to see our fellow team members on the other side of the office, and ask a quick query; or to check how something is progressing, without bothering to call another meeting to discuss it. When you don’t all work in the same office, or sometimes even in the same country, this is not an option.
I’m sure you’ve had an experience like this. You held your meeting online, only to discover later that Jo didn’t remember that they’d agreed to do the spreadsheets, so Fran hasn’t done the project report they were supposed to. Now the project or product launch is in jeopardy.
1. Plan together
It makes sense to have one leader or manager who can ensure that goals get set and keep the team on track to achieving them. However, if you want the whole team to buy into the goals and to get them to emotionally ‘own’ them, you need to involve them in defining them. This is particularly important when working online as it’s much easier to lose track of those goals when the boss isn’t sitting opposite you.
Get the team involved in some of the detail of goal setting and checking, and keep this information somewhere where everyone can add to it, fine-tune the detail and correct it. This will create a sense of ownership, encourage a feeling of collaborative team working and generate alignment of purpose. This team-planning can save you time as a manager too.
2. Write it down
Breaking down a project into smaller tasks is essential. We all know this. If the team members don’t know what those tasks are though, it is all for nothing. Writing notes from your meetings is not enough when working on-line. It is better to use a simple project tool to record tasks and share them in a way that people can add their own notes and updates on progress. It is easier to see the dependencies e.g. that Jo needed to complete the spreadsheets before Fran could finish the project/product report.
3. Use the tools
A project is made up of many tasks or moving parts, many of which happen in parallel and/or in dependency with each other. Managing the moving parts is essential to progress. When team members are working remotely from each other, it is much harder for them to see the progress of the other members of the team. Without a common view of progress it is also harder for you to stop potential bottlenecks, and take timely action to resolve them. Most collaboration systems, like Glasscubes, have simple, easy to use project management tools to help manage this.
Other tools like version control, common calendars and shared folders will also help to ensure everyone is clear about the status of all parts of the project or activities.
4. One place to find them all
Having one place to find all your shared information will save a lot of scratched heads, abortive work (on an old document) and stress. You can share not only your documents, but also drawings, image files, audio and video, emails, online conversations, screen shots etc.
Sharing these all in one place, means everyone will be accessing the latest versions. It will improve your audit trail. It will allow you to seamlessly move current members of the team out to new projects and new members in. It will also reduce potential mistakes made based on out of date information.
5. Encourage water-cooler moments
One of the challenges with not working together physically is that we miss the social chit-chat that provides the glue to human relationships. While this may sometimes seem like a waste of time, chatting together is essential to creating deeper understanding between people.
Encouraging the use of instant messaging or interactivity not based solely on a specific task, can make people work better together on whatever they may be doing. It can short circuit communications – essential in a high pressure situation or emergency.
This is not an exhaustive list, and you are recommended to read through our other blogs which focus on many of these ideas in more detail.
Glasscubes is a cost effective, easy to use and secure collaboration tool set for any organisation. Find out more about how it could help you take control of your knowledge +44 (0)20 3274 2310.
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