Yet another thread on a Management Listserv discussing what collaborative tool options should be considered for folks still living in a listserv world. Sadly, the feedback continues to devolve into upgrading listserv software or standalone discussion boards.
Collaboration Requires A Proper Infrastructure
Is anyone looking for proof that life exists outside your member’s email inbox?
In an era where increased productivity and team collaboration is key across business units, special interest groups and often global in nature, we don’t examine the empirical data that clearly demonstrates that Web 2.0 tools are critical to faster, better and more cost effective product and service design and delivery or to build a body of knowledge. Look for the McKinsey study posted earlier on adoption of Web 2.0 tools.
Roles and Process Delivers Results
If you hold a meeting you would never forget an agenda, a review of outcomes since the last meeting, and an assignment of tasks as a result of the meeting. You would also require people to physically attend meetings whether face-to-face or via teleconference.
And yet, we consider it perfectly ok to let members and staff stay inside their inboxes during the most crucial time of collaboration…the time between meetings when the rubber meets the road. They lean back from their email inbox.
We don’t require them to attend to their assigned tasks in an electronic medium that requires them to engage in an environment where you can use the power of the web through databases and Web 2.0 technology to improve productivity and reduce email overload.
IBM’s Use of Wiki’s
In the WSJ (9/17/2007 on B4), we find the following excerpts:
IBM: “Programmers keep tabs on what is going on through the wikis, to which they post progress reports and comments. They get automatic alerts when important pieces of their project change. And they keep in touch with faraway colleagues through instant-messaging and phone software, which display photos and personal details of co-workers.
PT: Notice the importance of creating project spaces to ensure proper context of information resources. Can you imagine them doing this with listservs or simple discussion boards? IBM offers the following advice for collaboration via wikis. Note it is all about creating systems and processes that are separate from technology which makes the technology work.
- Have a common understanding of the task.
- Clarify roles and responsibilities.
- Set firm ground rules.
- Get to know other team members.
- Communicate often.
IBM: “One key to smooth teamwork is dividing projects into small pieces. Mr. Nicholson says the team of 50, charged with making IBM’s WebSphere software work with code written in other programming languages, breaks projects into two-week chunks. Each chunk is further split into tasks designed to take one programmer a day or two to complete. That means mistakes or miscommunications are caught quickly, and there is little waiting for others to finish work.”
Programmers keep their task list on a wiki that can be seen and edited by everyone on the team, which includes about 20 people in Hursley, 20 in Bangalore, India, and 10 in Ottawa. Each morning, Mr. Nicholson typically takes an unassigned task from the top of the list and puts his name on it. When he is done — generally by the end of the day — he notes on the wiki that he has completed the task and puts additional documentation in a shared database. “With this method, you’re always progressing — checking your sanity constantly,” Mr. Nicholson says.
When the software fails a test, which could stall work around the globe, all stop what they are doing to diagnose the problem, says Noel O’Dowd, the Hursley-based leader of the 50-person group that Mr. Nicholson is in. At the Hursley office, team members rigged to the testing machine a light that turns red when there is a serious problem. Other teams are thinking of following suit.”
PT: Imagine the amount of emails this would have taken and the added time spent locating past discussions in older emails versus the beauty of the system IBM put in place.
So in an era when organizations are seeking ways to enhance collaboration and performance, why are we still living in our inboxes? It’s time to take a look at tools and systems that can break the email bottle-neck that is strangling productivity.