I’m always on the lookout for ideas on what I can do to ensure that my distance collaboration activities are productive and effective — and that the experience has the simplicity and quality needed to produce the engagement I want.
So, I appreciate a report sent to me recently by The Future of Work...unlimited, a research and advisory services firm, and its sponsor GoToMeeting web conferencing service.
From their report, “The Future of Business Collaboration,” by James P. Ware, PhD, here’s a simple checklist of questions to ask before you launch a remote collaboration activity.
First, Understand the Game
Purpose (The Objective of the Game)
· What are the specific goals of the collaboration effort? How will you know you have achieved your goals?
· Do all the stakeholders (whether or not they are active participants) share these goals? If not, are there ways to make everyone a winner? Or to mitigate any potential perceived losses?
Process (The Rules of the Game)
· Are the processes and procedures for working
together clearly stated, and widely understood?
· Do all participants understand the “rules” and agree with the plans for moving forward?
People (The Players)
· How well do you know all the people involved?
· Do the participants have the requisite skills to be effective partners in the collaborative activity?
· Do the participants share the goals of the effort? Do any of them have additional, more personal goals or “agendas” that could either enable or detract from the group’s accomplishments?
Second, Define the Playing Field
In addition to the tools, techniques, and training that support collaborative activity, it is critically important to focus on two components of any work environment: establishing trust and acting with transparency.
Trust and Transparency are two sides of the same coin. Together they will determine the way any collaborative activity unfolds and what kinds of Outcomes it produces.
Trust exists between people or groups when there is a belief that what is said will be done—that commitments are honored, and that everyone acts with the interests of everyone else in mind. Someone who is trustworthy can be relied on to do what he says he will do, and who speaks with candor and honesty.
Trust grows out of experience. We learn to trust others when we see that they mean what they say, they say what they mean, and their actions are consistent with their words.
Transparency refers to having all the cards on the table— out in the open. Transparency exists when no one is hiding their goals or withholding resources, and when everyone knows what the rules of the game are, and plays by them.
Leading Distributed Meetings
There are five specific things any leader of a distributed meeting must remember, whether the meeting is an audio conference call, a web meeting with screen sharing, a video call, or a combined multimedia session:
1. Publish an explicit agenda ahead of time; encourage invitees to comment on or enhance the agenda
2. Establish meeting “etiquette” — guidelines for speaking, listening, debating, and so on. Ask that everyone stay “tuned in” to the meeting and not attempt to multitask (e.g., checking email, reading unrelated materials, etc.)
3. Be sure everyone knows how to use the technology; schedule separate “training” sessions ahead of the meeting(s) if necessary. Provide participants with a checklist for using the collaborative tools effectively.
4. Spend the first few minutes of the meeting “checking in” with other attendees; ask for personal news and updates as well as business-related activities.
5. Respond to comments from others non- judgmentally; listen carefully and look for emotional content of comments; draw out the quiet members of the team; ensure that everyone has an opportunity to speak and express their ideas/opinions.
Making Personal Video Work for You
Finally, we end this report with a very practical, hands-on guide to using video as a “distance collaboration technology.”
Just as we no longer have to go to a telephone to make a phone call (because the phone is always with us), we no longer have to go to a large, expensive video conference room to participate in a video meeting.
Thus we are using the term “personal video” to encompass desktop webcams and video from mobile devices like smart phones or tablet computers—all in contrast to those large-scale video conferencing setups based in custom- designed and specially–equipped conference rooms.
Video is still so new to the workplace, and is such an information-rich medium, that many people do not realize how much difference some very practical and exceedingly simple techniques can make.
The Future of Work...unlimited is a research and advisory services firm that creates visions of the future and helps clients achieve them. We produce and distribute assessment tools, surveys, white papers and technical reports, newsletters, books, and articles, all focused on helping organizations create work environments that are cost- effective, socially and environmentally responsible, and personally satisfying.
GoToMeeting is an easy-to-use, cost-effective web conferencing service. GoToMeeting includes HDFacesTM high-definition video conferencing at no additional cost, so you can meet face to face with anyone, anywhere, reducing travel costs and dramatically increasing productivity. Hold unlimited online meetings from your PC or Mac® computer for one low monthly flat fee. GoToMeeting will change the way you work – and perhaps a whole lot more.