Wednesday, 14 July 2010

The gentle art of working together

People can be prickly sometimes, can’t they? We easily get upset when left off the email distribution list for one of our projects, or when someone doesn’t invite us to a meeting. Rightly so – work is an important part of everyone’s lives.

As work becomes more complex, and pressures build to do more, we need better ways to collaborate and share. Email gets a message from one machine to another, but does nothing to help organise and prioritise. The internet has done a great deal to put more at our finger tips, but sometimes the result is overwhelming – so much information, so much to do, and so little organisation.

Within Anatec we use Microsoft SharePoint to share information and coordinate goals. That’s not a great surprise as we are Microsoft Certified Partners. But I think everyone’s needs concerning collaboration are pretty similar. Here is my top ten list of what’s important to get the best out of other people:
  1. Be clear. Collaboration sites need to have a good hierarchical structure so information is easy to find. Colour coding by department can help orient people in a large site.
  2. Make it attractive. Just because it’s work doesn’t mean to say that the look and feel of your collaboration site isn’t important. The better it looks, the more likely it will be to be used. Have a house style so that fonts and headline sizes are used consistently: it’s a lot easier on the eye.
  3. Consistency of purpose. Make objectives consistent and visible and ensure company communications reflect current priorities.
  4. Time to think. Make key documents or discussions available to everyone involved. The more time people have to mull over a problem, the better their input will be.
  5. No surprises. Ensure key dates are visible well ahead of time. A shared company calendar with dates for exhibitions, people’s holidays, key presentations, etc. helps to keep people focused on the major events during the month.
  6. Make it inspirational. Whatever your line of work there are people who will live better lives as a result of what you do. Share the inspiration with your co-workers though words or pictures.
  7. Keep content up-to-date. Intranets are a great place to share things, but they need to be kept up-to-date and they need to keep people’s attention. If they always see the same old stuff, pretty soon they will stop reading. If there is a key report you can share though your intranet, then do. People will get familiar with the structure and content by using it more.
  8. Make it interesting. Is there a relevant RSS feed you could include on your home page? Can you use appropriate and attractive pictures to help get your message across? It all makes work more enjoyable, and collaboration more effective.
  9. Don’t make it optional. Whenever a new system is introduced, there is always resistance. Don’t be tempted to keep emailing documents, just because it’s easier. Put the document on your collaboration site and then email the link. Keep on eye on what people are accessing to make sure its being used.
  10. Get everyone involved. Collaboration is exactly that – people working together to create something more than one person could do alone. Ensure there is a structure to the way you work, then use it at every opportunity - in meetings, as a way of discussing things, even as internal presentations.
Collaboration through intranets is not new, but options are opening up for smaller companies to use tools that the big boys have enjoyed for years.

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