A world of geographically dispersed teams
The way we work has changed. Teams are dispersed. Across countries, offices and homes. And yet, collaboration is more important than ever as organisations look to harness the combinatorial effect of multidisciplinary and diverse teams.
In parallel travel budgets have been cut. Global teams rarely come together face-to-face. It is now not uncommon for people to work closely for many years with a colleague they have never met in person.
Technology has played a critical role in enabling dispersed global teams to function effectively. Communication is cheap and instant with tools like Skype and Zoom, which allow video conferencing, call recording and screen sharing at the click of a button. Zoom’s market cap demonstrates the value placed upon effective remote collaboration.
These tools are the foundations of running effective remote meetings and workshops. And digital whiteboards like Mural and Miro and Microsoft’s Surface Hub further extend the collaboration possibilities by digitising sticky notes, pens and printed frameworks.
Unfortunately, making remote collaboration work effectively is hard. Facilitating a meeting or workshop when everyone is in the same room is tough and doing it remotely is tougher. Collaboration requires a big investment in collective time. And there is always the risk that the collaborative output is inferior to that which would have been produced individually as the challenges of working collaboratively (free-riding, group think etc.) outweigh the benefits.
There are three things that you need to get right:
1. Planning: investing time in planning the session pays big dividends:
- Start with the defining an objective and key question that makes it unambiguous and simple for everyone to understand what is expected of them and what will collectively be achieved. Work on refining these with others
- Think about the structure – shape a journey that sparks creativity, drives out deep and meaningful content, fosters alignment, forces decisions and prioritisation and gets you ready for action. Identify the appropriate methods for this journey given the number of participants and the available time
- Send out a pre-read to allow the session to focus on co-creation vs. getting everyone up to speed on existing thinking, status etc. The session should avoid PowerPoint presentation of content. Short sharp stimulus like videos can work well
2. People: identify the right participants by following these simple rules:
- Make sure that the decision makers are in the room. Any good meeting is about making decisions that stick with a robust decision-making process supported by the structure of the session
- Include content experts and make sure their voices are heard. It sounds obvious, but many meetings are heavy on management and light on content
- Minimise the need for post meeting socialisation without having a cast of thousands. This one is probably the hardest to get right, particularly in big corporates where the stakeholder group for important decisions can be massive and cut across the organisation
- Identify 1-2 people who are ‘outsiders’ e.g.from a different team or department who can provide challenge. Tell them that is their role and empower them
3. Process: think of the session as a structured process with a clear and logical journey from start to finish that meets the objective and answers the key question. Here are some pointers:
- A good facilitator will keep everyone focused on moving through this journey creating clear linkages between each step and continually bringing things back to answering the key question
- When working remotely the practical realities of many methods to support co-creation and collective decision making are tricky to get right. For example, selecting ideas through voting or placing ideas on a two-by-two matrix. Use the right tools to make this viable with clear instructions
- Continually sign-post to make it clear what everyone should be doing at any given time
- Proactively ask questions and bring people into the process
- Get the outputs of the workshop issued immediately with clear next steps to drive a sense of momentum
The power of Axis
For remote meetings and workshops Axis provides the planning and process and you bring the right people.
Our digital workshop platform enables you to plan a tailored workshop in minutes using a best practice structure from framing the context to planning for action. There are a variety of methods designed to enable remote co-creation and collective decision making. The whole workshop is clearly sign-posted with a simple step-by-step process that makes facilitation effortless and effective.