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  • Jeroen Sangers 9:00 am on May 16, 2013 Permalink | Reply
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    Working out loud 

    Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

    I’m a freelancer working from home. A large part of my day, I don’t have anyone near, but I don’t work alone. On a daily basis, I’m in contact with my clients, my providers, and my partners with whom I collaborate on various projects.

    However, at times I miss the office’s coffee machine, where I could comment the latest news and laugh with my co-workers. These co-workers were also a major source of feedback related to my work.

    But there are also things that I don’t miss, like weekly meetings to discuss the status of projects.

    Now I only have my partner to have coffee with and comment the news. The rest of my communication has gone digital.

    Collaboration 2.0

    Nowadays, there are many tools to collaborate without needing to be in the same location, from email and Twitter—I still remember the interface at the beginning that went: “What are you doing?”—to complete platforms like Zyncro.

    When partners and co-workers aren’t in the same location, internal communication becomes even more important to generate results.

    Whenever I collaborate in projects remotely, I apply two habits that Bryce Williams identified in his post When will we Work Out Loud? Soon!

    Working out loud = Observable work + Narrating your work

    Observable Work

    This concept simply implies that the intermediate result of my work can be accessed by my co-workers. Instead of saving the document I’m writing in the folder My Documents on my computer, I use online platforms where my partners can see and comment on the progress and even edit the document.

    Based on this feedback, I can correct the focus of my work as soon as possible, and get better results in a shorter time.

    Modern collaboration platforms display in real time what each member of the team is working on. Each time I edit a document, my colleagues can see a notification in the system, even a summary with the changes made. What’s more, all the material is centralized and indexed in order to find the required information quickly.

    Narrate Your Work

    Similarly, I keep a public diary (blog or micro-blog) where I explain openly what I’m doing, what problems I encounter, what solutions I have found, and how I feel. I also share relevant articles I have found and obviously there is space for a joke once in a while.

    Finally, when working on a big project, I try to communicate each day at least these points:

    1. What I have done today
    2. What I have been unable to do
    3. What are the risks I have identified that will affect the project planning
    4. What my plans are for tomorrow

    During the day I keep a document open where I gradually answer these points. At the end of the day, I just have to publish it.

    If everyone in the team narrated their work openly, we wouldn’t need any meetings to assess project status and we would gain a lot of time.

    People who are already familiar with collaboration tools perfectly understand the benefits of working out loud. Others simply need to try it for a while to learn that they can collaborate efficiently remotely.

    Jeroen Sangers (@JeroenSangers) is personal productivity consultant and author of the blog El Canasto. He specializes in modern techniques to manage time, actions and attention, and provides training, consulting, and keynotes on a more intelligent way to work and live.

    If you want to enjoy the benefits that collaborating has for your productivity too, why not try Zyncro free?

  • Jeroen Sangers 9:00 am on April 11, 2013 Permalink | Reply
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    2 keys for group productivity 

    Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

    Editor’s note: Today we would like to welcome a new author to our blog. Jeroen Sangers (@JeroenSangers) is personal productivity consultant and author of the blog El Canasto. He specializes in modern techniques to manage time, actions and attention, and provides training, consulting and keynotes on a more intelligent way to work and live.

    Any trainer of a sports team knows it: although the players may be stars, that does not guarantee that the team will win. You have surely seen how the biggest football teams that have spent millions of dollars to get the best players often finish the season with the worst results. In order for a team to work, more than just good individual results are needed.

    Personal productivity

    No one works alone. Although we try to do all our tasks as best as possible and with maximum efficiency, for many things we depend on our co-workers. The web developer needs the texts of the copywriter, the sales rep needs the brochures of the marketing department, the marketing director needs the production status of the new products, etc.

    We may work efficiently, but if our co-workers are chaotic, we can’t be productive.

    The truth is that personal productivity cannot be extrapolated to the efficiency of teams. What are the two keys for group productivity?

    1. Roles and responsibilities

    In my opinion, the most important thing for building a productive team is to know the other members of the group well. Each person is different and has their strong points, their weaknesses and their own manner. Like in the different positions in a football team, a team works better if there are various profiles of people. Each team needs a leader, a creative person, someone who looks after relations, someone who gets to work straight away, etc.

    In the 1970s, Dr. Meredith Belbin developed a model with 9 essential roles for each team. We can use this model to identify the roles of each member and find the skills that we are missing in our team.

    2. Internal communication

    The second key point for a team to be efficient is internal communication.

    The dilemma is that we want to know all our co-workers’ actions, projects, ideas and concerns, yet we don’t want to waste time with useless information.

    To do this, we need to establish the best way of communicating in each case. In many offices, when we have to ask a co-worker something, we usually get up and go to their desk. Obviously we are causing a major interruption.

    It is better to use a less intrusive communication medium, like for example, email, the intranet or an enterprise social network. Then we can agree on exceptions for specific situations: How do we communicate if we need an instant response? What communication medium do we have to talk about sensitive issues or emotions?

    There is no one solution. The key is knowing which communication media are available, knowing the benefits and the problems of each way of communicating, and establishing an internal communication protocol with the other members of the team.

    If you want to be part of a productive team and win the league, you need to know your team well and have a top-quality communication channel.

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