Introducing Collaboration Environments

Introducing Collaboration Environments

In a previous post I referenced a definition of collaboration as:

…the practice of working together to create something

Core to this definition is 'working together'. When a team works together they will be doing ‘the work’ in some environment.

There are two questions to ask yourself, and your team, about their working environments:

  • Where does this team do the work?
  • When does this team do the work?

It's useful to represent the answers to these questions on a 2×2 matrix:

The Traditional working environment is people working at the same time in the same place (i.e. upper-right on the matrix). When your team is working in this environment, your focus is making sure they have a working physical space or spaces. That is a physical environment that allows them to debate, discuss, design, do, etc.

As a team leader, you also need to consider how the team will work when they are not in the same physical location, but working at the same time (i.e. upper-left on the matrix - the Remote environment). This means thinking through video conferencing, audio conferencing, and messaging technologies so that people can hear and see each other and their shared work. If budget allows, you may also consider investing in emerging technology like Microsoft Surface Hubs, or Google Jamboards.

Teams aren't always doing their work at the same time. Maybe your team crosses vast time zones, or team members work different days. If we look at the lower-left of the matrix, we see the environment of different time and different place (the Asynchronous environment). This is the domain of digital tools like G Suite, Office365, and Quip. It can also be the domain of specialist tools like CRM solutions.

The final quadrant (lower-right) is the environment of Community Spaces same place-different time. These are things like physical noticeboards, or working walls. Physical spaces that allow a team to go to a place to see and evolve the work. This may also be physical manifestations of things like rosters, shared calendars, or Kanban boards.

In the modern workplace, it's essential that leaders think broadly about the environments their teams work. Failure to consider these other environments means your team spends more energy fighting their infrastructure rather than doing their work. Remaining aware of all these environments means you are actively working to minimise friction and unleashing the latent power within your team.

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