In this three-part article series, we first explored the key elements you need for teams to work more effectively. In the second article, we gave you the 'How' and introduced our 'Design Better Teams - Canvas' exercise
So you've probably already done some hard work and led your team through the design exercise. Together you've mapped out the behaviors, rituals, values, goals, symbols, and how you'll measure team success. You've made progress and gradually introduced new behavioral norms, including well-defined and supportive onboarding practices to support exceptional teamwork. You've introduced rituals that shape transparent and honest conversations during meetings.
You've diagnosed the problems with your team using the Canvas and designed new team norms and practices. You'll continue the journey of cultivating new behaviors and choices within your group from the outcomes during the canvas exercise. In parallel, your next step is to deliver tools to make your work and communication transparent across your teams.
“A good strategy does more than urge us forward toward a goal or vision. A good strategy honestly acknowledges the challenges being faced and provides an approach to overcome them.”
Richard Rumelt, Good Strategy Bad Strategy.
How Do Digital Collaboration Tools Support Teams?
Digital collaboration tools at their core, have been systematically designed to increase the atmosphere of transparency of work. They bolster and encourage the desired behavior of dependability amongst team members.
Reliability is one of the core elements for teams to succeed. Importantly these tools automatically supply people with structure so that their work can be arranged, organized, retrieved, seen, and acted upon faster.
Another hallmark of great collaboration tools is the clarity and structure of information they supply to team members through messaging and notification which leads to solving problems faster. Collaboration tools act like muscles, they get information to move and flow through your organization.
Leaders and team managers can use these collaborative technologies to model behaviors of open collaboration communication and feedback.
These technologies allow every one of your team members to have a voice. This, in turn, gives people a platform where they can ask questions, share ideas, and sow the seeds of vulnerability and trust. They help to underpin "equality in distribution of conversational turn-taking." which raises the psychological safety amongst team members. And as noted in 'Google's project Aristotle' this more than anything else, is critical to making a team work.
Tools we use to build trust and transparency in teams
Following is a guide to some of the tools we use daily to keep the work, ideas, problem-solving, and fun flowing across our teams in all locations.
We dig using Trello for planning, organizing, and assigning project tasks or just mapping out jobs to be done. When our project teams lock eyes on those Kanban boards, it gives everyone an instant overview of individual or group tasks. We can see where things are at, what's left to do and what is complete.
Team members receive an instant visual snapshot of how the work will flow, who will do it, and by when. Notifications make it easy to track the progress of tasks from one stage to the next. They help to inform team members if someone has questions or needs more guidance. Trello's single interface makes it straightforward for teams to see what's waiting to be done, what stage in the workflow a task is at and best of all when it's complete.
Trello uses boards, lists, and cards to help organize work. Its visual representation of work delivers a sense of accomplishment when you move tasks across lists and finally make it to the completed column. The majority of knowledge worker output's are not tangible. Team members can't hold the work in their hands at the end of a project. So completed cards in Trello represent our work. They give our teams a sense of accomplishment, and we can give credit to each other's input.
We’ve all heard of video conferencing for online meetings and collaboration. Zoom is our go-to-tool to help teams feel connected. Aside from the flexibility and significant cost savings, we love it for how it pulls us together. With Zoom we get to focus on outcomes, collaborating, and getting to know the different personalities across our teams instead of wasting time on fixing video and audio glitches.
Tools like Zoom help team members quickly re-engage with offsite or freelance teammates on a personal and work level. The feeling of distance is immediately removed. In these types of meetings, we find that people zone out less. Disconnection is replaced with connectedness because face-to-face interaction is information-rich. Switched off is replaced with thoughts of 'We can't let these guys down.'
The gallery view lets you see everyone seamlessly and switches to the person that is speaking. You can choose to toggle between speaker and gallery view. It gives everyone a chance to talk equally and signifies that turn-taking matters in your team. Again, there is the mobile app, so we can join from offsite and zoom into someone's desktop screen to understand their work, progress, and results more deeply.
With video conferencing, the added advantage is that you can have a chuckle and people’s personalities and quirks come to the surface. We feel as though we move through meetings faster with video conferencing. This type of technology is set to increase in use, given the evolving changes with freelance global employment trends.
It makes onboarding of virtual and freelance team members smooth and minimizes misinterpretation and misunderstanding and distributes knowledge faster.
Perhaps The author of the Xunzi, Xun Kuang, contributed to the Hundred Schools of Thought said it best
"Tell me, and I forget, teach me, and I may remember, involve me, and I learn.”
"I'll slack it to you.” These are the words that you'd hear amongst our team when we’ve had to punch out a stack of work. We use it often to get immediate answers to help us solve problems together, or reach decisions, or share prototype files. Commonly if someone refers to a person as slack, it means they are lazy. The tool is the polar opposite of this. We use it daily to touch base with remote team members. It helps propel work forward by giving everyone a platform for those small conversations that frequently happen in the workplace but often go unnoticed. These micro-messages we have daily help us bind together as a team on a project. As a consequence of this, it helps our team members build confidence transfer knowledge, and help move work along.
These tiny moments we spend discussing work, sending messages, sharing ideas, and asking questions in slack have a cumulative effect on our culture. It lets everyone know that it's 'ok not to know everything,' and it prevents delayed decisions. Slack helps us internally to take risks and just be ourselves when discussing work. Because most of us don't enjoy the formality of email to get jobs done.
The features that provide us the most efficiency for our teams are the @channel notification. When we are reaching ground zero on a project deadline, the @channel allows us to instantaneously let every team member know about last minute updates or decisions. We also love the 'herd effect' of Slack's direct messages. You can add multiple members to messages. It's noticeable when someone doesn't respond back, which helps to set expectations for collaborative team behavior. Again Slack's app is just as good as the desktop experience and provides those seamless moments of conversation.
Rounding out your team tools, the CentricMinds Intranet fuses together applications, communication, files, teams, and business goals in one place for the entire team.
Every touchpoint your employees have with your brand at work affects their experience, be it good or bad. A useful Intranet helps employees connect to your brand, helps them understand how their work effort fits within the big picture and contributes to achieving organizational goals.
Communities and Workspaces
CentricMinds performs like a nervous system, linking people to information, tools, and to each other. It knits everything together serving people the right documents, content, tools, digital forms based on their roles so they can make decisions. It provides a platform for leaders to model behaviors that build teamwork. Teams can create communities and workspaces, which give them a central dashboard to tools, files, expertise, onboarding, team process, decisions, events, and general daily work chats that happen between teams.
Team and Employee Profiles
Rich employee profiles and employee search supports the systematic identification of individuals who bring particular value to project or team. Locating and contacting freelancers and consultants is made easy.
To complete work most of the time, teams need to find and often refer back to documents, including team discussions, plans or proposals. CentricMinds retrieves results from all content files, web content, team workspaces, and messages. It provides excellent search options such as hashtags, type, date, team, expertise to find what they need.
Share Team Initiatives
Within CentricMinds, the team initiative console displays teams projects and initiatives from each team to create a sense of solidarity and contributes to the shared sense of purpose amongst groups. Information that teams post include team goals, KPI's, projects, events breakthroughs, and lessons learned.
CentricMinds offers team workspaces which encourage groups and teams to make their initiatives visible to the whole organization or private. These spaces often focus on topics or projects. Team dashboards help to anchor's the team's work to the organization's goals and validate how their work fits into the bigger picture. Often operational groups in dispersed companies are not aware of other teams initiatives or projects or innovations. So this dashboard for teams enables them to call out their big or small wins and celebrate progress. It's called the Progress Principle and the team dashboard in CentricMinds leverage progress to boost motivation amongst teams. It gives oxygen supply to individuals and teams to keep striving and amplifies advancement towards bigger goals.