Collaborate: a tech how-to

All those verbs that should have some meaning: coordinate, collaborate, communicate… Let’s unfold what they cover and enter the practice zone.

From a human resources point of view, COLLABORATE is a mix of personal skills, really hard to explain, and a list of process, very precisely defined, that I advised people to make it happen.

For the IT teacher that I am now, it is a list of tools that I would expect my alumni to understand to be comfortable in their job.

Groups in outlook

There are so many platforms with Groups ability that I can’t really list them all. One that should be understood as a minimum for the workplace, is the Microsoft one: because it is not obvious… and because everyone might encounter it someday.

Groups in Outlook 365 Web version

Invite

Groups are mainly defined by the members that are enlisted as potential participants: are you in / out of the group. The social definition of limits and borders.

You must know how to :

  • add members
  • delete members
  • invite “guest” (members with lower rights)

Of course, beyond the technical aspects, some human skills should be taken into account.

Create a real sense of invitation by writing a nice (and short) welcome message.

It would be a great idea to formulate also a kind of meaning into your invitation by stating what you expect from this group: include the purpose of it.

Inform

Information are pushed to those participants. But of course, you must know:

  • what are the various information that can be sent: discussions, calendar events, enrollment, tasks, documents, news, polls…
  • when they are sent
  • how they are sent: as a group news / as a mailbox message

As visuals tend to be the groundbreaking way of communication, you might try to develop your list of images / icons / infographies to catch the eye as much as the verbal interest for your messages.

Groups tools available in Outlook

Discuss

If your decision process is closed (you decide everything), well, forget about collaboration. A great part of the participation is to let new stuff happen, innovation, unexpected things enter your organization.

Letting participant bring new things in your projects is usually the attitude expected from a manager at certain points of their “leadership”.

  • create a poll
  • create a form
  • add a quiz
  • call for ideas
  • follow discussions
  • mark steps of the problem solution process by using tags (Difficulty / Resolved)

Plan

Although the link to planner is not always available, groups include access to the Microsoft’s planning tool.

Share

Of course, sharing is the most common action available on the web nowadays. Which means that any manager should have the skills and use the tools to allow their team to securely share documents and follow a validation process (workflow).

File menu in outlook groups

Shared documents can be modified (amended), validated, refused (rejected), and have thus various status: accepted, on hold (suspended), drafted… All those terms seems to be directly created by a kind of quality assurance team during a brainstorming workshop. But really, discussing their meaning among a team is usually a great time saver for your decision process. It allows you to move along the workflow in an ordered fashion, even during a chaotic creative process.

Decide

Their is an ambiguity that needs to be immediately clarified about decision. Leadership defined as “decision making” is for me a bit of a lie. You are not just the one “who decides”, as if the point was to have the final word.

Deciding is about deciding on something. Which means that a workflow, a document has to be somewhow the ground for the decision, as the end of a collaboration loop.

That’s where the understanding of the new Flow tools become a real asset. It is becoming the most valuable tool in the manager’s toolbox as it is the basis of corporate organization.

Managing the collaboration in your project means letting the progress take place without breaking apart the bounds between the team members. Believe me, making that happen really is a mix of your personal skills and processes consciously applied. The flow tool is meant to help you create the process as a third party between your members and the document.

It helps you set the milestones that marks progress (or backturns) into your planning. It is the tool that helps push team members to stop their reflexion and act toward a decision.

Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed following this journey about collaboration with me. Stay tuned and comment!

Exchange, by mike-wilson from unsplash