How to collaborate without spending hours on a Zoom call
I was doing some keyword research recently and I discovered that of all the phrases I was interested in, “how to collaborate” was one of the most frequently searched. Looking at the numbers, I discovered “collaboration” is searched 10x as many times a month compared to “meetings” (or even the much better “workshops”).
I would say we are very keen to find a better way to collaborate without spending hours in meetings, especially Zoom meetings! (No hate to the video conference platform. But, everything in moderation right?)
Recently, I was working with one of my clients and her designer to develop some product hypotheses and experiments to validate her minimum viable product. We jumped on a call to discuss possible approaches, looking back over all the user research we had done to date.
It rapidly became clear that each of us had a slightly different viewpoint about the value of the product, the measurability of that value and the best way to test it. We needed to collaborate to get the best of our thinking into the final experiment design, and circular discussion in that first meeting wasn’t getting the job done.
This was the perfect situation for the basic workshopper principles: visualise the discussion, sequence the discussion, work alone together and make a decision. However, one of our pilot customers needed the experiment design by early the next week, and since we were collaborating across time zones, we would have struggled to get enough time together to run a full workshop.
This was the perfect opportunity to put some asynchronous collaboration techniques into action. So I ran an asynchronous workshop using Google Sheets.
What did it take to run this collaboration session?
- 2x 30-minute video conference meetings
- About 30-minutes for each participant in their own time
- One Google spreadsheet
- 3 participants (but this would have worked with more!)
First, the team had a 30-minute kick-off meeting. In this session, we discussed the outcome we were looking for: three to five hypotheses about the value our product delivers with accompanying experiments to evaluate how well our MVP achieves this value. We also review the collaboration template so everyone understood how to contribute. This template was nothing more than a spreadsheet in Google with the right headers and “madlib” style templates to give structure to the team’s inputs. We also booked the next meeting so we knew our deadline.
Second, we went our separate ways and made time over the next three days to contribute what we believed were the three most important hypotheses and experiments. Each participant found time in their own calendar to contribute and used the template to keep inputs consistent and easy to compare. As the facilitator, I could check that everyone had contributed and follow up with anyone who wasn’t contributing.
Third, we came back together for another 30-minute meeting to rank everyone’s contributions and decide on an answer. We could have done the ranking process asynchronously as well, but we had time to include it in our follow up meeting.
To rank them, we created a column for the two deciding factors we planned to use to select the hypotheses and experiments: the value of the hypothesis to our client base, and the ease of collecting accurate data to complete the experiments. We ranked each contribution on a 1 to 3 scale for value and for ease of measurement. We then averaged the team’s scores to give each entry an overall rank.
We then ordered the entries by their overall rank and we found we had a natural top four. By reviewing these top four, we decided to assign them categories: one for the related step in the product flow and one for the type of value we were measuring (user satisfaction, efficiency, etc). Once we categorised them, we saw a clear theme around measuring the user experience, satisfaction and efficiency across three core steps in our product flow. This became our final experiment design.
After the collaborative session, I refined the experiment design and wrote it up in an email for the founder to send to the client. I also documented the full design so it was ready for when we started the experiments.
This simple, time-efficient collaboration approach enabled us to quickly converge multiple viewpoints to come up with a clear solution we could all agree on as a team. This collaboration recipe could be applied to many different challenges your product team is facing.
If you want to try out this recipe yourself to collaborate with your team on designing your product evaluation, hypotheses and user experience experiments, grab your copy of the collaboration worksheet: link.
I have also drafted a Product Vision Collaboration Sheet and a User Story Collaboration Sheet, which could be completed with the same collaboration recipe. If you visit the link above, you will receive a bundle of all three templates.
What team challenge would you like to solve using an asynchronous collaboration approach?