I was having a meeting with a member of our executive team, once again providing valuable reminders about the advantages of connecting with employees and projects using our enterprise social network.
Our conversation was good, and I was telling him how much could be gained by moving away from email for group conversation, sharing and collaboration. I assured him that I understood that change like this is not easy, but that the benefits would far outweigh the efforts.
“You sound like my doctor,” the executive told me. “He tells me I should exercise more. I know I should exercise more, but that’s harder to do than not exercising!”
He was right. Changing habits is difficult, and changing the way we work is difficult. It is difficult for one person to change the way they work, more difficult for a whole team to change they way they work, and almost impossible for a whole organization to change the way it works. But it can be done, and it should be done.
Though many of us use email every day for group communication and collaboration, it is a terribly inefficient way to work with your team. Never have the shortcomings of email been better illustrated than in this short 2:37 video from VinJones videos where we see how much time and effort is wasted through blind copying recipients, forwarding emails, making sure necessary people are connected to conversations and trying to arrive at consensus.
It is one thing to realize that the way we communicate and collaborate is ineffective, it is an entirely different thing to move to a better platform. Ineffective though they may be, our teams become comfortable with the tools they use. Once we have recognized there is a better way to work, each and every one of us (whether we are an executive, manager or team member) can take responsibility for our own actions, and start to pave the way for the change we recognize needs to happen.
- Pause. Before you send that email to your team, before you attach that file for your team to work on; pause. Think to yourself…is there another, more effective way I could do this? How can I lead the way towards more productivity?
- Stop attaching files to email. Only share files from your collaborative platform, such as OneDrive, DropBox or GoogleDocs. When we share files, we are confident that all members of our team are looking at the same exact piece of information, we no longer have to change the name of the file to reflect its current iteration (i.e. projectassessementV12.doc), and we can easily track changes and revisions.
- Move away from email. Email is here, and it is here to stay. Often, email is the best tool to use for communicating with a single person. However, when it is time to work with your team, send them a group message using your collaborative platform. Link to the information you are working on, and show your team, in real time, how your work can be done more effectively.
- Insist on a better way. If a colleague asks you to email a file that has already been shared through your collaborative platform, politely decline. If a colleagues asks you to tell them about a comment that was made in an online conversation, politely decline. If a colleague asks you to communicate with your team using email, politely decline. Either that colleague is not familiar with the platform, has tried the platform and it did not work for them, or that colleague is just “change averse.” Whatever the reason, sometimes the only way for your colleagues to make this change to a new platform is to be brought there. Train them, share links that bring them directly to the information they want to see, share information and content only in one place. If your colleagues want that information, they will have to figure out how to get to that place.
Exercise is hard, but the rewards are meaningful, and the change feels good. Making the move away from email is hard, too, but these changes will result in a team that works smarter, more effectively and with more transparency and effective collaboration. The rewards will be meaningful. The change will feel good.