Do I have to join yet another team meeting?

“Do I have to join yet another team meeting?” A short video from scatterwork.com.

Why do we have meetings? Because it is a good way of working for things like Problem Solving, Team Building and Completeness. But what do I mean by Completeness?

I mean making sure that nothing has been overlooked. It is very easy not to see the detail when we are deep in some issue or problem and the best solution is to involve others who will immediately spot what you overlooked. So this can be helped by Creative Thinking, Open Communication and Checklists, for example.

So we can get everybody’s contribution by scheduling regular team meetings to brief each other on ideas and progress, to get insights from different viewpoints and to check for completeness and to avoid rework. If a colleague identifies something that we forgot and it might save us weeks of work, then we should be very thankful that we got their inputs.

So if you want to discuss your project issues please connect with me through LinkedIn or any of the other methods, thank you.

Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, which supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.

Email: deasun@scatterwork.com

Tel: +41 79 692 4735 Talk to me

LinkedIn: Connect with me

Please share with colleagues, who also get 10% off their first booking.

How to Develop a Communications Charter

Why have a communications charter at all? The answer is that the scope for misunderstanding in virtual teams is large, unless communication norms are explicitly stated and agreed. This is because there is such a variety of backgrounds within a team.

So how do we do it? We set up a shared document (wiki) so that everyone can enter their constraints: I need this; I can’t talk at that time; I prefer to talk by telephone and so on, then hold a teleconference using the wiki to identify the main types of communication: reporting, problem-solving, complaining, idea sharing and so forth.

And then for each category of communication, work out the rules as bullet points.

Then pool the results, adjust them according to feedback and publish them to the written communications charter for the team.

Here is an example: “Guidelines for resolving misunderstandings”:

If possible, talk instead of writing; do not allow annoyance to build up; contact the partner by a short short message simply asking for a call. Say what you feel and the impact on you. And then ask for suggestions that would help avoid what you find difficult, and summarize your results in a note to both parties.

To discuss your project issues, please connect with me either through LinkedIn or any of the other methods. Thanks very much.

Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, which supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.

Email: deasun@scatterwork.com

Tel: +41 79 692 4735 Talk to me

LinkedIn: Connect with me

Please share with colleagues, who also get 10% off their first booking.

Do you know how to communicate effectively?

Do scheduled meetings support effective communication, particularly of teams that are distributed globally? I would say “No, not all the time”. The key issue here is the word “scheduled”. One of the things that we can do is watch the presence indicator – these little green lights for example you get on a lot of applications to tell you if the other person’s machine is online.

Maybe they are not online but at least it looks as though they are at their desk and able to communicate. If they are, that is a good time to call. In different time zones it can be much easier to notice that somebody comes online and then just call them there and then. And the second tip is to use a cloud-based collaboration service which has video in it,because then you are all using the same system and you can click on a person’s name; it goes straight through; you can talk to them immediately.

So the conclusion is that the word “scheduled” is maybe over-used and in this type of environment, it may be better to look for opportunities to talk when the other person is obviously online. So if you want to discuss this or any of your own project issues, please connect with me.

I look forward to talking to you.

Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, which supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.

Email: deasun@scatterwork.com

Tel: +41 79 692 4735 Talk to me

LinkedIn: Connect with me

Please share with colleagues, who also get 10% off their first booking.

Make your working hours work for you

“Make your working hours work for you” – a short video from scatterwork.com.

The challenge is what to do if you have different working hours in different places. A simple way of addressing this is to adjust working hours. Either one side works late or the other side works early. In extreme cases people shift their entire living pattern for a few weeks to work on a project where the center of activity is somewhere else.

Long term that’s not easy to do so the suggestion is that we should learn from hospitals because they also have this situation. The nurses are there during the night, then they go away early in the morning and they hand over to their colleagues.

So how do they do it? They hand over the work with a handshake process and they document the status at the close of work.

These are two very simple steps which means that the people who are coming on are sure to pick up in the right place. So if you want to discuss this or any other project issues, please contact me through LinkedIn or any of the other methods.

Thank you.

Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, which supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.

Email: deasun@scatterwork.com

Tel: +41 79 692 4735 Talk to me

LinkedIn: Connect with me

Please share with colleagues, who also get 10% off their first booking.

Overlap time costs money

“Overlap time costs money” – a short video from scatterwork.com.

To give an example: When can we meet for a call? We have participants in New York, London and Sydney.

One combination is, 7 a.m. in New York (somebody gets out of bed a bit early), midday in London, 11 p.m. in Sydney (somebody goes to bed very late).

Here’s another combination; 5 p.m. in New York is OK, 10 p.m. in London – that’s a bit late, but Sydney is OK.

So our conclusion is that overlap time is very limited and it costs money, particularly if the people involved have to be paid overtime or there are additional costs for communication. So here are some strategies for dealing with this.

1. One strategy is to share documents before a meeting. Don’t waste meeting time just to say “I’ll send you this”.

Share access to databases and documents for the same reasons. If you make edits, comment them in the document so that the discussion can take place in writing and then it can be asynchronous; in other words you can make the comment when you see it, without needing overlap time to talk.

2. Partition the work so that you don’t need so much communication. If each work package is done in a particular place, then the communication within that work package is local and the actual amount of communication can be reduced.

3. Make the communication easier using a cloud-based collaboration service with workrooms (we use Podio). This is much easier than using email because the messages come in and they are tagged onto the particular deliverable or task.

With emails you have to always ask what they relate to and connect them back, so that’s a big tip.

To discuss any of these issues or indeed your own projects please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or any of the other methods.

I look forward to talking to you.
Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, which supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.

Email: deasun@scatterwork.com

Tel: +41 79 692 4735 Talk to me

LinkedIn: Connect with me

Please share with colleagues, who also get 10% off their first booking.

Document version control is important, right?

Document Version Control is important,right? – a short video from Scatterwork.com. One way of creating problems in the working environment is to collect information that others need, to put it into a version of a document, to pass it on to them but if the information is not correct then that creates problems for the person who gets it. Either they do the wrong thing, that takes their time, they have to sort out the mess and go back or they can’t do their work at all.

So maybe to avoid problems we could think of version control in a more emotional way and say “don’t mess things up for others”. When you pass the information, don’t pass problems to them but make sure that they have the right version of it, and this means all the time: attention to detail.

So if you want to discuss this or any other project issues please connect with me through LinkedIn or any of the other methods.

Thanks very much.
Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, which supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.

Email: deasun@scatterwork.com

Tel: +41 79 692 4735 Talk to me

LinkedIn: Connect with me

Please share with colleagues, who also get 10% off their first booking.

What your lack of communication does to you

This short video from Scatterwork is about what your lack of communication does to you. Imagine a situation to call a  meeting. Somebody requests the meeting and the assistant will send out a request “is it OK on Tuesday?” and the team will say “That’s fine” and then the invitation is sent. This is maybe where a problem might arise. The invitation may not be seen by the boss for some days because he or she is busy doing something else;is away; is traveling; whatever. So there is a lack of communication at that stage. Also there was already a lack because Tuesday wasn’t specific enough and it could be that somebody is available at particular time of the day but not another, so eventually the boss answers “Sorry that time doesn’t work” so the assistant has to repeat the work by telephone. He or she has to
ring around and wait until each person is free.

Eventually everybody says “OK” then they schedule the meeting.It depends and could be several days before they actually meet; then they hold meeting.So what do we learn? One of the things we notice is that poor process includes many opportunities for poor communication or even total lack and if we think about, it whenever we delay on a communication we are actually delaying the whole issue or the whole object of what we are trying to do. Another downside is that the best time option is not systematically selected.Then everyone gets involved a couple of times and in the end they might even take more time to organize the meeting then to hold the meeting.Some general conclusions: for one off actions of course we just do the work.But all tasks in business are a combination of some activity and communicating about it.

We should be aware of the delay impact that the lack of communication or lack of good or accurate communication causes.We need to think through; come to a meeting with the right materials, with the right information so that we don’t go away saying “I could have known beforehand, but I did not”.Because you cannot make up lost delay. So if you’re interested in any of these topics or any other project issues, please contact me. You have the contact details there on the screen. I look forward to talking to you.

Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, which supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.

Email: deasun@scatterwork.com

Tel: +41 79 692 4735 Talk to me

LinkedIn: Connect with me

Please share with colleagues, who also get 10% off their first booking.

Strategies for Virtual Team Building – Part 1

Hello, this series of short videos is based on the keynote presentation to the PMI Serbia Project Society Conference, Belgrade 2015. It’s broken into five sections each of them corresponding to one video and as presenter I’m a project consultant who in fact have been involved in projects for effectively my entire career.

Project teams don’t usually share a single location but they operate virtually, at least in part. The more widespread the team members are, the greater the cultural and environmental diversity. This means that virtual team building is very challenging and the strategies which were used a generation ago need to be reviewed and developed so in this presentation we examine some strategies based on experience of working in this environment.

Let’s start with collocated teams, that’s teams where everybody is in the same place. This is required in some situations, for example military or emergency services and when people have to work very focused together then they can work in one place. However that’s not always possible because the skills or the resources e.g. the technical resources may be scattered and indeed these days they might be global. These days a lot of teams are increasingly dispersed and not only are they virtual but they are international and global so all of those features make them a little bit harder to work with.

Now there are benefits of working on this basis; one of them is a choice of staff. For example you may want people with a different language for a help desk during your night but it might be during the day of another person. When people are working virtually you don’t have to provide them with a desk with some employers may take responsibility for the cost of the access.

People don’t need to travel, for example visas and getting visas and traveling and so on can take a lot of effort and this can be avoided by involving people on a virtual basis and if people are ready they can even start there and then.

People who work on their own tend to be very committed. This has been shown by lots of studies and may be surprising – you would think if people were left to work on their own they would drop out but once they got involved in the work then the results can indeed be better than if they work together in one place. Before moving on to virtual team building itself it’s a good idea to just remind ourselves how far the technology has come.

For example there is a speedy shop available from the railways in Switzerland where people can choose their groceries through their mobile phone and then it’s placed in a locker and when they turn up, they show a bar code on their phone and the locker opens. The goods have already been paid for through their card.

This has been introduced on a pilot basis without any great training of the general population – people just know how to do it. So if you wish to discuss any of your own project issues with me please to connect through all the usual methods, either through our website at scatterwork.com, an email, phone call or connecting via LinkedIn.

I look forward to hearing from you, thank you.

Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, which supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.

Email: deasun@scatterwork.com

Tel: +41 79 692 4735 Talk to me

LinkedIn: Connect with me

Please share with colleagues, who also get 10% off their first booking.

Avoid Virtual Team Mix-Ups

Hello! This short video from Scatterwork is about avoiding virtual team mix-ups.

I’m talking about the sort of situation where the team is carrying out some work, maybe a project, and the participants are not all together all the time; in other words some of the work is carried out virtually.

And any work requires coordination so not only does the work need to be done but we need to communicate:

“OK I’ve finished this bit; you can do the next bit now”.

And if the communication is poor or if the communication is wrong or if it’s misunderstood or if indeed the thing that should have been delivered isn’t delivered – all of those situations lead to people at the other end getting annoyed or upset because they’re not getting what they expect.

My personal experience is that if there is communication, for example a telephone line between participants in different parts of the world, and it doesn’t work, the person who speaks thinks that the person at the other end is the problem even though the problem maybe somewhere in between.

Instinctively we think if we talk to somebody “well if they don’t understand and I’m talking properly then it’s their fault”.

But it could be the system in between. So we can get into really mixed up situations that can be very hard to get out of.

So the question is “what’s a possible approach to solving that” and here we’re talking about personal skills. They’re often called soft skills but I could mention many of them.

One of them is active listening, for example,

“tell me exactly what the issue is and I’m going to listen and interact with you until I understand what you’re talking about. I’m not going to do emails at the same time or be doing some of the work in the background you looking over your shoulder. I’m just going to listen.”

Another skill is presentation skills.

I’ve seen so many projects where you get spaghetti type PowerPoint slides saying we’re doing this, that and the
other thing.

And they might be visually wonderful but it’s very, very hard to understand what they doing so another’s personal skill is to sift out what the real issues are and to present them very, very clearly in some sort of graphical format.

And other personal or inter-personal skill is negotiation because if we discovered that what we wanted and what the person gets is not the same then we have to work out “what are we going to do now?” and negotiation is it what happens.

People say “could we do this or could we do that?” and so on. So competence in negotiation is also very useful in that sort of situation.

And there are others, so the summary is to avoid mix-ups in virtual teams, it can make sense to invest in personal skills of the individuals involved and of course then they get the benefit of having those skills for use elsewhere in life as well so it’s something that everyone wins from.

Thanks very much!

Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, which supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.

Email: deasun@scatterwork.com

Tel: +41 79 692 4735 Talk to me

LinkedIn: Connect with me

Please share with colleagues, who also get 10% off their first booking.

You create errors; Communication solves them

Hello! Here’s another short video from Scatterwork, this time about errors in work and using good communication to solve them.

In a project environment there are deliverables to be delivered, in other words there is work to be done; it has to be done the right way; in the right place, at the right time and so on and the big challenge is usually to fit everything together.

Very often the technology is well known and the company is doing projects similar to the last time so it’s really this meeting of minds which is the hardest part.

Well, we want to understand what the other person is saying and they want to understand what we are saying. They say that there are three different ways of learning; three ways we can think of communicating.

One way of learning is by sound. For example I knew somebody who used to remember telephone numbers by the tone that the dial used to do; they used to have a tone for every number and she used to remember the tune.

She was a musician and that was her way of communicating.

Other people are very vision oriented and it’s much easier for them to understand what’s happening if they get a little picture and this is why PowerPoint slides are so successful.

And then another way of learning is by movement; for example if we say “we’d like you to make a picture of this” and you draw it. The actual doing of that somehow communicates with our body and it helps the memory.

Now, with virtual teams we don’t have that third one but we do have the first two. So what I would suggest is to use a combination of communication styles and to stimulate a combination from the people that we’re trying to understand so that we really understand what they’re saying.

We can get our ideas together and then agree what needs to be done.

Thanks very much.

Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, which supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.

Email: deasun@scatterwork.com

Tel: +41 79 692 4735 Talk to me

LinkedIn: Connect with me

Please share with colleagues, who also get 10% off their first booking.

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