Archives for posts with tag: collaboration

Being a supplier means that sometimes it is easy to make assumptions about the people and organisations we work for.

‘Organisation X have the same problems as all the others in that sector’

‘It was the usual thing when the brief came in’

‘They don’t need (what they’ve asked for), they need this thing’

And so on.

Sometimes we all need help to listen more carefully. To not make assumptions, or project our ideas or frustrations on the requests that others are making.

It’s also important for us to recognise what we need, and request it clearly – and politely – from others.

Generally we’re not that bad at this, as a team. But when work is stacking up, it’s easy to relieve the pressure by projecting our frustrations on to the requests we receive. There’s no such thing as a stupid question or a bad brief – we just haven’t yet identified the need behind it.

Frustrated face

A common source of frustration might be a request to close up white space on a web page. When we hear that, it’s easy to think ‘what do they know about design?’. In fact, the client may be under pressure to find space for competing priorities, or to satisfy a perception that less white space equals greater value for money.

Whatever the real need; pausing to consider, and listening attentively to find out the answer, is invaluable.

Easy enough to say this in a few lines on a blog, but more tricky to put in to practice every day.

For that, we’ve been working with Max St John and Wild Things – his alternative business school.

Max has run a workshop for the Helpful team and been visiting our office once a month, to help us apply a form of Non-Violent Communication, which he calls Collaborative Communication, to our work.

It’s early days, but I feel there has been a real difference in how our team copes under pressure. We’re not a consistently serene, happy and forgiving ship, and nor should we ever think we can be – Max is pretty clear on that. But the value in simply recognising when we are getting into a judgement cycle is brilliant. The atmosphere is lightened and we can all have a laugh – recognising that it is us who are wrong in the first instance, and working together to identify the real need behind clients’ requests.

It is now OK for us to get frustrated, openly, but work together to lighten the load and get to the nub of the problem. And that means we’re better able to help our clients too.

If you’re working in a team where blame and frustration are creeping in to projects, then I’d encourage you to get in touch with Max.

photo credit: Untitled via photopin (license)

This month we’ll complete a project to kick start digital engagement for a relatively small, but important, organisation. The delivery has involved reviews, planning, strategy, pilot projects and training: I feel like I have spent time with everyone, from the CEO to the newest recruits.

What made this project tempting to us, was the fact it had been commissioned by a team other than communications. This is unusual for us, but very welcome. We’re always keen to work with people who are on the front line, seeking audiences beyond media and wanting to get involved in conversations.

This wasn’t a case of the communications team hogging the sweetie jar, or not being helpful. But the impetus to do more online came from elsewhere in the organisation.

The challenge for an established organisation is that they’re used to channeling conversations, statements, broadcasts and engagement, through the communications team. Typing this blog post as I am (as I would have done years ago when employed by big Government departments) and hitting the publish button of my own accord, has been a completely alien concept for the staff we talk to. Without evidence of regular digital engagement from within the communications team, the rest of the organisation feels a little more nervous.Woman under a blanket with laptop

Digital can, and should, live everywhere in an organisation. But it really helps if the communications team are confident digital practitioners. They should have oversight of the critical messages coming out from any organisation, but they also have a responsibility to disseminate digital engagement, and empower their colleagues.

In the case of our latest project, the communications team became some of our best participants and proved to be fantastically flexible, encouraging and enthusiastic.

I used to think it was all about wresting digital from shrinking communication teams. Now, I’m changing my mind. Organisations need a safe blanket: confident digital communicators who encourage and empower.

Late night via photopin (license)

There’s this great event each year called Govcamp. It comes along at the end of January, which is just the right time for some inspiration, group therapy and sharing ideas.

I couldn’t possibly cover all the topics that found their way on to the agenda this year. You can catch up on much of the conversation by reading the live blogs.

There was one common theme to all the sessions I attended, that deserves more airing. That theme is trust.

We rely on trust in order to get things done. No one person can control all the information flows, relationships and projects in any organisation. When you employ someone, you make a judgement call about their abilities, their strengths and their weaknesses. On this you base the amount that you pay them, and the type of work you give them.

On the basis that most people go to work to earn money, need to earn money and want to continue to earn money, you should be able to trust them to handle information and conversations with proportionate care. That’s at any level of an organisation.

All this is missing when we try to control how people use collaborative platforms for work, or decide whether or not they can use social media to bring value to an organisation.

In fact, when an organisation says ‘you can only use our XYZ intranet’ or ‘you can’t access Youtube’, what they’re saying is ‘we don’t trust you’.

Am I being fair?