Well, there it is again: your team is arguing over whose fault is it. Yes, the project is running late, there were several bottlenecks you managed to handle and at least one more on the way you’ll have to overcome. You are working with a team of talented individuals, all capable of doing a quality work without supervision, so their performance should not be the issue.
The team is not to be blamed. Then, what happened?
After analyzing the inter-team communication (which took forever because everyone seems to be using different tools, and are ultimately communicating by email), you conclude that the cause of your mishaps is just that: inefficient communication. Email threads are being neglected, files are being misplaced, and since there are several members in different time zones, no one is sure what is being done and when. Simply put, everything is a mess.
So, what can you do about it? In true ActiveCollab tradition, let’s quickly analyze the problem and then present the solution.
Communication is done via email
Email takes time: you will waste time writing it, you will waste time sending it. Email takes time to sort, and it takes too much time to find that file you need. The first thing you need to know about an email is that it is still just a letter - and letters are created to receive an instant response. To enable smooth information flow, you will need to move your team’s communication onto a bit more advanced platform. Every conversation should be transparent and done in a single place. Internal conversations should look something like this:
Keep it short and to the point, when leaving a comment. If there is a need for a more comprehensive “talk”, move things over to Discussions section.
Team is using several incompatible communication tools
Imagine this: you are leading a five-member team of strong-willed individuals who have their own set of preferences and are firmly sticking to them. As far as communication goes, three members use Google Hangouts, while the other two chat via Viber. When it comes to collaboration, everything is done by email. The problem occurs when the time becomes of the essence: mail correspondence is inefficient, and the fact that several real-time communication tools are being used creates a severe gap. At that moment, you should sit everyone down and explain the necessity and benefits of centralized communication.
Apart from having centralized communication hub, you should aim for the tool that enables:
- Task management
- File storage
- Time tracking (just in case)
Having this set of features will provide your team with full project transparency, so they can stay on the same page if you will.
Updates arrive only when the tool is turned on
From time to time, there is a need for an urgent reaction: maybe project hit a bottleneck, or there is a radical change in team dynamics. Perhaps client requested a change that has to be implemented straight away. Even though the request was made, those who should have reacted - didn’t. Reason? As the tool used for collaboration wasn’t up and running at the moment, none of the members were notified in time. So, how to overcome this issue?
Considering that (it is safe to say) most of the people have constant access to the email via their smartphones, using this otherwise frowned upon communication technique can be rather useful in this instance. First, subscribe and then @mention the team member you need a swift reaction from. They will be notified by email instantly, thus allowing them to take an urgent action promptly.
Disclaimer: Unless you agreed upon differently, do not make a habit of alerting your team members past the work hours. If there are too many “urgencies” popping up left and right, it’s either an organizational issue or someone is not pulling their weight.
Team members are dispersed over several time-zones
Tech companies do not care about physical distance. It doesn’t matter that the perfect developer lives in Russia, the ideal UX designer in South Africa, and an excellent Q&A specialist in Mexico. If a company wants these experts working together, they will find a way to turn them into a team. However, their results (and delivery time) will be heavily influenced by the time zone differences, which is why having a centralized place for communication is of utmost importance.
When choosing collaboration tool for your remote team, make sure it has:
- Comments, files and activity feed with timestamps;
- Single place where the team can get information about project progress at a glance;
- Single place where each member can have insight into their current duties;
Each of these individuals will possess the necessary skill set to get the job done, so the important part is flow setup. Make sure that team stays organized and on track - as far as their duties and quality of their work are concerned, there is usually nothing to worry about.
Let’s wrap it up
If information flow is disrupted, there is a good chance your project will be negatively influenced as well. It may cause delays, misunderstandings or even a project bottleneck that will require “all hands on deck” just to get the ball rolling again. Instead of fixing broken parts, prevent it all together: use a single centralized communication tool and keep your team informed. After all, communication is a foundation for collaboration.