Most collaboration problems are workflow problems.
An organisation tries to force employees to use tools outside of their regular workflow. The employees rebel. This ends up with some caving using the new system and others resisting clinging to the old system. The organisation gets the worst of both worlds.
A workflow is a routine of working. For most people, that workflow is still based around email. Email lets you communicate, prioritise tasks, share files, collaborate, and schedule activity etc. It’s not the best tool for any of these, but it’s simple, accessible, and highly adaptable.
You can get most of your work done without leaving a single window.
Don’t underestimate just how important that is.
Too often organisations find a better tool than email and decide to upgrade. Trello becomes the to-do list. GDrive is where you store files now. Slack is where you chat. Google Docs is where you collaborate on documents etc…
Now people who could have done everything in one window are jumping between several. That feels incredibly disruptive to getting work done.
The best collaboration practitioners out there know there are better platforms but realise that minimizing workflow disruption is usually key. You can make big changes with small groups or small changes with big groups but it’s hard to do big on big.
This is where you exercise creativity. Sometimes the solutions are dead simple. Nancy and I discovered one client’s employees were never going to visit a community to store knowledge. Instead we used a simple ‘cc’ address that filtered, tagged, and stored the knowledge for curation later. At FeverBee we would never get round to updating Salesforce, so we introduced an automatic BCC plugin for gmail. Other times we use tools like Zapier to stitch together specific sentences in Slack or instructions via email to update systems elsewhere (Salesforce, Trello, Mailchimp etc…). Again, keeping things in the workflow.
Understand that most collaboration problems are workflow problems. Either gradually help individual teams within the organisation make a big change or simplify the change for the entire organisation. Minimise the disruption to workflow by being creative and embracing integrative tools. It’s a lot easier to make improvements this way.
p.s. If you have the time, we would really appreciate learning how your team collaborates here.