Today's guest 8 things blogger is Deb Lavoy. Deb has been working in the online B to C and B to B space for over 15 years, primarily as a product strategist. Her philosophy of successful products can be summed up in 4 points: 1) Know your user and their community; 2) Make sure you’re building something that they will care about; 3) Ensure you have a business model that will let you survive the ramp-up; and 4) Have a better customer acquisition plan than “if you build it, they will come”.
Deb Lavoy is the Director of Product Marketing for Digital and Social Media at Open Text, and Founder of ProductFour consultants, a group of talented people who get you, your product and your business and can help you see the forest for the trees. Follow her on Twitter at @deb_lavoy.
8 Things that will improve Team Productivity
1 -- Shared Mission.
The number one thing you need to ensure team productivity is that everyone’s on the same page about what they are trying to achieve. A shared sense of mission at the high level and objectives at the tactical level makes an enormous difference. The best proof here is when you see what happens when teams are not crystal clear on these. If you’ve experienced this you know what I mean.
That said – this is the most glossed over, and potentially most challenging part of the process. People often make the mistake of assuming that goals are understood, and are reluctant to acknowledge how hard it can be to set them, because they feel they should be obvious. Don’t fall into this trap. If your goals are not clear stop everything. Go back. Work this out. No matter how late or rushed you are, you will benefit from this.
2 -- Shared Workspace.
A shared, digital workspace is a key enabler that should allow teams to form, get to know one another, get organized, aggregate work, iterate on that work and track progress. There are a (staggering) variety of “collaboration” tools out there. If your goal is to increase team productivity, you should be evaluating tools by how well they support these objectives.
3 -- Discussion.
Teams need to discuss things, and this discussion frequently has the most valuable nuggets of insight buried within it – and the value of those nuggets only exists in the context of the discussion.
So – you need to enable free flowing discussion, and capture as much of it as possible. Different types of discussion require different types of tools. There’s the always popular face to face meetings – but they are not always convenient or possible for geographically dispersed teams.
Face to face should be augmented, if not surplanted by video and telephone, threaded discussions, instant message, chat and microblogging.
To the extent that these digital substitutes for face to face can be captured and indexed, they become an invaluable source of insight and knowledge.
4 -- Task Lists.
While Gant charts have their place, they are more useful for reporting than for actually enabling teams to function effectively. Rather than project management per se, the thing to do is to ensure that the team has a shared understanding of the tasks and issues, and that these can be easily updated as necessary. This keeps the team focused and aligned.
5 -- Profiles.
Profiles serve many wonderful purposes. First and foremost they give people equal status (at least) with content. Second, they allow people to get to know one another and third, allow for networking within the organization. Profiles and the ability to connect within your social collaboration system are essential.
6 -- Social Search.
Social search is the basis for understanding who knows what, who’s doing what, and where its happening within the organization. Search should let you find content, workspaces and people. Ideally, you’ll find people not just by their profile information, but also by the types of things they write, post and comment on. This type of search is essential for finding out who knows what in an organization, and for leveraging existing work and capabilities so that the team’s effort is focused on moving the ball forward, rather than reinventing the wheel (to mix a metaphor).
7 -- Microblogging/Status.
Microblogging, status and presence allow for a quasi real-time communication and awareness. They allow for an ambient awareness of what’s going on in the environment. The activity stream requires very little attention, but is effective in alerting you to when important or relevant things come up – then you can break into more in depth communication. This has terrific value for teams and organizations who need to stay in touch, and can also be a great broadcast channel for “does anyone know…” inquiries.
8 -- Process.
At its best, process is a way of automating best practices so that things get done well. It’s a way of saying – we’ve mastered this bit, so lets not think about it anymore, lets just do it. In this sense, if you have no process, you have no mastery and must continually waste time reinventing the wheel. Good process evolves with expertise and learning. Great organizations and teams have processes they follow. These processes should flow smoothly in and out of more collaborative, learning, experimental, innovative phases of work so that the team is optimizing its ability to do great things.
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