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Technology alone cannot solve organizational challenges

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I recently attended an online open innovation session on the future of work hosted by Everything Omni, a UK-based group aiming to “future-proof jobs and workplaces for today’s uncertainty”. I was immediately over my head. It’s not because of the content. It was provocative yet relatable. I was blown away by the collaboration tool, the virtual whiteboard. People were throwing ideas in and out while I was still trying to make sense of the dashboard. I suddenly became a stranger in a strange land.

Admittedly, most of me craved the face-to-face interaction and tactile comfort of sticky notes and erasable markers. But the uncomfortable experience made me think about the countless models, methods, and tools that have been introduced in recent years to revolutionize the way we work. So, one of the problems organizations face is a lack of organizational alignment as to why these new innovations are so mission-critical.Unclear purpose, lack of comfort and expertise what, Where, whenWhen why Work delays, misunderstandings, redundant work, and one-off workarounds can occur. These and other frictions can add distraction, inefficiency, and discomfort to your work experience, and can also lead to burnout.

As we debate the grand philosophical questions about the future of work, perhaps it’s time to focus strictly on the basics of organizational life, whether in the office, fully remote, or anywhere in between. Agreeing on well-defined and widely practiced norms that reduce unnecessary complexity and conflict is essential for a desirable and productive workplace. Before we can expect marvelous technology to create workplace nirvana, organizations must explore the cultural norms and core operating principles and practices that drive or disrupt productivity.

In my experience, when the three basic building blocks of organized activity—teams, meetings, and communication—are not taken seriously, inconsistencies and dysfunctions occur. Each element is interrelated and highly complementary. For example, high-performing teams are inherently better at communicating and are more productive during meetings. In other words, a flaw in one area can drive other areas out of whack.


I have never met an organization without a team. Some see them as a panacea.Still, recent harvard business review A paper by organizational psychologist Constance Noonan Hadley and professor of organizational behavior Mark Mortensen points to historically underperforming teams. The team has long struggled to deliver on its promise as an organizational form, but the hurdles are particularly high today, the authors note. One reason is that organizations continue to form teams without a clear idea of ​​their purpose, how they should be structured and managed, and what they should do. The expectations that members have of their individual and collective roles and responsibilities. Hadley and Mortensen propose ‘co-acting groups’, another team concept in which participants share goals and work independently but meet occasionally. (Think of a coder, writer, designer who contributes to a website redesign without having a rigid team structure or meeting format.)

Before we can expect marvelous technology to create nirvana in the workplace, organizations must explore the cultural norms and core operating principles and practices that drive or disrupt productivity.

Whatever your organization’s preference for team building, it’s a matter of carefully choosing between different options, why the company chose one particular structure over another, and what is expected of all participants. must be made clear to everyone. It starts with desired outcomes and cultural norms, articulates the principles that power behavior, and finally provides the skills and tools necessary for success.

For example, I came across an organization that was working on building and formalizing a quality team culture. The model they created required a cross-functional team to have a rep, a charter, and a champion. The person in charge defined exactly what the team was working on. The charter outlined membership, expected duration, time commitments, decision-making authority, and other governance issues. A champion was someone who had enough power to do something with the team’s deliverables. Though cumbersome at first, this requirement ensured mission clarity and road rules, and to some extent ensured that the work did not become a low-impact, executive exercise. When it worked, it was the embodiment of the adage “slow is smooth, smooth is fast.” This is another way of saying that hard work on the front end will make things run smoother later on and ultimately get you to your destination faster.


The formation of working groups is just the beginning. Meetings are different. I’ve written about meetings before, and I’ve written countless articles about how to run them better. Yet people get frustrated with unfocused and unproductive gatherings. Expectations that humans have an instinctive ability to organize and facilitate group work have been belied by ample evidence to the contrary. commitment to do so. There is no shortage of models, advice and training to do just that.

Even in the most advanced organizations, people ask themselves what the meeting is supposed to accomplish, what their role is in that meeting, and how gathering people around a table or screen will get them to the meeting. I would like to know if it is the most effective and efficient way to do this. desired result. Do you have any decisions? Or just to share information? If the above points aren’t clear, are people given the opportunity to opt out? Asking these questions can help you quickly diagnose what’s right and wrong in your meeting. Poorly run meetings drain energy and create mediocrity.


Day-to-day communication is another area ripe for improvement. Procter & Gamble long ago invested in training managers to craft her one-page memos that were concise, informative, and persuasive. Amazon then adopted his six-page memo as a must-have alternative to slide decks. I prefer two pages, a balance of brevity and depth, but limiting it, regardless of length, creates discipline in both writing and thinking. Should there be an exception? of course. However, any deviation from the norm should be a deliberate choice for a specific reason. The core skills of clarity and brevity still apply. Picasso’s mastery of the art of drawing inspired his confidence and freed his mind as he ventured into abstraction.

Each note should have maximum impact, even if your organization relies on short bursts of messaging platforms. For example, National Public Radio reports that most people have trouble texting her messages. Define what is “good” in your chosen medium and promote best practices.

Once upon a time, an organization had a management layer that handled many of these tasks well. Known then as secretaries and now as administrative assistants, these individuals could manage schedules, create agendas, take notes, organize files, and more. Yes, there was sexism in their choices and rewards, and under the talent of a strong manager, the work was sometimes seen as simplistic. Having people doing it right ensured consistency and quality, reduced friction, and facilitated flow within the system.

Now, all but the most senior executives, trained administrative support has disappeared. Tools are being democratized so that each person can do more and more for themselves, even when it doesn’t work particularly well. While the savings from eliminating administrative jobs are easy to quantify, the resulting costs of inefficiency and frustration are much more difficult to pin down, which they really aren’t. Previous changes to the organization’s technology and protocols were gradual, and accustomed to face-to-face traditions, cracks in the system could easily be hidden.

The ongoing shift is more abrupt and dramatic. Distributed teams and hybrid work arrangements are changing even the most basic required skills and compositions. Constance Noonan Hadley, co-author of the above team article, said: I know from conversations with executive class students that there is a tension between how we think work is happening and what it actually is. I have to. ”

Unless your organization adopts an agile or lean methodology, or makes a radical leap to an alternative model such as socialism, and is forced to rethink its fundamental elements, you will have a lot of untested baggage. There is a possibility that Accept the need for change and banish old beliefs. Workgroup structures, meetings, and communications are great places to start. Try these five steps to identify issues that may be holding your organization back.

Clarify your “center of effort”. Identify activities in which employees are most engaged and where collaboration is critical to business goals. Have an open and democratic dialogue to remove the distortions that come with a top-down view. Talk openly and honestly about what is working and what needs to change. Consider building collaboration into your key performance indicators (KPIs) and compensation structure.

Start small. For example, if rambling meetings are an issue, request an agenda and time limit for each gathering. Stick to your plan for at least three to six months to ensure you get through the nasty early stages of your deployment.

Teach people the “how”. Make sure your employees understand the methodologies, processes, practices and new tools you choose. Go beyond 3 minute video tutorials. The team-centric company mentioned above has invested in professional facilitation training for all managers who may lead their teams. Skill-building sessions also demonstrated executive commitment to getting teamwork right. Look for proficiency, not simple ability.

Lead by example. Show employees that older dogs can learn new tricks. Working on unfamiliar processes and applications can be an opportunity to build relationships and model growth mindsets. For example, you can receive guidance from less experienced staff.

Establish a feedback loop. Regularly practicing the “stop, start, continue” organizational model for eliciting meaningful feedback creates a process of ongoing engagement, evaluation, and change that keeps practices fresh.

how to get started Gather your group around the virtual whiteboard. But make sure everyone knows how to use it.