Welcome back to the Post*Shift Linklog, picking back up after our summer break. This week’s contributor, Laura-Jane Parker, reflects on the challenges faced by organisations in encouraging new ways of working.
The digital workplace tools landscape has had a shake-up in recent years. Where previously the hype was around enterprise social networks (ESNs) to finally enable connections across organisational silos, today the excitement focusses on the ability to better enable work within teams, with tools like Slack and MS Teams leading the current market.
Yet, despite this excitement from technologists and ‘future of work’ evangelists on the possibilities these new tools create for more effective work practices, organisations are still finding progress to be painfully slow. In many cases, after implementation dates have come and gone, all that remains is people basically doing the same old things with new tools, rather than developing transformational new work styles.
Over the summer, I’ve had a chance to reflect on why this might be and come to the conclusion that to individuals it must seem a little bit like moving house: a lot of effort, mess and not being able to find anything for months. After spending years, or even decades, working out of your inbox and local file drives, why would anyone want the hassle of changing the place where their work happens? When you factor in the ‘day job’, it’s not surprising many feel it is just easier to keep it simple and maintain their current way of doing things.
It is at precisely this point that change agents and passionate change advocates in organisations feel like banging their heads against a wall in frustration. However, for me, this is where we have the potential to make the most difference. As early adopters and pathfinders, it is our job to help others who just need some encouragement, support and a nudge, to see why this is a huge missed opportunity.
So, how do we do this? Here are a few simple, practical ideas you can put into practice with your adopters today:
De-clutter their day
Show how new tools coupled with new ways of working can help get rid of ‘clutter’, i.e. the non-value-adding tasks and activities in our day-to-day. Good examples are replacing status meetings with virtual check-ins on Slack/Teams, reducing endless document versioning by co-creating in collaborative editing tools, or even agreeing meeting or phone-in times without dozens of ‘cc to all’ emails.
Experiment to find what works best for them
When it comes to future of work buzzwords, such as agile or design thinking, it can be overwhelming to think of learning entirely new working protocols in order to gain any benefits. Instead, encourage trying out a small number of techniques inspired by these systems, such as working in iterative sprints or crowd-sourcing feedback, to see how they enhance the work of the team. It is absolutely ok to only keep the bits that work for them.
It may not be immediately obvious to everyone why they should invest time and effort in test-driving new ways of doing things with unfamiliar tools. Try to identify those early adopters that are doing so and getting work done more effectively as a result and create spaces for them on your ESN to share with the rest of the organisation their winning achievements as inspiration. Curate these achievements into simple use cases for others to learn and put into practice when the fear of missing out gets too much.
We hope this has given you some food for thought to start nudging your colleagues in the right direction as you all return from your holidays and to resist the temptation to slip back into old ways. However, if that wasn’t enough, here are some links to further reading on the subject:
- Brad Grissom’s explanation of the O365 suite, and how to decide which tool to use for what tasks
- A post from last year, but just as relevant to the lack of urgency by organisations in adopting new ways of working
- A useful run-down of personal productivity apps by Sam Spurlin – even if you cannot use them inside your organisation currently, they may still add value to your personal life!
- An interesting interview with Mathilde Collin, CEO of Front, an email inbox sharing tool, which takes an alternative view of Slack (et al) on the future of work.
- A longer read on the wider view of the future enabled by digital tools – the platform organisation, and what this might mean for workers.