Now that we’re apart, how do we get things done?
Plenty has been written about how to optimize working remotely. But few are acknowledging the irreplaceables of office culture. There are tons of tools, apps, and tricks out there to help you be productive from home (or wherever you are). Still, what’s the remote equivalent of this all-too-common scenario?
- Bill walks over to Sally.
- He mentions a task that’s cropped up and he needs the help of Diane and David… today. “Not a huge deal, but time-sensitive.”
- Sally pushes back but ultimately makes David available. Diane is busy.
Working together is really just a collection of pressure points getting pressed. Sure, there are inspiring moments of peer-driven collaboration to solve a problem together, but very often, it’s people asking other people to do stuff. Sometimes you can plan around those requests, and sometimes you can’t.
“Can you get on Zoom for a sec?”
Enter Zoom (or whatever video conferencing tool you prefer). The challenge with Zoom is that it has no equivalent to walking over to Sally. It is calendar-driven. You check someone’s calendar, find an empty pocket, and request time.
Sally, knowing that the Zoom call is upcoming, readies herself. Camera, microphone, field of view (she’s got to put away that mess behind her). The idea of Bill pinging Sally to chat spontaneously is inconsiderate, bordering on rude. You can’t just go barging into people’s homes.
The challenge with being calendar-driven is that there is a lag around what I call alignment. Plenty has been written about how to make meetings productive and less useless. What is rarely talked about is the productivity cost of setting up the meeting itself. It’s ugly work.
“Hey guys, sorry to interrupt, but I really need this thing today. @SallyV does Diane and/or David have some time today? Can anyone else help?”
Slack is also seeing an uptick as we shift to remote working. For the unfamiliar, Slack is a place to chat with others in your organization. Groups of people are organized by channels. Channels typically orbit around topics. There can be fun, lighthearted channels like #pets or #sports and there can be work-related channels like #managers or #finance.
Channels are places to gather. They are not typically places to go and get things done. You can privately message others, the digital equivalent of Bill walking over to Sally, but unless Bill keeps up the pressure, things can fall through the cracks. Pinging someone multiple times a day to ask for your thing is not a good feeling for anyone.
One more remote productivity tool recommendation (sorry)
I would create a temporary channel, like so:
This creates a channel called #acme-deck-design-polish and invites just a few people: Paul, Darrell and Kirsten. Then I would set a deadline for the channel:
That’s it. Once I create the channel, the other participants are notified and the clock starts ticking.
Dash attacks the alignment challenge that’s been exacerbated by this massive shift to work from home. We don’t want to constantly ping one another. We don’t want to go through the ritual of setting up a meeting. We just want to align some people around a clear goal. Dash channels can live for one day or many months.
Once the work is complete, the channel creator has the sole power to end the channel and mark the task as completed, or if more time is needed, extend the deadline.
Dash’s killer feature is Slack’s killer feature: It is asynchronous. The channel is waiting for others to check back in. The key tweak to the typical channel is that a Dash channel is a time-sensitive goal, not a general topic.
Before we get people to align, we need their attention and focus. That’s incredibly difficult right now. Dash and other tools out there can help you align around goals while minimizing the intrusiveness of asking for that Zoom call or barging in on that channel.
You may read this article in 2023 (or 2029), but at the time of this writing (March 2020), we’re finding ourselves in challenging, distracting, and slightly awkward times. Achieving goals together feels really good right about now. Dash and other tools out there can help you align around those goals while minimizing that feeling of intrusiveness.
And you won’t have to tidy up that kitchen so often.