Collaboration ground rules

groundrules_bSometimes to make collaboration work you need to set some ground rules.

It’s easy to say, “let’s start up a google doc!” – and imagine everyone leaping in to give their ideas. But it’s not so simple as that, especially if folk haven’t had the experience or confidence in this way of working.

Instead it’s necessary to have a think about how the collaborative activity might be approached, and ensure everyone is aware of the process you have selected.

Often this will be the case when the technology available is a bit lacking. As an example, a recent collaborative effort I started was based in a ‘Note’ within a group on Yammer. Notes are the collaborative writing part of Yammer, but they aren’t terribly sophisticated and won’t allow you to use formatting such as tables.

So, I spent a bit of time describing how to add ideas to the list. I came up with a fairly simple process that involved a bold heading for each new item, with two bullets points underneath for other related information to be recorded.

Without this introduction, people may have been unsure what to do, and so not bother, or even accidentally start hacking up what others had written.

At the very least, when working on a Google Doc with others, for example, I’ll put “No deletions!” at the top as a general rule to people.

Any other collaboration ground rule tips to share?

What I’ve been reading

I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.

You can find all my bookmarks on Pinboard.

Yammer time

One of the most talked about sessions at last weekend’s LocalGovCamp was about Yammer.

(For those who don’t know, Yammer is basically a private version of Twitter with knobs on that works within an organisation.)

Tom Phillips, who led the session, wrote it up on the group blog:

I have a firm view, echoed by some points made by others, that while many threads on Yammer start there, bloom and fade away, a lot of conversations – as is the case on social media generally – start outside, come in, for a variety of reasons/motives, grow, and then fade. Or do they fade? There is evidence in my own work world that they often actually go offline, and often become mainstream topics in “real life”, as it were.

Here’s a video of the session (it’s on YouTube in case you can’t see it below):

Yammer certainly seems popular with a growing number of local authorities. It goes to show the potential in just making it easy for people to publish stuff to their colleagues – no need for workflows or processes.

It’s also popular because it is incredibly simple to deploy and starts out being free.

Yammer is exactly the sort of application that, left to traditional implementation styles, could take years and large amounts of money to make happen in a large organisation.

Instead, with a couple of clicks, it’s up and running. No need for a programme board, a project initiation document or milestones.

It’s an example of the way technology is changing. Anyone now has the power to roll out an enterprise-grade software package, as long as they can use a mouse and a keyboard.

Bookmarks for June 3rd through June 7th

I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.

You can find all my bookmarks on Delicious. There is also even more stuff on my shared Google Reader page.

You can also see all the videos I think are worth watching at my video scrapbook.

Yammer gets a facelift

We’re big fans of Yammer at Learning Pool – it’s provided that virtual water-cooler that a distributed workforce really needs. That mixture of work related updates, general chit-chat and abuse that any office needs to function effectively.

If you aren’t aware of Yammer, it’s like Twitter but it is private to the employees of your organisation. It means you can discuss issues that you might not want aired in a public forum like Twitter, but in the similar short, informal way that status applications work.

Yammer has just had a bit of a facelift, and a new bit of functionality that looks really cool.

Yammer

The cool feature is called Communities. Yammer now allows you to create a stream for people who aren’t necessarily part of your organisation to join. This is separate from your organisation’s stream, so you don’t need to worry about outsiders seeing your private conversations.

It appears that you can create as many of these communities as you like, and you can choose whether everyone from your organisation gets added automatically, or you can pick and choose people to join. Then it’s a case of inviting by email those people from other organisations that you want to be in on the action.

This will be a great tool for informally managing project communications between supplier and client, for example, especially when there are multiple partner organisations involved, and where there are several people from each organisation who needs to be kept up to date. I’ll be interested to see how Huddle reacts to this, and whether they will consider adding status update like features to their offering.